Heading back home in a land downunder…

2016 was another busy year split between the UK & Australia

Brocket Hall

This year we flew out of the UK on Jan 6th so that we could play a posh wedding at Brocket Hall in rural Hertfordshire. Where we were playing had a ceiling with amazing rafters and the green room was also fantastic. The ‘green room’ is a space for the players to change before the gig, get refreshments and generally ‘chill out’ if there are any breaks in the performance. The problem with many ‘function’ bookings is that there are no facilities available either due to the venue, or the client not doing anything. Despite having a clause in the contract about this we often had to improvise, or even just sit in the van. So the green room at Brocket Hall was really nice and helped us to get ready both physically and psychologically for the gig.

This time we flew into Sydney so that we could meet up with so friends and relos (that means relations in UK terms!) including my fellow UK MU Executive Committee friend and colleague Andi Hopgood who just happened to be in Sydney when we were there. I also found the time to buy a second hand acoustic guitar – a rather thin Ovation – so that I’d have and acoustic to play for practice and any music sessions / gigs we might get. I have had an Ovation Celebrity in the UK for a number of years which became my favorite gig acoustic so the new one fitted in really well. 

We then planned to head down the coast to Melbourne and look at the places on the way. We were looking for a place to move to when we moved back permanently. I thought that the south coast – say around Tathra might work as it was was mutually inconvenient for the three major cities that I had music connections with – namely Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

Playing with Craig Lee Smith in MelbourneWe got to Melbourne near the end of January and did a few music sessions with friends including Bruce Stephens, Liam Davis and Craig-Lee Smith. February mainly saw us wondering around Melbourne enjoying ourselves and catching up with more muso friends. At the time Melbourne had the most active live music scene in Australia with more people going to gigs than to the various footy matches Melbournians seem to be addicted to. We also recorded a Heywood&Moore track for the Pocket Gods Shakespeare Verses Streaming (100×30) CD on my ancient laptop. The track is Bushed Lullaby  which I had originally created for a millennial Midsummer’s Night Dream production at the Queens Theatre in Hitchin (UK) for which I was musical director.

March was a bit busier with a single release (“Second time around“) which was launched at the Lomond music venue in north Melbourne. The track was played a lot on New Zealand’s TLC radio network so I guess that they loved the pedal steel guitar work from BJ Cole. A couple of days later we did some recording at Hugh McDonald’s studio with Rob Hornbuckle on bass and David Hicks on drums and Hugh engineering and playing some guitar parts. We recorded three tracks for the Heywood & Moore CD (Goodbye Yesterday) which all ended up on the album. Sadly this must have been one of the last albums that Hugh worked on as he passed away later in the year from cancer.

Hugh McDonald playing electric slide on Ticket to paradiseI had originally met up with Hugh, almost by chance, in 2002 when I decided to record my tracks for the WoodworX ‘Two short PlanX’ album in Australia after which we ended up as friends. It was a somewhat strange connection as his band Redgum started around the same time as my first professional band – Bluetongue. Redgum and Bluetongue actually appeared together on an EP released for a Ned Kelly Anniversary in 1980 (“100 YEARS A HERO” Bail Records). He laid down guitar parts for a number of my tracks over the years (40 days of rain, Goodbye Yesterday and Ticket to paradise) and it was a great shock when I heard that he had passed away.

The next stop was The National Festival in Canberra where my Bluetongue Bush Ceilidh Band was performing a late night extra at the Coorong social dance venue. As I mentioned above, Bluetongue was my first professional band which formed up in the late 1970s. This is where I was introduced to social dance when we had a regular gig at a series of bush dances at the Surrey Hills Community Centre in Sydney. This year the band was made up of Peter Anderson (accordion), Greg Hunt (fiddle), Ian Blake (bass) and John Jones (kit drums) while I was on electric guitar and band leader (there’s a bit of video here). We had a very rock based sound, maybe with a bit of jazz rock thrown in, which went down very well with the dancers. As it turns out this performance at the National Music Festival was probably the last gig we would ever do under that name. After I left the Bluetongue Bush Band it ran for a couple of more years but when I heard that it had folded I started using the name in the UK for any Aussie gigs I did over there. This gig featured my daughter Lisa calling which – apart from her fantastic calling – was a pretty amazing connection.

At the beginning of April we headed back to the UK to a packed gig schedule with our first being the Wild Duck holiday resort three days after we landed. From then on it was pretty solid gigs with a high proportion of hog roasts as the food for then band (and guests!). Highlight gigs over the next six months included a Thames River cruise, more holiday resorts, Broadstairs Festival as the band for Liz & John Scholey, an acoustic gig at The Alleycat Club in Denmark Street (London), at gig for Earl Spencer (Princess Di’s brother) at Althorp House, his gaff in Northamptonshire and a Contra gig for my daughter Lisa in Bristol (a first for me). I also started working with live banjo from Guy Rogers which was first time since my time in Bluetongue Bush Band with Lucy Gibson. I’d known Guy for a number of years through our work with the Musicians’ Union but this was the first time I’d actually worked with him in a band – he’s a great player and also did most of the banjo work on the Heywood & Moore album.

Apart from the gigs there was a lot of work handling the business, sorting out the set lists, doing rehearsals and we also did a couple of video shoots(Goodbye Yesterday, Friday feelin’ and Headin’ Home (for Xmas) with Mathew Hamilton Green. 2016 was also a busy year recording and releasing tracks into the real world both as Heywood & Moore and my solo stuff. I will be very brief here as I am going to do a blog on my history of recording and releasing music – maybe the next one. Anyway, I was really chuffed to do a number of gigs at the Alleycat Club in Denmark Street which was one of the classic music venues in the heart of London’s music scene. It was also below the studio where The Rolling Stones recorded their first LP so it had a really historic rock ‘n’ roll feel about it. We also appeared on radio and cable TV to talk about the new Heywood & Moore CD and even do some live acoustic sessions.

Throughout the year we also got a chance to see (and hear!) some great music from performers including Hugh McDonald, Rebecca Hollweg, True Brit, The Seekers (show), Weeping Willows, Stray Hens, McGoozer, Michael Armstrong, Lizzie Dean, Kacey Musgrave (we got caught on the BBC special at 43:15!), Wishbone Ash, Australian Pink Floyd and Lord Algie. I also met John Otway (again), Ginger Gilmour, Paul Brett, Steve Blacknell, Owen Paul, Mungo Jerry (who came along and supported our single launch), Jona G Lewie, Sasha McVeigh and photographer Christina Jansen who was Muhammad Ali’s favorite English photographer.

The last gig of the year was a Hoedown Band gig on New Year’s Eve at The Poacher’s Cottage near Stoke on Trent (UK) which was part of a restaurant chain. The band was a five piece including Guy Rogers on banjo giving a nice big sound. After the gig, Dawn and I headed back to Dunstable to unload the van, pick up our bags and head off to Heathrow Airport to catch a flight to Sydney as part of our continuing search to find a place to live in Australia – as well as do various musical things.

Catch you next year.

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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