Ukulele, Concertina, Guitar, Chinese Banjo &
WHAT I DO
I write and sing original songs in an English folk style, drawing on influences and experiences gained whilst travelling and working in Europe and Asia.
The majority of my songs I play on ukulele, sometimes dipping into alternate tunings. Since getting used to playing solo again (after being in the folk/funk/poetry band DRAM in China) I have started to write and perform more and more unaccompanied songs. It's both challenging and satisfying to deliver songs in such a stripped-back way and I really enjoy exploring different forms of writing them. I've also started playing an anglo concertina and an instrument I refer to as a Uyghur Banjo, a sanqin from Xinjiang, on the border of China and Kazakhstan.
About My Songs
I perform a varied set of original songs from the vocally explosive 'Walk By The Water' to the subdued, mediatative 'With'.
Songs featuring heavier subjects of bereavement and mental health ('Coming Up For Air', 'Corryvreckan') sit side by side with lighter anecdotes of travel and the great outdoors ('Long Way Home', 'Breaking Waves', 'Ancient Quiet').
Primarily considering myself a singer and lyricist; I play a number of instruments in order to bring different colours to my performances. I'm a socially aware writer as opposed to political and like to draw out the stories and humanist relevancies for audiences.
This is evident in songs based on local history and traditions ('Workhouse of Ulverston', 'Bradyll's Lion', 'As Gan Back', 'Drystone Land').
My acapella lyrics tackle diverse topics such as migration, alcoholism and Cumbrian history with melodies inspired by the tones of Mandarin language, shouts of Cumbrian shepherds and other real-world experiences.
I've honed my stagecraft throughout performances in England, China and the Czech Republic in a bid to engage, challenge and entertain listeners. To date I've played at festivals, folk clubs, pubs, beer festivals, literary events, theatres and off-grid, rural events. I have also been building my social media following and have passed 4000 plays on soundcloud.
My full repertoire (approx original 30 songs) consists of:
ukulele (in concert and open tuning, 50%)
unaccompanied singing (20%)
qin (Chinese 3-stringed banjo, 10%)
anglo concertina (10%)
Having worked for the Lancaster Maritime Festival from 1995-2004 I was privilieged to meet, compere for and listen to some of the finest folk singers from Britain and beyond. As the years went by I even got my own concert to host and sing at, 'The Midshipman's Ball', featuring amazing folk artists such as the late Louis(a Jo) Killen, Paul Sirman, Richard Granger, Tim Laycock and Dick Miles to name but a few.
At the time I was also working closely with the Cumbrian ceilidh band Striding Edge, photographing their gigs on a regular basis and producing artwork for two of their CDs.
Being privy to Mike Willoughby's songwriting was an amazing and inspiring education. It also opened my eyes to the potential of fusing folk song with poetry when he collaborated with writer Jimmy Eccles for Mere Words.
My first 'real' performance was at Nailsea Folk Club in 2002, invited by David Francis (of The Harry Brown Shantymen) to support Vin Garbutt and then lead a songwriting workshop for the club's youth group, The Acorns.
Despite peforming at Solfest in 2006 as part of The Ann Wilson band, my playing was limited to open mics and beer festivals for the next 10 years. However, I continued to write... and write... and edit... and write some more...
In 2013 I formed a band whilst living in Shenzhen, a mega-city in southeastern China. DRAM was a folk, pop, funk & poetry band comprised of myself (vocals, ukulele, mandolin and harmonica), Danny Leach (vocals and guitar), Neil MacMillan (djembe, cajon and vocals) and poet John Walsh. We regularly performed upto 2 hours worth of original songs and poems in bars, events and festivals including the Shenzhen Fringe Festival. I also started delivering songwriting workshops again.
In the summer of 2014 I completed a mental health awareness campaign, walking, singing and giving talks and workshops across Cumbria. It felt very natural to be performing without any amplification or backing other than my ukulele. I delivered mostly original songs and personal stories on the tour, with the two notable exceptions being songs 'donated' to me by my friend Ann Wilson and one by the folk/punk star Frank Turner.
Whilst living in Prague in 2014-15 I refined some of my songs for solo performance and also wrote new material based on my travels and experiences in Finnish Lapland, China, India and Kazakstan. With the help of Potrva Kavarna and A Maze In Tchaiovna I was able to showcase and hone my material. And that brings us to now...
I'm based in Whitehaven, in my home county, with my girlfriend Claire. Although I'm working full-time I'm still tinkering with my songs and hope to be performing around the UK next year...
...would you like to hear some songs?