The Wonderful Carole King
Well, what do you know. I'm on the red carpet – in all of its 6ft by 4ft glory. Around me photographers of all shapes and sizes are doing their work as a flood of well-known faces head in the direction of a West End theatre's doors. Behind them I can hear voices from the small, gathered throng asking "Who's that one there?" or even "Where's Marti then?"
With these voices still in my mind, I get asked if I'd pose for a picture. What to do? Hmmm. Option 1 – "No thanks". After all, I'm not that big a public figure so what's the point? But do I look conceited, arrogant, a bit of a diddy?
Option 2 - "Yes, of course". But still I might look conceited, arrogant and a bit of a diddy. You can see my dilemma and I could have pondered it standing in the foyer all night. But, time was pressing on. I bit the bullet and smiled for the camera. After all, it's usually Morrison's cheese counter where I'm recognised these days.
So, where was I when all of this celebrity spotting was going on? The opening night of the musical featuring the music of Carole King in London. To put you in the picture, let's go back a bit. The GC phone is seldom quiet although much of the telephonic traffic could easily be ignored and have no effect on future events. This one was different – the offer of an invite to the above opening night. And so it was that GC and Mrs GC pitched up.
But (and isn't there always a but?) I've never met the PR representative who is scheduled to meet me outside the theatre. The phone battery is getting low and we're in danger of being moved on or arrested for loitering. Was it all a cruel hoax? Thankfully no and Hannah, our PR Angel, arrives on schedule with the invites.
Next stop – the red carpet. Don't look back. Grab the invites and head for the door.
It's always nice to go to an opening night. But when it's features the songs of one of the most famous songwriters ever, then it's just like your birthday when you were 5 and getting a new bike. Brilliant. Excitement all around.
Well, what about the show? The story is based on Carole's life around the time she's married to Gerry Goffin. It's not quite what I expected. Well scripted and I enjoyed the story of this part of her life. How can I describe it – like an American sitcom - a cross between Rhoda, Friends & Scooby Doo. And I mean that in the best possible way.
But it's the songs that win me over. Goffin & King are an iconic partnership in songwriting. She's not just the woman who recorded Tapestry. Not by a long way.
The Shirelles "One Fine Day" is a stand out in the show and her own "It's Too Late" really hits my emotional mark because it's about her break-up with Gerry.
And if that's not enough, Carole King herself appears from the wings at the end of the show, and gives us a thank you that leaves everyone reaching for the tissues.
One last fact caught my eye. “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” was written by Gerry although she sings it as if it's her own and from the heart. That gives me food for thought. Just how important is the partnership in the very best songs? I wonder.
Movies, Journalists and The Meaning of Life
We humans are special. No doubt about it. Whether there's a God or not, we're still in a league of our own. We make things, we travel, we invent telephones and rockets and stuff. We make music, sweet music. And we talk to each other.
Well that's all good. Or is it? Sometimes I wonder.
Every now and then I get asked to do an interview. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful for the chance to get my message out there but it isn't always that simple. Time and time again those pesky humans that can cross continents and cure diseases show a startling inability to listen to what I'm saying. Instead, they take 2 words and add 50 leaving me frustrated and beating myself up as to why I didn't see it coming.
But, before I get started, let me snuff out the rumour. There are no plans for a Wet Wet Wet Movie. More of that further down the page but mean time, here's what is getting the Clarky goat.
As always when I talk to the media, the intention is to open a door – this time for some exposure around the release of my next CD. A noble and understandable aim, don't you think? And that's the trouble – us people in the public eye need the media to get our message out.
Not all journalists are bad, incapable or lazy. But some certainly are. I'm forever reading "interviews" with me which are no more than a cut and paste from other interviews. The journalist has never met me but needs a story.
Maybe I should be happy that people want to print something about yours truly. Trouble is, the same old recycled nonsense has to be part of their narrative time and time again. Every sentence about current efforts has to be attached to a negative aspect of the past. Blah blah blah - Wet Wet Wet – blah blah blah – dramatic implosion – blah blah blah – alcohol & drugs. And that's about it.
Anyway, I'm more bored of those story lines than I can find words for. Aren't you? Yes, everyone is. We're falling asleep as I write this.
Casual, unedifying journalism. It's no big surprise I don't buy into it anymore.
Now,back to the movie rumour. It was a smokescreen. There is no movie. There might be in the future. Who knows but I have spoken to no-one. Well, apart from TC with a conversation that went :-
Tommy - "Do you think it would it be good to do a movie?"
Me - "Maybe".
Don't get me wrong. A movie project would be an interesting one but it needs everyone's co-operation. We don't have that because we're all busy doing other things. Just like a family who want to extend the house. The garden is big enough but they haven't drawn up the plans or talked to the council.
I'm a lucky guy. I'm part of a band that thousands of people come to see every time we play. Team GC are furiously working away on solo efforts and I've got a trillion things going on in my life. Each one is an important part of me.
I may not be Neil Armstrong or Roger Bannister but I'm trying to add something. You'd have thought that the present and the future would be more interesting to talk about than relatively small parts of the past.
But then again, I'm not a journalist.
