John was joint audience winner of the Liverpool Songwriters Challenge in 2014 and 2015 and later became the 2018 finalist. He was selected to take part in the 2018 Americana Music Association UK Song Writing Workshop in front of a prestigious song writing panel consisting of Chris Difford, Mary Gauthier, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Sam Baker, receiving high accolades, and likewise with The James Street Band and is classed as a Liverpool legend.
John used to tinkle the ivories utilising the family piano in the 70’s, creating his own renditions of
Gilbert O’Sullivan songs for his own amusement and later bought a Teac Portastudio in the very early 80’s along with a Sielorchestra electronic String Synth to perfect his craft. Soon after, he joined a local band that needed a keyboard player called Come in Tokyo who had already raised the eyebrows of record companies taking them to many BBC Radio Sessions. But, as he didn’t write for this band, he felt the need to form one of his own called The Persuaders with a friend in 1985 complete with horn section and two amazing vocalists and continued to have BBC radio sessions. Vocalist Siobhan Maher and drummer Paul Speed later formed River City People in 1986 whilst performing for The Persuaders where John was responsible for writing all their material whilst on keyboard duties and later got signed to Emi records, releasing a couple of albums and top 10 hits.
From there Siobhan formed a duo called Kindred Spirit with one of The Bangles. After that, she married Nashville producer Ray Kennedy who works with elite artists such as Steve Earle, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, and recently did a duet with John for his new album last month.
“As a band, any that can fit us all in with drums rather than a Cajon,so The Big Room in Heswall has been great along with The West Kirby Arts Centre, and Folk at the Dock Festival. When we play either as a smaller unit or just one or two of us definitely the smaller more intimate venues such as Thornton Hough Village Club and 8 Renshaw Street or Grateful Fred’s Atkinson Theatre Southport spring to mind”.
Denis followed this up by saying;
“The smaller venues with listening audiences such as 81 Renshaw, THVC, Big Room, and Atkinson”.
David went on to confirm;
“Yes THVC is a beautiful venue, along with the Atkinson theatre in Southport too”.
With that said, not every member necessarily has a favoured venue and their choice is based on necessity as Steve rounded up by telling me;
“Ones that pay so it covers expenses”.
Liverpool has an amazing and vibrant music scene where everyone supports one other and although it would be unfair to single any performers out, the boys have had some great live experiences playing alongside
Only Child, Two Black Sheep and Robert Vincent.
Emma Newby, Vocals / Guitar, draws her inspiration from All About Eve, Stone Sour, Ghost, Anathema and Pink Floyd which has truly crafted her performance over the years and is not only reflected live and in the studio but through her song writing style also.
Emma started playing in 1994 and went on to play full time for a band in Spain for eleven years. But it was only since her return to song writing that she met Nick via a mutual friend he used to work with, and joined the band 2 years ago as their manager and vocalist, but soon took on guitar duties when the line-up relocated.
The vocal harmonies between Emma and partner Nick work beautifully, helping you drift further into a song and a more thoughtful frame of mind.
Now a song writing duo, Emma is truly the wind beneath his wings.
John – “In the main for me it is just great songs. I have too many influences to mention individually. I guess if you had to pin me down to a selection I’d say Bruce Springsteen, The Beatles, and Singer Songwriters of the 70’s, Motown, a lot of Americana before it was called Americana, and I have a big love of classical music since I was a teenager much to everyone’s amusement at that time”.
Lee – “I started to play piano and keyboard aged 10 listening to a wide range of music and was inspired by my families’ love of classic country songs and Elvis. As I developed I gained a love for soul and Jazz. My all-time greatest inspiration is Steely Dan and have traveled all over the US to see them in recent years”.
Denis–“Extremely varied, Bob Dylan, Punk, and Bowie but still listen to current bands such as Hold Steady, Jason Isbell, Conor Oberst, and Simone Felice”.
With that said, as a band this is a slightly different story as a band as John went on to say;
“Everyone in the band brings a bit of their individual influences to the party and it’s filtered through their playing onto my songs. I would have the last say in the song arrangements, but band members have a lot of scope to put their stamp on each of the songs”.
With that said I asked the boys what they have learned about themselves during their time in the music industry, both individually and collectively as a band, they went on to tell me;
John – Personally for me that it’s easy to be bogged down if you can’t see beyond the local area. I’d like to believe my work can be appreciated worldwide and not be out of my depth anywhere. Band wise – It’s very difficult to get everyone as enthusiastic.
Denis – Not to take things too seriously and to enjoy it.
Steve – How to be patient.
David – It requires a lot of time and dedication to keep going and I don’t have a fraction of what John has.
In my twenty-five year career as an International Music Journalist, and a songwriter myself, I am always interested to discover a wide array of song writing techniques and to find out what is unique to the individual musician. I posed this question to John and David, whereupon John told me;
“Songs differ, but if I had to be just general, then I’ll pick a guitar up, or play the piano. Melodies come very easy for me. I’ll record loads of ideas and then I’ll go away and think about what I really want to write about. Sometimes my dummy lyrics have a phrase that subconsciously dictates a path. I like story songs so I’ll immerse myself in characters and fine tune my lyrics in a café with my notebook and pen. Occasionally I’ll have an idea or a title or just lyrics in my book that I can match to the music. I have also woken up with songs written and I scramble for the phone and record them and go back to sleep”.
David went on to add;
“Its a process of strumming my guitar to get ideas and build a tune. I then struggle to write lyrics, finish a draft of the song, edit bits out when bored, then test at open mic nights and embarrass myself”.
So why not give them a try and put this album and band on your wish list for this summer.
Star Rating …… 8/10
“I have written a musical called “A New York Romance” which I’m quite proud of and written electronic music under the name “Midnight in Manhattan”
David – “I perform my own songs as ‘David Nixon’s Navigation’ occasionally and have an album called
“This Side Other Side”, and an EP”Put it back together” out now”.
Denis – “I have my own band “North Line” for my own songs”
Lee – “I have just come back from Memphis recording an album with some top notch session guys and due out this year”.
© Stargazer Music Magazine 2020
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