For the second Words From The Street interview, we turn our attentions to a newcomer to both York and busking. Chatting to Alessio before the interview started, we worked out that I must have approached him very early in his busking career. When I came across him playing at his now-favourite spot, I was struck by how different he was to other guitar buskers I had seen and how much his style reminded me of… well, we’ll come to that.
This interview was conducted in The Ackhorne, a normally quiet real ale pub on the edge of York’s centre which on the evening in question was, for some reason, busier and noisier than usual. Despite Alessio’s belief that he wouldn’t have much to say, the interview lasted just a couple of minutes less than the first one we conducted. As will be usual for these articles, what follows is a full transcript of the interview, edited only for verbal “tics”.
First off, give a bit of background about yourself. Who are you? When did you start playing? What sort of music do you listen to when you are not busking? I’m Alessio. I started playing the guitar from about (the age of) ten. I picked it up there and then, like frivolous playing. Real dedication to the playing came about two years ago, when I saw more to it than just an instrument you pick up and play, when I saw the guitar as a very versatile instrument. It’s been used across the spectrum of music, like Jon Gomm, you get Flamenco players. So the passion really started two years ago. I started busking in February. The music I listen to when I don’t busk is… it’s a really difficult question, actually. I don’t know where to start. The music I listen to every day would be a lot of Spanish Flamenco guitar music, Paco de Lucia, but I also love Hans Zimmer, I love film music. I love a lot of fingerstyle guitarists as well. I like a lot of folk artists. John Butler, John Butler Trio is a a great artist who I really like. So I like a massive array of music. It’s difficult to hone in on just one specific genre.
It’s interesting that you mentioned Jon Gomm, because when I saw you in Coney Street that was who immediately sprang to mind. That might just be my lack of knowledge of the other styles but Jon Gomm, with the way he plays percussion on the body of the guitar, that was what immediately sprang to mind when I saw you doing the same thing. Well, to be compared to Jon Gomm is very complimentary. How accurate it is debatable. But I do base a lot of the percussion techniques and the tuning on what he uses. Oh, I think he’s a god of guitar, quite simply. I met him in Leeds the other day when I went to see Andy McKee and I was just standing there just looking at him, like, “how do seem like I’m not actually amazed I’m standing next to Jon Gomm?” Like, this man taught me how to harden my nails and and he was talking to me and I was just like, “Oh my God, this isn’t happening.” But, yeah, Jon Gomm is a major influence in my playing and just an influence in general. And I aspire to be, like, on a par with his technical calibre.
Before the interview started you said you’d only been in York for about a year. Yeah. You started busking in February. What made you decide to start? I don’t know, actually. I think… ‘cause I study music at the University of York and it’s very concert based. So, I was looking at getting away from that, performing to a more open public crowd, who aren’t necessarily coming there to listen to the music. So, I was actually really nervous when I first decided. I mean, I was standing there and for the first half hour I was literally going, like, “Oh, My God…” But the thing is you end up moving away from being nervous because, in the end, it’s completely different from any other context of playing. I haven’t answered why I started, have I? Errm… I just wanted a way… I wanted something that could support me financially. Which is a bit of a crap reason, but also I just wanted to play. I just wanted to play every day, get the practice going and I really enjoy it. I really enjoy playing to a lot of people going past. Yeah.
Toby (Burras) singled you out as being the one person who wasn’t there for exposure. His words were something along the lines of you’re “not bothered about what goes in the bag, you’re just there to practice.” Is that a fair comment? Yeah and that’s really nice of Toby to say that. It’s quite flattering. I’m not there for the money. The money is nice, but what really gets me is somebody stopping what they are doing. Because, in the end, for some one to stop what they are doing and watch you busking, they are stopping their day and they are stopping to watch you. So that can be more flattering than chucking any bit of money in. Obviously a bit of money is nice but I think… I don’t like the idea of people charging for CDs on the street. I think it’s quite cheeky of a busker to be like… Don’t get me wrong, putting CDs out there is a different story. Like, you can take a CD and it’s your choice to pay, but I don’t agree with saying, “This is my CD, this is £5,” because it ruins the experience of busking – just seeing someone, essentially for free but it’s not for free. But, no, I don’t do it for the money. I just thoroughly enjoy it. I mean, I could stand there for hours. Which annoys a lot of people, I can probably tell. I’ve always got to poke my head in and say, “If it’s too loud, tell me to shut up,” but I’ve never been… I’ve never had any problems, even though I have stayed in my spot for over two hours, which I didn’t realise you weren’t meant to do. So, obviously I was being inexperience and I need to address that. I think that was under the permit scheme, wasn’t it? Yeah, I wasn’t a very good reader. (Laughs) But, yeah, I will adhere to the rules now.
