Free Range Musician…

A the end of January I decided to do something about my ‘free range musician’ idea so I started a page on Facebook and nabbed the top level domain. The idea is that musicians who are making a living out of playing music are a different breed from those who have day jobs – whether it’s in an orchestra or signed up to a record company (or whatever).

A Free Ranger is unlikely to be ‘famous’ in terms of the media scrum, they may have had their share of accolades in various forms, but the main point is that they get all, or at least a major proportion, of their income from performing or recording music. This usually means a ‘portfolio’ career, i.e. they do a number of things to earn a crust – usually with some link to their career in music. So they will often teach (music), MC or stage manage events and festivals, write, edit, publish, manage or work in the funded arts or music retail sector.

The Free Range musician may well have other sources of income outside of the music ‘industry’ but the significant point is that they have no ‘day job’ to fall back on. The difference between a Freelance and a Free Range Musician is that the former is a job description while the latter is a ‘life choice’. Free Rangers may well freelance but not all freelancers are ‘free range’.

On with the motley…

On the first Saturday in the month I did another dep gig, this time with Liz Scholey’s band (Fire Cracker) for a very posh household near Hampton Court Palace. The residence itself was a rather petite, but none the less palatial, affair with the actual gig in a tipi set up in the garden. The event was made more interesting by the fact that it started to snow heavily just as I pulled up at the front – which put a bit of a damper on the BBQ.

The household were very welcoming and the trio seemed to go down pretty well with a programme of barn dance. line dance spiced up with a few songs. The audience suitably attired in Counntry and Western gear, which for an English audience is a perfect excuse to to let rip and have a good time.

The next evening I went to listen to some jazz in Finchley with a couple of muso friends – Tim from The Quirky and Mike who drums in a number of my projects. This gig is a regular jazz session at the Safari Bar and Resturant on Finchley High Road and happens on the first Sunday of the month. It’s run by jazz drummer Rick Finlay and usually features members of his band Just East of Jazz. This particular night the band featured the well regarded sax player Derek Nash and the ‘house’ band played quite a few of his arrangements to great effect. This is a real session, so often features members of the audience who either get up and sit in, or do solo spots.

The club was quite full despite there being a couple of inches of snow on the ground outside. I usually feel that English audiences are easily deterred by inclement weather – which I find surprising since they have so much of it. However jazzers must made of sterner stuff, since the Sarfai bar was almost full.

On Friday 10th February we held the last Chiltern Ceilidh for the foreseeable future at the Polish Club in Dunstable. A sudden change in the management of the venue only made known to us the day before the dance. The new management basically gave us our marching orders and now seems that the Polish Club in Dunstable have no wish to engage with the local community. We oginally shifted from using St Mary’s Hall to the Polish Club two years ago due the fact that it was both a better venue and the management were very supportive. We had already looked exhaustively for a suitable local venue without any luck until we hit the Polish Club. The series had been “teetering on the brink” due to a numer of factors and this latest news was the last straw.

On Friday 24th, Bob Harding-Jones and I were asked to perform an excerpt of our “Thinking about our world..” show as part of the World on One Stage event. The gigwas organised by the Student’s Union of the Luton Campus of the University of Bedfordshire as part of their multicultural community week of events and took place in the new UK Carnival Arts Centre in Luton. This was a showcase of dance, music and theatre from a mix of students and performers from the local community. We had a 15 minute slot and we sort of ‘top and tailed’ a couple of segments with the show intro and outro.

This little spasm actually allowed us to try out some new stuff – a completely new poem / pairing on the topical topic of our friends the bankers. Bob wrote a completely new poem and I resuurected a song I’d written when Nick Leason broke Baring’s Bank – I just glad that the banks learnt that lesson and stopped doing dodgy investments (oh well, perhaps not). We also tried a couple of technical innovations. When I found out about the rest of the show content, I was worried that our acoustic duo version of the material would lack impact, so I mixed a set of full backing tracks for the music segments. These were played back from my Android ePad tablet PC and I played electric guitar through my new Blackstar HT-5R guitar combo. The segment went down very with aplause and laughter in all the right places and the Bankers’ Blues number was well received by the audience of mainly students.

Graham Goffee sent me a copy of his new CD. I’ve known Graham since I lived in St Ablans in the 1980s when we had a band (Innocent Bystander) which ended up as a pretty straight blues/rock outfit. During this time I wrote a number of blues songs including “Forty Days of Rain” which was finally recorded on the WoodworX album. For this CD Graham graham goes right back to basics. Just his guitar and voice going straight to tape with just a touch of reverb, like the classic blues’ men of the last century. I must say that it’s a bit strange hearing one of your own songs performed by someone else. Still, I really like the whole album.

Halfway through next month I head off to Australia for five weeks, so I’ll proabably start doing a micro blog again…

About Brian Heywood

Brian Heywood is a free range musician who specialises in edgy roots / country / celtic fusion music. Previous work has received comments such as "... aggressive, top notch fiddling set off by periodic guitar explosions." - Tom Nelligan, Dirty Linen Magazine (USA), "Just when it seemed as if newer electric British roots bands were getting thinner on the ground - Very welcome and very good." - fROOTS Magazine (UK) and Steve Barnes Fairbridge Festival Artistic Director (Australia) - "... a rocking band - I was delighted with the audience response."
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