In the autumn of last year, I embarked upon a small tour of England with my friend Chris Tavener.
Those of you who know me well will know that my memory varies when it comes to recall consistency. But luckily, I wrote a small, notes-based diary entry for each gig.
October 20th – The Slaughtered Lamb, London
- Fabia nails opening slot – great Jeff Buckley cover too
- Chris is flawless – has the room in stitches, realised tonight what a pro he is
- Feel in poor voice, and a little hesitant – but goes well, Feel Chris should have headlined.
- Expected a tiny turnout but had a sweet consortium. In fact, room feels packed.
- An old friend I have not seen in years who has drink a fair bit explains they enjoyed it but they do not know what market I am in. I say I am in the cattle market. I hope she got home okay.
- Lose my bankcard halfway home. The friend I am staying with Jake Smith finds it on the floor by Kings Cross in a fast-food eatery. Jake is a special person.
Taking a bow in London with Chris Tavener and Fabia Anderson Photo by Jack Stanley
October 21st – Shakespeare’s, Sheffield
- Chris drives down from north of London with me as a passenger, good little ride down.
- As it is my brother Sam’s 30th, most of the Sheffield audience are his people.
- We expect a tiny audience but again we are pleasantly surprised. Not quite as many as London, but a good bunch there.
- I don’t know if it is the room, but I feel less hesitant and in better voice here.
- Great to see Sarah Marshall again. My brother’s friend Marion treats me like a best friend.
- I ate a lot of flatbread later at Sam’s.
- A success. I really like my brother’s new house. We went for breakfast that day and it was nice. I took a picture. I wonder if I will still have it when I type this up. <note I do and it is below>
October 26th – Arch Sixteen Cafè, Newcastle
- It is really Gateshead not Newcastle
- I spend five hours on the coach getting there. I only realise in the last half hour that there is a toilet on board. My relief is dramatic.
- This venue has beautiful acoustics. I enjoy singing here a lot. I like singing by the way.
- Kieran Taylor warms up room with his opening set nicely. Seriously nice guy.
- I enjoy playing in the middle immensely and see a gathering of people led by Alannah whom I know from Shrewsbury
- Chris is really brilliant again. This guy is a pro.
- John Dawson, and his wife Sue, are my hosts for this trip and when I get back home I have the best donkey stew ever, get to hang out with their Labrador Ziggy and a fantastic little conversation and many drinks. This is a good bed also.
- I think I make some strange faces at this gig.
October 27th – The Black Swan, York
- This morning was amazing. I meet the grandkids (John and Sue’s not mine, no grandchildren of my own just yet)
- John takes me to see the Angel of the North – what an amazing sight to behold it is as well
- I meet Chris before he drives us to York. It becomes apparent he has spent the night in a room with about three or four cats. At one stage they descended on him via a pincer movement. I bring it up at tonight’s gig.
- The audience is Chris’. I know one person here. He headlines magnificently. The venue is beautiful and the soundman is a genius and a gentleman.
- Great to meet Harrison Rimmer – nice guy and a good bunch with him.
- I am fully chuffed with this one. We drive to Leeds with some of Chris’ friends who are awesome. I end up at the Chemic Tavern and I find the infamous Rory Scammell there. He ends up playing Hurdy Gurdy during last orders. We meet some nice students doing post-grads.
- Rory drops me off at his and then dresses up as a Goth to go clubbing. He is an exceptionally tall man. I drift off and I notice him coming in at about five in the morning.
Photo by Neil Jackson
October 29th – Market Drayton Arts Festival
- We are the live music for the Sandbrook Vaults’ contribution towards Market Drayton Arts Festival
- I play first to a really sweet quiet audience, Chris goes on after to build them up brilliantly, and I end the night
- I end up in the Vaults until about three or four in the morning – this place is like a second hometown
- Great to see old friends, especially Loz, Alex, Julia, Tracey, Lydia and a few others too.
November 11th – 81 Renshaw, Liverpool
- This is my favourite gig
- We sell out
- Ellie Smith’s opening set is amazing
- Marc Dunn nails the sound to the wall. I immediately and successfully set him up with one of my friends.
- This venue is amazing and capable of fantastic things in the future
- I haven’t seen Chris be this good yet. I am reminded yet again what a total professional he is and he has the audience in stitches.
- I feel immensely lucky that this has happened – I am immensely lucky to have these friends there and also people who want to come out and support me playing music
- I have had the optimum amount of beer
- I have never been this happy with a setlist
- My friend Elle Schillereff joins me for The French Girl, and my friend Daniel Astles joins me drunk to sing Tip-Toes. Thrilled with both decisions.