Do you have a favourite spot? I’ve only ever seen you outside what used to be, I think, Revolution in Coney Street. I really like the spot I’m always at. It’s crowded and it’s often very busy and I’m competing with the guy who sells from the phone stand so often the attention is away from me. But it’s just nice. I think you get the most attention because you’re outside Starbucks, people can just turn round an watch you. I also like the fountain. However, that spot’s nearly always taken when I’m there. I do enjoy playing at the fountain (Parliament Street) because there are seats where people can watch. It’s not as frantic as the street which I play on. Even Toby’s spot, in the square (St Helen’s Square) people can still sit down because there are benches, etc. I don’t have that, but, however, I still like the spot I’m on. Yeah.
How often are you out? Is it an everyday thing or is it when the whim takes you? When I’m busy during the week with other stuff it’s difficult to get out. I try to get out every Saturday and Sunday, all day. If I’m lucky, every Thursday and Friday. It’s just finding the balance because often I find if I go out on the street I end up playing for six hours and… I wouldn’t call it wasting a day, but I’ve eaten up into a day, which isn’t a bad thing but it is a bad thing when other things are affected by me being on the street so much. There was a point where I literally played every day for about six hours. I think my fingers… I actually cut open my middle finger to the bone. And that didn’t stop me for some reason. I was going against all logic. Even Jon Gomm said, “Yeah, you need to stop playing for a while.” I didn’t even take his advice. But yeah, that was too much. I do things to excess and that was one of them. But now I try and do every weekend.
And when you say “your spot”, the spot you’re always at, that is the one outside what used to be Revolution? Yes. With you going out to practice, is that a suitable environment to practice in? What happens if you are halfway through and you make a mistake? Do you just cover it over? Ooooh. Good question. (Laughs) I’ve made a couple of quite horrible mistakes, actually. Errm, you just shrug it off. Because in the end it’s just like… the people who are going to be watching that mistake will not be the people that see you play thirty seconds later or a minute later. That’s a really bad thing to say, like just keep making mistakes. But the point is, a lot of my pieces sort of mould into one piece, etc, because I do a lot of drop-tuning. So the piece can go on for eight minutes, five minutes, it can really vary on how I’m feeling it’s taking me, or… perhaps if I’m making too many mistakes I’ll stop that piece. But often the piece is of a reasonable standard before I go out and play. I don’t just go out and gamble with a piece that I’m not fully comfortable with. Obviously mistakes are made but I tend to accept that in the busking situation. If it was a concert I’d be completely different. I’d be far more attentive to small details. But in a busking environment, people aren’t going to be overly critical. If they like what you’re playing, they’re gonna like what you’re playing regardless if you make one tiny slip-up.
Is everything your own composition? Yeah, a lot of them are. Some of them are other fingerstyle pieces. One of my favourite pieces I play is one by an Austrian guitarist called Thomas Leeb, called Akaskero. He wrote it when he saw the Northern Lights. For ages I was hunting about for Akaskero, I thought it was an Austrian term. I still don’t know if it is. I think it’s a location. (It could refer to a Lodge in Lapland – www.akaskero.com.) It’s this beautiful piece. I think that’s the piece you might have heard (when you approached me), however I’m not sure. A lot of my compositions are my own or arranged pop songs. I’m working on a Billy Jean fingerstyle cover. I like doing Stevie Wonder. Yeah.