Well, after all that, the sugar rush is coming to an end and I'm feeling better.I know that you can see through the compost heap that we call tabloids. I meet so many of you when I'm out and about. The conversation is always (not sometimes but always) interesting, positive and entertaining.
Thank you one and all.
Abbey Road Studios, Sept 2013
Just like everyone, there are times when I enjoy what I do for a living more than others. If I'm honest, I'm no fan of endless interviews, photo sessions, or arguments about set lists. But, every now and then I get to go to places your average man on the Clapham omnibus isn't allowed through the door of.
September was one of those months. I was in Abbey Road. No, not just the road, bumping into all those tourist s and Beatles fans taking pictures galore of the famous crossing. I was in the actual studios, if you don't mind, mastering our three new tracks along with some other older tracks for the new Wet Wet Wet Greatest Hits.
In my mind, Abbey Road is this mythical place. I'd love to be telling you Ringo was sitting reading the paper as Paul gestured towards me with an upturned thumb. "Awright Mukka?" he would say in the reception as Dave Gilmour offered me coffee. As usual, reality is never far away and arrives with a thud. In I went, sat down in reception, then ushered upstairs to a mastering suite. I say “mastering suite, but it's more of a warm cupboard! I did the work I was booked into do, with a decent fellow called Sean.
Mind you, I wasn't allowed to take any photographs while on the premises. Apparently I might inadvertently take some shots of someone who might not want their picture taken. Really? Well, I sort of understand. I don't really want my photie taken while I'm wandering around Poundland in Clydebank looking for a new frying pan. Fear not, though. GC is nothing if not a resourceful rebel and I did manage to take some shots, making sure I didn't offend the aforementioned camera-shy stars. Anyway, there was no-one there to be offended by my anoraking.
All over in no time leaving me time to ponder on the journey back south of the river. We did once try and get George Martin to do some string arrangements, but it never happened. He came along to our Wembley gig in the '90's with his wife. - Lovely couple.
And with that happy memory and the plaque dedicated to Elgar at the front door, I'll leave it there.....
Goodness me. It's October. Where has the time gone? Don't those lazy, hot summer days seem a long, long way off? I'm enjoying the last of the beautiful weather and dreaming of those far off days and doing what I like - nothing at all, listening to music, eating and drinking. Fresh lemonade, of course.
Have you noticed that you never quite strike the balance of work and play without feeling bored, guilty, or both? In a proper British summer it pisses with rain enough to force you into working simply because there's nothing else to do. But when it's hot, I feel like I'm on holiday all the time And I do as I do on holiday - the big nothing.
Well, not quite nothing. In between those times I've punctuated my lack of motion with eating 3 times a day. Wait a minute. That's over 20 times a week. Really? Who said we have to eat 3 meals a day? Here comes the guilt and the push to do something a bit more industrious.
In August there we had Wet Wet Wet affairs to be dealt with. lf you follow me on twitter, you would've seen the pictures posted up there! And now the secret it out. We've got some new music. Now, there's a novel idea. Here's hoping that it's been worth the wait. You'll let me know, I'm sure.
Later this month there will be some exciting news about me playing in 2014 too. Just finalising everything at the moment. It's going to be a busy. enjoyable time next year. Music and friends, lots of good songs, new venues and moving everything on a stage further.
On a slighty different note, I listened to a radio 4 program, as one does. Interesting discussion about artists having a big hit single that dwarfs the other parts of the career. There was Ralph McTell (Streets of London, Black's Colin Verncombe (Wonderful Life), Sandy Shaw (Puppet On A String.) Strangely they had Mike Batt with "The Wombles". I thought that was more a concept album than a massive hit single. But maybe that's just me.
Anyway, back to the big hit. I thought “we've had one of them”. I even wondered why we weren't asked to take part. We probably were but have taken the stance that we have talked enough about it and that there is nothing left to say.
Either that or we couldn't agree what to say or whether to take part. Maybe that's more likely.
For goodness sake Graser, get back to the subject on hand. The gist of the discussion was comparing the effects of the one big, big hit to the 5 stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining then Acceptance. To be honest, I only recognise the acceptance part. It's easy to accept when there is a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
But to be a little serious, just for a minute. Love is All Around taught me humility. At the time I felt I was one of the greatest songwriters of my generation, and it bugged me that the other songs were being overshadowed by something I never gave much thought to. Surely a lesson in there somewhere. How stupid was that?
There you go then. I thought I didn't have much to say on the subject and I've rambled on again. No doubt I'll do again at some point in the future.
Belfast Promotional Visit 2013
Belfast is a great city, I have played there 3 times. (Soon to be 4, Black Box - 1st May, tickets - www.graemeclark.co.uk)
First time Wet Wet Wet played the Kings Hall in the late 80s. Feels like a long time ago. It was a different City to the place I arrive in today. Touching down at the George Best City Airport and walking through this modern European Capital with all the hustle bustle-ing 'vibey' City Centre - with its trendy eateries, coffee shops, boutique hotels. I love the flavour of the continental names like 'Cathedral Quarter' & 'Titanic Quarter.
I did wonder if there were only 4 quarters but someone told me "no it's Irish Quarters', meaning many more than 4!"
