18. Releasing 'Out of the Woods' / An Album Launch to Remember
The preceding weeks leading up to album’s release were full of tight deadlines, organisation and endless preparation.
I had a nightmare with the manufacturing of the physical CDs, the most popular kickstarter reward, in that they not only arrived with the booklet pages printed in the wrong order, but the music on the discs themselves were loaded with songs of praise by some random christian group.
Any artist will tell you that one of the most rewarding part of a largely gruelling process, consisting of never ending spell-checks, formatting and art direction is to finally see your baby in its physical form. In my case, that buzz was non-existent and I never really got the time to appreciate the mountains of work that went into creating it.
The boxes of useless CDs were immediately recalled and amendments were made at the 11th hour leaving me very little time to get the mail orders signed, packaged and in the post before the release date. It was a stressful period and I worked late into the nights all the while battling a winter bug, desperately trying to claw back some of the lost time.
Topping it off, we needed to find a replacement bass player just four days before our first gig as I couldn’t stomach the unprofessional shit I was getting from our original member when he started showing signs of backing out of our final and most critical rehearsal. Up stepped one of my kindest, most positive and hilarious friends (Duncan) who did his absolute best to get his head around an album’s worth of material within the short time frame in order to help dig us out of trouble.
There were five gigs in the week of the release, three of which were with the band, and we played our very first show in Folkestone at a small venue called ‘The Chambers.’ It’s a special venue that has supported my music hugely over the years and is run by one of the most genuine and down to earth people you could ever hope to meet - Chris Smith. His spirit and hospitality radiates throughout the place; from the decor, to the walls adorned by framed Hendrix posters, to the tasteful food and drinks menu, right through to the music and friendly atmosphere.
I wouldn’t have wanted to play anywhere else on the eve of the album’s release and with a bit of forward-planning and a little luck, the ideal scenario panned out.
I started the gig by playing a 45 minute solo set before I came back on with the band after the break. It was as if a button had been pressed and the music I had been working on for so many years had finally lifted off. To finally be standing there, playing music with new friends and supremely talented musicians all the same, felt like I’d realised at long last some sort of strange ambition. Sure, we sounded fairly ropey to begin with, but we could work on that later. It was just good to finally have a gig under our belts.
After packing away our gear, we saw in the release of the album with a few celebratory beers, talking all things music and savouring the moment of being surrounded by like-minded, good people in Chris’ famous Folkestone bar. We spent the night in a local hotel just round the corner from the venue before nursing our hangovers the next morning back at The Chambers over a few coffees. The album was finally out in the world and there were signs that lot of people were taking to it pretty quickly.
That afternoon, we headed to a local studio to catch up on some rehearsal, giving us an opportunity to review some of our mistakes from the previous night before we headed to Deal to set up for our second gig at another sentimental venue to me, ‘The Lighthouse.’ This time, we sounded like more of a well-oiled machine and were able to enjoy things a little more, naturally feeling more confident in ourselves as a unit and the overall show in general.
We all piled into my camper van and drove back to London from Deal that night, arriving home at around 1.30am. I had two more solo gigs to play that weekend and needed to be up early the following morning to swap around the gear.
As I rejigged the speakers, loaded in my P.A. and added various other components of my solo set up into the back of the van, I noticed that I’d left my loop station - the heart of my live solo setup -at the venue the night before in Deal; an hour and a half away, south of London. I needed to be in Coventry, two and a half hours north by midday. The day was a shambles and I spent most of it either driving, or stuck in traffic trying in vain to make up the time.
The next morning after my gig in Coventry, I was up again to drive three hours south, back to Kent for a final gig in Sheppey. By the end of the weekend, I’d played four gigs made up of eight sets; six on my own, and more significantly - two with the band. The enjoyment and reward of playing with the group in comparison to just myself couldn’t have been more stark. It confirmed my suspicions that this new direction was indeed one I wanted to fully commit to, despite it being more logistically difficult and less financially rewarding.
22nd Nov 2019 - Tamesis Dock
The official album launch gig rolled around a few days later and took place on an old Dutch barge moored up on the Thames near Vauxhall in London.
I had debated on a London venue for a while and went with ‘Tamesis Dock’ in the end because I felt it would be a more memorable DIY experience for everyone involved, despite it not strictly being set up for loud rock gigs. It was a good call.
The event had sold-out and there was an air of excitement prior to kickoff with friends from all over the country (and some from Holland) on board the old quirky vessel.
We had prepared an hour’s worth of material, showcasing the album in all it’s glory. The tide of the river came in almost as soon as the band started playing, causing the boat to rock from side to side, light fittings and chandeliers swaying precariously from the ceiling. It was a bizarre and somewhat stomach turning scenario to be playing and singing to a moving room.
With so many people stood on one side of the boat to get a view of the band, there was a natural tilt impacting on the buoyancy of the boat. Friends who were stood at the back said that the barge was lent on its side so much that the freezing water of the river had started making its way inside via the lower level porthole windows.
We smashed through our set and played with authority, confidence and assurance; largely enhanced by the electric atmosphere that was in the room that night. Many of the people in attendance had also played a big part on the album by contributing to the kickstarter campaign so there was a lot of love and goodwill from every corner of the vessel.
The many months of writing, preparing, recording, producing and rehearsing had all felt like they were geared to this particular night. It was a fitting way to celebrate the release of the album and for atmosphere and energy, one of the best gigs I’ve ever played.
Coincidentally, it was also a great way to see in my birthday and following the gig, me and some of my closest friends ended up going back to mine for a house party, then to a beach party on the banks of the Thames, and then still going in the early morning - we crammed ourselves into a cable car like a pack of wild animals to sing songs with an acoustic guitar, suspended high above the same river we’d been gigging on twelve hours prior.
It had been a whirlwind few weeks and though I wished for more, the time had come to sit back and finally reflect on what had been achieved. I had crossed a line I wasn’t sure I ever could, and the music had now ultimately passed from my obsessive control, into the hands (and ears) of the wider world.