Posted on Leave a comment

Jack Ryan – The kids are alright…

How do folks? You find me in the midst of a rather manic day before a holiday. My car needs packing, there’s mixes to mix and I have other exciting things occurring that I’m dying to share in good time! Today’s blog however, focuses on a young chap called Jack Ryan.

I met Jack around 10 years ago when me and his Dad Mark played in an outrageous prog band together. I’ve performed with Mark in loads of guises throughout the years, and without going off topic I will quickly note that he’s an amazing drummer who has an unrivalled passion for JUST PLAYING MUSIC.

Though it may not seem immediately relevant, Mark played an important role in my journey as a producer when he asked if I would like to rent a residential rehearsal space with him. Whilst this seemed like a cracking idea, my 17-year-old self lacked the funds for such a luxury and my band at the time did too. After scraping together all my pennies and inviting Matt to join the band because he had a JOB and a VOLKSWAGEN POLO (sellout…), we still couldn’t quite meet the figure needed. Faced with this information most people would just drop the idea, but Mark isn’t most people. He was so passionate about music (both supporting it and playing it) that he agreed to front far more than his fair share of rent so we could get the space and commit serious time into playing and developing as musicians. Having that creative space and the time to use it led to me finding my passion for recording and the rest, as they say, is history.

(His wife Jo also deserves an honourable mention here for always encouraging me, Mark and Jack in our musical endeavours – nice one Jo!x)

With this background, I was more than happy to help when Mark got in touch asking if I could record his son Jack and capture some songs he’d written. Whilst I knew Jack was really creative after hearing about his infinite list of hobbies, I was chuffed to hear that at the age of 15 he’d sat down at a piano and written his very own batch of his songs. In a time where there’s a million distractions for kids and adults alike, it’s always great to hear about someone you know finding a way to channel some much needed creativity into the world.

You never really know how people will perform when they first enter a studio (particularly at such a young age!) but Jack honestly blew me away with his tunes and really natural performances. So on one sunny Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago we found the time to get Jack in for a video. Aided by the legend that is Rich Wosik on acoustic guitar (Crazy 66, Maffa Kings….Himself), Jack performed his song ‘Why Can’t You See’.

(Rich is another unsung hero who has helped me no end in my musical endeavours…I’ll give him a cheeky blog one day too!)

It’s an awesome little ballad, and whilst it was never intended to be a Pin-up Session, it struck me that releasing it as one might give Jack a little leg up when setting up his artist pages and beginning his journey as a musician. Though I know Jack loves Billie Eilish (who doesn’t?), his first batch of tunes put me more in mind of Adelle/Sam Smith and the likes. The recipe of simple raw songs sung with tonnes of passion is certainly one I can get behind. Take a look at the Roots sneak peak of his session below!

ROOTS SNEAK PEAK ( Not a bad first performance in front of a camera ey?! )

Stay tuned for the full video on Friday (assuming I have signal at my campsite!) and give Jack’s brand spanking new instagram a follow at @jackryanofficial_music_page. You’ll no doubt watch him go from strength to strength over the next few years.

As always, a quick reminder to subscribe to my channel to check out the likes of Pretty Babs, Scribble Victory, Reqs, MYOK, Them Are They, Myles Knight, Crazy66, Clonk, Olly Hensby and Boats on the Ocean doing some amazing live sessions.

Ta,

Ben x

Posted on Leave a comment

Olly Hensby: Finding an undiscovered gem down a Facebook wormhole

When I began pulling together artists for the latest series of The Pin-up Sessions I decided it was time to indulge my ears a bit and find an amazing bluesy/jazzy guitarist. I started my quest on Facebook and more specifically on some posts from Myles Knight who happens to run some of the finest open mic nights in Nottingham. I stumbled across a post mentioning Olly performing so I thought I’d better investigate a little further and go down the rabbit hole of clicking various links and profiles. To my disappointment I couldn’t find too much of him online, but what I did find was a homemade video of Olly playing John Mayer’s ‘Neon’ perfectly – which is literally ‘well hard’ for those of you who don’t know it! This was enough for me to ask Myles ‘Is this Olly lad much of a jazzy/bluesy guitarist?’ and when he replied with ‘Yeah man he’s awesome’ the deal was sealed.

You can also discover some awesome talent at one of Myles’ nights which you can find links of here and on his personal profile. Plugs are easy when they’re completely true! Oh go on you can watch his session here too if you want…

When Olly arrived at the studio it became apparent he was a very likeable chap and me and the Pin-up squad immediately hit it off with him. As resident guitar nerd, me and Olly had a chat about all things John Mayer, and after a brief introduction to the works of the amazing Joey Landreth we got to business.

Olly ended up performing a brand new song which didn’t even have a name yet (later to be dubbed ‘Midnight’). We love it when people do this as it allows us to capture a song in its early stages and get the undiluted essence of what makes it tick. After stating ‘I might mess this up’ Olly proceeded to smash out an effortlessly cool performance first time round. You can view a little secret roots snippet of the session below (the full thing is out on Friday so be sure to subscribe to my channel to catch it !)

