Musicians Have Feelings Too…
About 9 years ago, when I was getting ready to do this Roots & Fusion thing for the first time, I made a decision. I would make sure I listened to everything that was sent to me. Sounds basic doesn’t it..? Obvious, even.
When I first started receiving CDs to play on the show, I was very happy. Not only did I listen to them all, I started cataloguing them and keeping all the PR info – listing who had sent them and their contact details, so I could let them know if / when I was going to play their music.
I think I managed to keep this up for the first year. Maybe… Far too much admin. But still I was making sure I listened to everything. This was, and still is, important. A real person has spent time, effort, love & sometimes tears, creating this thing, sending it off into the world in the hope that someone like me will like it enough to play it on their show. But (confession time) more & more I started flicking through the album rather than listening to the whole thing.
One of the other decisions that I made right from the off was that I would only play something on the show if I liked it. I wasn’t going to allow a radio station, a PR company or even a friend, tell me what to play. The show is the equivalent of inviting you round to my house so I can play you music – so I have to believe in it.
Sometimes an artist will get in touch and send me one to two tracks from their release – the radio friendly ones or the single that they’re pushing. I’m not interested in whether it’s radio friendly or not. I much prefer to listen to (and play on the show, if I like it) the full version as opposed to the “radio edit”. But more importantly, please, send me the album or EP, not just one or two tracks. I might not like the whole album. I don’t have to like the whole album. With more choice, there’s more chance I’ll find the one track that makes me go “wow”. And I’ll play it.
Then there’s the other side to this. I’m not just passively waiting for music to be sent to me. I read reviews, listen to recommendations - searching for new music.
Back in 2010, I read a review of an album in the online Fatea Magazine which sounded interesting. I got in touch, saying where I heard about her, explaining about the show and asking if it would be possible to send me a copy of her album. This is always difficult for me for two reasons. First, I’m asking for a freebie. I would love to buy every album I play on the show, but I don’t get paid to do the show and I can’t afford it. Close to 450 shows so far, average of 20 tracks per show. You do the math… (That’s not to say I don’t buy anything, I do when I can...)
The second reason is this. What happens if I don’t like it..? This is why I only ask for albums if I believe there is a good chance I’ll find something to play.
Back to 2010. The album arrives and I put it on. It’s nice – vocal & guitar, the songs are fine, but it doesn’t jump out at me. The production is a bit different than I’m used to for this type of music; the vocal is a little low in the mix. Then there are a couple of A Cappella songs. They are gorgeous. I decide on one of these for the show.
After the show I get an email from the artist, asking why I chose to play one of the A Cappella songs. I explain about the production and that because of this the A Cappella songs stood out, especially with her lovely voice. It turns out the production side was her choice and she sounded a little upset at my opinion. I went back to album with fresh ears, decided to listen to the whole thing all the way through. That’s when I discovered the last track. I must have missed it first time around; I’d probably made my mind up after hearing the A Cappella and not played it all.
The last track on the album is a thing of beauty. The production works perfectly, it was made for this song. Simple & lovely guitar, the same verse of just four lines repeated a couple of times, then after a minute and a half the piano kicks in, and I’m lost… The song builds slowly, surely and it is just incredible.
I send her an email, letting her know I’ll be playing this song. No response. I play the song a few more times over the following months, letting her know each time, again with no response. Close to a year later she updated her website – she started a family and took a break from music.
In almost 9 years of Roots & Fusion, this song is still one of my all time favourites.
From the album Something Fierce, the song So… by Erin K Hill
I can wait
You have my heart
Erin updated her website earlier this year to say she was thinking of starting to gig again, but I just checked now before adding the link here and it doesn’t exist anymore.
If anyone knows Erin, please say hello from me…