A selection of articles from all our issues - go to 'The Magazine' to read them all, including exclusive interviews from Aston Barrett Jr., Niko Moon, Serena Ryder, Canaan Smith and many more...
Recently I had a weekend of firsts. My first attendance at the Long Road Festival, my first time meeting Locash, and my first time hearing them live!
As someone who is still relatively new to the tight knit community (especially in the UK) that is country music fandom, I’m ashamed to admit that I really wasn’t that familiar with LOCASH heading into the Leicestershire based Long Road country music festival - but I’m definitely familiar with them now.
In fact, heading to the festival, nothing seemed familiar. Winding through country roads, up and down hills and through woodlands I was pretty sure the navigation was letting me down, until a small yellow sign emerged marked ‘Long Road Festival’. Again, naively, I hadn’t done my homework and being new to the genre had little knowledge of the festival. Expecting to turn up to a field with a gazebo and hot dog stand, you can imagine my delight when I rounded a corner and saw a horizon of tents and campervans, backdropped beautifully by the proudly standing Stanford Hall.
The festival was a joy to behold and was one of the sleekest and most well organised that I’ve had the pleasure to experience. The beautiful setting was utilised to the fullest with multiple stages, all capturing their own unique atmosphere. Rhinestone greeted us upon arrival, a large festival style stage primed for atmospheric anthems to get the crowd bouncing. A walk past this stage took you to the Front Porch Stage. This beautiful stage was styled as a small shack with, you guessed it, a front porch where artists would perform acoustic style sets. The porch was opposed by straw bail seating and fire pits to create a real country feel. Further into the grounds was Interstate, an open sided tent styled as a dancehall and giving a much more enclosed feel. Further performance areas included Buddy’s Good Time Bar and the Showground, each offering something different as the day went on.
Having had the chance to speak briefly with LOCASH in the afternoon I was blown away by their energy. I often feel guilty in this role when we speak to artists, as sometimes you can really tell that interviews aren’t their thing, but the duo were more than happy to take the time to speak with us and did so with as much charisma as we could possibly ask for. After this I was keen to make it for their early evening set to see what all the fuss was about.
And boy, did I.
Now The Cadillac Three are a sensational group and were worthy of headlining this event, but I don’t think I’m exaggerating to suggest that LOCASH stole the show. From the moment they stepped on stage to the moment they left it their energy was at the maximum, and the crowd absolutely fed off of it. In a way it almost didn’t matter what song they were playing because everyone was just having the best time dancing, bouncing and partying.
I think the biggest thing is that I enjoyed it despite not being that familiar with the band. We’ve all been there at gigs of bands, even the ones we know and love, but when they start bringing out the new numbers and we all start to get a bit bored; tapping our fingers and waiting for one of our favourites. With LOCASH I didn’t really know any of their songs, but I felt like I did. The set flew by and I was genuinely gutted when they left the stage, as far as I was concerned they could have stayed there for hours.
Interspersing their own songs with a few cheeky covers of old favourites, some hilarious anecdotes as well as giving their appreciation for the crowd, they engaged everyone throughout. It’s another common one isn’t it when we see people live - ‘(insert random city name here) we love you guys!’ But with LOCASH it felt like they meant it, and I hope they did. They seemed to be genuinely taken aback by the energy of the UK crowd and the response they were getting. Roars of approval went up in the air as they began planning their next trip across the pond live on stage, pointing to Stanford Hall in the background with a grin and shouting, ‘We’ll stay there!’ In our interview with LOCASH before the set, they had stated how much they were looking forward to playing, and that their gigs are really for their fans so they aim to bring as much energy as possible - I don’t think anyone can argue that they did just that. Having walked past the main stage plenty of times during the day we saw loads of artists performing to a crowd, the majority of which were enjoying from the comfort of deck chairs or at a distance, but with LOCASH everyone was jumping around. The crowd seemed to grow and grow and everyone who was walking past realised just how damn entertaining these guys are!
I have to also give credit to the touring band that accompanied the two brothers. They brought with them just as much energy and charisma. Even in the soundcheck the lead guitarist had the fans engaged, turning their mimicking of his signals to the sound engineer into a little game and encouraging big cheers from the crowd whenever he had a chance. It’s a little touch but it just helped to generate that extra energy before the music even started.
I think LOCASH were the perfect encapsulation of the festival as a whole. The atmosphere around the whole place was electric, and for people who love a genre that is perhaps a little niche in this country, it was their chance to don the boots and the cowboy hats and to fit right in. Whilst LOCASH seemed surprised and delighted by the love they were receiving from the UK crowd, I think it meant just as much to the crowd that LOCASH were loving us. It wasn’t just a charismatic performance that got the crowd pumping and it wasn’t just an exceptionally good live rendition of their music; it was all those things and more. I’ll definitely be watching out for when the boys make it back to the UK and booking my tickets, and I encourage you to do the same. Even if you aren’t familiar with the band or don’t even like country music, I can promise you that you will have a good time.
Wyoming's Ian Munsick chats to Maxim about faith, getting homesick, and the importance of creative freedom.
"Being outside, especially in the Rockies where I call home, that’s where I feel the most alive."
Your recent single, ‘More Than Me’, is one of my favourite songs at the moment. The key lyric ‘She loves Him more than me’ would turn any other song into a heartbreak song. But in ‘More Than Me’ it takes on a completely different meaning, which makes it all the more powerful, and offers a really unique take on faith. I read that it took you a number of years to finish this song. What was it that kept you going back to it, and what made it finally click for you?
I saw one of my old college friends get married four years ago. He was really nervous, and the preacher asked him, ‘Why do you love her?’ And he just smiled and said, ‘I love her because she loves Jesus more than me.’ And I was like, ‘Dude, that’s a song right there!’ I brought the idea to one of my best friends, Carlton Anderson, and we kicked it around. We then brought it to another of my songwriting friends, Phil O Donnell. His faith speaks very loudly about who he is, so we knew he was a great person to bring this song to. We worked on it for a few hours, but we couldn’t really wrap our heads around it. I didn’t want to rush it, because it really felt like a special one. I took it home and over the next few days wrote out the rough scheme of the song. Then I brought what I had to another renowned songwriter, Casey Beathard, and he loved it. He tweaked it, and then finally we got it to where it is now. It took three years, but it was worth the wait, man. It reinforces the overall message that I’m trying to bring to the world, which is to live a positive lifestyle.
Faith is hugely important to my mental health. Two other potential methods of easing anxiety are offered on your latest song…‘Horses and Weed’! What made you choose this as a single?
Man, throughout my career I’ve always been very yin and yang with my releases. I released ‘Long Live Cowgirls’ in January, and then ‘Cowboy Killer’ a few weeks after that, and they are polar opposites. One is extremely traditional and the other is very contemporary. As an artist, I always feel like I owe it to my audience to give them all of me, and not just the same thing over and over again. I think that’s a mistake that country music has fallen into in the last few years. I wanted to release one that was completely different to ‘More Than Me’, but that still has a common thread. ‘Horses and Weed’ has the same message about promoting positivity and freedom in life, and just staying on the bright side. I grew up with horses and cows on a ranch, and every time I go home that’s the happiest I am, because I can feel the freedom in the air. Being outside, especially in the Rockies where I call home, that’s where I feel the most alive, man. Country music has often held the stereotype about being all about trucks and beer. Instead of trucks and beer, it’s all about horses and weed where I’m from!