It’s probably a question that you can’t answer but do you think having mostly your own compositions of things that might not be so much in the public awareness gives you a bit of a disadvantage? Yeah, definitely. I’m at a massive disadvantage to everyone who… because, if you compare me to a guy singing Fields Of Gold, he’s automatically going to get more money than me. Or a girl singing, errm, just any pop song, any like classic that the public know, I’m at a massive disadvantage. However, that doesn’t bother me at all, because when a person does come up and says, “I liked what you are playing”, it’s mine so it really… But then, like I said, people like Toby take certain songs and gives them his own twist. Like, errm… I don’t know who actually sings the original and if I’d heard the original after Toby I would have thought it would have been, like, a crap remix of his. I think it’s Rudimental, Tell Me That You Want Me, but (Toby’s) is a really soulful version. But still it’s a cover of something, so I’m still at a disadvantage. However, the rewards are more if someone come up and goes, “I like what you’re playing.” I’ve been asked to make CDs, which is always nice. It shows that people are interested, even though it is a fewer amount of people who approach.
With you only been playing in York for two months… Toby said that it was very much a community and that everybody knows each other. Did you find it easy to get into that community? Yeah, I felt very welcomed. I didn’t feel at all, errm… I don’t want to say “threatened” but I didn’t feel very uncomfortable approaching buskers, asking where their spot was, what were the expectations of buskers. I actually met Toby… he was one of the first buskers to come up to me and talk to me and he’s a very good representation of the buskers in York. He’s always more than welcoming and he’s always really encouraging people just to get out there and play, which is really needed because people are very timid with playing publicly and I was as well, but you just tend to get over that sort of timidness as you play. There’s been a couple of points where… with the bands where, like, I’ve set up first and then they set up an hour later and they drown me out. It’s annoying, however, it’s just once in a blue moon that will happen and compared to all the other good things that the buskers do… I’ll just move on. At the end of the day it’s easier for me to move than me to make a big deal and them to move, you know.
So, you would say that, on the whole, the York busking scene is a pleasant, friendly one? Yeah, definitely. Like, if someone wants a spot, he will literally go up to you and be like, “can I have this spot in a few hours?” and there doesn’t seem to be the competition that you find, like, busking in London, where I’ve been walking around and I’ve seen a lot of buskers going at each others’ throats. It’s just not like that here. I don’t know why, but it’s just a lovely atmosphere here if I’m honest. It’s very… people are very relaxed, you feel very comfortable, you don’t feel like you’re trying to really push yourself. That’s the wrong word. You don’t feel out of your comfort zone because of the welcoming of the buskers. And even the public. It’s just a good atmosphere.
I was going to ask about the public as well. Obviously you’ve not busked anywhere else but could you imagine it being any different to York if you were busking in London? Yeah. York has got quite a folky vibe as it is. It’s got quite like an open-mic, acoustic-y feel. London is… obviously you need a license, it’s far more competitive. I can’t imagine you get nearly the same reaction. I think I’d get a cursory glance compared to York. I’ve wanted to try Leeds for a while, but I’ve been warned otherwise, saying it’s more band territory rather than acoustic instrumental. I think I’d be drowned out. I think I’d be drowned out in any of the big cities really. But, who knows?
Have you managed to gather any regular fans in the two months you’ve been at it or is it literally just passing trade at the moment? I get a heckler, if that counts. (Laughs) He’s quite a regular one. He asks me to play a song I’ve never heard before and then, when I say, “No” every time, I think he’s quite drunk, so he goes heckling me and then I see him walking down the street telling people not to listen to me. So, that’s my “regular”, but it’s not necessarily a good regular. (Laughs) No, I wouldn’t say I have a regular. No, I’m trying to think… unfortunately, I don’t have have a regular. There’s always time. You’re up for auditions. (Laughs) We’ll send few your way. Yeah, send a couple of regulars my way and I’ll be happy. Regular fans.
What do your family and friends think about you busking? Is it seen as a bit of a stigma or are they OK with it? Somebody referred to it as “posh begging” at one point. I don’t think it is because… obviously if you’re being very like “I’m selling CDs. Buy my CDs” and if you’re putting your thing all over your case, like My Name, My Soundcloud, I do this, I do that… then it becomes sort of “Give me money”. It shouldn’t be like that. The thing that is the whole point of busking is the fact that anyone can do it and there’s no, sort of, money involved in the process of busking. All you’re doing is playing. I think the term “posh begging” is quite… that’s quite a negative phrase used for busking. My family have always been positive with every aspect of my music pursuings. My Dad more so. He’s always been supportive of my musical career. I’m not saying my Mum hasn’t. My Mum saw it as a more commercial side to my music, so getting it out there, which is helpful but I also like just playing to the public.
