That sound struck one huge distorted powerchord with me. It was the sound of The Subterranean Squids, the band that Adam, my older brother, played in. They used to practise their brand of doomy, grungy punk rock in our house and I remember they used to all pile in carrying humungous black boxes bigger than me, (which I later found out to be amplifiers) drums and guitar cases. For me, still only a toddler, it was the most exciting thing in the world! I rummaged around for my toy ukelele (I still have it, although all but one of the tuning pegs have snapped off!) and climbed up the stairs to join in on the joyous noisemaking that must have shaken the whole street.
From then onwards I was hooked. I graduated to a plastic guitar (with actual metal strings, not one of those Guitar Hero-esque button pushing toys you see these days!) and pestered my mum to make me a “louder” (I meant amp) which she did. It was all in the details…A giant cardboard box, covered in a black bin liner with buttons stuck across the front for the dials. I even had a length of wool with one end selotaped to the “louder” and the other to the body of my guitar. I must have seen my brother plugging in his jack lead and thought “I need one of those too!”.
Mum and dad were always listening to the Rolling Stones and they had a few concert videos which quickly became my favourites, along with Mr Men and Postman Pat. For hours I’d stand in front of the TV with my guitar and louder set up pretending to be Keith Richards, leg kicks, lunges and all.
After a few years of mimicry I finally got a REAL guitar! Adam had been working as a bingo caller in an arcade at the seaside and for my 7th birthday he bought me a 3/4 size nylon string acoustic from the Argos catalogue. Apparently I was so shocked that I didn’t dare look at it for a whole week.
Adam showed me a few basic chords and my dad helped me to learn a couple of songs and I was off, never to look back. Within months I’d formed my first band, Camouflage, with a couple of schoolmates. We did our first gig in the village hall to a packed out crowd. We probably played Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog’ and Roy Orbison’s ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ – I’m pretty sure there’s video evidence somewhere…
So fast forward almost twenty years and playing music is still the most exciting thing in the world to me. There’s nothing that beats that nauseating, nervous feeling that comes before stepping out onto a big stage, singing a song that I’ve spent countless hours writing and agonising over and the enormous sense of relief that follows when it’s all over and people are chatting to me in the bar telling me how much they (hopefully) enjoyed it.
Yes there have been times in the past where I’ve thought “why am I still doing this?”. Usually when I’m shivering in the back of my car trying to catch a few minutes sleep midway through a late night four hour drive after a gig to 3 people that weren’t listening, having made no money or sold any CDs and had nothing to eat and the petrol light’s on and it’s 3am and there’s nowhere open to buy any petrol…
But those people that DO care, YOU, keep me going through those cold times and make it all worth it. And when people enjoy what I do I feel just like that 3 year old rocking out in front of the TV singing Honky Tonk Woman (yes, there’s video evidence of that too!) So I look forward to many more of these experiences along the rest of my musical journey, after all they make great stories. But most importantly I really hope that you continue to accompany me on that journey.
If you would like to hear the latest milestone in that journey, have a listen to my latest album ‘Strangers’ on the music page.
Thank you for being a listener and for making it all worthwhile.