You’ve touched on the fact that your have a unique sound that’s hard to pin down - I think of you as being traditional country, but at the same time there are bluegrass, EDM, R&B and experimental influences throughout your debut album. How would you describe your music?
I love to produce my own music. It gives you a freedom to express yourself however you want, instead of trying to channel your art through another creator. When the production element comes into play, I feel like there are no boundaries for me. There are probably five or so A-list producers in Nashville that do one lane really, really well, and that the majority of artists will bring their music to. That's great, man, because they’re amazing. I do think it’s important to choose your lane, but I want my lane to be as wide as possible. That’s why producing or co-producing my own music is really important to me. That’s how you go from 808s to drop to steel guitar all in the same album. Overall, I would say that my sound is a firm handshake between traditional and modern country music. It’s definitely not the same old country and Western tunes, but I definitely drew a lot of influence from them because of where I grew up. Growing up I would steal CDs from my brother, so I’ve been influenced by everyone from Eminem to Blink-182 to George Jones. My music taste is really all over the place.
Songs like ‘Mountain Time’ really capture this sense of finding ‘home’, and in your music natural spaces and landscapes play a key part in building this picture of a safe, comforting place where you can just escape the stresses of the world. There’s perhaps an irony in the fact that singing about your love of home has propelled you away from home, as you’ve now moved from Wyoming to Nashville and spend a lot of time on tour! How does that balance work for you, and do you get homesick?
Yeah, man, I get homesick. We hit the road really hard. I’ve lived in Nashville for the past ten years, I have a wife and kid out here, who was born here. But when I think of the word ‘home’, I still think of Wyoming. I think that’s what inspires me to write about home, because I miss it and it’s on my heart. Whereas if I still lived in Wyoming, I would probably just be happy and outside all the time, and I wouldn’t have time to write music. Here in Nashville, I am here for one reason - to create music. Being on the road as much as I am also plays into that - my song ‘Come Home To You’ epitomises this. Usually, I’m gone all week and I come home at the end of the week to my wife and kids. Being away from home is what inspires those songs about home. If you’re at home all the time, you’re probably gonna be writing about wanting to be away from home!
Is there an album on the way?
Yes there is! ‘More Than Me’ and ‘Horses and Weed’ are the first two tracks on it. The album will be coming in 2023.
Lastly, something we ask all our interviews, what would be your top three songs with a theme of mental health?
It was very hard for me to pick individual songs, so I have artists instead -
1. The Beatles They’re my favourite band of all time, I draw a ton of inspiration from them. That goes back to the beauty of producing your own music - The Beatles were able to reinvent themselves over and over again. If you listen to their first album and then their last album, you think, ‘How is this the same band?’ - yet it still all works. Every time I hear them, I’m always re-inspired to create. And when I’m creating, that’s when I feel the fire in my heart and I’m happiest, because I know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
2. George Strait Every time I hear his music, I’m inspired to up my songwriting game. The songs he’s cut over the years are timeless, and you can listen to them now and they have just as much impact as if you’d listened thirty years ago. George is always one I’ll turn to and he’ll take me back home as well, which has been a theme in this conversation.
3. George Jones This might seem like a weird one, because George Jones probably has the saddest songs in Country music! I hear his music and I think, ‘You know what, my life is pretty good! That guy is going through it, so compared to him I’m doing ok!’ I feel like I will never go through as many hard times as he has.
Do you have plans to come over and perform in the UK?
Man, I would love to. I really want to go over there just to experience your Country crowds - I’ve only ever played in the US, so I’d love to head over there soon.
Ian Munsick’s latest singles, ‘More Than Me’ and ‘Horses and Weed’, are out now!
I’m a sucker for a live version of a song, and often, I end up preferring the live rendition to the original. While Larry Fleet’s spiritual ballad, ‘Where I Find God’, will always be a classic, hearing it live on his latest Live Sessions Vol 1 project frames it in an entirely new light.
The subtle, angelic choir accompaniment builds throughout the track, and the sparser live arrangement shifts the focus more firmly onto Fleet’s vocals. In my view, Fleet boasts one of the most irresistible voices in contemporary Country. Listening to his deep, husky croon is the sonic equivalent of taking a warming sip of Tennessee Fire.
Faith is the hook upon which all the other features of this project are hung, with Fleet recruiting Christian powerhouse Zach Williams for ‘This Too Shall Pass’ and ‘Midnight Rider’. This is a dream pairing, with both possessing vocals that flit mercurially between power and intimacy - perfectly mirroring two complimentary pillars of faith.
‘Highway Fleet’ revolves around a playful, bluegrass riff and a light, tinkling piano that melds seamlessly together with Fleet’s driving vocals. ‘Try Texas’ is a more laid-back affair, but one that treads closer to the footsteps of ‘Where I Find God’. ‘Try Texas’ delivers another message of holding onto hope when despair seems the only option. Nashville just reminds him of lost love, so Fleet simply shrugs his shoulders and muses, “Maybe I’ll try Texas”.
‘Having a Girl’ is another highlight, and epitomizes Fleet’s ability to draw the spotlight in and onto one specific detail or moment, before then building this out into a moving, bigger-picture anthem. The song finds Fleet leaning into his workin’ man, average Joe persona as he outlines how not much has ever been able to faze him - that is, until his wife ‘rocks his world’ by telling him he’s having a baby girl.
It’s a timeless, down-home honesty that never feels forced for the sake of radio play or fan appeasement. With Fleet, it really feels as though what you see is what you get, and the raw feel of these live renditions accentuates the finer sketchings of this image. This selection of tracks not only captures the magic of live music, it also beautifully imparts a sense of optimism and an overwhelming sense of assurance in being exactly who you are. Fleet sounds comfortable in himself, and he resists the temptation to try and fit into any kind of prepackaged box or traffic-jammed lane. ‘Where I Find God’ rightly continues to pique the most interest, but even so, every track on Live Sessions Vol 1 serves as another reason to eagerly anticipate Larry Fleet’s next studio album.
Live Sessions Vol.1 is out now on all platforms.
We live in a divided society. The term ‘You’ll never please everyone’ feels more relevant than ever as around the globe people are polarised by their opinions. Left vs right, new vs old, and, of course, Jacob vs Edward; it feels like there’s always a disagreement to be had somewhere - and thanks to social media, you don’t have to look too far to find it.
One of the more prominent debates - or 'feuds' would maybe be more appropriate - is the endless passive aggressive (and sometimes just aggressive) ramblings of millennials and baby boomers as they go at each other hammer and fist about who ruined everything, who’s had a harder time and who is just worse in general. So, who better than myself, a millennial, to see if there’s actually any substance to either side of the argument; or whether it’s just keyboard warriors with too much time on their hands.