You mentioned that to be as technically competent as Jon Gomm was an aspiration. Obviously, you’re studying music, you must have musical aspirations. What are they? You don’t want to be stood on Coney Street for the rest of your life, I guess. (Laughs) I’ve thought about it, actually, and I thought, “would I want to do that?” I actually want to go into composing for film and television. Whether or not I’ll get there is a big question. I’m going to Spain in the Summer to play at a friend’s parents’ festival for young musicians. It’s difficult to say at this early stage because I thought at first that I wanted to compose for television, which I still very much do, but ever since I started busking there’s been a massive passion that came out of me for acoustic guitar, instrumental guitar. There’s always something amazing about seeing, like, Mike Dawes. When he did Somebody That I Used To Know and he did every voice, I just can’t imagine how hands can do things like that. He must have a completely independent thumb. I mean he doesn’t even have a layering pedal. Funny story actually, errr, I was playing and this girl walked up and she was trying to see if I was using a loop pedal to try an catch me out. She was like, “He’s not using a loop pedal,” and I felt quite smug. (Laughs) I felt quite smug that I’d proved her wrong. Not intentionally. She was going out of her way, but it was nice. Musical aspirations… composing for film and television, but I’m torn. I’m torn. Obviously, it’s difficult to be an instrumental guitarist. Jon Gomm does it with no help from record labels but you get, like, Andy McKee and Mike Dawes, who are part of CandyRat Records, who have essentially made acoustic guitar and fingerstyle guitar very popular. Errm… I don’t know, honestly. Is it fair to say, then, that busking might be on the verge of changing your future? In terms of drifting over from composition to performance, yes. I mean, there’s something about performing to people rather than just composing and sitting behind the wall of performers that I’ve begun to see since busking. Because, you can compose a great piece and have it performed but, in my opinion, it’s not the same as playing your piece for people and getting the reaction that you have personally done through performance. So, it’s tough to choose, actually. (Laughs)
When you are playing, do you have a set set-list that you go out and play or do you just play what comes to mind? No and I’ve often been criticised for that. I just go out and play what I feel like. Because, the problem is that when it comes to certain songs I strum, my nails come into the picture and I need to carefully consider how I play, considering my nails, because if my nails break that’s me over, pretty much, for a couple of weeks. In terms of a set, I tend to play what gets the best response from people. Not in terms of what gets the coin toss, but what gets people turning their heads and sitting down. Often that’s not with my compositions, that’s with other people’s compositions, but my set-list is probably derived of about half my compositions, then half of other pieces that I’ve either arranged or seen other fingerstyle guitarists playing and replicating. So you know what gets the attention? I’m still getting used to it. It’s really difficult. It’s really difficult because… you can’t gauge it on a day thing because it is a spontaneous thing. You can’t be like, “Oh, I earned forty pounds today, so I’m going to earn forty pounds every other day.” It doesn’t work like that, as I’ve discovered. Like, one day I’d earned… I remember the first time I busked I made fifty pounds and I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Fifty pounds every day,” and then I got there the next day and made six pounds. So I was like, “Oh my God. Maybe the public hate me now,” and I was thinking way to deep into it, like getting massively lifted up through a lot of money and then just crying in the corner if I got, like six pounds. But, what I realised is, it’s… try to think of it as not a period. I tend to think of it as this is the first ever busk, this is the next day, and the next day, the next day and then it goes on and on and on.
Do you actually know what you are going to be playing when you get out there, then, or do you change it throughout the day? Is it literally down to the fingernails? (Laughs) I change it… I go through a period when I do some very high octane sort of funk stuff. I do Chaka Khan, Ain’t Nobody. I do a lot of groovy stuff, errm, not too early in the morning, I don’t want to be angering people. I do a lot of tranquil stuff in the early morning. As it gets towards midday and, like, the young people start coming out I, start bringing in the funk stuff because, if you bring in that 4:4 beat with a cool riff, people are more likely to turn round. My set list is sometimes governed by the reaction of the shops and the public. I was playing… I was doing really tappy stuff for about five minutes and I was like, “I’m surprised no one’s come out” and this girl from the shop mext to me came out and politely asked me to turn it down. I would have been completely opposite. I would have been, “You need to go now,” because I was just, like, I was banging away at this guitar. At times I do feel sorry, but if they wanted to tell me to stop, I will. I’ve said it, I’ve been like, “If it’s getting too annoying, just say the word,” because I do play the same songs. I think I must go through a cycle of fifteen pieces, give or take how I’m feeling.
