Life on the Road
Part 1September-December 2014
On the eve of travelling down to Buckinghamshire to do a lunchtime radio session for Marlow FM, then playing in Matlock, Derbyshire in the evening, it’s a good example of how my year or so has gone. In just one day, I’ll be doing a heck of a lot of miles driving through a bunch of counties and I can recite the junctions and service stations of the M1 by heart.
It was ages ago that Trevor from Arts In Leicester asked me to write a blog for the website about life on the road as a Leicester musician, and I’ve only just gotten round to it. My last show in LE1 was September last year, and I’ll be doing a homecoming gig Saturday 3rd October at The Cookie.
That’s over a year ! But I’ve been busy in that time. I’ve played around 260 shows through seven different countries, five of which I’d never been to before. So, what’s it like to “leave Leicester”, as the Mercury put it, and head out on the road?
Well, the “tour” started fabulously, ‘Your Eyes Are Made Of Gold’ had been my biggest EP to date, charted and made the September shows great, I did London, Leicester, Bristol and a bunch of places, riding high, and Peace, Love & Tea-shirts selling nicely. Artist advice, marry a good graphic designer.
October brought my biggest adventure so far, a whole week up in Scotland, and I’d never been to Scotland before! Aberdeen, Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Ayr, Dundee, Saltcoats and Edinburgh. It was grand, I had a tyre blow up just north of Dundee, luckily the AA were there in 10 minutes, a Toyota garage was 5 minutes away and I got in there five minutes before closing time! So lucky, I managed to make it up to Aberdeen for my first Scotland show right on time.
I also got tea and a jammy doughnut bought for me by the mayor of Kilmarnock, who’s a Hell’s Angel! (?) and catch up with Jake Bugg in Dundee, he was playing a slightly bigger venue than me that night, although it did feel good to be representing the East Midlands north of the border that day!
As has been the case with this touring lark, I planned a little break after coming back from Scotland and doing a few more shows, including a big show at the Contemporary in Nottingham, which was my biggest headline solo acoustic show to date … but anyway, that didn’t work out, I carried on playing right up until Christmas, my first show up in Liverpool was in the week before Jesus’ birthday.
Then some time off did come, but as we all know, a couple of weeks with family over xmas is nothing like “time off” … I Love you family !
Next stop Europe…
Part 2 – EuropeJanuary-February 2015
January came around and I’d been asked to go over to Europe for five weeks, the beauty of the internet. How did people in Bremen know about little old me?
Fantastically just 2 days before I was about to board my Toyota Yaris plus acoustic guitar and Peace, Love & Tea Shop on a ferry bound for France, I had a phone call from Frank Turner’s producer who’d heard some of my demos and wanted to record some singles as soon as possible. Guess I wasn’t gonna be able to rest when I got back home either!
So, I did it! I went! I upped and left! Through London, through Kent, from Dover to Dunkirk, through France and Belgium, playing shows, sitting in my car in the rain looking at landmarks, drinking superior coffee and eating chocolates, due to the lacklustre tea, UHT milk was something I was going to have to get used to putting into my Yorkshire Tea for the next couple of months.
One of my favourite things to do on the road is see and visit football stadiums that I’d never been to before, trainspotting kind of football fan that I am ! I was a little disgruntled by the European winter break but it was nice to see the home of likes of Club Brugge and Werder Bremen. I didn’t get to see a game until I was in Gelsenkirchen that I was so pleased to learn was the home of Schalke 04.
I spent 50 euros, saw Champions League level football about 3 rows back from the halfway line in a beautiful stadium, had a cup of tea, an ice cream, bought a scarf and a mug, for 50 euros ! That’s about 35 quid, you’d be lucky to get a decent seat at a Premier League game for that, and that’s quite indicative of value over on the continent.
You don’t half get looked after, every venue/promoter/gig was so organised, well paid, people turned up and passed around a hat to effectively pay you twice for coming to their hometown and singing in a foreign language !! Don’t get me started on the food and drink, regardless of the UHT milk, and the trial of “ich bin eine vegetarisch” in the land of beer and sausage ! I lived on bread and cheese for about a month, it was great really, lots of pizza…
A couple of absolute highlights when in Germany. Bremen University Theatre, a couple hundred students, the PA cuts out halfway through ‘It Ain’t Easy’, always my opening song, and I was urged to carry on, completely unplugged in a huge theatre hall, and they were so quiet, receptive and beautiful, one of the best gigs I’ve ever played. What beautiful people, can you imagine an English university in silence for an acoustic show, and passing round a hat and filling it with change and a few notes!
