A B O U T M E SINGER/SONGWRITER, INDIE MUSICIAN I’ve always been involved in music. Over the years, as now, most of my gigs have been solo, playing guitar and singing mostly my own songs, but I’ve been in rock bands in my younger days, and more recently a duo, a trio and a 5-piece . The duo is myself and Paul Sourbutts from Derby. Together we are called The Bellevilles. We play a swinging mix of Rock and Roll, Country, Folk, Blues and Skiffle. Here’s a quick CV :- Performed solo at specialist music venues, festivals, folk clubs, pubs, theatres and art centres Written and recorded music for advertising, storytelling, theatre and dance (And I’m always open to any other interesting collaborative projects) Taught guitar for my local education authority and university, and run guitar summer schools and workshops Opened shows for Angie Palmer, Jez Lowe, Slaid Cleaves, Tom Pacheco, Kate Campbell and Rod Picott, amongst others SONGS OF LOVE, LIFE AND LANDSCAPE I’ve been writing songs since I was 16. Usually both music and lyrics, though there have been some collaborations as well. Always difficult to fit neatly into a musical genre, but when you sing songs accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the first thought is usually ‘folk’. I have a back catalogue of over 300 songs now. Some of them have appeared on previous albums; most have been performed at gigs over the years. To me, they are all just ‘my songs’. They cover a myriad of subjects, but there is a sense of Englishness threading its way through them, a strong sense of place, of life set in landscape. MANDOLIN, DOBRO, ACOUSTIC, ELECTRIC AND LAP STEEL GUITAR I’ve added mandolin, dobro and lap steel to my repertoire in the last ten years. They have made a tremendous difference to the variety of sounds in my live performances, but even more so in the studio. Live you can only play one instrument at a time, unfortunately! But in the studio you can bring them all into play, creating new arrangements. Acoustic guitar is still the bed-rock of the tracks, but mandolin and dobro can make a track more melodic, subtle and complex. I include more songs by others in my gigs now, blending with my own. They work well with dobro and mandolin. And some songs are just too good to resist! AMERICANA WITH AN ENGLISH ANGLE And so this is where I am right now. Still difficult to fit neatly into a single musical genre, but the English roots have tangled with Americana music. You could call it Anglo-Americana. HEROES INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATION What was my sort of music over the years? Who were my heroes? Let’s drop a few names! In the beginning there were the Stones, Fairport Convention, Vaughn Williams, Incredible String Band, Rory Gallagher, Jackson Browne, Donovan, Bert Jansch, Neil Young…… And the middle-men who played my kind of thing on the radio? John Peel, of course, and later on Roger Scott And then, in the nineties and since, Bob Harris. The biggest influence on my music and what I’m playing today. Listening to Bob’s shows was like opening a door of opportunity. He was playing stuff by folks I knew about who had pursued their own direction through the 90’s Emmylou Harris, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, Bruce Coburn, Tom Waite And a host of new names I was hearing for the first time Eliza Gilkyson, Lucinda Williams, Jerry Douglas, Sue Foley, Sarah MacLachlan, Vigilantes of Love, Patty Griffin, Julie Miller, Peter Bruntnell, Norah Jones, Saw Doctors, Kim Richey, Catie Curtis, Kevin Welch, Lucy Kaplansky, Kasey Chambers, Whiskeytown, Po’ Girl ….. Great songs, great sounds – the new genre of Americana. The list is endless, but the effect on me was to create an ambition to make music based on dobro, mandolin, organ, and harmonica – rich sounds that can bring a song to life. It’s the reason I’m playing dobro, mandolin and lap steel now, and it’s the path that led to ‘One Fine Morning’. THANKS, BOB! Another inspiration has been the BBC’s Transatlantic sessions. Watching great musicians and singers from different traditions getting together and creating great versions of each others’ songs, and obviously enjoying it. Seeing how Irish, Scottish, Americana and other music can blend. You can’t beat playing in a session with other musicians, some you may never have met before, spontaneously, just for enjoyment. Someone starts a song and everyone joins in. It’s a buzz to play dobro on someone else’s song and see them smile with pleasure. And to have someone say at the end of the evening ‘That was just like the Transatlantic Sessions’! And alongside these musical influences is the experience of life and a love of the natural world. To walk in the Malvern Hills, or along a Cornish cliff-top; to be in the landscape and observe the detail around you; to take an hour to cover one mile, because there is so much to see. The world is a beautiful place. It influences everything. LIFE ALONGSIDE MUSIC I’ve been married to Ruth for 38 years now, and we live in Leicestershire, England with our two cats. Our house dates back 200 years and we’ve lived there for nearly 27. There is a good-sized garden which has grown with us; we planted several trees which are now mature, and the garden has come to feel like a woodland glade. This is what keeps me sane. And music of course!