According to many boomers this is a concept that millennials will not be familiar with. It’s the argument that’s bandied about the most; millennials love to sit and complain about the world and how hard life is, but really if they just got off their backsides and put in some graft, for once, maybe they’d achieve something with their lives. This is usually responded to with some quip about how boomers had a much easier time of things back in the good old days. So, is there substance to either side?
Well, as a millennial, it’s hard not to feel a little insulted when the generation before us writes us all off as lazy. It’s no secret that times are tough. The world is literally being destroyed, the economy sucks, politicians suck and the employment market sucks. House prices have gone crazy in this past year or so, and even before that were steadily increasing at a rate that is hugely disproportionate to that of the average salary. I won’t bore/depress you all with the figures, but the fact of the matter is that it’s just a lot more difficult to buy property these days, unless you’re in a very well paid job. Well guess what, that’s harder too. The employment market now is very different to what it has been in the past. How many stories have you heard from as little as 30 years ago of companies taking a chance on someone only for them to work their way up the ladder; or your grandad telling you he walked into some company or other, told them he wanted a job and got his first pay cheque the next week. Nowadays, even to come in at the very bottom of the pile, university degrees and experience just simply aren’t enough. Half the time you fill out two hours’ worth of application forms and skills tests for a job only to hear nothing back. So what if you went and got an education, so did the other 80 people who applied. Let’s not forget that we are looking into our long futures at a planet scarred by climate change and an ever-growing overpopulation problem. Whilst we aren’t angels, we certainly haven’t been around long enough to do that sort of damage. It’s like getting your inheritance through and finding you’ve been left a burning building – sure, you’d always wanted the house, but there’s not much you can do with it now.
So it seems that life was just easier back in the day, right? People could walk into half decent jobs, earn good money and buy a house – and guess what – thanks to the housing market, you’d be able to sell that profit on for a ludicrous amount of profit 10 years down the line. Millennials aren’t just whinge bags, we have it tough!
Well, true…ish. Sure, things are tough right now, but when it comes to these social arguments millennials are just as bad as the boomers. It often seems that us millennials are so wrapped up in our own hardships that we forget that other people had their own. Of course there were some things that were better back in the day, but there are some things that are better now. The term boomer literally comes from the baby boom, a phenomenon during and after the second world war in which soldiers would return home, and after time away would want to start families. We are literally talking about a generation born into a world trying to pick up the pieces after one of the most brutal conflicts the world has ever seen. Even moving later into the generation, the 60s through to the 80s was a time of huge divide and was far from a picnic politically. Sure, we can look back and say that jobs were easier to come by and money was easier to make, but it’s not like it was all hunky dory. Also, is it fair to blame boomers for climate change? Everything these days is disposable; everything gets thrown away and everything is wrapped in copious amounts of plastic. It’s not always been like that, and as a generation we have to take some responsibility for how we act for the environment. After all, in the good old days, if something was broken it got fixed, not chucked.
So, maybe the boomers didn’t have it easy, but does that make it right to label us all as whingers? Well, sort of. I mean, we are a little, aren’t we? Let’s face it, as a generation we were born with the world at our fingertips. Thanks to vast developments in technology, we now have the attention spans of goldfish and expect everything instantaneously. Travel is easier than ever before and we interact with technology 24/7. Have we got used to the easy life it has given us? Recently, I was driving home from the Long Road festival when the sat nav on my phone that links to the screen on my car inexplicably decided not to play ball. The signal was blotchy and even when I managed to get some it wouldn’t link through properly – just all-around frustrating times. I remember an urge to launch my phone out of the window bubbling up inside me – but looking back now, it makes me realise that maybe we don’t realise how good we have it. I’m not saying our life is easy by any stretch, I know first hand it isn’t, but actually looking back at that I realised how privileged we are. I was annoyed because the device that at the touch of a button literally guides me the whole way home, tells me what lane to drive in and where the speed cameras are momentarily didn’t work, but what about times before us when people were juggling paper road maps and trying to figure out where they actually were; relying on road signs to guide them and just praying that they ended up somewhere familiar. A common jibe I see from boomers is that us millennials don’t understand how to save money, and that if we did, maybe things wouldn’t be so tough. This sometimes feels like a stupid argument, as if scraping together our pennies will be the difference between us being nowhere near and able to afford a house worth 15 times our salaries; but there is some truth to it. I know plenty of people who complain all the time that they’re broke, but don’t bat an eyelid at spending six quid on a posh coffee. Even when I was a kid, it seemed that luxuries were few and far between as our parents seemed to have to work much harder to make their money last, even though in reality they were probably somewhat better off. Sure, dropping your coffee order isn’t going to get you that house in the next 30 years, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up on saving money, does it?
I’m not going to say that any generation has it easier or harder, because the truth is I don’t think they do. Both present different challenges. Sure, it winds me up when a boomer calls my generation lazy, as much as it probably winds them up when we suggest that they didn’t have any real issues to deal with, or when we blame them for climate change.
The real takeaway is that both generations need to look inwards. Boomers really need to begin to appreciate that actually, just because they managed to buy a house when they were 19 from a lower-than-average salary ,that doesn’t mean millennials should be able to do the same. The fact is, times are different now and it wouldn’t hurt to have a little understanding. Similarly, millennials need to realise that, actually, we are pretty lucky to have a lot of the luxuries we have, and that technology has certainly made some aspects of our lives easier. We also need to understand that we aren’t the first people in the world to have hard times, and that just because things suck for us doesn’t mean they don’t for anyone else. Beyond that, I guess the real takeaway would be to stop arguing with people on Facebook; it just isn’t worth anyone’s time and only serves to leave two people who have never met filled with anger and contempt.
Sometimes we just need an escape from the real world. Some of us like to read books, some like to watch films and some like to listen to music. What if, however, I told you there's a way to combine all three? Here's David and Maxim's top ten songs for you to get lost in the story of.
