|Tuesday 21 August 2018|
|There is a Land|
|In some ways, although I'm glad you're reading this, I wish you were reading it later, once there There is a Land has been released.
I mean, don't go – stay now, you're here anyway. You may as well read a bit more.
It's just that I'm aware that if you've listened to my recent releases (which, naturally, I would urge you to do if you haven't), you might read this post, and my last one, and think,
“What's this lad on about?”
It's fine. I've had it before. Normally if I start blabbing on about song after a couple of glasses of wine people begin exchanging glances, more or less to the effect of,
“Mate, you play the guitar and sing, just like every other fucker. Get over yourself.”
Which is good advice, no doubt, although it's possible that I'm not quite there yet.
The songs on my debut EP, Weapons Antique & Modern, were all commissioned works written to briefs from a TV company – something on a particular topic or for a particular character or sequence. Because of this, they've never felt entirely my own; the space they needed to occupy was defined by other people.
There's nothing wrong with that. Lots of great work is produced on commission, or to spec, or in collaboration. Nonetheless it is for this reason I feel that Green Ginger Wine, the second EP I put out, is much more representative of what I do.
I had a number of aims when making it.
I didn't want there to be any studio interventions, or bolstering of the songs to keep them interesting; I wanted the songs to be interesting enough on their own to need no assistance.
This meant no double-tracking, or string swells, or additional instrumentation used to augment sections of the songs here and there, etc.
Indeed, Tobi Lustigman, the producer, had to work quite hard to convince me to permit the use of click tracks and reverb.
To keep me legit, everything would be written and arranged for the same band of players: drums, bass, two backing vocalists and myself on guitar and vocals.
I wanted my guitar picking and my lyrical style to be different on every song. I wanted each song to work in a different way.
That was what it meant for me to have an idea for a song: to have an idea for a way a song could work.
If all I had was a couple of couplets or a notional topic, some chords or a bit of melody, then I didn't really have any way of proceeding.
In the end, although this wasn't completely intentional, I wound up with a collection of songs that all in different ways related to or referenced ideas of cyclicality or circularity.
I reckon I just had stuff on my mind.
Now, this might all sound like complete bullshit. I'm just a bloke who plays the guitar and sings. I'm very aware of the possibility that none of this stuff is audible on the record. It may be that none of it is even discernible...
But, in all sincerity, those were some of my aims, and that was how I worked. I like to hope that, if it sounds good, perhaps my intentions and methods are part of the reason why.
On There is a Land I've taken all these things forward.
It's ten songs long, and they're all very different from each other. They're all written for the same set of instruments, but I've added Hammond organ and electric guitar to the line-up. This has enabled me to come up with more varied and fulsome arrangements.
The relative sparsity of the Green Ginger Wine line-up meant I think that the record sounded to some ears incomplete or inadequately professional (despite the band all being musicians of very high caliber).
We're all very used to a high-gloss, filling-in-the-gaps production style at the moment, so that if sometimes a recording is just a band playing a song, it can sound like there's something missing.
That was something I wanted to act against, which was a part of why I recorded in the way I did.
Either way, I think it's true that it was necessary to actively listen to that record in order to get quite how the songs were distinctive.
(If it's just on in the background, I think it sounds merely 'nice', which wasn't something I was usually going for.)
The bigger band on this record diminishes the extent to which that is true, and it also allows me to do more with the music on each song.
Even as a background wash it still remains distinctive and vivid, and interesting – I've done more work so that it still works even if you want to do less.
What are songs for anyway? Surely they're only so you can go jogging without boredom, and drive places purposefully and with vim?
But, if you're into the stuff, then I'm hopeful there's a lot in there to enjoy.
I've always loved vocal harmony, and as well as beefing up the band I've put a lot into making the backing vocals on these songs contribute more powerfully to the texture and the overall effects that are at work. There's just so much more that can be done besides singing a third above the chorus melody line (not that there's anything wrong with that...).
The performances the backing-vocalists have recorded of these parts are probably my favourite things on the album (alongside Eric Ford's drumming and Pat Kenneally's Hammond organ on the song Southport at Night).
As with Green Ginger Wine, this set of songs is grouped around a(n admittedly fairly nebulous) set of ideas and themes. These were suggested by the title track, the first of these songs completed, with its naively yearned-for yet perhaps unreachable distant Land.
This set me thinking about all manner of things that we might feel aware of and yet unable to obtain or reach, and the distances between things, the distances between people, and justice and desire, and division and memory and the past and the future, not to mention super highly topical Brexit-related themes of sovereignty and notions of national identity.
Basically, I figured out that if I turned anything around far enough I could kind of fit it on. Oh well.
|Monday 6 August 2018|
|WHO AM I WHAT AM I DOING|
|Who am I and what do I do
My name is Robin Elliott. I'm a songwriter (and songwronger) and arranger, I sing and play the guitar, and I'm a recording artist and performer.
I was born in Liverpool and grew up mostly in Southport, in the suburban North West. I've been living in London for a number of years and I love its diversity and the unfussed matter-of-factness of its hectic complexity.
As a songwriter I work in a way which thoughtful as well as emotional. I tend to think a lot about what I am writing, and about how best to write it. Songs are often percolating away in my head for a long time (percolating through the rocks in my brain...).
I love stuff which looses great free splurges of expression right at you - and I try to incorporate some of that approach into my performances – but I don't think it's the only valid way for songs to be made. There has always been (an attempt at) an intellectual side to my approach, an artistic side.
This approach developed out of my longstanding fascination with how songs work and the forms they take. There are two main strands of this fascination: the ways music and lyrics deploy and develop the narrative in narrative songs, all the way back to the traditional canons; and the ways in which music and lyrics work and are put together across the history of popular music in its variety of forms and styles.