- I bring up Elle, Dan, Chris and Ellie to join me on ‘On All Night’. Dan goes a bit mad, but it is genuinely amazing when the audience is singing the song back at us.
- Celebratory drinks
The defining image for me of a wonderful evening with Chris, Ellie, Dan and Elle up on stage with me.
Photo by Marlie Centawer
November 26th – The Castle Hotel, Manchester
- Chris’ night and he nails it
- Great to bump into Sam Lyon again (a very talented singer-songwriter herself)
- Also great to see Kieran Taylor again
- I really enjoy my set – I think the sound is amazing in the Castle and the venue is very special
- Audience sat on the floor – love things like this
- My friend Marlie comes down with me to take pictures
- Chris was exceptional again – funniest moment is after my middle set, where I get a little too sincere about how much respect and admiration I have for him (sincerity can kill comedy) he opens his set dedicating his first song to me called ‘I’m Better Than You’. You kind of had to be there. Damn funny that man.
- Gareth Heesom is a massive hero for driving me and Marlie back to Liverpool. Love that guy.
So if you have for any reason read all of this, please have a little visit to Chris Tavener’s website and have a look at his stuff. A brilliant satirical songwriter, but also a great performer.
I should probably keep far more of a diary than currently is done of day to day events. If nothing else, it would probably maintain a certain level of activity. Or even restrain a large level of laziness.
2016 started pretty nicely. There was just about to be the release of the first of two EPs, and a launch gig with Mellowtone at The Scandinavian Church. Home was nice too, and David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Maurice White, Glenn Frey and so many other amazingly talented people hadn’t died yet.
Work had already begun on a follow up EP, which was going to be called ‘After The Rain’. The decision had been taken to record the songs in the flat, entirely solo, with an internal mic pick-up on the acoustic, a SM-BETA 58 on the voice, a shallow bodied resonator, some odd organ sounds and a box of cereal.
By the end of March, it’d been pieced together with a supporting tour. Some gigs were rooms full of people (like, unsurprisingly, Liverpool), some were empty (Nottingham) and others were surprising in what kind of audiences turned up and listened (Swindon). The most positive experiences were really realising I could book the shows and traveling around trying the whole thing out. I really enjoyed traveling with Charlie McKeon on the dates we both did together, and would happily tour with that guy any time.
Perhaps one of the best/funniest moments was getting the late night coach from Nottingham to Sheffield, traveling with our friend Matthew Blake. We had all just played a gig at an amazingly beautiful venue called The Lofthouse, to an audience of almost zero. Matt had surprised me and Charlie just a few nights before in Leeds.
He was on his way to Manchester, and our stop was on his way. He looked exhausted: I can’t remember the exact chain of events but it basically involved him traveling all week with with his girlfriend Lauren who lives in America but at the time lived in Spain, so her visit was the typical case of long-distance cram: a visit to a cousin, visit to her family, get to the airport, get back to the airport etc.
I remember discussing the US election with Charlie and what we thought would happen (spoiler alert, Trump wins). Charlie has American citizenship, and I was somewhat piously insisting he voted, and asking which state his vote was counted in. Previously dead to the world, Matt Blake emerged from the seats in front looking like the monster from the green lagoon to make his suggestion that “it might be New York”. The shadows formed on his head looked like pondweed, honestly.
All in all, it was really great to play those dates in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, London, Nottingham, Sheffield, Swindon, Hoylake, Bristol, Shrewsbury, Market Drayton and Chirk. I’m really grateful to the people who put me up during some stays as well: Emma, Fabia, my brother Sam, my Mum, Tracy & Simon, Gemma and of course Alex who provided me and Charlie with a lovely van to sleep in in Market Drayton.
The last half of the year really became, for me, about recording new ideas, specifically with my friend Thomas McConnell – still in the demoing stages, this should form the bulk of a new project in 2017. I also had the great fortune to work with Tom Wiggans, a highly experience FOH live sound engineer who has been on the road with the likes of David Gray, and is currently FOH for Bombay Bicycle Club and Bloc Party – I really hope to get more stuff down with him in the future too.
I’ve continued my work over at The Jacaranda Club in Liverpool. Having been the open mic host on Thursdays and Sundays for over two years now, I have found myself promoted from the basement to the ground floor on Sundays and the record store on Thursday, which is more of a laid back showcase event. The staff are amongst the brightest sparks for me – everyone who works there is witty or sassy or Samiran.
The year itself has been a bit strange. Brexit, the election in the US of Donald J Trump, the deaths of large numbers of performing arts royalty and the re-design of the Toblerone bar. Personally, I think these things are all very negative in the short-term but in the long-term will possibly be a helpful slap in the face to quite a lot of people on either side of the political spectrum who have been fairly nonchalant about everything until this year. Something good will eventually come out of all of this.
Or the Apocalypse. Might be the Apocalypse.
Regardless of all that stuff, I’ve loved getting work with certain people or get to know people this year and it’s been far and away the best year of my life. In particular Charlie McKeon, James Thorne, Muireann McDermott Long, David McTague, Joe Maryanji, James Kirkham, Marlie Centawer, Daniel Saleh, Daniel Astles and far too many others I could or should or would mention as well.
I’ll see you in 2017.
It would come as no surprise to people that know me that, just occasionally, the simplest of journeys can go awry.
I’ve developed a fondness for playing Joe McAdam’s amazing open mic & acoustic sessions at The Whiskey Jar in Manchester. Located on Tariff Street, The Whiskey is an incredibly beautiful looking bar. The standard of musicians is always brilliant. Joe, a brilliant musician and songwriter himself, is possibly the finest compere I’ve encountered. In his reassuring Scottish accent, he invites all in attendance to enjoy the music and listen. And every once in a while, is not frightened to ask people politely to “shut the fuck up Whiskey Jar.”
I invited my friend Charlie Mckeon down to have a look at what was on offer. Charlie himself is an outstanding guitarist, singer and songwriter, and he was blown away by what was on offer. From the likes of Lee Parry, to George Fell (an amazing 12-string instrumentalist) to Grim Fawkner, it was really great.
Bizarrely enough, by chance, someone came over after my set and recognised me from Shrewsbury. Then Olly Flavell, a Shropshire-born singer-songwriter who’s just moved to Manchester stopped in. Then my friend Tracey Horton from Market Drayton in Shropshire had turned up to show her daughter a few decent bars in the Northern Quarter. No escaping your birthplace is there?
Anyway, in catch the last train back, me and Charlie decided it would be best to leave around quarter to eleven. This meant going a little early and missing the likes of Scott Lloyd (who is also brilliant). And we made it to Piccadilly just in time, and found ourselves comfortably situated on a train going from Platform 13. Incidentally, the journey from the entrace of Manchester Piccadilly Station to Platforms 13 or 14 is in and of itself a whole little walk. You could walk the dog on that.
I did think it odd. I’ve always got the Liverpool train from Platform 14, I thought. And obviously, as soon as the conductor came over to check our tickets it became apparent that we were on a long journey to York if we didn’t get off at Stalybridge.
For Charlie, the greatest tragedy was that he’d just bought himself a yoghurt. And no real time to just enjoy it before he had to get off at Stalybridge.
I do find these little things are easier if there’s one other person there who has been an idiot. Things become funny rather than stressful.
We got out at Stalybridge, home of Paul’s Tool Emporium – The Greatest Tool Shop in The North of England (Probably), and rushed to catch a train going back to Manchester. This time for Manchester Victoria Station. We caught a black cab to the coach station, explained what had happened to the driver and got talking about Liverpool.
He then launched into an explanation of the recent gun-crime problems in a certain area of Greater-Manchester (googling the news can fill in the details here), and went into a staggering level of detail about the particular gang-war going on. I learnt a lot.
Once we’d got to the coach station, one of the attendants came over and asked us where we’d been playing. I cannot describe how warm and good and honest he was. He asked to give everyone a song, but I didn’t dare wake up the girl who’d fallen asleep with her head in her own lap on the seat opposite me.
The moral of this tale. Always make sure you’re on the right train when it’s the last train home. Or not, and have quite a funny interesting journey.
Thom is currently raising funds to release a new EP in January, click this link here to find out more: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/thommorecroft
Yesterday I attended an FAC (Featured Artist Coalition) drop-in session with guest panelist Fran Healy (Travis) chaired by my friend Roxanne de Bastion.
I was also fortunate enough to be involved in the live music event hosted and curated by Graham Holland and Stuart Todd at Liverpool Acoustic alongside FABIA and Jez Wing of Cousin Jac.
It was a tremendous evening at the View Two Gallery in Liverpool. It was incredible to meet Fran.
All photographs by Adrian Wharton