Gig-wise, 2018 started off with the usual Smokie charity dinner in Bradford, before heading to Ireland to play what were three cracking gigs, the highlight being the Dublin gig, a place and venue I particularly enjoy!
However; prior to that, One Sunday afternoon in the New Year of 2018 in my local pub, I’d had one pint too many (I’m not a big drinker) . . . I had a third pint! . . . . . Anyways; our old quizmaster had sadly passed away a few weeks earlier and with a bit of bravado I duly offered my services. So now, I’m the new quizmaster at my local pub every Wednesday (when I’m home that is). I enjoy the banter and learn a thing or two on the way. I even let the band members have a go at MY quiz on some of the longer bus journey’s . . . . good fun!
Smokie tour dates had started to really fill up in the first few weeks of the new year and I knew as early as March that it would be hell of a tough year in terms of travel and days away from home. Believe me when I tell you, southern Spain to northern Norway is a long, long way!
I also have a new hobby . . .in the last couple of years, I’ve really got into road cycling and so I ordered my custom build EVO2MAX all carbon (expensive) bike which arrived in Spain just in time for the summer. It’s great new pastime, that’s good for my health too!
Living in Spain has become a big part of my life now and my efforts to gain such a lovely house, meant I made many sacrifices over the years, but I absolutely love the way of life, something I feel is well deserved after all my years of hard work and saving a little.
I’ve made lots of new friends in Spain and looking back at the last few years; a move I was apprehensive about, worked out well.
Winding the clock back, in November of 2017, I’d ordered a custom build Gordon Smith guitar. My order was well overdue in terms of how long it took to see it in the flesh! . . . . It was well worth the wait though. Thanks to Gordon Smith Guitars for building my vision, it arrived mid-April of 2018.
It basically replaced my Trusty Les Paul “Gold Top” that had suffered a broken neck only a few months earlier
The months of June and July were real killers on the road and I’d started to feel a little battle weary by the time Smokie took their summer break, mid-August.
However; having had a look at the second half of the year, I knew that this years’ touring was going to get even harder.
Don’t get me wrong, the gigs are easy enough, but the constant travel makes each gig, roll into the next with little remembering what some of the gigs were actually like, with airports being my main place to eat it would seem.
I do however, remember really enjoying the festival in Berlin though. Our set was sadly cut short due the thunder storms and safety concerns by our stage manager. Luckily the public full agreed and everyone wandered away in the heaviest of rain I have seen.
It’s fair to say I also had my share of technical difficulties on some of our summer festivals, despite having a lot of new gear.
I shall cross my fingers that 2019 will be problem free?
On the 11th of August, I received the news that my best friend, Producer and Mentor, Blue Miller had sadly past away in his home town of Nashville. I was absolutely devastated and even now, I struggle to come to terms with with the fact that Blue is no longer around, I miss him so much, I couldn't help think about his wife Beth this Christmas . . . . I found the time to write a Christmas card, telling her that I hadn't forgot about her and I reminded her just how everyone loved her husband Blue.
During the summer break; My house in the UK had been broken into and my car stolen. Luckily my car has a tracker and was recovered in hours, but it was stressful having to go back to the UK to find out whether my guitars were in fact still around. I’m glad to report they were all there, at home! . . . . . I’ve since put them back in secure storage, but it would seem that thieves only came for one thing . . . . My Jag!
Through the summer, I tend to listen to more music than I generally do the rest of the time. I like to listen to Café Del Mar and all that “Chill out” shit, that you’d probably think is not for a rock musician.
I’d also discovered a new artist whom I’d never heard before in Brian Culbertson.
he’s a music creator, Artist and Producer. He’s a wonderful piano player . . . check him out.
The summer break passed fairly quickly. I’d no sooner caught my breath when the 1st leg of Smokie’s German Tour kicked off on September 20th.
Ticket sales were great and the first few shows were really quite incredible, I really enjoyed myself and felt that the band’s decision to the do the tour was well and truly justified despite some members reservations of doing such a long tour.
The 1st half of the tour we played theatres and the 2nd half we did some large club gigs, I was in my element on the 2nd half let me tell you!
My favourite gig was the Spectrum in Augsburg . . . . . Mannheim probably a close second!
Before the Mannheim show, I visited my old stomping ground Kaiserslautern on the day off and met up with some old friends. I also discovered that the Kaiserslautern football team had been relegated to the third tier of the Bundesliga. In saying that, I didn’t really give a shit . . . . Leeds United had got off to a flyer back in the UK!
