I feel a bit funny writing an “about” page. I’ve never been in any bands you’ve heard of or toured big venues or recorded in famous studios. But I have had a lot of fun playing Music over the years. This is basically a few snapshots of some of the people and projects that have kept me sane over the years. Maybe you’ll relate to this if you’ve been in bands yourself. Or maybe you’ll find it interesting because you don’t play and the world of Music seems a bit mysterious and you want to know what the ‘career’ arc of a DIY musician looks like…
One day when I was about 10 years old the teacher asked if I wanted to have a Guitar lesson. I said yes. The end.
All I remember about that first lesson was that there was one other boy with me and we went into the school library where a man with a beard was. He showed us how to walk our fingers on the top string E. The lesson was probably about 5 minutes in total but it set me on a path which I’m still on 30 years later.
Over the years a lot of my friendships have come through Music. My best friend throughout school and up until now is a Drummer and we started playing together when we were 11. We tried putting a band together when we were 12 or 13 – ‘The Radioactive Geckos From Hell’. At one of our early rehearsals we made our singer drink a few litres of his Dad’s home brew to try and give him some confidence. It didn’t work. We all completely lost our focus and poor Nathan had to go for a piss every 5 minutes for the rest of the afternoon.
After trying and failing to care about a History degree I dropped out of uni and decided to be a musician. My parents took it relatively well. For some reason I decided I was going to do this by taking a holiday to Germany to stay with a friend. I landed in Kiel, on the Baltic coast and, after a few weeks, found a job in an Irish Pub and decided to stay longer. The pub had regular singers coming through and eventually I plucked up enough courage to ask my boss if I could be the entertainment one evening. He said yes. All I had to do was fill a 3 hour time slot on a Tuesday night. I thought I was up to the task but, as it turned out, I was not up to the task. 3 hours is a long time. And I can’t even sing. Anyway, it was soul crushingly awful but I didn’t die.
After realising that I wasn’t really cut out to be a pub singer and I also didn’t want to spend the rest of my life on a bar man’s wage I went back home. One day my Dad told me about a magical place called SOAS, or the School of Oriental and African Studies. In this place you could study Music from around the world – African, Indian, Indonesean, Chinese, Middle Eastern. It sounded awesome and they accepted me despite a lack of a Music A-Level. Even better, my best friend was already living in London and needed some flatmates. Perfect timing…
One of the lasting friendships I made while at SOAS was with Amira Kheir. One day she basically just accosted me outside the main building when I was on my way home. I was carrying a Guitar and she thought that was a good enough reason to ask if I wanted to be her Guitarist. I can’t remember what the conversation went like but I’m really glad I didn’t say no. When we met up to learn some covers I was blown away by the fact she could really sing. I mean really sing. I’d never met anyone who could do that before. A few weeks later we did a gig in a nearby bar and tonnes of folk from uni came to watch. All I remember was getting to the end of the first song, (Superstition by Stevie Wonder) and the crowd went mad. It was the first time I’d ever played for people that actually seemed to enjoy it and didn’t just clap out of politeness.
Sometime after uni had ended and I had my first teaching job and was living with my girlfriend (yes, an actual girlfriend, it was awesome, she was awesome..in fact she still is and she’s my wife and mother of my son..time flies!) I went to visit a friend who’d just moved from London from Glasgow to jam and drink coffee. I mean, we met up to jam and drink coffee, not that he had moved from Galsgow to specifically jam and drink coffee, although he did do a lot of that. At some point that sunny afternoon his neighbour popped round to say hi. Robin Grey was a little bit strange but I liked him straight away. What most struck me was the fact Robin was just doing what he wanted. He wasn’t waiting for a record label or a manager to help him out, he was just recording his own album on a 50 quid computer. Next thing I knew I was helping out on the recordings and ended up playing with him for years to come. Legend.
In 2010 my world kind of fell apart when my dad had a horrific cycling accident. I’m not going to go into the details but it, and the ongoing consequences, were brutal. When something like that happens to someone you love it’s hard to carry on as normal. So I took some time to travel and went to Tanzania. The plan was to meet up with a friend in Zanzibar for a couple of weeks and then hit the road with my laptop and a couple of mics and record the next Buena Vista Social Club Grammy award winning record! I never really made it off Zanzibar. I discovered Music school where I started taking Oud lessons and I tried recording a local reggae singer. I foolishly agreed to do a whole album for him (word to aspiring producers..just do one song and see if it’s any good or if you like spending hours and days and weeks with the artist before you commit to an album…nuff said). Anyway, it was an awesome time and took my mind off home for a few months.
When I got back home I started a teacher training degree at the University of East London (surprisingly enjoyable), went busking a lot and started a new project with my old Drummer friend, Tom. We were coming from quite different places Musically. He said it couldn’t be too Folk and I said it couldn’t be too Rock – coz let’s face it, no one likes Folk Rock. So we said we’d be the house band and invite guest singers and musicians down to a regular night in Camden. We both decided it would be cool to work with some MCs and give it a Hip Hop flavour. Unfortunately we didn’t know any MCs though. The only person I could think of was the father of a Guitar student I’d had a few years before. I was certain he would say no to having a jam but called him anyway. And I’m so glad I did. Sam became the main MC for the night (which was now called Jibba Jabba) and is one of the people I love writing Music with most in the world to this day.
Nothing lasts forever though and in 2015 we moved to Edinburgh to be closer to family and have a possibility of buying a house (I love you London, but seriously???!!!). SInce being up here I’ve tried a few things – running a recording studio out of my attic (not that lucrative), been in a Country duo that played some pub gigs (slightly more lucrative but not as enjoyable) played in a psychedelic rock band and gone busking a bit.
Right now I’m just concentrating on playing Guitar and learning some new styles. I’m enjoying teaching in an awesome school called Harmeny (their spelling, not mine) and I’m loving being a Dad.
If you made it this far, thanks for reading. xxx