Paul Strummer - Singer Songwriter

2015 A Year In Review

One of the advantages of being a spare time singer songwriter who's going nowhere, is that come the end of the year, I can just cut n paste the previous year's article, make a few changes here and there, but pretty much "same old same old". So... what happened in 2015? What new covers did I attempt? What were the highlights and lowlights? Who did I play with? What new original songs did I write? Who cares? Along with video/song links, here is a year long review of someone who "likes to strum" in some of his spare time...

(For the last few years I've written similar blog posts, including rants, raves, and the 15 new acoustic covers I attempted in 2014, the 30 new acoustic covers I attempted in 2013, as well as a similar article the year before including my Top 80 acoustic covers I performed in 2012, some of which I've probably performed this year too, but I'll focus on what's new this year.)

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New Live Acoustic Covers for 2015

This is usually the section I find most interesting. Whenever you go to an open mic it's always interesting to see if anyone else has a new cover, as it often reveals a bit more about that person (of course original songs reveal too, but not so immediately as already known covers, since you have to have a gain familiarity with a new original song). In the local music scene I'm involved with, which predominantly has an acoustic style, a cover can sometimes reveal what other styles of music someone likes. Although I love playing my own songs, I'm a sucker for learning, creating, and performing solo acoustic arrangements and more recently live loop arrangements of my favourite songs by other artists too. Here are the 12 new covers I attempted in 2015, roughly in date order, with some live video links (some of them first live performances of the songs! so a bit rough!):

01. Luther Vandross So Amazing (live video)
02. Terence Trent D'Arby Seven More Days (live video)
03. Faithless Bring My Family Back (live video)
04. Nik Kershaw/Chesney Hawkes The One And Only (live video - live looped)
05. Kid Creole and the Coconuts Don't Take Away My Coconuts (live video - live looped)
06. Duran Duran The Wild Boys (live video - live looped)
07. Esme Eva Will You Come Out With Me Tonight (live looped)
08. Evanescence Bring Me To Life (live video)
09. Elton John Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (live video)
10. Toots and the Maytals Monkey Man (live looped)
11. Terence Trent D'Arby Rain
12. Peter Gabriel Steam (live video - live looped)

12 new covers performed live isn't much for me compared to other years, yes I've been a lazy bastard again this year, but perhaps I've also been busy doing other things. Unlike when I first started, I don't use lyric sheets anymore so I do have to learn these songs before performing them live, which does help to explain the smaller number compared to earlier years. Faithless Bring My Family back, a trip hop rap song, was the most challenging lyric-wise at 460 words with little in the way of repeated words or lines, and that's over 7 times bigger lyric-wise than Toots and the Maytals 62 word Monkey Man!

Highlights of 2015

Easily the biggest hightlight of 2015 for me was playing at Wellingborough's Party In The Park in July. Not just because I'm a Wellingburian and Wellingborough is my local town (except for a gap in the late 80s and 90s) living there all my life since 1967, it's even more specific than that because Croyland Park is my local park!

Also since I performed my first open mic at the Horseshoe in 2011, and released my first album of original songs that year too, I was realistic from the outset in setting achievable goals, and playing at this event was my end goal! So if I wanted to, I could retire from music a happy man, someone who has achieved all of his musical goals!

The day before Wellingborough's Party In The Park, was Wellingborough Carnival day, and I was lucky enough to get involved with the Horseshoe Inn's Carnival float The Boat That Rocked, which was a lot of fun, and it gave me the chance to capture what I think is the most fun live video of 2015, The Songbirds playing live on a moving carnival float:

thanks Anna and Nicola, and thanks Nick and Debs at the Horseshoe.

I would also like to thank The Olde Englande 2 in Wellingborough and its sister pub The Falcon in Huntingdon, for arranging some full gigs for local singer-songwriters this year on the weekend afternoons, and being happy for us to play original songs as well as covers. It was a lot of fun being able to play a full gig of 2x45 minute sets on 4 separate occasions, and thanks to Chris Herald and Dan Butterworth (and Chris Butterworth) who were my support acts.

What with The Horseshoe Inn's weekly Wednesday night open mic night and Bank Holiday Monday afternoon sessions, The Olde Englande 2 weekend afternoon sessions, the Wildfire Sessions fortnightly Acoustic Showcases at the Coach and Horses, the local beer festivals at Hart Brewery and the Wellingborough, Waendel and Doddington Club beer festivals, Bassetts park fun day, Woodfest (Irchester Park) and Wellingborough Party In The Park, Wellingborough had a pretty good local music scene in 2015 allowing local songwriters to get their music out, so thanks to all involved in this. 2015 also saw some new local open mic nights start at pubs including The Locomotive Wellingborough, The Lilacs Isham, The King Edward Rushden, as well as a Wildfire showcase night at The Nags Head Wollaston.

