It’s 4.30pm on Saturday 31st December 2016. I am thinking about the year that has just been; A year that has been hugely memorable both personally and globally.
Musically, it has been rewarding for me.
I have played on both sides of the USA, summer in the Big Apple and Christmas in California.
In May, I was busking in New York’s subways and on the trains themselves which was a real eye opening experience. It was so hot that playing in the relatively cool underground made it bearable and then I discovered the S train which just shuttles back and forth between Times Square and Grand Central, it takes about 3 minutes, enough for a song and then a whole new audience pile on. Beginning a song on a crowded train was a real test of nerve but once I did it was an incredible sense of freedom.
Some of the songs I played were covers, one of them was 3 little birds by Bob Marley with the chorus ‘Don’t worry about a thing, coz everything little thing is gonna be alright!’
On two different occasions I played this I was thanked afterwards by people who said that they were really struggling with dark thoughts and then felt much better after hearing the song. One lady had been threatened with redundancy, another guy just said he felt really depressed, this honesty and vulnerability shared because of music I found to be really powerful and touching and feels worth more than any money I made that day.
Another memorable moment was in April during the Stratford upon Avon Literary Festival. I was busking along the front near the RSC; it was a windy, cold and slow day, not many people about.
I was feeling a bit sorry for myself when a lone figure approached me and asked if I would like to open his one man poetry show later that evening. As I was considering it he told me more, that he was returning to poetry after many years as a TV producer, he had left his company Baby Cow that he started with Steve Coogan and was focusing on his first love Poetry.
His name is Henry Normal.
Yes, I’d heard of him bit didn’t know what he looked like.
So, later that evening I played 4-5 of my own songs to a small but appreciative crowd at the Bear Pit Theatre at the back of the Playhouse in Stratford and then had the pleasure of listening to Henrys poetry which is simple, profound, honest and compassionate.
He was a warm, sincere and humble guy whose simple act of generosity; asking me to open his show and paying me well for the 20 mins I played really gave my confidence in my own songs and abilities as a performer a huge boost.
His new book of Poetry ‘Staring directly at the eclipse’ is definitely worth a read.
There has been a lot of busking and various gigs throughout the year, I estimate that I have performed in front of at least 400,000 people over the year though busking and gigs and my music has been heard by hundreds of thousands of people via in-store plays that an agency have enabled me to do. That is something to be grateful for and a real inspiration to me as a musician and songwriter that I am improving my odds of success by playing in front as many people as I can.
In the Autumn I collaborated on a few songs with Jimmy Lloyd, the executive producer and presenter of The Jimmy Lloyd Songwriter Showcase, he provided the lyrics and I would try and fit it to some suitable music.
Out of the 3 songs that we did, the one song that stood out was ‘Someone’s done a job on you’ check it out here https://youtu.be/5CFLKQkItDU
In December, I was lucky enough to be invited to play at my first proper gig in the USA at The Monkey House in Berkeley, San Francisco.
Lily Virginia and Kwesi K play a regular Christmas show at this great little studio theatre and via a connection with a mutual friend, Jimmy Lloyd. I got to open proceedings to a full house and have had the whole set recorded. I have yet to edit it and upload it but will keep you posted when I do.
So this brings me nicely up to now, the last day of 2016 which has seen a lot of progress for me musically, not to mention personally.
It has been saddening to see so many of the people who helped shaped my childhood, die some seemingly prematurely like David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Victoria Wood and George Michael but also has been a regular reminder that life is short and unpredictable.
Nobody really knows how long they have to live no matter how rich or famous they are, we should all do our best to live each day as fully and as intentionally as possible, to forgive quickly, help others and find some joy in the mundane aspects of life which let’s face it is 99.5% of the time.
I will leave you with warm thoughts and wish you all a happy prosperous New Year and hope you achieve some of your dreams and aspirations this coming year.
My personal goals for 2017 musically are to crowd fund and produce an album, to launch it and tour it around the country, write more songs, collaborate with more people and generally enjoy the ride.
Happy New Year!