This makes me sound much more scholarly than I really am. My underlying motivation behind all this has always been to make songs, and to make songs that work, and maybe, hopefully, make songs that work in new ways, whilst still being connected somehow to traditional forms.
Why? I don't know.
I want my songs to work as things. I want each of them to be the way it is because of what it's about. I want each one to be a different and individual thing that works in a different way. And I want each one to be capable of expressing what I mean to express.
However, I want the work (mostly) to be done by the song, rather than the listener. I want the song to lead you through itself without (too much) effort. There's plenty more in there for you if you will listen again, so I want the song to be alluring, for you to be drawn in again.
During my amateur studies of song, as I attempted to learn to be able to do what I wanted to do, there was a period in which I clung to a great distain for things which I perceived to fail my criteria for 'goodness'. Songs that I thought were emptily stylistic, and things which I felt required the trickery and interventions of modern studio production techniques in order to simply function.
If a song's appeal resided in a collaging-together of stylistic elements in a new hip way, for example, then I tended not to care for it.
If had been deemed necessary that a song be given an 'anthemic' quality and this had been achieved by recording loads of voices shouting along to the chorus, I tended to beat at my breast and gnash my teeth in anguish and rage.
Why couldn't people write songs that were good and new and meaningful just because of their words and music? Why couldn't words and music be enough to get people through the length of a song without getting bored?
Essentially I became a kind of song Puritan, adhering zealously to a dogma of my own division.
I've calmed the fuck down about it all now.
This is largely because I realised, over time, that songs can be great in a huge, huge number of different ways that were excluded by the narrow narrow definition of 'good' upon which I was insisting.
I also found that the severity of my diktats was such that I was unable to actually write any songs.
Then, owing initially to a fortuitously well-placed friend, I began receiving some commissions to write and record songs and music for a film and television company.
Having a brief to fulfil was hugely helpful for me, because it meant I could write without having to abide by my morbid credo.
During this period I loosened up enough to get enough of my own songs finished to record a record. And, the money from the TV company meant I could afford to do so.
The commissions had been for stuff in a variety of different styles, but I compiled some of the folkier songs together and Folkroom Records released them as my first EP, Weapons Antique & Modern.
I felt at the time that folk music, and the singer-songwriter stuff that's often bundled in with it, was the kind of thing I was trying to do, because I felt that it was about the song itself and not about a style or aesthetic, a set of accoutrements.
Nowadays I am much less certain that this is the case.
My earnings from the commissions paid for four days' studio time, which, with backing singers and a rhythm section, we used to record and mix the six songs making up my second EP, Green Ginger Wine. This was the first of my releases which I felt had been written and made in a way that reflected my approach and methods and goals as a songwriter. With more money and time I would probably have expanded the arrangements a little, but I'm still very happy with it.
After Green Ginger Wine I began to perform solo a lot more. For this reason the third of my EPs, At Sunset, is pared back to only vocal and guitar. The aim was to make something utterly without ornament, with material strong enough to survive despite being completely exposed.
The CD release is only four songs, but the download has a few additional reworkings and cover versions.
At Sunset was recorded by audio wizard and guitar-legend-of-the-near-future Ben Walker, and he and I have worked together again making my first full-length album (and, indeed, my second, although now is not the time to talk about that...).
The album is called There is a Land, and it's the fullest realisation so far of everything I'm about with songwriting, and I'm thoroughly exited to have it finished and ready to go. As is Ben, from what I can glean. We're both really keen for people to hear it, but I'll have more to say on that topic in my next post...
|Monday 9 July 2018|
|After plenty of hard work with Ben Walker in the studio all the mixes were finished, and I took everything out to west London to get it mastered.
Ben had recommended I attend the mastering session.
To the uninitiated it's a fascinating and mysterious process, and the only cure for this strange yearning is to actually go along and listen to it happening for six hours.
I still think it's interesting and impressive work, but now I know how it goes I'm probably going to be ok leaving them to it in future.
It's probably not the kind of environment in which excitable maverick eccentrics thrive. Nick Watson at Fluid Mastering did the work, and he was very professional, calm, and seemingly reserved.
It's a slightly long record we've made. I had a running order worked out, but we had some discussion about whether, on the vinyl, to place a track at the end of side 1 or at the beginning of side 2.
Once decided, Nick said,
“It's one of the fairly rare cases where greater brevity is not preferable to more material.”
This seemed highly and unexpectedly complimentary, and I was still blankly staring into space trying to figure out if that was what was meant by it when Nick looked round at me. So, if it was high praise, and I didn't mishear, he might think it went someway over my head, as I made no mutter nor nudge of acknowledgement.
All of the sound of There is a Land is now finished, and I just have to somehow get people to hear it.
|Thursday 21 December 2017|
|Three more days done. More of my vocals down, plus backing vocals by Samantha Whates and Alex Kershaw.
Great to see Alex who I haven't seen since, coincidentally, Samantha and I played Leeds in the summer. He seems well. Strange to think how long our association has persisted, now. Closer to 10 years than five. His band, The Magic Eye Pictures, look to be doing well up there. They deserve to be, they can play and they're tight, and he's a class future classic English songwriter.
He and Ben enjoyed themselves talking about Anime series they've enjoyed.
I was experiencing some emotional difficulties the same day Samantha was down, so I left and left her and Ben to it.
They were both total professionals and got everything done that I'd asked of them, to a very high standard, while I wandered the streets and seafront of Brighton under grey skies.
Down on the beach, looking out to see, approaching the collapsed pier, I thought “ok, fuck it, I may as well”, and took probably the exact same picture of the old dear that every other Meaningful, Emotional Fucker takes down there.