To me, the track brings to mind all of the best bits from Maroon Fives ‘Songs About Jane’. Mixed in with Olly’s quite frankly GAWJUS voice, the result is a song that’s been going around my head for the last few weeks and making me subconsciously do that slow forward head bob thing like this…

‘Midnighttttt’

Stumbling across Olly online highlights the unique situation the music industry and artists find themselves in today. How a man with his talent can remain largely hidden is mystifying, but the fact he can be found within a few clicks of a Facebook stalking session gives hope to all of us trying to get our music found. Hopefully this video and The Pin-up Sessions can play a small role in helping people discover some of the amazing talent that’s on our doorstep. With that in mind, make sure you follow Olly’s Facebook and Instagram, and if you’re interested in catching him as part of an amazing line-up, be sure to go to Tori Sheard’s headline gig at The Bodega on the 22nd July which also features our next amazing Pin-up Session artist Kelsey and The Embers.

I’ll end with a little reminder that you can watch Olly’s full Pin-up Session on Friday by SUBSCRIBING TO MY CHANNEL and also check out the likes of Pretty Babs, Scribble Victory, Reqs, MYOK, Them Are They, Myles Knight, Crazy66, Clonk and Boats on the Ocean while you’re at it. More artist sessions coming very soon!

Benjy x

Posted on Leave a comment

Four artists, one day and an abrupt, heavy sound of impact…

So after a few months away from Pin-up Session activity, the 12th of May went off with a bang. Or a clonk to be precise.

Learning from all our shoots to date, the Pin-up squad* have come to the realisation that we can minimise our costs and boost productivity by getting a number of sessions done in a single day. It’s difficult, to the wire and couldn’t be done without the grim sweaty sweat of all four of us pulling in the same direction. What it does mean however, is that we can get an awesome adrenaline boost of different music through the day.

*more on this team of heroes to come in a future blog!

With this new found game plan, I decided that what we should be doing is showcasing as wider range of music as possible within the sphere of people we know and want to get to know. I’m endeavouring to make sure there’s a mix of genres and backgrounds and hopefully we can keep growing The Pin-up Sessions to properly showcase the awesome music we churn out around these parts.

Every artist we feature does have one thing in common though; the fact that they’ve ‘wowed’ me at some point and have the ability to do an amazing live performance without any additional production aids like clicks or backing tracks. So how better to start the day than with Clonk: an obnoxiously raucous 4-piece from Nottingham.

Side note – whilst I can truly appreciate the time and energy put in by artists who perform with full productions and backing tracks (and sweet DJ’s for that matter) I think it’s nice to shout about the freedom of unscripted and uncontrolled performance in my own little corner of the world – a world full of glorious little imperfections and loud things!

I came across Clonk after hearing good things about them from my band mate and partner in audio crime(s) Rob. He’d seen them at a battle of the bands and couldn’t stop raving about how massive they sounded and how professionally and seriously they went about their work. It turns out Rob wasn’t the only one digging this band, and I kept bumping into people with the same impression.

My first encounter (of the rock kind) came when I was in University putting the final touches to a mix for the lovely and supremely talented Ben Haynes (which you can watch here). Whilst being in the zone, I’d noticed some earth shattering screams coming from the virtually noise proof studios next door – some feat! This required further investigation…as I popped my head in the door I was greeted with the sight of Clonk doing some live demos. It sounded massive and unique and after I’d picked myself off the floor and recovered from the jealousy of not engineering the session, I thought I better get them in.

I’ve never been much good at accurately comparing bands with an encyclopaedic list of musical references, but to me Clonk seem to embody the raw vocal power of a Gallows era Frank Carter mixed with the musical complexity of bands like Queens of the Stone Age. Throw in a nice dose of unique sounding evil epicness and I think it’s a pretty delicious recipe for people who are in to such things. Just don’t expect your granny to like it…

The boys, consisting of George (vocals/bass), Troy (drums) and Fraser and Ed (shred wizards) didn’t disappoint at Pin-up HQ. They were awesome lads and smashed through several takes with precision before identifying ‘the one’. They were sweaty, we were sweaty, even the cameras were SWEATY (really need to get some aircon init?), but  a thoroughly good time was had by all. Whilst you can view a little snippet of their upcoming Pin-up Session below, I implore you to check these guys out live and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram. Bands with their level of talent, commitment, and infuriatingly young age (how do the kids get so good?) have all the tools to go on and do great things with a little support. You can catch their full session on Friday by SUBSCRIBING TO MY CHANNEL and also check out the likes of Pretty Babs, Scribble Victory, Reqs, MYOK, Myles Knight, Crazy66 and Boats on the Ocean while you’re at it. More artist sessions coming very soon!

