Lesson 19- Play, Meet, Play, Meet, Repeat
Updated: Oct 9
On the Noisettes tour
After almost a year playing in and around London, I was garnering a good reputation and everything was starting to fall into place. My Canadian buddy, Ian acted as a manager, briefly and thanks to him and QOTSA legend, Nick Oliveri, I even got a booking agent at one of London’s big agencies. In addition to things going well in London, I’d received a message from Eric Warner in Toronto.
I met Eric when he was twelve (okay, he was older than that but he was really young). He would put on these all-ages shows in Toronto that were always interesting and well-attended. When he called to offer to put my record out and take care of some things in Canada, I had to say yes. He was a whiz kid. For the next little while, every time I would come home, I would have an incredible opening slot, supporting Chad VanGaalen, Daniel Johnston, METZ, Captured By Robots or Dirty Projectors . It was great to have someone back home looking out for my best interests.
On the back of Secret Garden Party I got to open for my favourite London band, Noisettes on the entirety of their UK tour. As per usual, they were given a, “you want him, you take him” scenario which meant I traveled with them. This suited me fine and kept me less lonely and really got to know them, personally. The other opening slots were divided between, Foals, The Victorian English Gentleman’s Club and a couple of teenagers from Sheffield called Slow Club. I loved Slow Club. And Charles, from the band became a colleague, flat mate and one of my best friends. He also graciously adopted me into his friend circle where I made some of my closest friends like David Glover, Luke Smith (both of whom are incredible producers whom I’d work with) and Danny Keir, who would help manage my career later on.
I played so much that it seemed like every time I’d play a show, I’d be offered another one. For example; through Slow Club I met Tiny Dancers. Through Tiny Dancers I met The Magic Numbers, through the Magic Numbers I met the Langley Sisters and so on and so on.
When I was a teenager in my hometown, I once met local celebrity and songwriter, Tom Wilson. He seemed ancient at the time (far younger than I am now) and his band had a major label record deal. As far as I was concerned, he had it made. I once asked him for some advice and he told me to, “Just stick with it. If you stick it out long enough, eventually you’ll know everybody.”
I was starting to understand. The more I played, the more people I met. The more people I met, the more I played. And it kept going like that.
By the end Mayor McCa’s time in London was through, I got to open for (forgive the gratuitous name dropping): Jay Retard, Dan La Sac Vs Scrubious Pip, Paloma Faith, Kid Carpet, Neil Innes, Euros Child, Regina Spektor, Buck 65, Smokey Angle Shades, Metronamy and a bunch more. It was going so well that I even got to do a tour with Amy Millan’s awesome band in Canada that ended with a hometown, headlining show at The Casbah. Jenn Grant opened and it is one the most special shows I’ve done. The bottom line is, I was playing with some excellent acts and my show was getting better and better.
There was a problem. There was always a problem: I was starting to get bored. My show was so tight that it actually became a bit dull for me. An opening slot in the UK is usually a half an hour. It would go something like this:
Songs 1-3: I’d start with a slow song and slowly bring the tempo up. This would give the audience the chance to stop thinking about what I was doing long enough to enjoy it.
Songs 4-5: I’d break into a couple of heavy songs; fast and loud. This would really get people’s heads moving and bring people closer to the stage to check it out
Song 6: this would always be a song like, “Hey Man You Gotta Nice Job”, in which I tap danced in the audience.
Songs 7-8: I’d play two more heavy songs to really get people moving
Song 9: I’d bring it all back down and play a song on keyboard and nothing else. I’d end with a clarinet solo I’m the audience and if at that point the room was silent, I knew it went well. Crowd goes wild.
To try and curb complacency, I started giving myself challenges like; ‘only acoustic guitar tonight’ or ‘no tap dancing’ but whenever I did that I felt like I wasn’t quite giving my best, which I always wanted to do.
It was also becoming apparent that the best place to perform was an intimate venue. I was playing bigger and bigger places but my favourite type of crowd was in a small crowded venue.
One of my favourite venues: The Harley in Sheffield. Photo by Rebecca Vincent
I took a few meetings with management companies and during one of these meet ups, the manager asked me, “What do you really want to achieve in your career?”
I now understand why she asked that question. It was a really good question that I didn’t have an answer to. My general strategy had always been, play as much as I can, release an album every two years and hopefully, one day, I’d be a big act. Beyond that vague aim, I didn’t really have a plan. I’d been flying by the seat of my pants until then. I needed an answer to that question and until I figured it out, I’d just have to keep doing what I was doing.