It made me feel a bit better, but it's not coming off the phone.
Samantha's making a new album. She really is extraordinary, and deserves all the success in the world.
You can learn more, and listen, and help her achieve that here: https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/samanthawhates
My album, this record, There is a Land, is still not finished. But again, it's closer. Agonisingly close...
Much love this time to Mila and Gina for their kind, kind hospitality.
|Wednesday 6 December 2017|
|Spent 3 days recording some of my vocals and getting all the electric guitar down. Vocals were quite tough in places, still can't shift this cough.
My guitar amp has developed an interesting condition whereby, every now and then, it randomly turns itself up to full screaming death volume. While we were doing some preliminary mixing I realised I'd left it turned on when piercing electronic shrieks started coming through the walls of the control room from the live room.
Good sessions all in all, still not finished, though closer to being. It really is drawing near, now.
I left without getting rough bounces off Ben, so as I wont waste my time obsessively listening to and making notes on recordings not yet ready for that part of the process.
Lots of love to Nia and her mum Shirley for putting me up.
|Friday 17 November 2017|
|Good week overalls|
|Very nice week with a variety of gigs, jet(train?)-setting around the place importantly.
I played in Paris for the first time on Saturday, and spent three nights there, staying with a friend. Great to have a change of scene.
The gig was nice, in a ratty, tatty basement venue underneath a bar. The French for “ratty, tatty” is “chic”, as far as I could gather.
Samantha Whates and I had gone out there to support our French Connection, wild-eyed, bearded American singing grizzly James Jewell, who was at long last putting out a record of his songs. We had Meera Shenoy on the bill too, a close-to-the-bone jazz-voiced singer-songwriter. Very lovely people, both.
The gig was sweet. Dimly lit, concrete columned, and to an audience from all over, a penny mix of ex-pat arts types, all in Paris looking for whatever.
I've begun wearing my new stage costume to gigs – some purple overalls I found at work and obtained by donating an old guitar to the D&T department.
Sadly I'd neglected to bring them, so in lieu I spent some time describing to my bemused European audience the strange effects they'd be feeling in light of the juxtaposition of my material and my outfit were I in fact wearing the outfit, which I could instead only describe.
You don't get that with the Rolling Stones.
I got off the Eurostar in Kings Cross on the Tuesday evening and went straight to a gig at my familiar haunt The Harrison.
In some ways it wasn't a classic (I blame the shonky promoter, naturally...) but it did mean I was introduced for the first time to Felix M-B, who's a great songwriter and performer who I hope to see a lot more of.
The Thursday I was at the Green Note, supporting Paul Mosely at the launch of his Wintertide EP. My old touring mate Jack Harris took the stage too, after me and before Paul, and also joined Paul for the parts of his set that showcased his arrangements for several voices and instruments. It was really nice stuff.
Great crowd, they knew their music. By which I mean I went down a storm.
I donned my new performance garb before passing through the burgundy curtain to the stage. I asked the promoter of the night, Rory Carlile, what he thought. Rory's a good lad.
He looked me up and down and said,
“I like it. It's kind of... freaky. Strange.
...Is that intentional?”
|Thursday 2 November 2017|
|I'm heading to Brighton on Sunday in advance of five full days of recording with Ben W in Brighton next week. Then I'm away to Paris to play a gig, my first outside the UK since I played Mandrea Festival a few years ago.
Then a couple of gigs in London, then off on the road with new friend Jeremy Tuplin, playing Cambridge, Oxford, London and Brighton.
There's so much joy for me in a month like this. I have to say, though, dear reader, that it's frighteningly financially destructive.
I was sick as a dog last week, and it's lingered into this one. My preparations for recording are a bit behind schedule, largely because I'm still unable to sing.
Consequently, we've started planning further recording sessions in December.
Further happiness and financial sorrows.
With a nod to the Playlist Generator generation, I'm considering ordering the album's songs to run from most 'popular' through to strangest.
|Monday 4 September 2017|
|For the next few weeks I'll be mostly occupied with my most regular day job, which I'm lucky enough to enjoy, and wherein I've found management understanding enough to allow me time away from work when I need. Albeit unpaid, of course. No one's THAT lucky.
The truth is, though, I can't seem to make the money work, and I'm thinking about leaving London, where I've lived more or less my whole adult life.
I know that people like me are the thin end of the wedge when it comes to gentrification, so I doubt people will mourn our absence too much.
People being priced out might not regret the expulsion of the agents of change, the first symptoms of the infection, and I'm not sure that those being priced in will be troubled too much by it either.
It didn't use to be like this, this city. I feel sure that it used to be a place where anyone could live.
I was younger then, maybe I'm wrong.
|Wednesday 9 August 2017|
|I'm away in Northumbria again, on and around Hadrian's Wall. Hope everyone is having a good summer.|
|Saturday 29 July 2017|
|At the beginning of the week I drove out to mid-Wales, with Ben Walker, Mao Yamada and Eric Ford, and we recorded drums, bass and guitar for my forthcoming album There is a Land.
The studio and the countryside were beautiful, wonderful.
Recording studios always make me so happy. I wish I could spend more time in them.
We recorded live as a three-piece. Great sound, great feel.
I'll be heading down to Ben's place in Brighton during the winter to add vocals, electric guitar, backing vocals, and the big organ of Patrick Kenneally.
In the meantime, I've cut a little video together, it'll be on the website soon. Hope you enjoy.
|Sunday 9 July 2017|
|Had some more airplay for Lean Times last night, from Johnny Coppin on BBC Radio Gloucester.