Ta

Ben x

Posted on Leave a comment

From Angus Young Impressions to The Pin-up Sessions: an introduction to my Roots blog.

Last week I had a message from Chris asking if I’d like to join the writing team at Roots. Whilst I’ve become a bit sick of late night dissertation writing marathons this year, a head scratch lasting about 0.5 seconds led me to say ‘absolutely mate!’. Although I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable bragging about my own artistic/producing ventures, I could rattle on infinitely about the talent around these parts. Before doing that however, I thought I better start off with an introduction to myself, what I do, and what I love about music.

Like many, my musical career started by telling people I could play guitar when I was about 10. Unfortunately for me (and my impending school talent show) this was a complete and utter fabrication of the truth; the truth being that I spent most nights pretending to be Angus Young in front of the mirror whilst blasting classic rock tunes stolen from my Dad’s CD collection. After being caught in the middle of a ‘duck walk’ too many times to brush off, it was put forward by my parents that I could actually try and learn to play guitar FOR REAL. After some apprehension, I agreed and set myself a goal: learn one ‘sick’ guitar solo which I could impress people with, and then retreat to playing the Xbox and picking my nose.

At this point however, I was introduced to an eccentric guitar teacher who unquestionably changed my life forever. He taught me all of my favourite songs with a focus on enjoyment instead of theoretical aspects like reading music, and before too long I was hooked. No longer was one solo enough – I needed more. Much more.

I was lucky enough to have parents who encouraged me every step of the way, and a teacher with patience and passion: though not essential, in my opinion these building blocks are invaluable in any music community.

The teacher’s name was Phil Brock and although I’ve lost touch with him a bit, I still see his crazy luminous green transit van knocking about from time to time, and I’m sure he’s still a guitar wizard (I endeavour to catch up with you soon Phil if you’ve finally got round to getting the internet!).

Me not long after breaking out of the bedroom (note terrified disposition: is this a chord? Am I in the right key? Is this jumper/polo combination really working for me?!)

Though I need to crank an amplifier to remind myself of it sometimes, the joy I get out of playing guitar is ethereal, cathartic and unsurpassable (apart from scoring a mint goal at 5-a-side obviously). That joy fundamentally drives me to write, perform and produce music and also dictates what I want to do with my life and career. Although it comes in different guises, I’m sure that this same passion is present in everyone involved in the artistic community and it’s why this whole ‘music’ thing is so important for us humans.

“So why are you recording music now Benjy?” I hear you ask.

Well, Roots readers, my passion for recording started with my first original (and current) band The Fine Art Society. After rising from the ashes of a school prom performance and going through a few members, me and my best mates Matt and Max wrote a bunch of songs. We had no money and were too busy going to ‘Mosh Mondays’ and being 17 to even consider approaching a ‘proper’ recording studio. Max was studying at Confetti and had some basic recording gear, so we decided to record and release our tunes ourselves. We stayed in a sweaty band room for nights on end until the sun rose. We got noise complaints. We smoked too much and tried to sing high harmonies we had no right reaching. The result was a handful of songs which sounded a bit ropey, but contained all the honesty and gusto you’d expect from 3 lads who had nothing to gain; no X-Factor judges to impress, no record deals to gain and no fans to consider. Just the reward of getting OUR songs recorded and out into the world. Like a footnote or a piece of graffiti on a school desk – a little memento that we were here together and we created something we were proud of.

You can actually still listen to these tracks on Sound Cloud if you’re brave. Check out how different Matt used to sound – ha!

It was at this point I came to the realisation that capturing and releasing a song was an amazing achievement. From nothing, a small idea you have in your head can become tangible. Like catching lightning in a bottle – a little bit of your soul can be kept, shared and enjoyed again and again.

After a few more professional outings learning this dark art became my mission. Over the past few years its led to me spending all of my money on gear (an occupational hazard for us muso’s) and leaving a sturdy office job to study the trade at university. Again, taking this step was much easier with the encouragement of the music community around me.

(a special note here to my girlfriend Lara here who has been forced to listen to more mixes than any human should reasonably be expected to endure and still continues to support me).

Whilst I’ve got a few more skills now (and continue to gain them at a rate of knots) I’m still fundamentally a chubby air guitar champion who loves putting that passion into helping people capture their music. I’ve been lucky enough to record some amazing artists so far and am proud to have founded a pretty cool live session called ‘The Pin-up Sessions’ which showcases some mind blowing local talent. The D.I.Y ethos is strong, and we share a lot of parallels with the roots community:

Let’s encourage and brag about every ounce of talent we have around here and have a blast doing it.

You can check out all of the artists we’ve featured so far by subscribing to the channel at the link!

I hope to spend future posts chatting about the artists I get to work with, music I think deserves your attention and maybe even some recording tips to help you get the best results for your budget and demos.

Thanks for the invite Chris and I hope I can write some interesting bits for you all to read in the future!

Ben Marshall