Posts Tagged ‘acoustic’

bossI seem to have bought one of these; a device that will revolutionise my performances. As I don’t have a band, nor the ability to find one (nor the patience to lead one, nor the finances to pay one) this will be the way to enhance my live sound. What a loop pedal does is to enable you to set up various musical phrases, chords, beats etc. that will repeat (as if on loops of old-skool tape) as you play, adding depth to your music.

I do mostly acoustic gigs, however most of my songs are ‘band’ songs; they’re written with a full folk-rock/indie arrangement in mind. Only in the studio can I fully realise them as I originally heard them in my mind’s ear when they were composed. Some of you will have heard my song ‘Drifter’, performed here with flautist George Roberts:

Here is the recorded version:

So when I play live, there is a bit of a mis-match between what I’m presenting to people and how I actually see myself as an artist. I do have some folky tunes that don’t require extra adornment, but most of my stuff would benefit from some level of embellishment.

The trouble is that extra layers of sound don’t neccessarily add interest to a live set; in fact, for a solo act they can work against it. In ‘organic’ music (as opposed to electronic), the interest is generated by the fact that musician is actually playing in front of you in real time. Layers of recorded sound (even if you’re recording them  yourself during the performance) can detract from the spontaneity and humanity of your performance. If a solo performer’s sound gets bigger and more interesting during a gig, they themselves tend to lose charisma in comparison.

The widespread use of these pedals has led to a genre of ‘loop-folk’ where acoustic guitarists layer-up guitar parts, often to a beat that they have laid down by tapping the body of the guitar. Unfortunately, they usually use simple three or four chord sequences that don’t vary. The fact they are usually using the same sound for all their parts doesn’t help. I will have to work out how to drop in and out of loops so things don’t get tedious – dynamics and chord modulation are important to me.

This device will never become my ‘band in a box’. For reasons I’ve already explained, I don’t want to dilute the immediacy of my performance (such as it is), nor do I want to risk a poor imitation of the recorded versions. But it will enable me to feature my guitar technique more, which is more from the rock tradition – soloing over chords – than the folky self-accompanying style, which is what I have been restricted to. It will also enable me to lay down beatbox rhythms  and vocal harmonies, and add tonal colour.

These pedals should be used wisely, like The Force, otherwise the dark side beckons!

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Here’s a new acoustic tune. I couldn’t be arsed to make a video for it so I put together a slideshow of some pics that seem to suit the tune. See if you can name any of the famous people. If you’re a Liverpool resident, maybe you spot yourself!

 

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“The key to a good album is to be both eclectic and cohesive, and paradoxical as it sounds, that’s exactly what Tom George achieves on ‘Postcards” – liverpoolacoustic.co.uk
postcards cover

I recorded this album with in Liverpool with the expert help of Jeff Jepson at the controls. If I had to sum it up I would say it’s a collection of melodic indie-rock reminiscent of REM, Jeff Buckley and the Stone Roses, but you can decide for yourself by visiting http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/tomgeorge

You can listen to clips of the tracks and if you like them, buy tracks individually or the album as a whole. You can also get the album it on amazon if that’s more convenient.

I played most of the instruments on this album, including electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums. Jeff also filled in with some keyboards, and Norweigan artist Ragz provided extra vocals. I hope you enjoy it.

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This is a new song I found in my sleep. I had been trying to understand the approach of less melodic artists like Nick Cave, with their dark and moody intensity, not a vibe that I normally create. One day I heard the chorus of this song, with lyrics, as I was waking up. It had the apocalyptic angst, but also with a nice chord change, giving the harmonic movement that I like to have in my songs.

I sang it into my phone so I didn’t forget it. Once I had the basic idea, it wasn’t hard to come up with some moody words for the verses. I recorded the song with my friend Scott Welsh. Once we had the relatively simple guitars and vocals down, I decorated the track with some mandolin, keeping in a lot of the rough edges on the instrumentation.

What useful things do you find in dreams?

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This is a song that I wrote when a friend asked me to appear at his ‘dream-pop’ themed event. I hadn’t heard of the genre before, but started strumming at my guitar, and this is what came out – kind of dreamy, kind of melancholic. “The sharks are in the park, your heart is on the line…” – I’ll let you work out what that means.
I eventually recorded it with my friend Scott Welsh and we were really happy with the result, especially the distant, spooky, distorted electric guitars.
The video was shot the by the artist Chiz Turnross, who has also made videos for The Coral and the Beautiful South, and edited by me. I hope you like the jacket (!) and the moody urban night-time vibe.
This was my first release on Liverpool’s Free Rock and Roll Records and you can still buy it at http://www.tomgeorge.bandcamp.com

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Nerve Magazine – Interview with local singer, songwriter and writer Tom George.

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Ten years ago this summer, I embarked upon a musical journey through Western Europe, equipped with little more than six strings and a sense of misadventure. It was a memorable trip, and three years later I wrote up the escapade for an issue of The Korovian, the in-house journal of Liverpool music venue Korova (now defunct but rumoured to be making a return).