Such a good feeling to know that people are hearing the songs.
|Thursday 6 July 2017|
|BBC Radio2 Folk Show airplay|
|'Lean Times' from the new EP 'At Sunset' got played by Mark Radcliffe yesterday on his Folk Show on BBC Radio2, which I'm very happy to report.
It was last tune, which I think is nice, just after some expansive Scottish/Norwegian maritime balladry.
Autographs still available, as are CDs.
I'll be smiling now probably into the middle of next week.
|Wednesday 28 June 2017|
|New review of 'At Sunset', from For Folk's Sake|
|When I get reviewed more regularly, I like to think that I'll be one of those people who don't read their reviews.
They're much cooler.
We'll have to see how that goes - I probably enjoyed reading this one a little bit too much:
It's also available in the 'reviews' section of the site.
|Monday 26 June 2017|
|Launch Gig! Download codes/video footage...|
|Launch gig at the Green Note for At Sunset was, I think, a great success.
We sold the place out, Jack Harris won himself a sizeable amount of new fans to add to his already extensive collection, and I managed to rouse a few chuckles in amongst all the terribly serious song business.
I hope everyone had as enjoyable a time as I did.
If you bought a CD and want to download the three bonus tracks, or if you recorded any footage for my video project you'd like to send me, please either use the contact form on the homepage or email me directly at email@example.com
Thanks again, so very much.
|Wednesday 24 May 2017|
|Jansch/Cooke Gig Plug|
|Jansch/Cooke Gig Plug
Having been working on my arrangement of 'Cupid' I then wrote some silly launch-gig-related words and did a video to try to flog some more tickets.
It's here: https://www.facebook.com/robinelliottmusic/videos/10154577269255814/
I'll put up another video at a later date, minus the warbling, for the Serious Guitarists amongst you.
|Thursday 4 May 2017|
|Some time ago I set about learning to play 'Strolling Down the Highway', by Bert Jansch. It was the first new thing I learnt once I'd bought a professional standard guitar. It's also possible that he was the first gig I went to, I remember my mum and dad taking me to see him at Southport Arts Centre.
Learning the song has really helped me to improve as a player, particularly in combination with the superb action on the new guitar.
Some friends asked me to play some Sam Cooke the other day, and through that, and with this new playing knowledge in my head, I've kind of stumbled into working on a Jansch-esque arrangement of the Cooke classic 'Cupid' (with a little nod to Bobby Womack in the intro). I'm hoping it'll be good when I've finished it, and when I can play it. The verses are proving more challenging than the choruses at the moment.
If it's not bad I'll post up a video of it when it's done (like a proper guitar blogger!)
|Sunday 23 April 2017|
|At Sunset launch tickets on sale|
|Tickets for the launch gig for At Sunset are now available.
http://www.wegottickets.com/greennote/event/398695 will take you straight there, or you can go to the WeGotTickets site and search for 'Robin Elliott'.
The venue is the very fine Green Note in Camden, and support will come from the lovely Jack Harris.
£8.50 advance, £10.00 on door.
Come along and see us, we'll make it worth your while.
|Thursday 20 April 2017|
|New CDs arrived!|
|I'd been away visiting my family for Easter but drove back to London yesterday to find that in my absence my flatmate had taken delivery of the new EP CDs.
It does seem that they're on their way out as a medium, but I still think it's nice having something you can hold and look at, a CD still feels more real to me than a download. Tends to sound better, too.
Ben Walker's work capturing the sounds is top notch.
When I tested a copy out on my stereo it was like I was in the room with me.
These ones look really nice, thanks to some more great work from Mr Chris Timoney.
I'm not just saying all this cos I want to shift units.
I'll put some pictures up on the facebook.
Pre-order coming soon...
|Tuesday 28 March 2017|
|EP Launch for 'At Sunset' 22nd June, The Green Note, Camden|
|I'm very pleased to announce that the launch gig for my new EP, 'At Sunset', will take place on the 22nd of June at The Green Note, Camden, with support from Jack Harris.
Everything's mastered, the artwork's done, it's all with the manufacturers, and I'm excitedly awaiting advance copies.
The disks are only going to be four tracks, with some downloadable extras.
I'll post up a link for tickets when they come on sale; it's a great venue, and it isn't huge, and it'll sell out.
Hope to see you there!
|Thursday 23 February 2017|
|Recordings finished – new EP 'At Sunset'|
|Finished work on the record with Ben Walker in Brighton yesterday. Just a half day, vocals for 'Poor Murdered Woman' and a couple of live takes of 'Parasite', by Nick Drake. This was all that was left to do after a previous session in January.
The January session I was just coming down with the throat infection I was just getting over yesterday.
There's an edge to my voice on the record, but it works.
|Saturday 4 February 2017|
|Tour with Jack Harris|
|Towards the end of last year I passed my driving test, and a few weeks ago, after a huge amount of invaluable input from my brother-in-law, I bought a second-hand car.
The next day I drove to London, and the following week I set off around the UK on tour with fellow singer-songman Jack Harris, the Bard of Builth Wells.
Jack's pretty good company, and after a while we stopped bothering with the stereo and stuck instead to The Trip-esque banter across of a variety of topics, as our days filled up with scenery.
In the evenings the gigs were all well received and encouragingly well-attended, and a few of them will stay with me for a long time - for the atmosphere, for the feeling of connection, for the sense that we were doing what we're supposed to be doing. Doing it well.
We made enough along the way to cover costs and come back with a little cash in our pockets. In under a month of car ownership I'd done a little over 1,500 miles.
Basically, it's been one of the happiest periods of my adult life. At some point I might write some more about it but I need to get on with getting this record finished and made.
And get some more bookings.