10. Started A Band - Ben Burgess
This is admittedly a bit of a rogue choice, and not a song I immediately warmed to, but it’s nonetheless a track that provides a hugely memorable storyline. Our protagonist takes his girlfriend to a concert, only for her to end up going home with the lead singer following the after-show Meet-and-Greet. As he wallows in his frustration, Burgess decides to start his own band in retaliation. At first, he only has the proverbial ‘man and his dog’ to perform to. However, in a satisfyingly cyclical conclusion, Burgess ends the song by - truthfully - recounting playing in front of a hundred thousand fans in support of country megastar, Morgan Wallen. And, perhaps less truthfully, the girl that spurned him all those years ago turns up for the Meet-and-Greet. Does she go home with him? In a wonderfully petty move, Burgess details what happens, “When she ran around back when the show was over/I took the picture, acted like I didn't know her”. Despite being a musically intense song, it has a light-hearted, fun feel - and the hook is irresistibly catchy. MM
9. Stan - Eminem
This weird and wonderful tune came from the era of peak Eminem. From the perspective of an infatuated fan, the song details the letters that Stan writes to Em, which for the most part don’t get to him. Stan becomes increasingly infuriated at his lack of response and the letters grow increasingly obsessive, aggressive and strange. The tragic end to the song is the tape Stan records driving down the highway with his long-suffering girlfriend locked in the boot before the car goes flying off the edge. It’s certainly not an easy listen, but has always intrigued me as a song, and the iconic chorus from Dido, also performed live by Elton John, is somewhat of a shining light in an otherwise very dark song. DD
8. Wait in the Truck - HARDY ft. Lainey Wilson
Another classic country murder ballad, HARDY and Lainey Wilson combine to produce one of the stand-out songs of 2022. HARDY outlined that the song was inspired by a non-physical altercation that his wife had been involved in, where a guy had tried to chat her up in a bar. He expanded out the idea and created a darkly captivating song about a man who comes across an abused woman while driving one night. He tells her to “wait in the truck”, and he subsequently heads straight to the man’s house and delivers the woman’s retribution. Despite going to prison for his crime, HARDY definitely comes off as the hero of the song, and the ominously dramatic music video that accompanies it is well worth a watch. MM
7. I Don't Care - Quadeca
This is one of my favourite songs, and I actually wrote a piece on it in the last issue. A great song to listen to, but also an incredibly clever and well written one. Within the song, Quadeca is clearly suffering, struggling to come to terms with his successes and life in general. However, this isn’t made apparent to us from the off. We only really find out that ‘I don’t care’ is not a genuine statement, but an attempt to convince himself, when in the second verse he details the story of a message he received on Instagram from someone whose friend was a fan of Quadeca, and tragically just killed themselves. The climax, and the ‘plot twist’ if you will, is when Quadeca discovers the kid that killed himself had messaged Quadeca before, and he had consciously ignored the message as one of the many he receives from fans every day. A tragic story but a really beautiful song. DD
6. Jamie - Zach Bryan ft. Charles Wesley Godwin
This is one of my favourite songs at the moment, and undoubtedly one of the hidden gems in Zach Bryan’s impressive repertoire. With the help of the stunning vocals of his good buddy, Charles Wesley Godwin, Zach tells the tale of a man who stumbles out of a bar late one night, and decides to take a long drive. At first, we’re not sure where he’s heading, but we then learn that he’s on his way to meet his love. He realises he’s being followed by the Police, presumably for drunk driving, but he continues on regardless. When he finally reaches his destination at dusk, his pursuers draw their guns, just as we learn that Jamie’s actually been driving to the grave where the love of his life was laid to rest, after she passed away when they were only young. The story concludes in a beautifully bittersweet way, with the man being shot, which means that he is free to return to dance with his love “in the stars”. It’s full of visceral, haunting lyrics, such as, “The flashin' red and blue in a cracked rear view/He remembers a smile he once owned”. Be sure to check out the duo’s iconic live rendition of ‘Jamie’ on Zach Bryan’s new live album, which dropped on Christmas Day. MM
5. Ballad of the 20th Maine - The Ghost of Paul Revere
This song is a recent discovery for me, as are the band that sing it. Whilst curiously wandering around the Long Road festival this year we ended up stopping at the Buddy’s Good Time bar stage for a little. Having become impressed by the group performing; we then managed to hear them later on the Interstate stage. This beautiful folk song details the story of Andrew Tozier, who left his home in Maine to fight in the war in 1861. The song is absolutely beautiful to listen to but is also beautifully written. The lyrics play off like a ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ style war poem as the song details the battles and bravery of those involved. It’s one of those that, despite having nothing to do with the American Civil War or living anywhere near any of it, you can’t help but be filled with pride and energy as you listen. Unfortunately, I learned that, just as I had discovered this great band and their beautiful songs, they have decided to call it quits after 11 years. Thankfully I got the chance to see them live, and their music remains on Spotify! DD
4. There Goes My Life - Kenny Chesney
I accept that I may well be a tad biased, but for me, nobody pulls off a heart-wrenching, no-I’ve-just-got-something-in-my-eye ballad as well as King Kenny. The song opens with a young man finding out that his partner is pregnant, and all he can think about are the plans, hopes and aspirations that he’ll have to kiss goodbye as a result - “There goes my life”, he says. Then, we find him “a few thousand diapers later”, and he’s watching his beloved daughter, thinking, “There goes my life”, this time referring to her. Lastly, after another fast-forward, our protagonist is waiting to say goodbye to his daughter as she’s loading up her car and getting ready to head off to college. With a tear preparing its descent down his cheek, he muses wistfully, “There goes my life”. I’m not crying, you are. MM
3. The Dance - Garth Brooks
This song is one of Garth Brook’s most famous, which, considering he is one of the best-selling artists of all time, tells you how well known it is. The song is one of those that somehow seems to be simultaneously happy and sad. It focuses on a protagonist who reminisces about the beautiful moment he and his partner shared when they had ‘The Dance’ and looks back on how perfect it was. The thought is interrupted by the protagonist thinking about the eventual end of the road, imagining if only he could have known then that things wouldn’t work out. The real beauty in the song, and what makes it meaningful for a lot of people, is that he banishes these thoughts. He’s glad he didn’t know back then that the end was nigh because it would have ruined this perfect moment, and no matter what has or what will happen, he will always have that perfect moment to look back on. It’s a real tear-jerker, and for reasons you can imagine the song has since gained a lot of meaning to people who have suffered the loss of a loved one. Although the song is really about a break-up, the sentiment translates perfectly, forgetting the end for a while to hold on to those precious moments, something that will always be with you even if the person isn’t any more. My one frustration with this song, or with Garth really, is that his songs don’t seem to be anywhere! You can find covers but unless you get hold of an old CD or something you’ll probably struggle to hear his version. DD
2. Next Thing You Know - Jordan Davis
After the success of ‘Buy Dirt’, many were wondering how Jordan Davis was going to follow up the CMA-winning single. ‘Next Thing You Know’ is how. This track flicks affectionately through all the key chapters of a man’s life, from meeting someone in a bar to moving in with them, and the next thing he knows he’s getting married and sitting happily “on a honeymoon beach”. The dexterity of how each stage of life is portrayed in all its colour and vibrancy, despite each one only receiving a couple of lines apiece, underlines how Jordan Davis is settling into the bigger-picture, storytelling sweet-spot that ‘Buy Dirt’ pinpointed. The most powerful lyrical sequence comes after he’s just found out his wife is pregnant: “Cause next thing you know/You're wearing scrubs and a funny white hat and the/Doctor's sayin', ‘How you doin' there, dad?’ and/Nobody's ever called you that”. MM
1. Paradise By The Dashboard Light - Meatloaf
What I didn’t realise when assembling this list is that most of the storytelling songs I know err on the sadder side of things; thankfully this one doesn’t! One of the most iconic songs from one of the most iconic albums from one of the most iconic artists, if I had to sum up this song with a word I’d have to say it’s…iconic! Thanks to Meatloaf's experience on the stage and the unique operatic writing style of Jim Steinman, this song is a full eight or so minutes of emotions and drama. The song follows two young teenagers who are sitting in a parked car getting hot and heavy. Meatloaf can’t believe his luck as a 17 year old enjoying the company of one of the prettiest girls in the school; "All the kids at school, they were wishing they were me that night". As the song moves on the mood gets steamier, but just before it's all systems go, the girl demands that they stop! Before they go any further she wants to know that he isn’t just using her. She insists that Meatloaf promise her that he will love her forever, but Meatloaf is reluctant; "Let me sleep on it, baby baby let me sleep on it", As you would expect, the 17 year old boy finally succumbs to his desires and makes all of these promises to the young girl - he’ll love her forever. This brings us to the final act of the song, suddenly we are 30 or so years in the future and Meatloaf and the girl are sick to the back teeth of each other! He can’t break his promise to stick until the end of time, but just wait in hope for that time to come! "I’m waiting for the end of time, so I can end my time with you". Honestly it’s so hard to do it justice with a written synopsis, because it has so many twists and turns and as you listen it evolves and evolves throughout. It’s an all-time favourite of mine and is a style of songwriting and performing that sadly we are unlikely to see again. DD
Megan Thee Stallion has always been divisive for me – having heard her freestyle raps and excellent lyrical skills, I’m always a bit underwhelmed when she releases music. Of course every successful artist who wants to sell music is a little at the mercy of whatever is working at the time, and maybe this is what influences Megan, but her music just never, for me anyway, seems to show her at her talented best. That being said, I have always admired Megan for treading her own path and not being afraid of criticism. Releasing a song called ‘WAP’ (we all know what it is by now I’m not going to spell it out) was always going to split opinions and cause reaction, but whilst some people saw a crude and explicit song with an equally crude and explicit video, some also saw a powerful play about women’s body autonomy, feminism and equality. After all, how many songs do we hear on the radio, and not bat an eyelid at, from men who discuss women in the same way – why shouldn’t the women be able to take charge of it?