Second time we played in the Odessey in 2007. The sparkling brand new Arena. 10 000 people were there and what a brilliant atmosphere. It seemed a lifetime away from the place we came to in the 80s and like a lot of cities, it's undergone a resurgance - developing all the dockside and waterfront as well as an investment in the city centre. Re-furbishing old sandstone and historical buildings as well as building some nice shiny new ones.
Third time I played solo to a bunch, (no, let's call them a gaggle) of journalists, who were being offered a chance to visit Glasgow. Cut-price ferry tickets, dining in the trendy eateries and visiting all the sights Glasgow has to offer. Do I sound like a spokesman for the tourist board? I don't see myself as a promotional advert for the joys of all things Glaswegien. Thankfully a bigger part my remit was to entertain, play a few numbers, and my own songs at that. That makes up for me trying to speak about the ins and outs of why people should visit to Glasgow! I know they should, but ultimately I'm a songwriter, not a tourist guide!
A big perk of my job is being allowed to visit places. A bonus is that I do it on a song. Working my way through the world. What a life!
Emma, who has worked extremely hard putting together the schedule of my 2 days of press and promo, is a delightful Irish girl who probably knows more about WetWetWet history than anyone who is actually in the band. I'm grateful she has been there to help me out and her experience in PR has made this a smooth 2 days . (She writes books too Emma Heatherington - go and check out her website )
Finally, some work. I do a couple of interviews, radio and written press, speaking to a few of people, trying to keep my conversation to the script of promoting my new EP - Catching Fire' and playing the gig - Black Box 1st May (in the `Cathedral Quarter') tickets available online folks.I say go and check out Belfast for yourself (you have a the perfect reason to visit the Cathedral Quarter - my gig! Tourist guide spiel over, honest......)
It is a fantastic city. I love it. It has a connection to a shipbuilding industry - just like Liverpool or Newcastle or where I'm from. It's surrounded by beautiful high rise hills and mountains. I'm reluctant to say it's like my hometown because it is a different City, with its own identity - but it does have a working class feel & spirit that I recognise. It is a city built by working people, and the people I met were friendly, helpful & approachable - proud & unpretentious. Good qualities.
March 2013 Already!
Is it really. Time really does fly when you're having a good time. It's around 2 years since I started putting the idea out there that I might do "one or two" shows on my own. Something I'd always fancied although I had no great compulsion to be a solo artist.And here we are now. We've been to Brighton, London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham. All cities I love.
It's hard to say what's been best. Of course, writing and performing your own material is a great challenge. But, after the giant machine that is The Wets, I think the really wonderful part is getting close to the audiences, chatting with people, and being on stage armed with nothing but and acoustic guitar with my musical security guards (GD and ID) never far from my side.
Five days to go and the rehearsals continue for Wednesday at Bar Brel. Taking
Bullets and Daffodils, London 29th July 2012
Somewhere in the back of my mind there was a familiarity about that date. I knew it was my stage debut - playing my 16yr old Grandfather in B & D, but there was something else. You know. Thinking you have to do something or meet someone. Then the bell rang. The Olympics! More specifically the woman's road cycling happening on The Mall & Central London! Virtually next to the The Jermyn Street Theatre.
Off I go then. All would be fine as long as they didn't close the roads. Wishful thinking. London had to consider a lot of things in the last 2 weeks of Olympic eventing. The big one was traffic and closing the roads. Didn't they know I was playing a show?
My London cabbie got me as close as he could, apologising in a way that only a cabbie can whilst taking a small fortune from me. I was still a few miles away. Sunglasses on head, guitar in hand, clothes in bag I start to walk. I'm trying, really trying, to look like a cool celeb type but in a typical July downpour of tropical proportions!
I stopped on the way for a bit of respite from the rain and to give my hands a wee rest, Just as I put the guitar down my sunglasses flew from my head and I watch as they glide in slow motion down to the basement flat. And there's no way down into the place.
I could see my raybans staring back at me. At least I think they're staring at me but you can't see the eyes, can you? I'm doing my best to look like an upturned Usain Bolt doing his victory stretch but just couldn't get my hands on them. Does anyone answer doors in London? It appears not. I knock on all the doors, ring bells, shout for help but all to avail. Nobody is home and I'll have to go back at a later date. Anyway, I can probably get through tonight without the shades.
I arrive at the theatre looking like I took a shower before I entered and there is Christopher Timothy. Yes, the Christopher Timothy. The All Creatures Great And Small Christopher Timothy. He asks if it's raining outside. Now, I've no doubt he was trying to be friendly but I had to bite my lip to stop my self from asking whether he wouldn't be better tending to an injured lamb or looking up a cow's arse.
Well, getting dried can certainly lighten the atmosphere. A quick towelling of the hair and face and GC is feeling on top of the world and chatting with Christopher (we're great pals by this time. Onto the rehearsal. We went through the whole show. You've got to hand it to Deano. He has done a masterful job of getting everyone and everything together.
In between nursing wounded animals Christopher Timothy makes a valuable contribution and the power of Chloe Torpey's performance in playing the part of Wilfred's mother was such that she WAS Susan Owen in my eyes.