Can't wait to get out again.
|Sunday 8 January 2017|
|New video up - Parasite (Nick Drake cover)|
|I've posted up the last remaining of this edition of performance videos today. It's a cover of Nick Drake's song "Parasite".
It's a great song, dark and with a claustrophobic, almost cloying quality. I think it feels very modern in its sense of urban dislocation. I've tried to bring these things out in my version.
I'm a fan of his stuff, and some people say my voice sounds a little like his. That's high praise, to my mind, but I promise I'm not making any deliberate attempt at emulation.
Hope you enjoy.
|Friday 6 January 2017|
|Poor Reworked Woman|
|Poor Reworked Woman
Today I finished a reworked version of the traditional song Poor Murdered Woman, with mostly new words and a slightly altered structure to the melody. It'll be the last track on my forthcoming EP.
The trad is a great piece of work and it's been recorded numerous times. I first heard the version by Shirley Collins and the Albion Band, which I love.
I'm imagining some people might be nonplussed as to why I've adapted it, seeing as how it was already an emotionally powerful and atmospheric song with a clear narrative rooted in real events of the day.
Well, my aim was never to improve on it, I'd have never thought I'd be capable of that. Nor have I been attempting to replace it, either – my reworking couldn't exist without the original, and wont ever manage more than to imperfectly reflect its qualities.
All I can say is that I was aiming at something different than I think the trad is aiming at.
I wanted to do something else, albeit something which would only be possible using the trad. Or at least, could be achieved in the way I wanted by using it.
Hopefully you'll hear it and wont be offended.
I think it's a strong piece of work, and I'm looking forward to playing it live.
|Saturday 17 December 2016|
|New video up - Walking Up the Highways|
|I don't really know how to credit this one. It started out with me wanting to learn something technical on my new guitar. I opted for Strolling Down the Highway, by Bert Jansch, beloved by my dad AND my best mate.
This was in the summer, and I've wound up reworking the words to talk about the refugee crisis I was reading about every day in the news.
Then the tone of the music no longer fit: the major/minor feel of the original, which is part of what makes it so compelling, sounded too jaunty against the altered lyric, so I've changed it to more of a straight minor, and, admittedly, lost some of the Jansch magic in the process.
In my defence I'll point out that the original does have a political undertone to it. The lyric makes mention of the French OAS, and my finding out a bit about them is part of what led me to try to combine the news and the song.
A version of this will be on the EP I'm about to put out. I'll have figure out a way to get the money from sales to relevant charities.
This all makes me what the internet refers to pejoratively as a Social Justice Warrior, but it's out there now, so I've made my bed.
(which I'm lucky to have, in my massive warm house, in my phenomenally convenient city, through which wash tonnes of the wealth of the world, hour by hour by hour)
|Tuesday 22 November 2016|
|Recording with Ben Walker, Brighton|
|Fairly recently I started working with a man called Will, who's handling PR for me.
When I got the performance videos off the editor I sent them on to him to see what he thought, and he was really enthusiastic. He said,
"I had no idea you were such a good performer!"
He's also suggested I record another EP, so that he has something new to promote when I go on tour with Jack Harris in the new year. He can't pass Green Ginger Wine around again.
I have two other records (almost) finished, but they're much broader affairs, featuring other musicians and complex arrangements etc, but since I'll be playing solo Will suggested I get a solo EP down, just voice and guitar.
So I set off to Brighton today, to Ben's new studio, to make a start on getting this done. It'll be a mix of covers and originals, and a couple that are somewhere in between. All four of the songs from the live videos (I've still got two to post) will be featured.
Provisional title is “Robin Elliott and Friends”.
Ben's studio is great, and it was really good to see him, I don't get to see him as much now he's left London. The day went well, got all the guitar down.
Voice wasn't up to much though, I'm coming down with something.
Nother day pencilled in for next week.
|Thursday 17 November 2016|
|at Aces and Eights, Tufnel Park, London|
|Fun gig this, another one booked by Ricky, headline slot, got a little merry with my friends afterwards.
Covered Winter Lady by sincerely L. Cohen, might have made some kind of off-colour remark about my having released my live version of it exactly a week before his death, wondering if the two events were connected.
It got a couple of chuckles, which made me feel even worse.
This dying has to stop.
|Sunday 13 November 2016|
|New Video up - Lean Times|
|Put up the second video from the live recording session: Lean Times, track 1 from my record Green Ginger Wine.
It's a roilsome number, poppy, tongue-in-cheek upbeat about disaster, but I promise it comes from a place of optimism.
A dark place of optimism.
See via 'videos' tab or facebook/twitter/vimeo/youtube...
|Monday 31 October 2016|
|New video up - Winter Lady (Leonard Cohen cover)|
|Posted up the first of the live videos we recorded at The Harrison, a cover of Leonard Cohen's Winter Lady.
It's a lesser known song from his first record, which I've always loved.
You can access it from this website via the 'videos' tab, or via my facebook, vimeo and youtube places.
|Saturday 3 September 2016|
|Live performance video recording day|
|Kindly allowed to commandeer the basement venue at The Harrison for a day to record some live performances.
The high-grade skill and professionalism of the videographer and the audio engineer meant we were able to get all four songs down in the single day, and still be out before the evening's event started at 6pm.
It's so good working with good people.
|Friday 12 August 2016|
|BBC Radio 2 airplay|
|Huey Morgan played Green Ginger Wine on Radio 2 today! (Just the song, not the whole album).
|Saturday 4 June 2016|
|Cowshed Recording Studio, London|
|A friend had very kindly put my in touch with a man called Teo, a recording engineer, who had asked her if she knew a band who might be able to use a day's free recording, so he could show his nephew the ropes.