Anyway, this wasn’t intended to be an article on feminism, and the point that I am making is that you can say what you want about Megan, but sometimes you just have to admire her. And I count myself in this, although her music isn’t really to my taste ,I do appreciate and understand what she’s doing, and I respect that she is an important player in the music industry game right now.
However, what I respect even more than that is her attitude towards mental health.
Rap has always had a tough exterior and this has often included the artists. Before Drake came along and changed the game, talking about any sort of emotion was often seen as a weakness and only those at the top (Biggie being a prime example) could do it and keep their respect. It would be easy for Megan, therefore, to lean into her ‘Bad Bitch’ persona and act like she hasn’t got problems, difficulties or challenges. Although times are changing, there’s an argument that it may have even helped her music and career to do so.
Despite all of this, Megan has recently announced a new website initiative for her fans called ‘Bad Bitches Have Bad Days Too’, a lyric borrowed from her song ‘Anxiety’. Firstly, I love the title and I think it sets the tone so well. It’s so simple yet sends such a strong message to all of her fans. Not only does it reassure her fans that mental health issues don't make you any less of a ‘Bad Bitch’, it also suggests to the fans that idolise her that she too goes through what they go through, and actually that they’re all in it together. I think it’s so intelligent of her to lean into her ‘Bad Bitch’ persona in this way, owning the phrase and driving the message that tough times don’t define you, you can still be what you are, who you want or how you want to be.
The website is extremely simple and crisp but is laid out very effectively. The idea is to be a hub for mental health for her fan group, and I think that is exactly what she has achieved. Scrolling down through the site shows you various links to therapy platforms, articles, research, contacts and helplines. She also gives a specific focus to the LGBTQIA+ and black communities with numbers and links to hot-lines that are run specifically for people in these demographics. The site also contains a few quotes and a triumphant picture of Megan at the bottom looking as if to be somewhere between a scream and a roar – again, another really simple touch, but it just backs this message that you can be powerful and still have a hard time.
So, although musically Megan isn’t my favourite artist, she has always had my respect, and she’s earned it even more so now. This isn’t the first time Megan has spoken about mental health by a long stretch, and she has always been somewhat of an ambassador, but I love to see her really take a lead as an artist and pioneering something so simple yet so effective for her fans is really incredible. Whilst helping through all the resources provided on the actual site, the message it sends shouldn’t be underestimated and really encourages her fans to open up. I also think that being a role model for so many women, and particularly young women, Megan taking a stance on this offers real hope and empowerment. Not only is this a strong woman opening up about her mental health, she’s also telling all those that look up to her that it is okay. Often, when we see people in the limelight, we end up with such a refined and rehearsed image that when we try to emulate our role models it’s impossible for us. Megan’s message handles this perfectly, admitting her struggles but simultaneously stating that this doesn’t make her any less of the ‘Bad Bitch’ anyone thought she was. Think what you like about Megan, but no one can deny the importance of what she is doing.
Hi Kel! Thanks so much for talking to me today! Your most recent release is the fantastic song ‘Still a Child’ – what was the influence for this song?
It’s such a special song to me, so thanks for the compliments about it, and for asking! I think there are always a lot of influences that come into play, but for this song in particular I was watching a video of myself! My sister had sent it to me and it’s of when I was younger and I just kind of awkwardly singing into the camera, really insecure. I watched it and thought that I’m still that young girl in a lot of ways; I know that in mental health work and psychology there’s a lot of that talk about your inner child. So, I really started to get this idea about singing to my inner child and looking at who I am now against who I was then, but also recognising that I’m still that person and who I am has always been inside of me. It’s really about nurturing that part of yourself and trying to figure out life the best we can, one day at a time!
One thing I’ve found from interviews in the past is that often the most emotional and heavy songs sound the most light hearted. ‘Still a Child’ definitely fits the bill. The strong message carried in the lyrics is contrasted by a melody and beat that is catchy and fun. Is there a reason why you chose to put the song together this way?
Yeah, absolutely! I think firstly having that contrast makes it interesting and fun to listen to, but it’s also showing that contrast about being a kid and being unaware and aloof almost and, as they say, innocence is bliss! That’s where the melody and the track come into play. It’s that childlike innocence, and then the lyrics really go into this idea that life is no joke, things happen and it’s tough! What I love about this song is that it’s really relatable to any time of your life, the chorus talks about feeling alone and being a stranger in your own home and I know that can very be applicable to children. People who haven’t had the support at home can often grow up and reflect and realise that maybe their childhood wasn’t quite as blissful as they thought it was. For me, personally, I had a different experience where I didn’t have the perfect childhood, no one does, but at the same time it was still a pretty idyllic childhood, I was really lucky. Once I became an adult, I started to burst out of that bubble, and it wasn’t until the pandemic that I started struggling with anxiety myself and experiencing mental health in a very intimate way and learning to impact that. Even feeling like a stranger in your own body, it’s something that is just so foreign and is something that was new for me, because I had to learn these lessons later in life once I became an adult. I just love how this song can be applicable to be whatever stage of life you’re in and that’s always my goal in my music, people listen to it and think of themselves, not me.
You’ve been open in the past about your struggle with anxiety, especially during the pandemic. If you could go back now and offer yourself some advice to get through that time, what would it be?
