Recording and more

21 Feb
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Recording at Monnow Valley Studios

Once again it has been an age since my last blog – Christmas and New Year have been and gone and Spring is almost here. Or at least I think it’s almost here – it’s hard to tell as any early blooming flowers are under water at the moment!

The Sons of the Delta recording session at Monnow Valley Studios got pushed back to early February but it happened and was a fantastic day. All the boys were on form and our guest keyboard player, Bill Blair, really added something special to the sound. The engineers Liam Ross and Felix Mercer looked after us very well, knew exactly what they were doing and did it brilliantly. Aaron Taylor, our co-producer on the album, was there to make sure everything went according to plan and that he had plenty of good takes to work with back at his studio, Plump Hill Studio. At this moment in time I’ve recorded some of my additional guitar parts and still to come are more guitar, vocals, harp and some guest performances including what I hope will be a four or five piece gospel ensemble. It’s going to be a busy few weeks as I’d like to get the album finished and ready in time for our dates in Mississippi in April. It’s going to be a great album – I can feel it in my bones – and the title Tasty Nuggets is very apt! For those of you who bother to read this here’s some advance information – the yellow chicken that you may have spotted on the Facebook pics taken in the studio and, if you’ve really been paying attention, in our animated Christmas card on Facebook is Chokey the chicken and features on the front cover of the CD artwork. Chokey has been living with me for a few years now after I found him looking lost and forelorn in a charity shop. he’s called Chokey because his party trick involves eye-popping, gurgling and flailing whenever he’s throttled. He loves it really, besides which he’s not real!

Met up with my blues buddy Keith Thompson the other day and the discussion worked its way round to the inevitable topic of what do you have to do to get your name out there, get decent publicity and therefore more and better gigs. The answer when we’ve discussed this previously is ‘anything and everything’. It still is to a certain extent but a growing number of bands who are getting magazine interviews, reviews and decent airplay are paying publicists to get it done. Once the domain of bigger bands, even small bands are having to cross someone’s palm with silver – or gold if they really want good coverage – in order to get their name and music out there. Certain well-known specialist radio shows take nearly all their music from trusted sources – i.e. publicists – making it so much harder for up and coming bands who send material directly to get heard. I have no problem with this – it is the way of the world, money talks – I just don’t have the money at this moment in time to take part. To be honest the idea actually appeals. I’d love to not have the hassle of pursuing publicity, to be able to pay someone who has the contacts, the time and the gift of the gab to do it. If I manage to get the funds together at some point I may go for it and report back.

So it’s more recording for me, then mixing and getting the CDs pressed. During all that I have our Mississippi trip to finish organising and when we get back it’s gigs, gigs, more gigs and doing my best at a home-grown approach to publicising the album. Maybe I can get Chokey to take more responsibility…

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Winter draws on

20 Nov
Tip jar

Now featuring at a gig near you…

Half a year plus since my last post and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Once again it feels like I blinked and the summer sprinted past. It’s said there are those that make things happen, those that let things happen and those that wondered what the hell just happened. I think I’m in that third group…

I’ve really enjoyed the better weather this summer and actually managed to get some time out in it for a change. I even had the beginnings of a tan! It makes up a little bit for not getting over to perform in Spain this year although I really miss Javi – no-one will be able to replace his warmth and friendship. Even so, the Sons do need representation as we were starting to build a good thing there so I’m actively looking for a new Spanish agent. On the subject of good weather and down-time I’ll mention that since my last post I’ve spent a while getting back to nature in a geodesic dome tent on the beautiful west coast of Wales, some quality time chilling out listening to Turkish folk music in a tent bar on a beach near Fethiye and even tried drinking chilli infused stout in a wonderfully well stocked ale house in Lincoln. That last one was by far the least enjoyable thing on that list. Still, you don’t know unless you try.

Both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics had plenty of fun during the summer, out on the road at gigs and festivals and in the recording studio, and both bands have a new bass player in the form of Lyndon Webb. With his upright bass, fine vocal and multi-instamentalist possibilities he’s helped to push both bands forward in terms of what we have to offer dynamically. The Jigantics debut CD ‘Daisy Roots’ is now available (and about time too, I hear some of you shout!) both on CD and at all good online MP3 retailers. The Jigs are the busier of the two bands at the moment with Marty getting a sore ear on the phone and worn down fingers typing emails to get us some lovely dates all over the country. We have many festivals in the pipeline for next year so I’m looking forwards to those being inked on our calendar in the next few months.

The third Sons of the Delta album ‘Tasty Nuggets’ continues to come together with the next big recording session planned for January. Yes, it has been a few too many years in the coming but good things can’t be rushed, especially at this stage, and getting everyone together to rehearse the new songs and booking the studio when everyone involved is available is a challenge so the timescale has to be a little fluid. It will be worth the wait! We are heading back to Clarksdale, Mississippi, in April to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our first visit there. Looks like the whole band is going this time as is fitting for a special trip. We’re looking forwards to playing at the Juke Joint Festival again, meeting up with our blues brothers Mike and Stevie Myers and their families, and and we may even take advantage of a full line-up and record a few tracks at Sun Studio in Memphis.

I’ve been writing lots of blues songs lately and now that we have a good selection for the Sons album I plan to rework some of the songs in a harder blues vein for a ‘solo’ project. I’ll be recording an EP and the plan is to perform the songs live as part of a double bill with my blues buddy Damon T. I’ll perform on harp and vocals with Damon on his material and he’ll drum and sing on my material. Those of you who have seen us perform together before know it’s going to be a great show! Watch this space!

Spring 2013

23 Apr
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BBQ Plate, home-grown

Spring has sprung (just about) and the first quarter of 2013 has passed, again in what seems like a blink of the eye. Where does the time go? Who keeps stealing it?

It was great to see the Facebook posts from all my friends who went to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale last weekend. I was desperate to go this year but with two albums mid way through recording and the Sons of the Delta not all able to make the trip it was hard to justify. Next year is a must though as I really do miss everyone out there and it’s the place to go for the soul to recharge. Anyway, the nearest I got by way of compensation was cooking myself some Southern comfort food in the form of a BBQ plate. See the photo – it was as good as it looks. I sat down and enjoyed it with a beer and a viewing of of the excellent documentary We Juke Up In Here. It’s as close as I’m going to get to the Mississippi Delta this year.

The Jigantics debut album moves ever closer to completion and there are some ‘almost there’ mixes that we’ve recently uploaded to both our website and our Reverbnation page. We also have a number of gigs coming up through the summer that we’re really looking forwards to.

Recording for the long promised new Sons of the Delta album is finally underway and we hope to upload a few provisional mixes of some of the tracks as a taster for you over the coming weeks. I’d really like this album to be completed and available in time for the major summer blues fests.

On a sad note in case you hadn’t heard my very good friend and Spanish agent for Sons of the Delta, Javier Hernandez, passed away towards the end of January. He was a shining jewel in the murky world of the music business – an honest, hard-working, straight-talking realist who always had the artists best interest at heart. The Sons are heading to San Raphael in the near future to celebrate his life and remember him. Hopefully it won’t be the end of our time over there as we were building a good reputation. No-one could ever replace Javier but we are looking for a new agent in Spain.

I’ve been writing a few songs for a future solo project. I know some of you have seen me with my acoustic singer-songwriter hat on, and that will continue, but this new solo project is something else entirely. It’ll be very electric, very stripped-back, and may also feature drums and percussion in suitable venues. More on that later in the year.

Visit my web site for an up-to-date listing of all forthcoming gigs. Thanks!

Hello 2013

4 Jan
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New Year’s Eve 2012 with the Patsy Gamble Band

Happy New Year everyone!

I don’t know about you but last year flew past at a scary speed. It’s probably me being another year older. I have a theory about why time seems to pass quicker as you age. I think it’s because as we get older a year becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of our lives and so feels like less time. If any of you write a book based on that theory I’ll chase you down for a percentage.

As usual I was gigging New Year’s Eve, this time with the lovely Patsy Gamble and her band. I think a lot of us musicians prefer to be gigging that particular night as we’d probably be at someone elses gig anyway, so why not earn money whilst having a good time instead of spending it? The party was busy, the musicians excellent, the company wonderful and everyone had a fun time. After all the New Year’s Eve parties I’ve attended in the past I believe this was first one where balloons were dropped from the ceiling in true celebratory style.

One of my Christmas presents was a square foot of land in Scotland which means I can legally use the title Laird. A bit of fun but all above board and genuine. You can still call me Mark – I won’t have you thrown in the dungeon for insubordination. I might have to investigate the family tartan…

So what does 2013 have in store? At least two new albums, plenty of gigs and lots of travelling. Hopefully good health, a little more cash money and a better ratio of reward to effort. A lottery win would be nice or at least some right people in the right place at the right time. I know you have to keep your sails up to catch the wind, but a little bit of wind to hit the sails would be nice! More networking this year, more pushing and more discipline. That’s about as close to a new year’s resolution as I’m going to get.

Hope your year has got off to a good start and you stay happy and healthy, with everything going your way in 2013.

Summer?

15 Aug
Chilling with a hookah

Chilling with a hookah

Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival has been, burned brightly, and gone for another year. It was a hectic week for me with nine gigs in as many days and that included three nights off. The highlight of the week was spending time and making memories with the Myers Brothers, Mike and Stevie, and Stevie’s lovely wife Laura. I also got to meet the lovely Suzie in Painswick who was a wonderful host to us all on a number of occasions during the week and I hope she will be at more blues gigs in the area in the future as I know she’s a real blues fan. All of the Myers gigs were brilliant fun and well received and I know they had a great time performing, making new friends and seeing as much of the area as they could. Can’t wait til April when I’ll be catching up with them again in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Those of you that are friends on Facebook will have noticed I took a week out for some rest and relaxation and some guaranteed sunshine and heat but now I’m back and fired up ready for the rest of the year. Both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics have some late summer festival gigs coming up and I’m especially looking forward to a mini tour of Spain in September with the Sons. With Spain’s economic situation as bad as it is I was beginning to wonder whether we would get there this year, especially after tour dates provisionally booked for March and May came to nothing. But we have our tickets and our itinerary so Spain here we come!