I perhaps shouldn't have said yes, but I love recording so much.
We got the drums, bass and rhythm guitar down playing all together live, which is my favourite way to record, and then I overdubbed electric guitar afterwards.
The band was David, Coral and myself. David was the man who had approached me after my set at the Ivy House and offered drumming services, and Coral is a really musical bassist I'd been recently introduced to by a mutual friend.
We got two songs down, although no vocals, ran out of time.
I loved it, I loved having to do the work to get the songs finished and arranged, I loved rehearsing, I loved being in the studio, I loved it.
I would spend day upon day there if I could.
When we'd finished and were copying the files over and packing down, my friend and I spent some time playing with some of the really great analogue gear that was littering the place.
Sadly the studio is to close, and the gear to be sold off. The owner is relocating to Australia.
|Wednesday 25 May 2016|
|at The Star, Hackney, London|
|Finally I got some performance footage filmed, by the promoter of this night, Nick. He's a sweet and kindly man who told me I should be playing everywhere, all the time.
Unfortunately, being called 'The Star', the venue has chosen to mount a huge, heavily be-lightbulbed star directly behind the stage, in solid relief and six foot in diameter. I couldn't fully suppress the sensation that I was actually in the elimination round of a popular TV talent show.
My friend and former backing singer Nia was over from Paris, and she came up on stage to sing At Sunset with me, in front of the giant, blazing star.
|Wednesday 4 May 2016|
|at The Lamb, Surbiton|
|This was my first visit to Surbiton. I found it an interesting place, retaining some of that most urban of suburbanism which is common to towns of the outermost London boroughs.
It's almost certainly true that I didn't see enough of it to know, but it felt a little like the kind of town where none of the vigorously delineated subcultures of the city have quite got the wherewithal or the numbers required to divide people up, and everyone atypical or artistic simply gets lumped together as 'alternative', so they all go down the Lamb for a pint.
It was a good pub, busy and good humoured, with something of the look and atmosphere of a refuge taken in the aftermath of Castlemorton Common, with enough good-nature to spare that the place took root.
The gig was fine, had some good conversation with other acts and some local musicians, and some locals. I had planned to play and then head straight off, because I was stressing about getting home, but I wound up happily spending the whole evening there and catching the last possible train.
It might be that I'm relatively easy to win over.
|Wednesday 13 April 2016|
|at The Haberdashery, London|
|I played this gig for Steve Watson and Nina French, who are a really great team of promoters in London, with their Before the Gold Rush nights. I’d been badgering them for a gig for a while.
Steve afterwards said to me,
“I’ve given up trying to figure out if you’re making mistakes on purpose.”
I’d ended my set with my song Mute the Button, so I found this highly complementary.
I brought a good few people along, most of whom were regulars, so I mixed my set up a bit for their benefit. This was a mixed blessing, I didn’t cover myself entirely in glory with my version of Summertime, but it’s good to aim high.
It was a very pleasant and well run night with good acts right through the bill. Nina films a couple of songs from each performance so that acts have some good video with which to promote themselves, which I was really looking forward to getting hold of as I’m lacking in visual stuff as yet.
I brought my new guitar along, still without pickup installed, and got Steve to mic it. This meant I had to sit down, which I don’t normally do. It also meant that Nina couldn’t get a usable shot of me.
Oh well I’m all about audio.
A well-wishing couple who’d sat down the front both bought copies of the record and had me sign them, for which I had to borrow a pen.
|Monday 4 April 2016|
|at The Finsbury, London|
|This gig was a fundraiser for UNICEF’s work with refugees. It was organised by Steve Folk, who I’ve known forever, ever since he used to play in a bad taste punk band called 8yr Old Mum, which he co-fronted with a man who looked like a desiccated Iggy Pop, and I say that knowing full well what Iggy Pop looks like.
There was a raffle and it was
I N T E R M I N A B L E
but at least it raised some actual money. The best I’d done was waive my fee.
I’d brought my new old guitar along that I’d just bought, and showed it off to the other acts. This was to be its debut gig with me.
Unfortunately I hadn’t had the new pickup installed yet, and it turned out my old one was too small to stay in.
I borrowed Jack Harris’s guitar. I played quite a bleak set, although I included my song Parallelogram, which I think is funny.
Steve’s wife, Genevieve, said to me,
“Robin, when you sing, it hurts.”
|Friday 1 April 2016|
|at The Ivy House, London|
|The Ivy House is one of my favourite pubs, but I’ve only been there twice. I’ve had 100% good times.
The first time I went, two of my best friends got married, and the second time was this gig.
My set went down well, people laughed at my funny jokes and there was some fun back and forth between me and the audience. In my recollection everything seems dipped in sunlight. Which is strange, as I’m definitely certain I played quite late in the evening.
The place itself is quality - wood panelled and original features, think it’s an independent freehold, enjoyable pints. Lovely big back room venue hall, big stage, proper.
The promoter was my mate Ricky Damiani, and he normally puts on a good night.
Afterwards I began to wonder how much of my success had been down to how retro I’d dressed, given the look of the venue. I had on high waisted grey wool trousers, a short green woollen jumper with a button collar and my dad’s old Harris tweed pea coat. I looked like Roger Livesey in I Know Where I’m Going.
A man came up to me and offered his services as a drummer. I said I didn’t think I could afford him, and he said I probably could.
|Friday 18 March 2016|
|at The Social, London|
|Went into central London, where I never go, to play The Social for Stephen Thomas, founder of Folkroom. It was one of his first ventures outside of Folkroom and he was nervier than usual, a giant lugubrious wasp, a bearded Stephen Fry dosed up on coffee and tamazepan.