All in all, a fantastic experience for me and one I really enjoyed. I can't say it's going to change my career path, but I had a great time treading the boards in the funkiest of theatres. I'm sure old Gramps would be looking down with a smile as I tried to do him justice . After all, it was through him I found music in the first place-all those years ago.
Right, where's my brolly and where can I get a ladder and a fishing rod? I'm going back for those shades.
The Day I Went to Brighton, 16th June 2012
" Great News. We've secured you a tv interview ".
Good start to the week, I thought.
"Unfortunately it's early in the morning".
Still, it's got to be worth it, hasn't it? Getting out of bed at the crack of dawn to have a natter with the lovely Lorraine Kelly? What could be better?
"No no no, ya diddy. It's an internet station based in Brighton".
Back down to earth with a bump. Balcony TV? Never heard of it. Brighton - first thing in the morning? Not really the place you want to be driving to.
But, after a discussion about doing it at a more reasonable hour, and on the day of the Brighton gig, I conceded. That could work.
Or could it?
In my simple way I reckoned Brighton is an easy jaunt. I can spend a day at the seaside, have fish and chips at Jamie's Italian, enjoy a look around and then play some music. The job's a good 'un.
Hmm. All great if you're on planet Wet Wet Wet. But, in the world of GC, we all do multiple jobs. Singer, songwriter, driver, tour manager.... the list goes on.
Enter complication number one. Graeme Duffin is flying from Glasgow to Gatwick on the day of gig, Arr. 12.00. Gatwick is on my way to Brighton and today the safe delivery of GD esq. is in my hands.
My mind is racing up and down the M23. I feel knackered already and I haven't even struck a chord in harmony. Or left my house.
I have to get my head straight - drive down to Brighton, do the TV show, back to Gatwick, pick up GD, go home - pick up my stuff, drive down to Brighton again, have a quick lunch at Jamie's Italian, Drive back down to Brighton, do the sound check, Oh dear. I'm getting confused. That's why I'm a song writer and should really stay as far away from tour managing as possible. But it'll be fine.
Enter complication number two. It's Mothers Day, ya dough heid! That means it's gonny be busy everywhere. And I need to fit in a call to my special Mum.
Oh Shite. Here goes then.
I drive down on Sunday morning and meet the tv crew. A man with a hat and tattoos smiles and says nothing (there are always hats and tattoos) and Camera Man who advises me that the guy who has the keys to let us onto 'The Balcony' hasn't arrived. And to help us along, Key Man has his phone was switched off.
We wait. And wait. Still no Key Man.
Then, Camera Man has a suggestion.
"How about we just interview you here?"
"What, Here?" I'm looking at Camera Man. Surely he's not serious.
"Yes, here, You could sing a song too". He is serious.
To put you in the picture, I'm standing outside, on a cold winter morning, in the middle of a very busy market. The street is hoachin' with elderly, Sunday bargain-hunters, armed with their Anoraks and Tesco bags.
Don't get me wrong. I love Bargain Hunters. But performing for them, in amongst them, wasn't the best idea I'd ever heard. How do I get out of this one?
"Maybe it would be better to wait for the guy with the keys to turn up and I'll go get my guitar from my car. Be back in 20 mins. Honest".
As I walked to my car the thoughts crossing my mind were less getting guitar and more getting tae F*&%. Go home, have breakfast, take it easy, collect GD from the airport. I'm sure they wouldn't mind. Much better than standing in front of Aunty Mable and uncle Fred, singing Kiss Of Life and them walking clumsily around me wondering about the weirdo busking in front of the camera!
Needless to say I did go back. Key Man is there with a smile as if he's just won the lottery. We do the filming on The Balcony, and here it is for you in all it's HD glory. GD arrives safely. I pick him up, we have a Mother's Day lunch at Jamie's Italian, do the sound-check, and have a great gig.
Funny how it always ends up ok in the end.
Things Occupying my Mind, 7th June 2012
It seems like twenty seconds ago that I laid my guitar down and thought I'd do very little for a while. That was March. July and summertime felt like a long time away.
How quickly these things come up on the inside when you're not looking. All of a sudden, with only a few weeks to go, I feel like I need 8 days in the week. Now that would be handy. Can we all agree on that for every time I need it?
If I'm honest, I'm not the type of person who likes having nothing to do anyway. There's always something on the go and I like it that way. My idea of heaven certainly isn't lying next to a pool without anything to occupy mind, if not the body. On the other hand, there's a balance to be struck and having three events to get together is proving to be both a blessing and a curse.
And in between all this I've been trying to get myself writing songs. I know that you always need a song or two. As ever, it's finding that elusive way into a new idea that takes the time. Sometimes it's a good lyric, or a great chord progression. And if, with the help of divine intervention, the two things happen at once, then you really think you are onto a good'un.
Marti and I wrote a song the other week and I've been wondering where it will fit. Maybe it's not quite right for the The Wets although, as an album track for WetWetWet, it has possibilities. Maybe it would work on a Marti Pellow album. Or is it a track for my solo album? More than enough to keep the brain ticking over mean time.
Why can't I sit here and just enjoy the weather? My conscience is telling me that I should be in my studio working and writing but summer does this to me. I hear the pop of those tennis balls and I start wondering how Andy Murray is getting on and if he's out of the the tournament yet......(he's doing pretty good as I write this, actually!!).