It’s a good question, because being totally honest it’s something I still struggle with. I feel like it almost opened a pandora’s box; I have come a long way and I’m really proud of myself, and therapy is amazing, but thinking about what I’d say to myself? I think I had a mental breakdown last week! What would I say to myself last week! I think what I try to remind myself a lot is that I’m not my thoughts. With everyone having different struggles, for anxiety particularly, what I’ve experienced is my thoughts just spiralling and getting out of control. It’s so bizarre, but I was talking to my sister about it a few weeks ago; it’s like I’m having a battle in my head. There’s the logical, rational and reasonable part of me that’s like an observer, so I know what I’m feeling and that the spiralling isn’t productive or healthy, but the other side of me that is spiralling is also putting up a fight! I think the biggest reminder, whether when I was first struggling or now, is that you’re not your thoughts. Just breathe and pause - sometimes you have to let yourself ride the wave and get through it. For anyone else struggling, it’s also about not shaming yourself for having those moments of weakness and recognising that it’s human. Start developing healthy habits, it’s the little things that can really help you in the end.
You have spoken about how during your anxiety issues, often people would praise you for ‘having it together’ even though you felt as if you didn’t. We often feel a need to mask our issues - how important do you think it is for us to be as open and honest as you have been in this song?
I think the more that you bottle it up, the more it can build up because there’s not a release, and even just having that human connection can make a difference. With my personality, I’ve always been such a high achiever and had a ‘go go go’ mentality, constantly doing 100 things at once. So for me it has been hard to bring down that façade. I think the lyric you’re referring to is ‘Man, she’s got her act together but they don’t know the storms I weather’ but I still find myself putting up that façade sometimes! I don’t think there’s always a problem with that, it’s good to have those boundaries of who you can open up to and when it’s appropriate, but I have found the times I have broken down those walls, let people in and shared my struggles, we always end up closer and better for it. It’s retraining yourself to think that it’s actually positive and going to benefit the relationship and your health and your mind, as opposed to what I think the first thought is, that we can’t show weakness. That’s part of growing up, learning to be accepting that everyone has their weaknesses.
I really relate to that, it’s hard finding that balance! Obviously if a colleague you don’t know too well asks how you are, you aren’t really going to want to go into great detail sharing all of your troubles, so it becomes a constant consideration of how much do you say and who do you tell.
What I will say is that in the ‘downtime’ or more consistent moments, it’s important to work on intentionally building those relationships, when you’re good or more regulated. Making sure you’re invested in the people around you so that it’s not just a case of only calling when you’re having a problem, but genuinely having that friendship.
I’ve written in the past about the difficulties of growing up and the weight of expectations we feel as we get older. I love the verse in the song about dancing to Shania Twain as a three-year-old, and how at that time you were completely free with the whole world in front of you. The theme of this song is very much about looking fondly at the past and wanting to get back to that place of freedom and innocence. How do you think as adults we can try to recapture some of those sentiments? Do you still dance to Shania?!
Yes, I do! I still love Shania! I think that’s a really good point that you bring up, it’s not just getting stuck in the past or analysing the past but creating those moments now. For me it’s giving yourself permission to have fun and be silly. I saw a video about how some people were walking in their neighbourhood and their neighbour was spraying his lawn with a hose and they just asked him if they could run through the hose! The neighbour ended up holding the hose out for them so they could run through the water, they were just two adults having a totally fun moment! I think it’s about recognising that a lot of people have that side to them, that silliness, that playfulness. You have to kind of be brave yourself to ‘run through the hose’! Shedding some of the ego of being together and proper all the time. Just like running on the beach and into the water or blasting the music in my car and not caring if the car next to me is looking at me like I’m a freak! Those little things of being in the moment!
I feel like a great example for our generation is video games. They were a new thing as we were young, so were always associated as being strictly a thing for kids, however, as we have all grown up many of us still use video games as a way to relax. People are coming home from their careers to play games as it’s their way to shut off. I feel like there’s a stigma though amongst the older generations that it is a sign of immaturity or childishness to enjoy these things they’ve always associated with children.
I just started playing ‘Breath of the Wild’! I heard so many good things and I finally got into it! It’s the most peaceful thing! I’ll be there picking up mushrooms and cooking them in a pot, it is really fun! You’re just enjoying the moment and letting yourself relax and unwind! That’s a good point about maturity, I think sometimes we use that word as a weapon. Personally, I believe maybe it’s appropriate in terms of interpersonal relationships and emotional regulation like if someone is immature because they behave the wrong way; but I think it sometimes goes in the wrong way, like this weapon of ‘Oh you play video games, that’s immature’, but it’s okay to be immature sometimes if it’s directed in a healthy way!
The repetition of ‘I’m still a child’ in each chorus, and then especially at the end was very powerful to me, especially when it comes back at the end in children’s voices! Firstly, and slightly off topic, are the kids in the recording ones you know or were they just randomly recruited?
I’m actually really lucky to have a bunch of nieces and nephews! I’m the youngest of five kids and all of my siblings have kids of their own! I messaged them and asked if they could get their kids to say or sing it! I replicated it in my phone, then had them record a voice memo and send it back, then we built it into the chorus that you hear. It was so darn cute! When I got them back, I just thought it was exactly what the song needed! So, they were real children, and they were the cherry on top in terms of the song!
The other thing about the ‘I’m still a child’ line is that I wasn’t sure which way to interpret it. On one hand I thought maybe you were trying to convince yourself and holding onto those happy times of the past, not wanting to let go. The other interpretation I had was that you are trying to tell those people around you who assumed that you were fine and well during your anxiety that actually underneath the surface you are vulnerable and you do need support. The great thing about music is that the real truth is in the mind of the listener, however, would you say any of these interpretations hold some truth for you?
Yeah, those both really resonate. I always feel like a good chorus, or even post chorus, can have multiple meanings. You know, as the first verse comes in it means one thing, then as the second verse comes in, it means another thing, and so on. A song that I resonate with - and I aspire to write these types of songs - is where the meaning evolves and it doesn’t just have one black and white meaning. So, I think both of those could be really applicable, and I also think another perspective could be kind of accepting it yourself! Realising that you are still a kid, despite thinking you should have everything figured out but in reality have no idea what you’re doing, kind of like imposter syndrome. I always love to leave it open to interpretation, because depending on who is listening, they’re going to resonate with their own version of it and that’s really the point.
Another line in the song that really stood out to me was, ‘All at once the future’s unknown’. One thing I’ve struggled a lot with is being a ‘worrier’, constantly focused on the future and having everything planned out, so that I don’t enjoy the present. Do you think that sometimes in life we can spend too much time focused on the destination, and not enjoying the journey?