On a personal note I felt I played really well on all those German shows. I need to feel that once in a while, I also think it’s important as a musician to give everything you’ve got with a 100% effort! . . . . I did that as I always do.
I’d also started doing something that I feel is a great benefit. I get my main guitar 40 minutes before showtime to warm up in the changing room. It’s not really surprised me the benefit that it brings, but by the time I hit the stage my fingers are nice and loose.
Whilst on the German Tour, I read the new book by my favourite guitarist Steve Lukather. . . . What a read!!! It’s funny at times, with some sad stories too, but it was uncanny how some of his trials and tribulations are similar to my own. I finished the book in two days, that’s how good it was! . . . . Oh . . . . I forgot; he also swears a lot more than me!
On the second half of the German Tour I received more bad news from America. Another one of my lifelong friends Brian Moore sadly died of Cancer aged 55. It's this kind of news that gets you thinking about your own well being and a need to enjoy life and soak up everything you can? . . . . We just never know do we?
After the German Tour I got an email from a young German musician who told me I was his favourite guitarist and that he was trying to emulate my sound. He’d also bought a similar rig to mine and asked me for my settings, to which I duly obliged.
He suggested I share some videos of my solo stuff and how to play those riffs etc. So, I do plan to have a Mick McConnel TV kind of thing that will go on YouTube and on my site . . . . Hopefully quite soon . . . . watch this space!
Thank you Marcus for your kind words . . . . I was delighted that I gave someone some inspiration!
After the German Tour we left for Norway and Sweden and with very little time at home, in fact at best I got was 24 hours, that was my lot.
I started to feel like I was on a rollercoaster and it began to feel like, Groundhog Day.
Before I knew it? The Smokie Symphony Tour kicked off in Budapest, Hungary in November.
I enjoyed the rehearsals and felt that it would be quite enjoyable despite the fact, that the orchestra thing just isn’t my cup of tea.
I was pleasantly surprised!
The Budapest show for me, was by far the best, but they were all good shows and the numbers in the Arena’s were huge! . . . . . I felt quite proud that Smokie could pack ‘em in!
I enjoyed the Prague show, because they put us in the most civilised wonderful hotel, that served breakfast up to 12.30.
I wandered miles around Prague taking in the sights and sounds as well as a stroll through the Christmas market.
Our Norwegian Promoter, Kjell had come along to witness the orchestra thing and so myself and Kjell ended up in the Irish pub watching our beloved football teams.
I spend most of my Saturdays when I’m on tour hooked up to my computer with football news and games slowly drip feeding my appetite for the game as well as keeping tabs on my beloved Leeds United.
Our last show was on the Symphony Tour was in Riga, I boarded my flight home at 06.20 and I’ve never been as happy to walk into my house.
I had a picked up some mince pies on my way from the airport and devoured two or three with a huge cup of tea!
I felt that the tough year was a successful one and as always, I count my blessings, that all tours had gone well for everyone involved.
Yours truly was really quite elated to be home though, watching my TV and sleeping in my own bed.
On Christmas eve, I grabbed my credit card and logged on to the Salvation Army website . . . . I gave a small gift like I do every year that will support a homeless person with food and shelter . . . . It makes me feel better and serves to remind me, that I don't have such a bad life!
The last two shows of the year were in Northern Ireland. I was reminded as I went through the Irish border by my satnav, that I had entered the UK . . . . . Brexit has split the UK down the middle and I hate some of the shite I see on Facebook about the whole affair. Sad times, but I genuinely hope all will be well, I have a lot of respect for most politicians, but some of this lot in government and opposition, only think about their parties and themselves as opposed to the what is best for the country? . . . . . I hope Britain will prove that she is more than capable of proving herself, in what possibly looks like, a new era and testing times?
It’s only now as I write this little story that I realize just how fucked I was the last couple of months? . . . . the Christmas break really couldn’t have come soon enough.
Oh . . . . I also bought myself a cracking spinning bike, the real deal, so I can do some cycling exercise at home . . . . I should be like Chris Froome by the time I get back to Spain!
I recently put an advert out for a bass player and drummer, to go out and do a few Mick McConnell shows, playing my own material. I’m quite excited about this and will of course let you know in due course. I’m going to have a rehearsal in January and February.
So as the one year, steers into the next, I shall consider the months ahead once again.
I shall look forward to certain aspects of my touring calendar (especially Australia) and try to desperately not wish the time away, as is so easy to do, sometimes.
Anyways; Don’t know about you lot? . . . . But I’m off skiing!!!!!!
Happy New Year my friends!