Back to (what I call) work

gaz and gaz rock the hilbre august 2014

Gary Stewart Smith and Gaz Funkmeister Hill rock the Hilbre Court with Liquorice Allstars.

Yes, even us struggling singer-songwriters take the summer off. But now I’m back in the studio. The question is: will I actually do anything while I’m here?

Avoiding the question and asking a completely different one, what music-wise have I done with my summer hols? Well, thankfully I’ve got my Google Calendar to refer to, so let me see…

Summer began with a week in the sun with the missus, at the resort of Paleokastritsa in Corfu. As per usual these days, I took my trusty capo with me – never leave home without one – just in case I found somewhere with an open mic night. Alas, Paleo was kinda quiet, at least at our end of the resort, so I didn’t get to play Rose Tinted Glasses in Greece – I played it in Turkey last summer, and thought the Greeks might like me to return the favour. Or was that the Elgin Marbles?

I returned from Corfu to play with at the Hilbre Court with Liquorice Allstars. Our set seemed to be predominantly Red Hot Chili Peppers numbers, though we did manage to squeeze in both Rose Tinted Glasses and Still Got The Blues For You. We were pretty good – it’s a shame you missed it. I even sang guitarless – that’s almost like playing clothesless in my book!

Following on from that, I played the open mic night in Paloma, West Kirby. Only my fourth ever open mic (including the one in Turkey). Again, I played Rose Tinted Glasses (as it’s one of the few songs I know to play without referring to my songbooks) along with Crowded House and The Waterboys. I was accompanied by a young drummer: when I say young, I think his age is still measured in single digits – honest. But a really good player, who actually listened to what I was playing and played accordingly. Should go far, as long as he can avoid the distraction of girls, booze, drugs etc.

Gary Stewart Smith and Kris Strings rock the White with sepia tones

Gary Stewart Smith and Kris Strings paint the White with sepia toned blues.

After my usual White Lion gig, where I was joined for the entire night by the quasi-legendary veteran blues guitarist Chris “Kris Strings” Stringer, I jetted off to Halifax, Nova Scotia for a couple of weeks holidaying with my wife’s cousin Seb and his girlfriend Sarah. This time round, I managed to find an open mic night in Lunenburg, where I played – you guessed it – Rose Tinted Glasses, Crowded House, Waterboys, Dylan and another Smith original At My House (though I had to get Sarah to come up and hold the lyrics for me – yup, I don’t even know all the words to my own songs). The guy running the open mic night got up and jammed with me on half a dozen numbers – I overran my spot, but we both were having a good time and I think the audience really perked up too. I’m starting to think I’m getting good at this open mic malarkey.

Finally it was back to the UK and a meeting with Nick “Drum Doctor” Lauro, guitarist Niel Kieron and bass player James Gillbanks (ooh those names sound like they’re in a proper band already!) to decide on a direction for our nascent Post Punk slash New Wave slash New Romantic covers band. We’ve settled on songs by Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, David Bowie, XTC, The Police… Must admit, I’ve got high hopes, coz this stuff is right up my street. I even already know most of the words and some of the chords!

Last week, I played my usual residency in The White Lion, and this Saturday I will be playing Slinky’s Café Bar, once more accompanied by veteran jazz drummer “Pistol” Pete Smith. Pete was a player on the Liverpool scene way back in the day, when the Beatles were the Quarrymen, but hopefully he’ll still be able to jam on Costello, Jackson, Bowie et al.

Okay, back to recording avoidance…

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