Oh my gosh, yeah! You’re speaking my language. For me, that’s at the core of anxiety, that’s at the core of when you’re having an anxiety or panic attack, like for me, it’s usually triggered by uncertainty. I’ve really had to learn, and still am learning, that I’m not going to know what’s over the hill. I used to be the kind of person that had my five-year plan, my ten-year plan. When you’re growing up and in school you have very clear milestones that are very laid out, advancing to a different year and recitals or sport events or graduation, then you go off to university. It’s so clear cut that from a young age we are conditioned to have these milestones and structure. For children, that’s very necessary, but then to make that switch is really hard as an adult. What’s my milestone? I think for a long time, personally, I was very tied to visible metrics and optics; I graduated high school early and got my degree in three years, I went and got a corporate job and wanted to climb the ladder and be a CEO. I was so fixated on these external things because it gave me a recipe. Then, I realised I wanted to do music, which has none of that! Everyone’s path as a musician is very different. I definitely have been a ‘worrier’ and still am, it’s just a case of constantly going back to remind myself that I might not know what’s on the other side of the hill, but focusing on taking small steps to be fulfilled in what I’m doing today. But it’s a struggle, dude, I’m still always thinking about that next thing!
I completely relate to that! One thing I’ve learned about myself since finishing my education is that I rely on validation. As you mentioned, there are so many milestones in education that give you that, getting good grades or completing a year, for instance. However, I’ve discovered that being an adult, you don’t often get that, when you do well at work it’s kind of just your job, there’s no good grade for it! I had no idea I relied on it so much until growing up and losing it!
Yeah, totally. You have to learn to validate yourself, right? You get used to having parents or teachers to provide that, and even when you start dating, you’re still using other people for that. It all comes back to learning how to validate yourself. So, there are a ton of personality tests out there and I love them all, I’m weirdly obsessed. One in particular, Enneagram- you should try it - gives you a number and I’m a 3 wing 2. The 3 essentially means ‘obsessed with achieving’ and that’s my main one. Everything you’re saying, you are speaking my language because for someone with my personality type I have tied my success to external measures more than I think has helped me. You should go try the test, it’s a great self-reflection tool.
Finally, one thing we ask all of our interviewees is to name their top three songs that relate to mental health. What would be your top three?
1. 'Breathin' – Ariana Grande
2. 'Morning in America' – Jon Bellion
3. 'What a Wonderful World' – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Added Extra: 'Up' - Shania Twain Kel Adore's latest single,
'Still a Child', is out now on all platforms.
Maxim and David
We loved getting the opportunity to chat to Jaren Johnston from award-winning US country trio, The Cadillac Three, ahead of the band’s hotly anticipated closing set at the Long Road Festival.
Something I think the Long Road Festival epitomises is the fact that the UK’s country music fanbase is a very close-knit community. It’s not as big as in the States, and it has an almost familial sense to it. How do you find playing to UK crowds, compared to those back home?
We love it, man! We’ve been coming over since 2013, and it's gotten bigger and bigger. I just love the fact that you guys still listen to entire records, and not just one song. We notice that a lot when we’re playing. In the States, it’s not really like that - crowds are waiting for the one big hit. I think that’s why we're done so well over here, because we put out full records.
Talking of putting out full records, you’re known for releasing a lot of music. Does this mean you’re constantly revising your set list?
It’s exhausting. It’s really just a matter of us learning all the songs. We don’t really create set lists, but we have songs that are in the flow of the set. We attempt to sprinkle in the new ones where it makes sense. It’s an ongoing process. Any word on new music? It’s on the way! We’re about halfway through. It’s tough, we put out so much music in 2020, like you were saying, and we just needed a mental reset. Back then, I could write all day long about how everything being shut down because of the pandemic sucked, but now we don’t really want a sad record. But it’s coming!
What’s your favourite song with a theme of mental health? Kacey Musgraves, Follow Your Arrow
It’s tough - (to his bandmates) I’m saving you guys a little bit - because most people listen to music to ideally feel good, whether that’s a song about drinking, a song about losing your dad or a song about your dog dying, you know? I wrote this song called ‘Doggone’, and it was on the last Tim McGraw record, and the amount of messages I got from people who had lost a dog...it’s amazing what that does to people. I think music in general is hopefully designed to heal - I don’t know if we’re healing people when we do it! But yeah, it’s just got to provide any kind of release. Every song in theory is coming from some place, and trying to help the artist get through something, celebrate something, forget about something, etc. I think there are different songs for different moments - there will be times when turning on a really simple song will be what I want, and then there’ll be other times when I need something deeper like John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ or Miranda Lambert’s ‘The House That Built Me’. It could be almost anything, which I think is what’s great about music.
When I think of your music, I think of it as generally being fuelled by an upbeat, funky style - particularly on Country Fuzz. When you’re putting together a project, to what extent do you factor in the mood - like do you think, ‘Okay, we want this to be a happy record’, and so on?
Sometimes we’re just feeling it out. We see where it goes and which songs present themselves. The Tabasco and Sweet Tea record is like a hillbilly DJ set - if that doesn’t make you feel good, then something’s really wrong! We were trying to make that record in 2020 during that time of there being no smiles, and we wanted to try and bring a smile to somebody. We tried to give the whole record away for $1.49, and we couldn’t figure out how to logistically do it with the DSPs, so we ended up doing it for $3.99. So people got a really cheap record that was fun to listen to while sitting on their couch during quarantine, wondering whether the world was ever going to get better. I feel pretty good about that whole thing.
With that project, because the title is so distinctive, did you start with the title and build the project out from there, almost as a concept album, or did the title come later?
I think it helped us finish it. It was something I started before the pandemic, and it was a reaction to the end of the Country Fuzz record. I started to get into more funky material, like on ‘The Jam’, and we didn’t get to fully explore that. We had to wrap up that record, but we’d had a lightbulb moment with this new sound, so we wanted to see what was going on with it. That became Tabasco.
There’s an undeniable sense of genre fluidity with your music. Is this a conscious creative decision, or does it flow naturally out of your process?
It ends up leaning one way or another to some degree, but it’s a natural process and we just see what comes out. It’s all an experiment. You feel your way towards the things you’re all connecting to the most, and then once when you’ve got a few of those, then maybe you start to find more of a musical path and sound.
Writing and creating music is a very personal thing. As a group of three, do you ever find it difficult when writing together to make sure you’re all on the same page?
It’s usually a meeting after every song. We’ll sit and listen to songs on the bus and think, ‘This could be really cool’, and one person will be like, ‘Actually, I don’t know’, and then we’re like, ‘Actually, you’re right’. Every time it's different. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s Neil, sometimes it’s Kelby, and sometimes it’s all three of us. Sometimes it’s something we wrote ten or fifteen years ago, and we’re like, ‘Dang, we really loved that, let’s do something with it’. And sometimes we sit there and we know we need something with tempo and that’s badass in order to fit onto the record. It’s different every time.
One of my favourite songs of yours is ‘Long After Last Call’. How did that come about?
That’s an old song! I wrote that by myself around ten years ago. I wrote it around the time of the Legacy record, but it didn’t quite fit on that. Then it came back up for a later record and it did make sense. It shows how it’s all about timing and how all the songs fit together, you know? In that instance, we felt like it fit better with the Country Fuzz record.
There aren’t too many bands in modern country music. Does this create a competitive spirit between you and the other biggest bands in the genre?
We’re all friends for the most part. There are a couple of rivalries that are unspoken, like us and Brothers Osborne - we’re good friends, but there’s also a sense of competition there. And then there are bands like Old Dominion who we just cannot stand… Jokes, we’re friends really! And I wrote my first number one with LOCASH in 2010 over at my house - Keith Urban’s ‘You’re Gonna Fly’. We’re all one big family, and it’s very similar to what you explained about the UK country scene.
Keep an eye out for an announcement about The Cadillac Three’s upcoming project, but in the meantime, you can stream Tabasco and Sweet Tea on all platforms.
Recently, I’ve been reading ‘Zero Negativity’ by Ant Middleton. Despite the rather large number of times I’ve read the ‘F’ word, it’s really opened my eyes to the value of being positive. As I’m sure many others have, maybe you as the reader have too, I have had my fair share of mental health struggles. During lockdown, I was taking part in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & getting mentoring, and whilst all of it was really beneficial in the moment, the biggest thing that I learnt was that the more I tried, the better I could make it.
The music industry is particularly tough! In my day job as a PhD researcher at Cardiff University, I spend a lot of time with my headphones in, listening to a podcast or music, knees deep in chemicals & other things, working on my project in Huntington’s Disease. Whilst the outcomes of the project could be life changing, I never feel too much pressure. Everyone supports your wins whilst helping you navigate your failures, and no one minds too much when you put your head down and want to ignore the world for a while. The music industry is the complete opposite really, isn’t it?! Everything you do is being scrutinised and judged in every intimate detail, and there is always someone that has something to say! And by all means, please do, criticism can be very helpful for making something better!! But, should we really care? What should we be doing to help keep us positive, and to make our own desires and goals achievable?
One of the lines that struck me in this book was “don’t be one of those people who forget that life should be about trying to pull yourself up, rather than tearing others down”. Such simple words can mean so much! Whilst I always try not to be a negative person, I don’t think I’ve always tried to pull myself up either… I like to think that I work hard, and keep motivated - I’m proud of the business I’ve created in Scarlet River PR & I’m working with other companies so that artists benefit from my services - but when things go wrong, how likely am I to stay positive in the moment and find those things that will pull me over the fence?
How positive are you when things don’t quite go your way?
How motivated are you to continue pursuing your dream career when it isn’t so easy? Remember where you’ve come from, remember what you’ve achieved, and keep positive!
I’ve written in the past about the evolution of live music but unfortunately the only thing I can decide on is the fact that it is changing. With this in mind I am going to present two scenarios; the old and the new. I will be positive in both my versions to present little bias and as you read I want you to consider which of these is more to your taste. To be honest my expectation, as with most things, is that people will side with the old, adding comments about ‘better times’ and donning rose coloured spectacles – however I encourage you to give both a fair shot and simply choose what you would find more enjoyable.
Now I’m not really trying to suggest that every single live concert in times of old was entirely identical, but simply provide a representation of the key elements where I believe the biggest shift has happened within live music. For me, when I think of live music maybe fifty or sixty years ago I think about a full band. I see on stage a drummer, guitarist, bass guitarist, singers and because it’s me I obviously also see a saxophone. The band have rehearsed the full set top to bottom, even throwing some interesting variations to the fans by merging songs into medley form or adding additional chorus’ for the crowd. The singer is the real star, shaking along to however the music takes them and throwing smiles at the crowd. The band may roll their eyes but they know who people are there to see. The backing singers have a few simple steps; maybe a sway and click to look busy when they aren’t required. The performance goes on, song after song interspersed with some talking to the crowd or grabbing a drink. The music sounds just as it does on the album, but somehow better due to its lack of perfection. A bum note here or there and the balance of live instruments not tuned with maximum precision in the studio offers a new perspective to the songs you love. The only thing that stands between you and the voice of your favourite artist is an amplifier and if you close your eyes and pretend, you’d feel as if you’re up on stage.
Now, once again, I’m not suggesting all new concerts are the same et cetera et cetera you get it. As you turn up to the gig you are handed a free wristband; you expected you’d have to pay through the nose for a souvenir but you’ve been handed one at the offset. You’re told it’s got a special part to play in the show and you’ll know when to use it. As you’re anticipating the start of the show the lights suddenly drop before a few crisp laser spotlights work their way around the audience. Suddenly the stage comes to life and it is projected with a light show that put’s New Years to shame. Amongst the crowd of back up dancers on the stage you spot the artist dressed head to toe in something unbelievably stylish and cool. You curse the extra piece of chicken you ate the night before as you try to imagine yourself slipping into something similar. Over the speakers plays one of their hit songs; the bass makes your chest pound and you hear it in a way you could never hear it otherwise. After the intro is accompanied by highly choreographed dancing the artists grabs the microphone and starts singing along to the backing track, somehow managing to dance better than you ever could whilst also singing better. It’s something of a modern opera with so many moving parts, the lights dance around the stage in a rainbow of colours and move perfectly in time with the current song. Suddenly the moment you’ve been waiting for arrives; the artist tells you to raise your wristband to the sky and simultaneously thousands light up – you look around in awe at the spectacle. You have no doubts that you’ve just witnessed quite the show.
So, thoughts? I must admit, in writing and trying to be unbiased I found it easier to romanticise about the old scenario. Maybe it is the rose coloured spectacles talking but it just seems like more my cup of tea, which is indeed a British way of saying my own personal unique tastes even though everyone loves tea so it doesn’t make much sense. I think for me I base my experiences mainly from seeing Drake and Seafret. Don’t get me wrong I absolutely loved both. I was in awe of the staging, the lights and the energy Drake bought. It was just the most amazing spectacle. One thing that fell by the wayside though was the music. Hearing his songs played over the speakers in the same way you would listen on your phone just doesn’t feel the same as listening to live instruments for me and as much energy as he put into the dancing and the light show it felt sometimes like he barely sung half the songs, just allowing the recording to play whilst engaging with the fans. As I said before, it was still an unbelievable experience and I left feeling absolutely incredible but I couldn’t help but feel I’d have dropped the dancing, the lights and all the choreography in a heartbeat if it meant I just got to see Drake rapping and singing his songs more. Seafret on the other hand had a spotlight, a simple light box with the band name on and stood onstage, vocalist, guitar and drummer giving heartfelt performances of all of their songs. I think for me there is something to be said of a mix; Seaftet could have maybe added a little more showmanship (although in fairness their emotive ballad style does lend itslef more to simplicity)cand Drake probably could have focues more on the music thasn the show. A happy medium for me would be Coldplay. Not only do they get on stage and give incredible live renditions of their own music but they also turn it into some huge celebration. Colourful stage sets, light shows and all the spectacle you could ever wish to see. I must admit I’m not speaking from experience, only from clips online but Coldplay is for sure on my bucket list. I think that really the development of live music depends for each artist and even each song. A band like Seafret with more ballads and a folky feel were hardly going to sing about heartbreak while breakdancing in the midst of a laser show; whilst Drake was never going to perch himself melancholically at the front of the stage to give a heartfelt rendition of 'Started from the Bottom'. I think it's great that we get a mix of the two and whilst we could compare all day really it just depends what you like. Maybe something has been lost when live instruments left the stage, but maybe something was gained when showmanship became more important.
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