Pebbles Of Destiny
If memory serves me right, it was the summer of 1998.Â Iâ€™d been struggling to get a band together for a while and it had been over a year since Iâ€™d last been in a gigging band.Â I was in my mid-20s and still dreaming of becoming a rock star, but the reality of actually releasingÂ a recordÂ seemed a million miles away.
It seemed that whenever I got a group of potential band members together, things were thwarted either by shift work or family commitments, or something, and I was just getting more and more frustrated with it all.Â There didnâ€™t seem to be a particular shortage of musicians and I was hanging out with plenty of cool people at jam nights on a regular basis, but I just couldnâ€™t seem to hook up with any like-minded individuals with the same kind of drive and ambitions that I had.
Without that vehicle for them, I hadnâ€™t done any songwriting for a couple of years either, my efforts perpetually geared up towards trying to form a band.Â I was in a rut.
Well, that summer, I went on holiday to Sidmouth, in Devon, England.Â They have a cool folk festival week there every year, and it was on whilst I was there.Â You get musicians of all genres and street performers everywhere and itâ€™s a great atmosphere.Â I had my acoustic guitar with me, although I wasnâ€™t there to be performing, apart from at the guestsâ€™ concert they had at the end of the week at the hotel, where anyone can get up and do a turn.Â I was simply on holiday.
The first night there, I spent the night drinking with friends in our favourite pub, The Black Horse, and when it kicked out, my friends headed back to the hotel.Â But I decided to head down to the front and see what was going down.Â There were loads of people sat on the pebble beach chatting, so I decided to hang out there for a bit too.
There was this guy sat nearby, playing about with a guitar and I canâ€™t remember which song for the life of me, but he was struggling to work out how to play it, and it happened to be something that I knew how to play.Â So, I offered to show him how the song was played and he handed me his guitar.Â I played a bit of the song and the guy told me to carry on, so I performed the song through and the group of people immediately around me applauded.
Then, the lad whose guitar it was said,
â€œPlay something else.â€Â Now anyone that knows me, knows that I donâ€™t need asking twice when it comes to performing!Â Â So off I went playing songs â€“ mostly well known sixties stuff – and gradually the attention of the crowd around us on the beach turned to me and everyone was singing along, and I was going down a storm!Â The vibe was awesome!
The next night I took my guitar out with me.Â We went to The Black Horse as usual and I asked if they minded me playing my guitar in there.Â They were more than happy, so I got out my guitar and did my thing.Â One or two people in there asked,
â€œWerenâ€™t you the guy playing on the beach last night?â€Â Once again, there was a great atmosphere and everyone was singing.
I did the same thing each night, except for one when I had a prior engagement, and I heard that they were disappointedly asking where I was in The Black Horse!Â It was a brilliant week.Â But, without a doubt the highlight was the exhilarating feeling I had performing that first night on the beach, with a crowd of complete strangers with me, singing along.
It was a watershed moment.Â I realised what I could do without a band behind me.Â In fact for getting everyone to sing along, which is probably the thing I like best of all in a performance, I think itâ€™s better not to have a full band.
It wasnâ€™t long afterwards that I saw Ray Davies of The Kinks, in concert, on his â€œStorytellerâ€ tour.Â This, combined with my experience on Sidmouth beach, inspired me to forget about forming a band and to go it alone as an acoustic soloist.
Leap forward a decade and a half, two E.P.s distributed worldwide; many, many live performances; radio play on both sides of the Atlantic; and countless other musical experiences along the wayâ€¦.. itâ€™s still that feeling on Sidmouth beach that sticks out in my memory.Â Â And thatâ€™s the feeling I still crave, whenever I perform.
Of course, writing and recording is hugely important too.Â That emotional outlet and the crafting of an idea.Â Creating an experience for the listener.Â But being a musician â€“ for me at least â€“ thatâ€™s about the sore, aching fingers; lugging the gear to and from gigs; the smells of stale beer and piss; replacing broken strings; hanging around to get paid; that elated, yet lonely and depressed feeling after a great gig; and every other seemingly insignificant detail which nevertheless defines what it is to be a performing musician.
But, most important of all, itâ€™s you, the listener that makes it all worthwhile.
I look forward to many more, sometimes great, sometimes tough, but always worthwhile experiences along this musical journey.Â Hereâ€™s to hoping that you are part of that journey.
Thankyou for being a listener and making it all matter.