Again, it’s a short period of time you’ve been busking, but do you have a best thing that’s ever happened to you and a worst thing that’s ever happened to you? The worst thing… Errm… Someone spilt a drink on me, which was… That wasn’t necessarily the worst thing. It was probably the most surprising thing. It was someone running. This little boy and he had a milkshake which went bang and splattered over me. And, like, you can’t be angry at a little kid, so I just went, “It’s fine.” I’d got chocolate milkshake all down me. I had to carry on but I remember I had to put padding behind my guitar so the guitar wouldn’t get sticky with the milkshake. The best thing that’s happened is that a woman asked me to collaborate with her on an opera. I didn’t get round to it because I’d never written an opera before, so it was a big step. I started. That’s probably the best thing. I got a wedding out of it, playing at a wedding. I’ve had a lot of good little things, just people coming up to me. I think it’s more the little things, people coming up to me. I think it’s more the little things. Like, “Aaah, you should really make some CDs.”, “I really like you stuff.” Just guys talking to me about playing guitar. It’s always nice when someone comes up to me and goes, “I can’t follow your fingers.” That’s always nice because it’s like, it’s always comforting to know that somebody thinks that and that someone will actually go out of their way to compliment me. So, overall, it is the little things rather than the best or the worst. I’ve had a number of worst things, like the drunk heckler. Oh, there’s a grumpy guy who is the only one who complains where I am and one time he made a point of kicking my case. So that was an interesting day, but I’ve only run into him twice. But, like I say, I’ve had more good things than bad things. By the sounds of it, I’m getting hit left and right, but the public isn’t like that at all. More good than bad seems to be the theme around York, from what we’re getting so far. Yeah. I mean, I haven’t heard of a horrible busking story, in terms of, “Oh my God, that is deeply chilling.” (Laughs)
Do you ever have days where nobody pays you any attention? Yeah. Yeah, you’ve just got to keep playing. How does that feel, though? It feels pretty bad. (Laughs) You just sort of… the first time it happened, I was like, “What’s going on?” I was panicking as I was playing and that started affecting my playing. I started jittering them out and I was like, “Oh my God, this is going bad,” so I think the best thing I could have done was just stop playing and take a break or just stop and go home. I mean, I can remember playing five hours and I got twenty pence. It just happens. Instrumental guitar’s a really niche type of music and often I find the people who are mostly interested are elderly people, which is really odd because they haven’t often been exposed to instrumental guitar. It’s quite a new thing. But it’s probably because I do quite a lot of arrangements of these pop songs, Stevie Wonder, etc, etc. And Chaka Khan.
So why would you say younger people should come and see you then? Younger people occasionally come and watch, but they’re more interested in the bands. There’s an obvious attraction in three men singing, like, groovy songs. Me playing an instrumental piece, for some people it’s just not their cup of tea. I can really accept that. I don’t like certain instrumental things and I wouldn’t force anyone to play it. That’s why a lot of my pieces aren’t invasive on people’s space. I play it so that you can just walk past. It’s just background music.
Have you not got a female fan club? (I’m crediting Marc with this question, because I would never have been brave enough to ask it…) Errm, no, I don’t. (Laughs) Are you sure? No, I don’t, actually. I’m quite surprised. Are you? (Laughs) Yeah. You’re a good looking young dude, (Laughs) who’s got a talent. I would have thought that would have been… you know, even if they weren’t stood there for the music… I think…The females that do stop, the majority of them are elderly women. So I think that’s my female fan club. I remember, I played at The Red Lion and I had my first autograph asked of me. By an elderly woman. She gave me a big kiss on the cheek. It was… it was a good moment. (Laughs) But, no, no female fan club. That I’m aware of. There might be one hidden away that I don’t know.