I did soft-release a live bootleg album in 2015, containing 12 of my own songs from the first 2 albums, but performed live, and in a lot of cases live looped. I tried to keep this album as bootleg/low-cost as possible, even though most of the songs have high quality direct from the mixer recordings, so it's just £1 for the CD! Something I carry around with me when I'm gigging. One of the reasons for this CD was that my live performances, now mostly live-looped, don't sound like my original solo acoustic albums which weren't live looped, so I wanted to have a CD that sounds like I sound now in 2015.

Ad-hoc Jams and Collaborations for 2015

In 2015 I've been lucky enough to get to play with quite a few people, including: hazeyjane, Kenneth J Nash, Esme Eva, Nicola Sinclair and Anna Bassett (The Songbirds), Mark Gill, half of A Dangerous Liason (Andy Gardiner and Andy Guest), The Tallest Hogarth, Dan Butterworth, Jayne Stonehold, Mick Panter and Jon Colson, Phil Sheridan, Rob Matheson and Paul McCabe, Alistair Sutcliffe, Fatbwoi, Ellen Zok, Mark Zok, Julie Sinclair, Tim Jon Brophy, Steve Ward, Cliff Tomlin, Andrew Osborne, Adam Peardon-Cook, Kevin Levy, Dean Irons, Dan Rudd, Chris Herald, Tommy George Cornwell, David Peters, Adam Smith, Charn Madden, Tony Brough, Gary Clarke, Trevor Merrison, Michael Dawson, John Hynes, Chris Butterworth and anyone else I might have forgotten (sorry). Thanks for either joining me on my songs or letting me play on your songs. Cheers everyone!

Lowlights of 2015

Yes music will always continue to be a shit industry, which is why I prefer to treat it as an enjoyable past-time. I had a good 'ole rant last year, and I get a lot off my chest throughout the year on facebook, so I wont say much here this year. BBC Introducing has been a little bit better this year in that the songs I had uploaded have now been marked as "listened to" so I can upload other songs, none of which have been played on air by local BBC radio, but I live in hope that one day BBC Radio Northampton will play one of my songs to the massive listener audience they have at 8pm on a Saturday night! Seriously... who is listening to Radio Northampton on Saturday night at 8pm?

The music industry's award-winning golden boy Sam Smith continued to fail to impress me this year with his James Bond theme. One silver lining of 2015 for me was the court ruling that forced Sam Smith to pay royalties to Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne for ripping off their song I Wont Back Down with his song Stay With Me, a song that helped catapult Sam up to be the golden boy of the music industry. How can the music industry be respected and taken seriously if it awards rip-offs as original music? Stay With Me isn't his only rip-off, I've also heard some songs that sound like Alexander O'Neal songs. For me the court ruling was good in two ways, it delivered justice but also proved that most of the music industry is a joke.

The British weather continued to rain off/wind off some gigs this year for me, and it was a pity that I didn't get to play at Wellingborough's Hart Family Brewery Winter Shindig and The Wellingborough Baloon Festival at Sywell because of bad weather, but at least I got to play at Woodfest Irchester Park this year (last year the Sunday was rained off).

Other Songwriting for 2015

I continued in 2015 as I did in 2014, not bothering too much about writing new songs! My thinking is that I've got enough songs, too many, already. When I'm lucky enough to get a feature slot, that feature slot most likely is 25 minutes, and with 2 albums of 24 original songs in total, that means I've got to say "sorry mate you're not on the list you're not coming in" to a lot of my songs I like. To write more songs would mean that I'd be disappointing myself more by excluding more songs from feature sets. But saying that, as with 2014, several new songs did pop in to my head in 2015, which I just roughly recorded on my phone and put away to do more with some rainy day in the future, maybe 2016.

One thing I did do this year was revisit and rearrange some of my songs with live loop arrangements, live looping drum, bass and guitar, and adding some guitar soloing, e.g. Waiting For The Sign and Devil Comes A Knocking.

I was very pleased in 2015 to see 2 of my songs get covered by another local singer-songwriter who I respect a lot for her songwriting, not just straight covers but interesting and different versions, so a big thanks to Esme Eva for her cover of Spinning Around, and Come Back. If anybody else fancies having a go at covering my songs please do, I'd be interested to hear what you do with them, and if you need any help with lyrics or chords just get in touch. In the past I've covered songs from quite a few local songwriters including Karl Phillips, Stevie Jones, Kenneth J Nash, Bob Cousins, Stevie Rigsby, Esme Eva - it's a fun thing to do, and unlike covering mainstream songs, you can actually talk to and get feedback from the songwriters!

2016?

Maybe there'll be a third album, maybe there'll be another live bootleg album, and I'm hoping to downsize my live loop setup with some extra gadgetry that will allow me to make some different sounds live.

Cheers everybody!

p.s. If anybody wants a free year planner to download and print off for 2016, here's the 2016 year planner page. Thanks.

p.p.s. Thanks for reading, thanks for listening, and thanks for all of your support. Thanks to all my facebook likers, if you haven't done so already please "Like" my facebook music page. Thanks.

Paul.