Getting back to the point, and the three shows, I'm glad it's going to be a busy summer with all the different musical escapades going on for me. Each project is distinct but they all need the same amount of thought and preparation.
With the 13th Note gig I can plan things along with my trusty sidekicks, Iain Duff and Graeme Duffin. We work as a democracy. I make suggestions, and they agree! We rehearse and it all comes together. Then, there are the subtle elements to tie down. Do we bring a new song or two into the set? Will Graeme D and Iain wear those skinny jeans? Or do we stick to spandex? Hmmmmm. Decisions!
Bullets and Daffodils is taking me into new territory. In musical theatre there's a unique set of parameters but at least I know what I'm doing and when. I'm in a team again and we all have our part to play. At least, that's what the script says.
It's different again with Wet Wet Wet. For the big show on Glasgow Green there's a trusted team of people who come into the fold bringing their expertise with them for staging plans, technology, musicians and logistics. But, at the heart of it, the most important thing isÂ what music we play and how we are going to play it. We mustn't forget the details such as where we stand on-stage. And should it be tight trousers that leave nothing to the imagination, or will spandex do the job just as well?
Let's hope the sun shines for us all.
Elvis Costello at The Brighton International Centre, 16th May 2012
This week I went to the seaside. To see the bespectacled one. Our Elvis. The Elvis. Elvis Costello, of course.
I've seen him live quite regularly over the last 20 years. Ever since I first heard Watching the Detectives in the late 70's and I'm a big fan.
Elvis's 'spinning songbook' on his Revolver tour is certainly entertaining. It brings the groundhog day of a live tour into a new dimension with not even the band knowing what they are going to play. Excellent.
Elvis is one of very few performers who has big enough catalogue of songs to do this sort of show. He's has been extremely prolific for years.
It brings a 'game-show' element to playing live and, with Elvis in the stage persona of a vaudevillian host, a light hearted nature is brought to the proceedings. Seamlessly, the compere's witty banter glides into "Shipbuilding", a song about a father working in the shipbuilding industry only to find that he's building the warships that take his son off to war.
'The boy said, Dad, they're going to take me to task'. Such a sublime line and I wish I'd thought of it. Songwriting at its heart-wrenching best. And there's an extra bite in it for me growing up in a town famous for shipbuilding. I thought it worked brilliantly.
There was a version of Substitute, and linking Two Little Hitlers with a refrain from Rebel Rebel. All very, very enjoyable.
All that music along with some anecdotes about meeting Johnny Cash. And a hilarious one about Piers Morgan 'How many other people wished you had leaned a lot harder when you had autographed his forehead?'
And bringing to my attention how the Chancellor of the Exchequer has an uncanny resemblance to Noddy!! Quite.....
So, good to see Chris Difford up there singing Cool for Cats, and Tempted- my favourite Squeeze song , produced by Elvis, no less. That took me back to Wembley arena 1993/94 when WetWetWet were joined on stage by Squeeze. We played 'Pulling Mussels From A Shell' and 'Hourglass'. Happy days.
Hang on. 'Love is all around, Goodnight Girl, Somewhere Somehow , Don't Want To Forgive Me , Sweet Little Mystery , Angel Eyes, Temptation, Sweet Surrender, Little Help From My Friends, Hold Back The River........ We could have a wheel ourselves. We could do several wheels Hold Back The River wheel, Picture This wheel, Popped In Souled Out wheel Any suggestions?
That's it. I'll have words with the management and see if the rest of Wet Wet Wet want to do Wheel of Fortune type show. We could pick the people that want to come up onstage and spin the wheel in a 'Come on Down' fashion. No more arguments about set lists.
Just a minute. On second thoughts......maybe best leave it to Elvis Costello.
Update, Home 14th May 2012
Monday morning and the rain arrives right on cue.
I'm in the south east but it feels like real Glasgow rain. You know the kind. Wet,Wet,Wet!
Time for lunch, I thought. Somewhere with a warm and dry interior. The salad arrives and, just before my first mouthful, guess who calls me? None other than ol' Wet Wet Wet band mate, Marti, and he's asking where I am because he's outside my house in a very fast car.
I try telling him I'm out for the afternoon washing my hair but he's having none of it. Anyway, the mixture of car and Pellow is bound to pull a crowd before long so I finish my lunch and head back before he causes a traffic incident. Once I get him off the public highway (with the usual admiration for the latest car), the mystery is revealed. I'm in the mood for writing, he says. How could a boy refuse?
Writing songs together is a trickier business than it once was. The road's been getting narrower for years - not because we can't do it anymore but trying to come up with new and appealing ideas each time is hard and elusive.
I enjoy the creative sparring with Marti Pellow. He always has ideas to bring along and that's so much better than staring at a blank page with a silent guitar.
Technology is there to help capture your creative thoughts quickly - iPhones, digital dictaphones, ipad. I have a programme called Masterwriter. Great piece of technology - every word you could ever dream of putting in a song (as well as phrases, thesaurus , rhyming words) and right there on the click of a mouse.
But for me, you can only use technology when you have a really good idea. Then it might help you embellish it. There is nothing quite like analogue guitars, voices and a pencil and paper.