You mentioned the first half hour, which Toby also brought up in the first interview. The dreaded first half hour. How did you get through that? At any point did you think, “This is a really bad idea.”? When I plugged my amp in I was like, “This is a terrible idea.” When I was buying the new guitars, “This is a terrible idea.” Eventually you just want it. Weirdly, five minutes in a couple came up to me and asked me to play at their wedding. That gave me a bit of comfort that I was playing something that appealed. So it was nice. But the first half hour is always dreaded because you don’t know how the audience are going to react. Then again, you have to put yourself in their shoes. Would you walk past someone and laugh at them? No, you wouldn’t. But for some reason, you automatically think, “What if I mess up? People will stop and laugh.” These wild assumptions come into your head that are going to happen, when the biggest possibility is someone’s just going to not like your music or not give you money. That’s the worst thing that could happen. Well, not in my case. I get a milkshake over me. Once you’ve passed that, once you’ve got a week of busking under your belt, it becomes very natural, you block the public out until they break that barrier, give you money or approach you. You become immersed, essentially, in what you are playing and you tend not to take notice of what’s going on. That’s what I think anyway.
You refer to the “audience” , but you block the audience out. Yeah. So, are you really playing in your own little space and you really don’t care what’s happening around you? It’s difficult to say. Do I actually like playing for an audience? Yeah, everyone likes playing for an audience. Everyone loves playing and getting a reaction, a positive reaction. I do believe that I end up playing in my own spaces. I find that if I tend to think of the audience, that’s when mistakes keep getting made. I think that’s a really important feature of performing and busking – don’t think too much about the public. I suppose you have to block it out to a degree, otherwise you’d be constantly worried about the people as they walked past you. Yeah, you’d be looking up, then looking up, then looking up. But I’ve seen buskers playing and, every person, just look at them and follow them (with their eyes) while they are playing. How can you play like that? It would drive me insane, just watching people while you are playing. I need to focus. Toby’s very good in the way that he, and other buskers, in particular Rachel… I can’t remember her surname… look at the crowd, smile at them. In terms of being a “social” busker, I’m the anti-social busker in that I will look at my guitar and just look roughly… I won’t look at the audience. But you’re perfectly happy if that audience break that wall down and come and chat to you. Oh, it’s lovely. But I like to leave it as their choice. I don’t want to be, like, “Here’s my music,” and get in their face with it. If they want to come, they are completely welcome to and I’ll talk and I’ll stop what I’m doing or I’ll reduce the volume and play. That’s the beautiful thing about it, as well, you can keep playing whilst talking to people. There’s no singing that blocks out. You can essentially stop the really technical bits and you can maybe bring in a chilled out funk section while you’re talking, maybe a chilled jazzy section while you’re just talking to them. It’s just nice.
Is there anything you’d change about York, in terms of busking? Being a tad more disciplined in the amount of buskers that are allowed to be in one space. It’s difficult to say. I do like the idea of not having to have a busking license. I do love that. But often on busy days you get buskers within a very small distance of each other and, although they are in the accepted amount of distance, it’s… I still don’t particularly like it because you’ve got these two contrasting musical forms. Often you’ve got like an accordion player and you’ve got a three-piece band and you’re sort of like, “Well, what’s actually going on?”. It’s difficult. If I’m being completely honest, it’s not a massive problem. The busking environment here, I wouldn’t actually change anything. I think that’s really the only thing I would change, if I’m being honest. I think that’s the only thing that is slightly hindering of busking. And also, there needs to be a bit more communication, from me in particular, as well. As I’m quite new to this, I haven’t been very good at communicating with a lot of the buskers. Not in terms of not wanting to, but in terms of me just not getting round to it. I only know a few familiar faces. I’ve seen other bands, seen them play, but I’ve never engaged with them or spoke where there spots are, etc. That’s what I’d change. I’d change my levels of communication. The busking environment is fine. There’s nothing wrong with it, but I would change the spacing of the artists. And that is down to the buskers, I think. That isn’t down to changing busking rules. Buskers, they need to respect one another. And they do here, but I think there needs to be a tad more respect in terms of spacing. That’s what I think.
Again, it’s a strange question given the amount of time you’ve been doing it, but are there any other buskers that you would recommend people to see? People to stop and listen to. Errrm, I don’t know their names… There was a classical guitarist I saw the other day, but I don’t know his name. This is my problem. I know all the good buskers, I just don’t know their names. Where was he playing? He was playing outside Barclays. Also, the three piece swing band. Well, it’s not a three piece, it’s sometimes a ten piece, but the massive jazz band with the group of guys. Also, Rachel. I’m not sure what her surname is, but she’s a very good jazz singer. She plays at the Minster, outside the Minster. She plays with Toby a lot, as well, at open mic nights. The only one I know well, is Toby and I would have recommended him before you… if you hadn’t have picked him first. That’s the one I would have recommended.