What better time then, to revisit that sun-kissed summer once again…

Tour of Beauty (Pt.1)                                                                                       

June 2003. I was a part-time muso dolebag facing another summer with a whole lot of nothing going on.  “Got to get me some kicks!” I thought. So I logged on and booked a flight to Barcelona, out of my self-imposed oblivion.

There was a plan, of sorts. I knew I could make money with a guitar on the streets, and a dreadlocked busking veteran had once told me that there were rich pickings to be had anywhere in Spain.  Now I don’t mind living on my wits, indeed it gives me a great sense of freedom, but the airfare for this little venture had damn near cleaned me out, and I got on the plane with just 300 Euros to last me seven weeks.

Hey, instinct told me to do it. And instinct was right…

As soon as I left the plane, I was hit by an all-over body massage of 30 degree heat. Truly, I’d made the right leap. I was EUPHORIC. So euphoric that I walked straight into Alanis Morrisette’s more beautiful twin sister, who told me her name was Alison, and whisked me through Barcelona’s Metro system, in the spirit of traveller solidarity, to the cheapest, cushiest hostel in the city.

The Kabul hostel has 4 floors of dorms and is a snip at 15 Euros a night. More importantly, it looks out onto Placa Reial, a massive square with fifty-foot pine trees and a fountain – a perfect chill-out zone. That evening I walked out to find hundreds of people sitting around in groups, drinking, smoking and swapping stories. I only had to sit down to make friends, and everyone wants to meet The Guy With The Guitar…

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Next day I went scouting for the best busking pitches, and I didn’t have to look far. Las Ramblas is a wide street that runs between the beach and the town centre, and like Princess Avenue in Toxteth, it has a raised walkway down the middle. This teems with tourists day and night, and cafes have their tables set out on the walkway.  My technique was to work my way up Las Ramblas, playing 3 songs every twenty feet or so, and passing my hat round the tables.

Maintaining people’s attention like this gets exhausting after 3 hours, but it’s worth it for the interaction, and the big tippers.

There were several others working the same circuit as me; a tall smackhead with a penny whistle, a sexy green-haired juggler girl, and countless ‘human statues’ dressed as biblical characters or celebrities, who would move when you made a donation – easy money, if you ask me.

At night in Placa Reial, business inevitably merged with pleasure. I’d do a bit of Beatles, Dylan or whatever came to mind, pass the guitar round and meet new characters from every continent. Often, it felt so cheeky to soil the encounter with a sheepish “…any contributions, then?” but I was doing it to survive, and got respect for that.

One night a crowd of us stumbled off to the beach where, rumour had it, there was much partying to be had. I gatecrashed a campfire drum-party, introducing a little Bob Marley to the mix, while rappers took turns. Having played myself to exhaustion, I finally crashed out hugging my guitar, ‘cos it had taken me this far…

Next morning I awoke in searing sunshine, to a total absence of partying, no new ‘friends’ and no guitar either. I had 50 Euros to my name and a mission – to find the cheapest instrument in the city and get back to work.

In the hostel I had met Gali, an Israeli with a voice like Grace Slick. We teamed up and honed a crowd-pleasing set of covers – California Dreamin’ and the like – and worked the café tables with ‘Serena’, my new acoustic guitar which I’d managed to buy for just 30 Euros. (Gali had advised me to name it this one, otherwise it might leave me too)

We were a great team. I’ve often found that a boy/girl combo can become more than the sum of its parts, as audiences can speculate on the precise nature of the chemistry between you. There was no sexual spark between Gali and me, but for some reason we constantly tried to outdo each other with obscene jokes.

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Exploring the back alleys one day, I came across a tiny bar which had just opened; a  bohemian cubbyhole with red spotlights and cushions. I got talking to the owners, two English guys who had decided to move to Barcelona on the spur of the moment. I had just moved into a big apartment that I shared with four others, and I too was starting to think “Fuck! I could just live here, full-time!” The new place was 25 Euros a night, but I was making twice that every day and having a ball.

But as perfect an existence as all this seemed, it was soon to become clear just how precarious a street musician’s life can be.  One night, I was involved in an amazing jam session in the square. One lad had a huge Djembe drum, and a charismatic French rapper was instigating call-and-response chants with a fifty-strong crowd who danced around us. We were really hitting a peak when a police van zoomed into the square. Two cops got out and started waving their hands and pointing at their watches; it was 2AM, so reluctantly, we wound things down.

Of course, once they had gone, we resumed our party. The cops soon returned, and dragged the drum into the back of the van, driving off with the poor owner of the instrument in hot pursuit. As far as the authorities were concerned, cultural vitality has its limits.

It was August and Gali told me she was moving on, heading for Paris. Not only that, I had just been stood up on a date by a girl from the English bar. But I didn’t care – 175 Kms South there was a ticket waiting for me at Benecassim, Spain’s biggest music festival, where in various ways, my trip would get even hotter.

To be continued…

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