This weekend it’s my Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Derek’s Golden Wedding Anniversary so there’s a huge clan gathering of the Coles and Pearsons from all over the world. It’s going to be great fun and a weekend to remember. There will be live music, of course, and much eating, drinking and catching up with people I’ve not seen for years. My boys haven’t even met some of their relatives so it should be a special time for them too. As with all of these occasions there will be people missing that we wish were there but they will be remembered and tales will be told.

The next three months will see both the Jigantics and the Sons busy in the studio, so there should be plenty of new music for you to treat yourself or someone else to in time for Christmas! Aaron at Plump Hill Studio is doing a great job and between the two bands, plus other bands that some of the guys are involved in, we’re keeping him busy. More news on the recording as and when I have any pics or sounds to share with you.

New song

17 Jun
New song - Had Our Day

New song

It’s been a strange few months on planet Cole – lots of heavenly highs and deep lows and in many ways I feel like I’ve been running around in circles but it’s all part of life and just the way it goes. Great stuff for songwriting!

Gigs are still a little down on last year, partly because I haven’t been chasing as much as I could due to the fact I’ve been busy songwriting and recording (or am I busy songwriting and recording because gigs are down? It’s those circles again) Also the recession is definitely biting a bit and venues are less willing to take a chance on someone new. Not a problem with our current venues but trying to ‘spread the love’ is getting difficult. A new album to promote will definitely help things.

Talking of recording, things are going well with the Jigantics debut album and we are loving the atmosphere and empathy at Plump Hill Studio. We’re currently working on a latin-styled percussion driven number, a beautiful ballad with great harmonies and a feel-good Cajun style track. I think We may record the Sons of the Delta duo tracks at Plump Hill too but it may be a bit small there to record the full band tracks. We’ll have to see. One of the tracks that was being considered for the Sons album isn’t going to sit well stylistically with the rest of them so, as it’s one of my songs, I decided to record it and put it out as a solo track. It’s called ‘Had Our Day’ and you can hear it here on my Bandcamp page or here on my Reverbnation page. It’s a very melancholy, lonesome ‘3.a.m.’ kind of song and I hope you like it. Plus, if you haven’t seen the video of my last song ‘Let Me Down’, you can see it here.

Only just over a month to go until the Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival (official site here and Facebook page here) – my hometown’s celebration of blues and roots music. I’m really looking forward to it, especially to catching up with the Myers Brothers, Mike and Stevie from Ottawa, who are flying over to play a number of dates including the Gloucester festival. I’ll be stepping up to the stage in various bands that week, so make sure you keep an eye on my website in July for all the details.

Previously…

16 Apr
The Beehive, Swindon

The Beehive, Swindon

A very belated happy new year to you all! What a slacker I’ve been – last November was my last update. Since then I’ve reached the grand old age of fifty (yes, I know, hard to believe given my youthful exuberance and good looks) and also celebrated thirty years of being in the music business. Christmas and Easter have been and gone and although much beer was drunk over the festive season I managed to avoid the other brown devil that is chocolate.

It’s been a strange start to the year in terms of gigs. A trip to the USA with Sons of the Delta to play at this year’s Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale was cancelled due to a clash of commitments for some of the guys, a mini-tour of Spain was put on ice due to the major recession over there and here booking gigs has been harder work for the same reason, apart from our favourite regular venues who know a good thing when they see it and continue to re-book us.

What do musicians do when they are not gigging as much? No, the answer is not ‘starve’ thankfully (not yet anyway!). They write songs and record, so it’s good that both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics are both working on new albums. Because of the different styles of music in each band, the approach to the recording process is a little different. For the Jigantics it will be our debut album so everyone in the band is keen to make it as representative as possible. That means it needs to highlight the strengths of the band – especially the great arrangements and lovely harmonies. In light of recent changes to arrangements some of the tracks currently recorded will be remixed, others may be re-recorded and a few newer songs in the set will be recorded for the first time. So although things are well on the way, it may be a few months yet until the album is finished. The Sons of the Delta album will be our third and will have a mixture of duo and band numbers, representing both aspects of the Sons. The first two albums were pretty much all original numbers and although album three will still have plenty of great originals we are planning to record some of our audience’s favourite covers. I’m finishing some demos of the new originals so that I can distribute them to the rest of the band prior to us putting in some hard work on learning them. Then it will be off to the studio to spend a solid weekend recording the band songs – none of this ‘we were in the studio for two months’ malarkey! The duo numbers are less demanding of everyone’s time and so Rick and I will work on and record those on a rolling basis.

I’m looking forward to the summer now – recording, various festival slots for both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics and my great friends the Myers Brothers are coming over from Ottawa late July to play at the Upton Blues festival, the Gloucester Blues Festival and several other dates. Can’t wait! I will try to keep you updated a bit more regularly…