The venue is very long, and dark. The sound guy was great. I played quite well. I saw no evidence of people taking drugs, other than the people.
The owner of the club, or else someone with some kind of status within the record label to which the club is attached, spoke to me after I’d played. He asked me if he was correct in thinking that the record I’d put out was self-released.
He also bought a copy, which was decent of him. I sold a few more.
Pete Greenwood was the headliner, he was good. He seemed a really nice guy, maybe a bit world weary, or maybe it’d been a long night.
The audience called out for an encore from him, and he played the first couple of bars of the intro to Rex’s Blues, and I was about to shout “TOWNES!” when someone down the front shouted out for a song of Pete’s own, so he stopped and played that instead. I enjoyed it.
A friend of mine there was a copper, and he kept getting antsy when the bouncers were telling him where he could and couldn’t stand on the pavement outside as we waited.
|Thursday 14 January 2016|
|Tour Diary 4|
|At speed, merging with the motorway headed west out of London, we seemed briefly to be driving straight into the sky, the hard bright glare from the after-rain concrete ahead of us indistinguishable from the winter sunset, a Clockwork Orange JMW Turner.
The moment passed, and Cameron, calmly and without glancing round at me, said,
“I really thought we were going to die, then. I couldn't see a fucking thing.”
Hating driving long distances in jeans he'd gone for the shorts option, freezing January weather be damned.
Turning north, as the sun rolled wide to our left, I had a brief think about what the percentages might be, deaths whilst driving in shorts versus deaths in whilst driving in trousers.
We were trailed the length of the motorway by a black coach emblazoned with the name “Dreamboys” and the larger than life-size figures of several muscular, oiled men in tiny speedos. We thought we'd lost them at one point, only to spot their cheerily flexed grimaces peering out at us through the treeline in the carpark when we pulled in at services.
Cameron is svelte. Bond-ish. Svelte and Bond-ish in a scruffy, stoned seeming, slightly careworn way. His approach to parking is roughly this:
swing into the car park;
get more or less parallel with one or other of the lines you find in there;
roll vaguely to a halt and get out.
I find this hugely refreshing.
He will not bow to the tyranny of the line-painters, the space-dictators.
To witness his parked vehicle is to hear the voice of Truth speak defiantly to Power,
“This will do, Fascist – this will do!”
St Annes Arts Centre is in an old chapel in the middle of Barnstaple. Vaulted, atmospheric venue, with original pews. Very, deeply cold in darkest winter, although they bring heaters in. The bold souls who had come out to see us were locals and they'd come equipped with coats and flasks. Some old acquaintances of Cameron's had made it down too, who lived nearby.
Cameron played well. Soulful and sparse, rich and engaging. He should be widely heard.
I did what I'm sure all us self important small fry were doing then and dedicated a song to Bowie. It was four days after his death.
Cameron's friends had to leave early, before my set. They had tickets for Dreamboys.
|Sunday 13 December 2015|
|Tour Diary 3|
|Deal seems a sweet town, slightly faded in a pleasant enough way, settled down snugly into the comfortable late middle age of a mid December off-season. There's a Device Fort there, Deal Castle, set back a little way from the sea. It's squat and stocky, like a large sat down Bull Terrier in grey-yellow brick.
Almost everything is closed on a Sunday. Even the pubs seem largely to close up before the onset of late evening, which is a phenomenon I haven't encountered much in Britain.
An open-top bus decked out in Christmas lights passed us on the road by the station as we tried to orientate ourselves, with all its bulbs switched on in the civil twilight of the mild winter afternoon. The deck was crowded, a host of people seemingly from many walks of life. As it passed we heard the garbled sound of several voices singing along through a live P.A. to backing tracks of Christian songs, while a long haired man in a dirty hi-vis jacket shouted enthusiastically about Jesus into a red loudhailer.
We made our way to the sea and then south along the coast, past the castle, to The Lighthouse, our venue for the evening. It's a family-owned freehold, which is an admirable thing for a pub to be; it's also solidly focused on live music and comedy, which takes it beyond the merely admirable and into the territory of the brave.
Good beer there.
This was the second of the two gigs Samantha had booked that I'd wheedled my way in on, and on being introduced to the promoter, James, I recalled that we had met before: his band and I had shared a minibus ride up a mountain to the site of a festival we were all playing at, in the foothills of the dolomites, a couple of years previously. Prompted by the scenery, they had launched into an acapella rendition of the score from Jurassic Park as we drove up.
With a little difficulty I'd managed to convince Samantha to let me play the first set. My reasoning was that she's much more impressive than me live, and I didn't want to have to go on after her and underwhelm everyone. It was awkward for both of us. I was suddenly aware that “impressive” could be taken two ways, besides which Samantha didn't want to concede that I was in some way less impressive than her.
How British – how Folk Scene; to each be arguing on merit for position as support rather than headline.
My set went ok, I don't normally play solo, but it's tricky, because I don't make enough money to pay for a regular band.
There are some wonderful people who've given me a lot of their time. I hope one day to be in a position to be able to repay them.
Mostly, however, I have to put a band together gig by gig depending on who's available and for how much, without ever really having enough time to make sure that everyone is comfortable enough with the material to relax on stage.
I'm also quite bad at keeping good time whilst singing and playing guitar, which doesn't make me the ideal bandleader. (Either task alone I'm fine with; both together and in time – well, I haven't the requisite experience playing with a proper band...)
So it's strange for me to be performing without having to be thinking in the background about the difficult sections that are coming up, about bits that I know have been insufficiently rehearsed, about why I wrote in such a weird structure, wrote such an intricate part for someone else to have to perform, why I'm putting these good people through this ordeal for little or no fee.
Instead I'm back where I should be, aware of what I'm singing, aware of what I'm playing, thinking about how I want to sing it and play it as I go.
There was a man at the back who spoke utterly unabashedly throughout every song, behind a column.
Rarely bothers me too much - where I'm from the idea that you can legitimately be shushed up in a pub for any reason is anathema.
It's also clear to me that something is going awry if people are being made to stop enjoying themselves and listen...
When we're stripped down like this, just guitar and vocal, I'm always blown away Samantha's material and what she does with it.
It's always so clear what she means, she connects you to what she means.
The guitar parts are precise and so logical, so open. The words make complex things so clear that you never consider them complex. Instead they are truthful, usual, apparent.
She sang to a silent room as the last of the light drained out of the place, as evening washed in from seaward.
After we'd played, while the pub was closing up, we were treated to a Jerk chicken Sunday roast, a house speciality, which was very very welcome.
Back at the station, in the night, as we waited for the train, the luminous Christmas bus pulled into the station carpark across the tracks from us, rave in full swing, the reverberant pulse of carols in our ears as we departed.
|Sunday 6 December 2015|
|Tour Diary 2|
|>>>>>>GIG CANCELLED, DUE TO COCK UP<<<<<<|
|Tuesday 1 December 2015|
|Tour Diary 1|
|The guitar on which I learned to play was an old, warped dreadnought with a narrow fretboard and a bent neck. High action, worn nut, impossible to keep in tune.
It held me back for a bit when I started. Even now, if I haven't played it in a while, it takes a couple of days warm up before I can barre it properly.
But, once that's achieved, I'm able to clamber straight up trunk-thick columns of marble or metal, just clutching on, hand-over-hand, arms wrapped round, body bent and braced by feet stepping up and up. It needs appropriate footwear but the ability is all in the unyielding grip, hard won.
Samantha and I were in a horrible rush, and it was rush hour, which is the worst time in which to need to rush. We weren't yet together – she crossing London after shifts at two of her three jobs, and me trying to get home from work in time to get guitar and out again quick enough to meet her at Liverpool Street. I recall sprinting up an escalator, guitar case in hand, too-hot running for a train.
We were after the 5.20 to Norwich, and in the ticket office we discovered that, being rush hour of course, the tickets were £100 each, so we couldn't afford that, so we went to the pub and had dinner and got the 7.00pm to Norwich instead, which was considerably cheaper.
It's also the greyest train in the world, as Samantha pointed out.
We got in to town around ten-to-nine and we were over the bridge and up the hill to Cinema City. It's a pleasant, kindly, high-beamed old building, converted to a modern bar and venue/cinema complex.
Arriving so late meant we missed most of Phoebe Troup's opening set, which was thoroughly bad form and not at all the way we'd wished to begin the tour. In truth, by this point neither of us was feeling that things had been going particularly well.
Back in Liverpool Street, when it turned out we couldn't actually afford the tickets for the train we'd made our panicked rush for, in that first thudding sense of anticlimax, Samantha had suggested just cancelling the show.
I talked her out of it, although I suspect she would have talked herself out of it in her own time, had I not immediately rushed in insisting she changed her tune.
She's more used to playing these out-of-London dates than me; people book her. To my mind this tour was meant to be a Big Step Forward and I was teenagerishly adamant that we wouldn't stumble at the first.
In Norwich we availed ourselves of an upstairs conference room to grab the quick warmup and rehearsal we'd skipped in London. At which point some things began to play on my mind.
When we'd decided on doing this mini-tour together the first thing I did was try to shove my way uncouthly onto the bills of a couple of shows Samantha already had booked. Although this was achieved in both cases, I imagine that this was so owing only to the graciousness with which she must have intervened, acting as my intermediary.
I, however, had failed to do any of the requisite following-up and making sure, hadn't contacted the promoters, had really just left it all to S Whates to take care of. When the pre-gig publicity then came out without any mention of me on the bill, I only really had myself to blame.
Samantha phoned for clarification, and generously acquiesced to the suggestion that she could split her set with me if she wished, as there was no room left on the bill for me to play a full set as well. I'd gone along with this happily, unperturbed.
Unperturbed until now, upstairs in the empty conference suite, listening to Whates go through a few numbers.
It's fair to say I wasn't well-liked. Much as I'd prefer to be able to put this down to some kind of East Anglian anti-Northern sentiment, it's probably more to do with the fact that people had come to see Samantha and hadn't understood why this lad no-one had heard of had kept sticking his oar in and interrupting her set with his weird songs.
I was nervous and had overcompensated by being a cocky twat. My rabbit/headlights opening gambit of “hi i've got cds for sale for five pounds”, delivered in dry monotone, probably hadn't helped.
When we'd finished a guy came over to speak to Samantha. She had some lovely hand-stamped 10' EPs with her, also retailing at £5, and he asked for a copy, proffering a tenner. Sam apologised, explaining she had no change, so would he like a copy of Robin's record as well?
He glanced round at me, looked me up and down.
“No thanks,” he said, Whates's record in hand. “Just you keep the money.”
Amused scorn from the staff in Norwich station, as I insisted that the last train for London departed at 11.30, and that we had to get back to London. The lady in the ticket office at Liverpool Street had been a kindly sort, but, crucially, it turns out she had also been Wrong About Trains, as we had missed our last one back by an hour. The promoter of the gig, True Adventures, said we could go and stay at his house until the next day, which saved us, and refreshed my faith in the generosity of people.
Samantha wisely got some sleep while I stayed up and drank a few cans. We caught the first train, 4am, and I sat there, bleary, hungover, surrounded by bankers on their way in to the city, grease to the wheels.