You can never reference these tools in the hope that it will write the song for you. Just like I doubt you can go to a Uni or college and be taught how to write songs. It is instinctive. You can either do it or you can't. I wish there was a formula!!!
Anyway, in our 20 odd years of writing together we've very rarely used any of these tools and sometimes that technology can slow you down, I tend to let the ideas take their shape then at a certain point recap and see what ideas are shaping up the best.
I think we got 4 pretty decent ideas down that afternoon. Now, if half of them become songs then we are winning and we'll bring in the technology. One is shaping up and I'm working on it as I write. At some point we will take another look at the other ideas and if they pass the time test and still sound good then I'll get stuck in.
You never say never in Wet Wet Wet so this could be for a new Wets' album. It could be a track for a Marti Pellow solo album. Or a Graeme Clark solo album track. You can't second guess where a song might end up.
Just like you never know when MP will turn up again,
Either way I like the challenge of trying to write something that will resonate with people. Even if it does cause occasional traffic problems or the shortening of a quiet lunch.
Blood Brothers, London 28th April 2012
I'm walking down Charing Cross Road crying my eyes out. I've just seen Blood Brothers and it's hit me right on the emotional soft spot.
Willy Russell's writing is quite brilliant with a story that mixes families, class struggle, moral dilemas and love. And all that before you get your five quid ice-cream.
I have to say that me ol' mate, Mr Pellow, has thoroughly impressed me playing the part of the Narrator. He brings a valuable dynamic presence and really adds to the show in a big way. I know anyone who sees the performance will agree.
Marti has a masterful grasp of the sinister character he plays. Worryingly masterful! Even when he says nothing he seems omnipresent, a constant threat, stealing the scene with a menace that not only calls for your attention but demands it. That takes real stage presence and you can't learn it. You've either got it or you haven't. But, after seeing this, I'll think twice before questioning his ideas in the studio!
Compelling theatre and totally recommended.
Excellent! And, for those who met me on the day, sorry for blubbing.
Update - Tue 27th March 2012
Also in the pipeline for July 29 is my west-end debut. Sounds good,eh? Don't worry folks. I doubt I'll be giving Mr Pellow a run for his money!
My songwriting mate, Dean Johnson, has written a musical based on the poems of Wilfred Owen. It's called 'Bullets & Daffodils'. It's a fascinating story and a great piece of work that he's up to his neck in for quite a while.
He asked me if I would consider playing the part of a Scottish soldier signing up to go to war.
Interestingly enough my grandpa did sign up as a 14 year old in 1914, coincidentally, as a musician.
Old Grandad was pretty instrumental (excuse the pun) in my formative years and I thought if I could do any acting it would be great to do it in the context of my grandfather.Â Here's to him and all the others who signed up for us.
I hope I can do him and the play justice.
Update - Fri 23rd March 2012 (Part 2)
I am just about to leave Liverpool for Glasgow.
Photo session, rehearsal, gig in the Glasgow City Chambers, press conference & meeting the Lord Provost.
These things are going a long way to sell tickets for the forthcoming gig on the green, on the 20 July 2012.
And, after a year of solo work, it seems so different now. But in a good way.
We (TC, NM, MP, GD) have been talking about this for the last month. Keeping it a secret has been difficult as anyone who came to my solo shows have been scratching their heads at my hints. I was saying everything and nothing.
Like " keep your ears to the ground as there might be an announcement shortly". But, like a lot of things in 'Wetland',
it's never concrete until tickets have been printed and put on sale. It's been on then off then on again then off.
Finally I'm thankful we all found the time to commit to this fantastic excuse to come together and play some music.
And who knows - we might even wrote a song or two!
Update - Fri 23rd March 2012 (Part 1)
Well. Is that it all over? It's hard to believe we played 7 shows. Back in some familiar ground but also some new venues. This time out we thought we'd play venues that don't usually entertain acoustic music. And all of you had to stand up and take part! There's no doubt, there are some good dancers out there.
Myself, Graeme and Iain all had such a good time. It's not easy finding the right venue at the right time. We hope you liked them and always enjoy hearing your opinion. I spent quite a bit of time going round radio stations and talking to journalists. That's the first time I've been on my own, playing on radio shows, and meeting people. Some are great. Some are uninterested and going through the motions.
I'm starting to realise what a big job I have on my hands trying to get out there on my own. The only answer is hard work and I really appreciate the effort everyone puts in coming along to hear us play.
Each time we play it feels better and better. Long may that continue.
Update - 9th February 2012
Goodness me! Where has the time gone? With Twitter and Facebook, the blogs have been ignored since last year. That's a shame because I like keeping you up to date with some of the more interesting (I hope) goings-ons. And I especially like the feedback.
One thing became obvious last year that no-one has the one-stop answer to music success. So, this year's aim is to support the album and get out in front of as many of you as possible to let you hear the music live.
The music business is a tough business these days. There's very little money around but getting albums and tours together are costly affairs. Somewhere along the line that's got to be paid for. And there are thousands of artists trying to do exactly the same.
I've been following the music press and the different national newspapers for months and seeing who is playing where and when. Have a look and see how many people you've never heard of are playing a show near you soon! Who are these people? I don't know but I have to assume they're selling tickets.