I also played a museum in Syke, pronounced “Zeekah”, on a rainy Wednesday night, the hostess apologised upon my arrival, after struggling to find it, as she was unsure if many people would turn up due to the weather and the venue, but as I was sat in the back enjoying my bread and cheese, she frantically came in saying “we need more chairs!”, perfect German efficiency around 180 of them turned up right on 8pm expecting to see a show, this English guy they’d seen in the local newspaper. I sign a few copies and sold out of Peace, Love & Tea tote bag that night!
Maybe Hamburg was one the most pleasing destinations on my itinerary, obvious Beatles connections abound, and there definitely was a feeling I was following in their hallowed footsteps, I learned so much and developed as a performer and a human being out there. And this was one of the first places I played ‘Easier‘, and 60 odd Germans continued singing thew chorus as I’d finished the song! I had to come home and record it…
[see the links below]
Seven nights in the Netherlands closed the tour, Amsterdam, Groningen, Rotterdam and Den Haag – The Hague, a fantastic country, nice to pick up BBC 5 Live and Talk Sport on the AM radio in the Yaris. But it was hilarious to note the Euro stereotypes even upon crossing the border.
Germany was incredible, obviously in January/February I saw a fair amount of German snow, but on the road you’d never know. Going along the Autobahns at over 100mph listening to Deep Purple’s ‘Made In Japan‘ and Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now‘ (never have these records ever made so much sense) I would glance left or right to see the fields covered in three feet of snow and be amazed at how clear the roads were.
As soon as I hit the German-Dutch border, by Emden (where they have tea ceremonies but lets’ not get into that… Beautiful Souls!) and Groningen, clear roads, then BAM! The Netherlands, snow everywhere ! I had to pull over and have a real think about driving for the first time in ages…
Nevertheless Holland was beautiful, great waffles and sandwiches, and there’s so much I could tell you about my European travels but I’m not sure Music In Leicester have the bandwidth! Maybe another time. Whilst I was out there I found out I’d been nominated for a couple of awards.
So, coming home…
Part 3Europe March-May 2015
Back in the UK, I’d planned to rest hadn’t I ? Well, over in Europe I’d said yes to pretty anything and everything that had come through with my limited internet and phone signals. So March through to May became quite busy.
Best of all I had been nominated for Best Solo Male Singer/Songwriter at the Midlands Independent Music Awards, which I went on to win and performed at the Drum in Birmingham, as the only East Midlands act nominated for anything in the whole thing, I think I did quite well. A lovely glass statuette now stands in my living room with Geroge Harrison watching over it.
As ‘Your Eyes Are Made Of Gold‘ had been nominated for Best EP of 2014, I went to a lovely little shindig down on Denmark Street in Soho, and got a shiny medal, from none other than 60 pop songstress Linda Lewis, great to talk to her and her husband about the old days, she’s sang with Bowie, Rod Stewart, Noel Gallagher, the lot!
My first gig back in England was in that next of the woods too. Soho, Central London. Bloody Nightmare! I explained to the audience a couple of songs in that I’d previously done a couple of months touring the continent, driving on the wrong side of the road, doin’ a show every single night and sleeping somewhere, who knows where? And none of it was as stressful as the last half an hour driving around our glorious capital, to which I got a great cheer … but it’s not exactly a good thing is it?
One of the nicest things about coming back home was playing in a bunch of places I’d been for the first time before Christmas, to be invited back was fantastic. And to be able to go through England, Scotland and Wales and get a lovely reception, and tea, is wonderful. Looking at a map of all the places I’ve been, there’s a couple of glaring omissions, I need to get to Ireland and Northern Ireland ASAP, and I’ve never been down to the south coast, only to check out Brighton Pier and do some Quadrophenia sightseeing… someone hook a brother up.
So to recording. I’m looking forward so much to sharing the next few singles over the coming year with you all. ‘Easier’ you can buy now on iTunes and what not, it’s exciting to be getting some love off of BBC Introducing and get invited into lots more radio studios … they’ve always got good tea!
And I still haven’t had a rest or so much as a proper day off in all this time, and it doesn’t look like coming soon. May turned into the summer and I’ve had a pretty action packed festival season. Sometimes up to seven or eight shows a weekend.
So I suppose, what can I say? Thank you so much people of Leicester, for being so kind and patient with me living in then leaving your city, and coming back, I hope you’ll buy my new record, I use the earnings to feed my cat, and I hope I’ll see you all at The Cookie, Saturday 3rd October. It’s gonna be Legendary, I promise.
3rd October – see Matt Henshaw at The Cookie
Get tickets for this show
Matt Henshaw’s website
‘Easier’ Official Video
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Published 3rd September 2015