IT’S COLLABORATION STUPID!
A long time ago I was gainfully employed to travel the world by a company. I earned a decent salary but was always horrified when I sat down and worked out what my hourly rate was, especially for intense periods of travel. The overseas ‘jollies’ that my work colleagues imagined I was on were frequently days spanning 17 hours of work, because that’s the way it is, and what you have to do. In the process, I won millions in orders for my employers.
So to cut a very long and tedious story short, I set up my own company in 2002. My earnings are now my own, I get to see my family and friends, almost never wear a suit, and refuse to ever wear a tie again. It has had its ups and downs but if someone offered me a job tomorrow I wouldn’t take it. I have long since stopped being the salesman in a shiny suit, if I was ever that person in the first place, and if clients are not prepared to pay my consultant rates I am happy to dig my allotment, walk the dog in the rain, or create music.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to choose, when so many suffer the daily stress of employment, under-employment, or unemployment. There are few genuinely benevolent and caring employers out there. For the first few years of running my own business I continued to do the hungry salesman thing, but it was never me. I also realised very quickly that while I had good qualifications and a wealth of experience it is never possible for one person to know and do everything. I needed to work with others who have complementary skills. That’s how it works, in business and with my music.
When I started to write music again in 2014, it was an entirely self-indulgent venture. I started to record the new songs on Garage Band but never thought they would see the light of day. Then a series of happy accidents led me to meet and record with HeyGamal, whose encouragement gave me the vision to be able to expand the scope of my songs by involving other musicians. A collaboration of old and new friends quickly led to the formation of my backing band The Folded Arms, with Kieran, Jad, and Emma joining me for the recording of Moorscape, and Matt and Kate coming in for Dry The Life.
As with all good collaborations it expanded, and in an effortless way. Good peoplewith similar outlooks generally find each other eventually, and in this case the medium of Twitter brought Matt into the fold (excuse pun) in 2016 and connected us with The Lewinskies from Nova Scotia. In May we all got together to do a couple of gigs after Kristen and Matthew flew over on trust to play and record with us for ten days. We are now looking forward to their next visit in May 2018 when they may arrive armed with further musical collaborators to complement our own.
So watch this space because the collaborations extend to recording contributions on each others’ albums, to playing live together either for full gigs or as cameos, but most of all to a deepening sense of fun and friendship in a world that has never needed that spirit more. I can’t play or sing like the others and I like to think they can’t sing or play like me. I may write the songs but each of the others are invited to put in their own ideas in what has become a truly collaborative and magical venture.
Next weekend I am playing two solo gigs on Friday 6th as part of the Chorley Live Festival, followed by two gigs there with The Folded Arms on Saturday 7th. At the end of October the band opens for Oxjam Calderdale. We don’t get much time to gig together because we all have busy lives and other music projects and responsibilities. So these occasions feel very special for us, and we hope we will make them equally as special for those who come to watch us play.