So, for now it's back on the road visiting radio stations and doing interviews for press. Ironically, doing this on my own (mostly) should mean that I'll have more company at the shows. And after all, that's what it's all about.
Keep watching for my update on the great radio station tour of February 2012. At coming up to 22 minutes past the hour..................................
Talk Soon GCx
Update - 14th August 2011
Too much to do, not enough time to do it!
It's not easy trying to get my music out there into the public domain. But, anything worth doing seldom is!!
Selling concert tickets, approving artwork for the album, pressing CDs, agreeing artwork for posters, filming bits for YouTube, advertising on Facebook - and then there's the afternoon to think about.
All of this is a million miles away from composing music but has to be done. I'm grateful for the team I have around me. And for the support of the 'Graeme Clark Inner Community'. Believe me - it all helps. All contributions are most welcome - keep the ideas & suggestions coming as without you I'm nowhere.
I'm really happy that I've set my 6 dates in September. Playing music is what makes me tick. Playing my own music is a privilege. Having people out there believing in what I'm doing is a blessing.
Rehearsing is about to start again. Creating the album, writing the songs, thinking about the artwork, deciding the line-up and what songs to sing, where to play, all need to be sorted - of course. But, if no-one turns up to hear and see us, then it all means nothing.
So here's hoping I see you there!
Glasgow Oran Mor - Friday 15th July 2011
At last. After all the planning, rehearsing and worrying. Finally, it was great to play a full set, and to catch up with everyone who stayed around to say hello.
I left London on Monday and rehearsed with Iain and Graeme Duffin at The Foundry on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Usually 3 days rehearsal is ample. After our work we felt it was rough and ready enough for an audience to enjoy.
Behind the scenes Oran Mor has a labyrinth of passageways, stairwells and lifts. It seems the place is riddled with so many secret routes that you never quite know where you are. The dressing room was right at the top of the building and we suspected it was a converted pizza oven. So there the 3 of us sweated it out as we waited for show time.
Eight forty five and off we go through the maze of corridors, outside the building and back in, all to get to the stage without being seen. Walking onto the stage, hearing the welcome and seeing some familiar faces made me feel at home right away.
I did have some frantic moments during the first couple of songs but I felt good after that and started to enjoy what I was doing. You forget that everyone there is really wanting you to do well. Once I had that thought in my mind there was no problem. The time flew in and, before I knew it, we were backstage again waiting to see if anyone would ask for more. They did. Luckily we'd rehearsed another couple of numbers.
So. What next? Some more dates around the country but this is proving to be a tougher exercise than we thought. Trying to find the right venues where we can all feel comfortable - performers and audience - is no easy task. I want to strike the balance between the intimacy of an acoustic gig, an environment that compliments the music, and surroundings where people can sit, listen and enjoy what's on offer. I'm sure you would agree, a sweaty club with sticky carpets is not the best suited for that kind of music. So bear with us as we try and find the right fit for us all.
And keep the feedback coming. It's all very interesting hearing your thoughts on the music, the website, or anything else that you might be on your mind.
Again I say a big thank-you to everyone who came along as it would've meant nothing without you all being there.
Radio Scotland - Tom Morton Show 5th July 2011
Back to the 'Old Country' again and a big thanks to Tom Morton for having me on his show, a live radio session.
Tom's an old friend of the band and 27 years ago he did an interview with us for 'Melody Maker'. During that interview I told him we were looking for a guitarist and he said, "Graeme Duffin - he's your man."
So, GD appeared at the audition in a geography teacher's long, green trench coat topped with a Tom Baker Doctor Who scarf. At that point we were questioning Tom's judgement - that's the polite version.
Then he played. We were speechless. The rest is history.
Graeme made a huge contribution to the sound of our beloved band and I'm glad to say that 27 years later I am about to take to the stage with him yet again. He's also made a substantial contribution to my new album 'MR UNDERSTANDING'.
Anyway, back to Tom Morton. It was great speaking with him again. He asks questions you hadn't quite anticipated -just like he did all these years ago. All my bullet points were a waste of time but I did manage to plug the gig - 15th July, if you've forgotten.
It also good to get Tom's support. He has carved out his own musical niche in the radio world and is highly respected.
I forget how nerve wracking live radio is. Singing and playing the guitar brings another dynamic to the party. To confuse things more, TM does his show in Shetland, the production is in Aberdeen and I was in a studio in Glasgow. How the world has changed but in a good way. You can be anywhere in the world and still communicate your message.
I am grateful to all of you for the support you guys give me. The feedback is always welcome, so keep it coming.
It really means a lot to me, and everyone at GC HQ.
Home House - Mayfair, London 9th June 2011
Twenty four quid for a couple of hours' parking, and you dont get ÂŁ200 pounds for passing go! This is the cost of living on the Monopoly board.
Anyway, to get to the point. I had been offered a gig - "The Songwriters' Circle" - by my good friend Chris Difford. A chance meeting on another part of the board, (Marylebone), resulted in him buying me a coffee and asking, "Would you be interested in doing a few numbers at Home House?".