If anybody was thinking of starting busking, what advice would you give them? Ignore the voices inside your saying, “This is a bad idea.” Just do it. Be really positive. Don’t think about it. You’ve just got to get there, get everything set up and just start playing, because the more you think about it before you start playing, you’re not going to do it. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to shut out the voices inside your head saying, “This is a bad idea, don’t do it.” Also may advice is, just brave through the first half hour. It’s horrible, everyone has it but you’ve just got to brave through it. And then once you’ve done that, it becomes a really, really enjoyable experience for everyone.
Last question about busking. Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who do stop and listen? Not, you know, while they are stopped and listening, but in the context of this interview. Yeah. Thanks very much. I’d give them a kiss if I wasn’t playing. It actually fills me with a lot of happiness when they do do that and I feel like I can’t communicate very well because I’m playing. That makes me feel a little bit upset that I can’t communicate how happy I am that they’ve stopped in their day to say how they enjoyed my music. Errm… I love you. A lot of things associated with love. He is working on the female fan club, isn’t he? Yeah. Ever since that idea was planted… (Laughs) There’ll be t-shirts on sale next time. No CDs, just t-shirts. (Laughs)
We’ve more or less come to the end. The last thing we asked Toby was to plug other stuff he’s done or does. You’ve said that people have asked you to produce CDs, is your music available anywhere for anybody to listen to? On my SoundCloud, I have some cinematic music that I composed in my free time. Music for trailers and advertisements. Just type in my name and you’ll find it. (Or, just follow this link.) I’m looking at recording an EP in the next couple of months. Whether or not it will be a solo one or accompanied with a cellist and two violinists, I’m still not sure yet. It’s a pretty busy time at the moment and trying to get material… I’ve been frantically getting all this stuff together in the hope that there will be a chance I can record an EP. But I’m not promising anything. I’m just saying I’m hoping to get one out because, by the sounds of it, people do want to hear it. So, I want to repay them, essentially. I want to be able to do that. Who knows? I’m going to hazard a guess that, if you do do it, and you have them with you on the street, it’s going to be on a pay-what-you-want type basis? Yeah, pretty much. Or just don’t pay, take as many as you want. It depends on how much I can get on my case. I might have to get a separate box. Yeah, I think that’s the thing I’m aiming to do, really, an EP, hopefully in the next couple of months. And if people want to see you in action, as it were, is it just Coney Street or do you do the open mic nights? I do do a couple of the open mic nights, when I have the time, I like doing The Hop. I do The Graduate. I love playing at The Graduate. It’s a great venue. The guy who organises it is a great guy as well. Who does organise it there? I don’t know his name… But it’s great. People basically just get together, they just play together. There’s no sort of, “This is my set, I’m having this set.” People just get up and play together. It’s just how it is, it’s great. I play at The Nook occasionally. But I’m currently with a potential band at the moment. We’ve got a gig on Saturday. This is quite vague. Like, we haven’t got a name yet for this band. We’re aiming on thinking on the train there of a potential name. One might come to us. Where’s the gig? It’s in a jazz club in London. It’s my bandmate’s friend’s venue and I think, I think, it’s near Hammersmith. Are you on Facebook? No, I’m not. I’m going to be setting up stuff to do with my music in the next couple of months. I will be getting Facebook soon, and Twitter, etc, I just haven’t to it. I’m playing this Friday at at thing called The Annex Sessions. It’s a couple that host an intimate acoustic evening at their converted apartment. There should be things of that going up after Friday. They’ve got their own Facebook page, so I’ll be up there. (I’m afraid I haven’t been able to track this down. If anybody has any information on it, please pass it on.)
I think that’s it, then. Thanks very much. Thanks.
Words From The Street is a co-production from Not Quite Music Journalism and Yellow Mustang Photography, with Ian Massey on the keyboard, Marc McGarraghy behind the lens and both asking the questions. All photographs are © Marc McGarraghy/Yellow Mustang Photography 2014. No cropping, editing or publishing without prior written consent. The views and opinions expressed in the replies are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors.