Interview about Music with NRW Socials

Back in March, I gave an interview about my musical journey, and about the August gig at Manchester Academy 3, to Nathan Russel Williams of NRW Socials.

How long have you been playing?

I started learning guitar in 1997, when I was thirteen. My first guitar hero was Noel Gallagher (there’s a reason why children aren’t allowed to vote). I started writing songs the following year.

In the 2008/09 academic year, when I was getting my most immersive experience of China, I started writing songs in the language. Subsequently, I realised a Caucasian singing in Mandarin would never be taken seriously, so I might as well turn a weakness into a strength and embrace my status as a jester.

Where can people catch you playing before the gig?

I’m something of a fixture on Manchester’s open mic scene, including at The Lion’s Den, The Flour and Flagon, and Grand Central. I also host music events on Meetup several times a month.

Favourite song to sing in the shower?

I don’t really sing in the shower, I live in an apartment building with thin walls. But I have a new musical obsession every month. This month it is ‘I’m Always Here’ by Jimi Jamison.

When was the first time you played live?

I’ve been playing live since I was a beginner, but when it comes to my current schtick, self-penned songs with off-the-wall lyrics, I started performing them in China in 2012.

What are most listened to songs on your Spotify?

I don’t use Spotify, but I imagine if such a thing were calculated, the film soundtracks of Ennio Morricone would be up there, as would anything written by Jim Steinman.

What can people expect from your show?

To grin from ear-to-ear, for a multitude of possible reasons.

Favourite artists and influences

Well, although I see myself as a musician first and a humourist a very distant second, my Bachelor’s degree was in English Lit, so I think I draw more influence from Dylan Thomas than from Bob Dylan. My all-time favourite composer is Claude Debussy, my favourite of the past half-century is Morricone. My all-time favourite songwriter, it’s hard to say, but Jim Steinman is certainly up there. When it comes to my particular style, music-based humour, one of the best songwriters still working today is certainly Dillie Keane.

Your first album bought

Queen’s Greatest Hits 1974-1980

Your hopes and where you see your path in music

Continue improving at the craft and build a body of work. I don’t have any ‘ambitions’ when it comes to public recognition, so success will mean being able to work at it for as long as possible, so as long as I don’t lose or break my fingers, become a mute, or get hideously deformed in an acid attack or something similar, I will be delighted to be able to keep writing and performing. 

What was your first gig

Manic Street Preachers at the Manchester Arena, December 1998.

What was the last gig you went to?

Excluding open mics, The Kunts at Satan’s Hollow, December 2021. Since then, I saw George Borowski at The Lion’s Den, but that was more spoken word than music.

What upcoming gigs have you planned?

To go to? Kula Shaker are in town this summer. I think I’ll give them a go.

Why people should buy a ticket to your show?

Because it is inexpensive, and if you don’t like the comedy you’ll still love the music, or vice-versa.

Most disliked artist/genre and why?

I just have individual works of art that I dislike rather than entire artists. I dislike it when Coldplay try to offer social or political insight, because they never actually have any. I generally believe in WB Yeats’ principle that “we have no gift to set a statesman straight”, so don’t care for it when a singer or comedian gets too preachy, unless they happen to be a genuine expert on the subject at hand.

What does it mean to you to be playing at a renowned venue?

Everything. For most of my thirties, I abandoned song-writing for other pursuits. Those things were of great value, including an MBA, a job in a Fortune 500 company, and a book of short stories, but song-writing is what brings it all together for me.  

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