Saturday, December 10, 2016

UK Songwriting Contest Results 2016

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We can all work in our own little world but this music business leaves plenty by the wayside. So you have to believe and test yourself against your peers. That's one reason I entered the UKSC (UK Songwriting Contest). The UK Songwriting Contest is one of the world's most popular, longest running and established songwriting events. It works with top British producers and industry professionals and was formed with the aim of "discovering and encouraging new songwriting talent and promoting the craft of songwriting". 

What I liked about this competition, compared to others, was that your song is awarded a score whether it gets through to the latter stages of the competition or not. This at least gives you some sort of benchmark to compare between songs and an idea of how close you got to the next stage. You also received a certificate no matter where your song finished. 

So this is what I decided to do. I entered a couple of MP3s in several categories as I couldn't really work out which was the best fit for reggae, but they didn't make it into the semis. I also entered songs in the 'Lyric Only' category and am pleased to say that two have reached the semi-finals and so in with a shout of the finals. 

For me, this is a great marker. It means industry experts also think I can write songs. There are plenty of other things that make you wonder whether it is worth the effort in this business. But getting your song through to the final rounds of a competition  are things you can look back on and say to yourself keep going!

Well the UK Songwriting Contest 2016 ended and my songs didn't reach the finals. However, this was my first submission to a songwriting contest and below are the certificates for my two highest placed songs. 

As an independent songwriter and producer this really gives incentive to push ahead. It puts my skills in some context. Now, the judgements are partly a matter of opinion and taste so, not achieving my goal in the contest will not diminish the determination to succeed. As we are all listeners to music, we know that musical taste is a very personal thing. 

As I mentioned above, to try and reduce some of the issues around taste, I also entered songs in the 'Lyrics Only' category. This way the judges can envision the song according to their tastes. I added no notes regarding the genre of the song. 

What I take from the outcome is that my own beliefs are not misplaced even though there is still a lot of work to do. Having the certificates also gives a little reminder, on those days where you wonder if it is worth it, that you can achieve success in this industry.

As an independent there are so many hats to wear, songwriter, musician, producer, studio engineer, business person, marketeer all needing some of your precious time. A little bit of validation from your peers goes a long way.

my song competition certificatesmy song competition certificates

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#TheBeginning - How it all Began - #TheInstigators

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There was always music at home, Country, Rock Steady, Ska and #Reggae. An uncle living with us had a #SoundSystem which gave my brothers and me exposure to all the classic #Jamaican music. We did toy with the idea of having our own Sound System but, then one day, the catalyst arrived. Mum bought an acoustic guitar from a friend and gave it to my brother.

I had just started working and I would come home and see my brother playing these melodies as he sat listening to Vinyl 45s. I thought, wow, bruv's got some real talent. The next thing I know bruv has decided we are starting a band, no instruments, no real musicianship at that time.

Over the next few months we taught ourselves rudimentary skills on DIY instruments. Speaker boxes and a mike for a drum kit. The acoustic guitar for the bass guitar. I had a guitar I was given with no strings so progress was slow. The guitar was right handed and I was left handed. I did toy with the idea of learning to play right handed but in the end nature won through.

As I was working, over the next few months I managed to save  and bought a  Fender copy Columbus bass guitar, a second hand drum kit and got a left handed guitar for myself.  A couple of school friends joined, one who could play keyboards and the other percussion and so 'The Instigators' was formed.

my picture of the instigators

The rehearsal studio was my bedroom and thankfully we had good neighbours. My brothers hawked around some rehearsal tapes and eventually a local Sound System owner 'Fatman' decided to open a few doors for us. The first thing that got us noticed was after we put down tracks for an album by two of Fatman's DJs. On hearing the Album the renowned David Rodigan refused to believe that a British reggae band had recorded the tracks. This got us some interviews by notable newspapers at the time and some much needed promotion.

We also released some singles the first called 'Let's Make Love' sung by Toyin Adekale who then went on to have a successful solo career. The follow ups were sung by the late Courtney Bartley (RIP), a great singer, who we discovered singing a tune on a bus.

my picture of courtney

Another notable step up was a residency at the 100 Club in Oxford Street. This really helped to make the band a tight unit. We started backing the touring reggae artists from Jamaica like, Delroy Wilson, John Holt, Tennor Saw, Errol Dunkley, Johnny Osbourne and more. But we still carried on producing singles.

Then the inevitable happened and the band broke up as life and commitments got in the way. I pretty much left the music industry and became an accountant (I can hardly believe it myself). However, my  brothers went on to be successful musicians and producers winning awards and creating numerous hits in the UK reggae scene.

Which brings us to the present day. I always knew that I had unfinished business and the time was right to continue chasing the dream. So  I am back in the music business, songwriting and producing my songs. Collaborating when I choose to and glad to be doing something I really love.