I thought about it for about a second. I knew it was a good idea. It always is with Chris. A purist, an amazing wordsmith, a songwriter's songwriter and one of the nicest guys I know. He tells me to be there at 8pm.
I make my way there from the anonymous roads and avenues of south London to (the Greens of) Bond and Oxford Street to (the dark blue of) Park Lane and Mayfair.
I fell in love with London playing Monopoly with my Family as a kid. When I finally got there to walk the streets (rather than pushing a little tin dog, a top hat or an iron around a board) I was seduced. The gold on the pavements, the traffic problems, and the other idiosyncratic anomalies make London the totally unique place it is.
I get there and the gig is in what looks like a posh living room where there are sofas, chairs, tables, people, musicians, guitars and a piano. Oh and a sausage dog. Only at a Difford gig can this happen.
A warm welcome from Chris Difford and some nerves disappear. I see Chris Sheehan - a fellow writer who has come to perform too.
At Last at 9.30 it was my roll of the dice and I sang 3 songs. By the time I was singing the last song my nerves had dissipated and I just wished I could do them again.
Other artists performing were ; James and James, Kate Harwood, Athena Andreadis, Chris Sheehan, Geoff Martyn - a fellow Scottish writer. Everybody was fantastic and the people listening seemed to enjoy themselves.
It's dawned on me that it takes 3 songs to hit ma groove. Next gig - more than three songs!
I'm not there yet but I'm closer than I was at the last gig.
Speak later, Graemexx
Oran Mor - Glasgow 31st May 2011
I know every little bit of the drive from London to Glasgow, I've done it so many times that I know the petrol station attendants personally.
I don't mind the drive though. I feel I'm coming home.
Eventually I get there and I'm staying in a new City Centre Hotel, one I've never been to. You never quite know what to expect. The Hotel looks colorful from the outside and inside, the theme continues.
I check in and find it's almost like a Tokyo pod hotel. It's a struggle playing the guitar without hitting the wall. My room lights are changing every couple of seconds from dayglow orange to deep purple. I always think these hotels seem to be more fitting on the Architects' page.
Anyway, it felt like I didn't sleep a wink that night. Too much neon going on.
Onto the "open mic" night at Oran Mor. Really I was there was to take a look at the venue and play a couple of songs. With a few friends around, including Tam C, my brother John and some unsuspecting couples, we were off and running.
This was my first gig with Iain, the accordion player, and it felt great to be playing some new songs and some old songs. Dave the sound man did a sterling job and PK was running the show with his usual aplomb. I really love the venue and hope you can come along on the 15 July. I've already booked another hotel!
'Till then speak laterGraemexx
Folkstone Gig - Friday 20th May 2011
Just back from Folkestone, played slightly more than 3 songs so I'm getting stronger with each and every passing gig.
Last night I was in Googies in the wonderful Folkestone Town Centre. Many thanks to Keith and Steve for hosting and allowing me in to play some songs. There is really no place like a proper seaside town in early summer, is there?
It was hot. And the weather was pretty nice as well!
I played 4 songs from my new album. It's always difficult to know how the new music is going to be received in the cold light of a Town Centre Bar, but again, I am blown away by how many people sit and listen and try to hear what I'm singing.
This is still new territory for me but it's getting more enjoyable the more I do it.
When I found my feet, I settled down and felt I played a decent set.
The plan is coming together all the time and I'm feeling confident enough to do this around the UK. Recording and writing is great for my head but playing live is the beating heart inside me. So onto the next one.........
Thanks for listening, GCxx
N22 London Gig, CENTRE STAGE - May 2011
I packed my shirt, songbook, capo, guitar and plectrum. I wasn't sure if you needed a passport to go to North London. I climbed into the car and was on my way with the satnav patronising me all the way.
I left at 3 so when I finally arrived at just gone 5, it felt like I had endured the marathon. I got introduced to 3 Chris's - all singer songwriters - and a couple of the very nice people who work at the Karamel Club. I was failing in my attempts to keep a calm head but they were all very supportive that went a long way to making me feel ok.
To say this was a step into the unknown is an understatement. To be exact it was 3 steps from my usual berth at stage right to centre stage. These were small steps in comparison but giant leaps in terms of what I usually do. But I had been told on very good authority that this is where we all belong in life - Centre Stage!
For the people that don't know I should add that I play a different instrument on stage right as well and don't take the lead singing, apart from a few bars here and there.
After the soundcheck I called a few people and really settled down to trying to enjoy, rather than endure, the experience. I was joined by my friend Paul (always good to catch up with old friends).
The club and gig was not what I was expecting. Quiet, curtious and really listening to the words and music. That was not only refreshing but totally unexpected and as I tried to engage the audience I felt that this was not the time or the place to do such a thing. Suddenly my hands felt like someone else's, when I started playing. The guitar was a complete alien. It didn't sound like I remember it sounding, my voice was uncontrollable, and worst of all, the words. What was the 1st line of the 1st verse?
Anyway that's not how it looked - apparently. That was just my imagination running riot. Everyone in the audience had their perspective too, completetly different from mine!
I think I performed reasonably for a first outing of sorts and after I had finished I thought it would be even better if I do some more of this.....
So stay tunedGraeme xx