Well there you have it . . . another year gone by, and it’s true what they say; as you get older they seem to go quicker.
This year coming I enter my 21st year as lead guitarist of Smokie . . . can you believe that?
New Years resolutions have never been my thing but this year I do have one.
I plan to practice my craft just a little bit more and make a conscious effort to improve my guitar skills. It’s very easy to just not bother when you have a regular gig, and playing the same songs each night means you never really get to push yourself.
So let’s have a look at 2016 . . . .
I’d phoned our office when they opened up at the start of the New Year and asked for a date-sheet so I could plan my year ahead. I was a little surprised at such a small amount of touring for Smokie in the diary, especially for the first part of the year. Our tour of Poland in February was cancelled and our gig in Colombo, Sri Lanka was cancelled, although it was re-scheduled later in the year. It would be June before we really kicked off our touring schedule. However it would turn out that that most of our gigs were crammed into the second half of the year.
In March my daughter Kyrie passed her driving test, so together we spent hours online looking at cars, in the end she got her new VW Polo and I would worry for the next few months whist she gained some experience on those busy UK roads.
Having time off from touring allowed me to reflect on my now long awaited album “Under My Skin” . . . . It was taking a long time and I needed someone on board to push things along and make things happen. The mixing hadn’t gone to plan and costs felt like they were spiraling out of control. (Perhaps, I’d noticed that more because I wasn’t working that much?) Anyway . . . I sent samples of tracks off to various management companies and worked on a new EPK. Results were positive but nothing was concrete. I really wanted to do some solo gigs, but without a finished album the likelihood of anything happening was looking bleak. I did receive one email though, that would give me hope.
David Bowie, Glen Frey and Prince had died and let me tell you, it doesn’t half make you think about your own age and the lifestyle you lead yourself!
I spent the summer at my villa in Spain. My mountain bike had started to become my best friend and I found myself enjoying much longer rides in the mountains close to where I live. I’d also started doing a lot of walking and generally making a conscious effort to live a healthy lifestyle. I don’t drink much anyway and I have never smoked, but the I always struggle with my weight, too much chocolate maybe?
My travel from Spain to gigs was getting pretty tough. We had a lot of gigs in Norway in 2016 so my average flights were four hours plus, as well as a domestic flight tagged on, but par for the course so I have no reason to complain.
Smokie had to play a few gigs without Terry because he had to have an operation at very short notice. I managed to secure the services of David Levy who plays on my solo stuff and of course he did a great job and we got through those contracted gigs. If I’m being totally honest, I was very worried about Terry’s health. When you’re in a band for such a long time everyone becomes like family.
Luckily Terry’s operation was a success and it was great to see him back in full swing a few weeks later . . . . His stage presence IS seriously infectious.
It was nice to work for our old promoters in Denmark once again and one of the most enjoyable stand-out gigs of the summer was in Finland and I really enjoyed a one off Croatia gig, what a lovely place!
The Brexit referendum in the UK had started to dominate the news and I was one of those frustrated people who likes Europe and European folks. I live and work there, but I struggled to see a Europe carry on in a manner, that was beneficial to all Europeans.
I always felt that the bureaucrats in Brussels were too busy passing laws about straight cucumbers and how much water we should have to flush down the toilet, when in actual fact they should have been dealing with the Syria conflict and the unemployment that is just horrendous for young school leavers in Spain and Portugal.
On a personal note; I was genuinely sad in the end that the UK had taken the decision to leave Europe, I just wish that the stupid buggers in Brussels would have taken, the UK a bit more seriously.
At the end of the summer, the re-scheduled gig in Colombo went ahead and Terry rejoined the band. I enjoyed my time there. The TUK-TUK ride was a bit hairy though!
In October we went to Ireland.
Ireland has been very good to Smokie over the years.
So; we went and sold out Cork, Dublin, Galway and rammed the Waterfront Hall in Belfast . . . . . We also went and played the longest running TV show on RTE, the Late Late Show . . . . I felt like “We were back” in business on the Emerald Isle once again.
Just before leaving for our Australian Tour at the end of October, I’d changed the mix engineer on “Under My Skin” and crossed my fingers. (it was beginning to feel like a chore now)
The Australian Tour sold well, but I was bitterly disappointed that we didn’t play Melbourne or Sydney. Of course I totally get the logistics thing and some venues just aren’t available when you need them, but still?
In the middle of the OZ Tour I’d started to get mixes from Nashville and “Under My Skin” was finally moving on. I also made contact again with that one person who had been really positive in one of those emails earlier in the year.
As the Autumn/Winter touring was coming to a close, I was lucky enough to enjoy the winter-wonderland of Sweden a couple of weeks ago and the snow set me in the mood for Christmas. We also got to witness the northern lights, which was quite spectacular.
Smokie were planning a New Years Eve show, but logistics in the end proved to be too much and we couldn’t agree certain aspects of what the promoter wanted, so we sadly had to pull the plug on that idea!
All in all, I think 2016 had many positives for Smokie and the year ahead looks good with a UK Tour taking place for the first time in many years. I hope UK fans support these shows, I am looking forward to them.
Smokie have made real headway on the social media side of things with Facebook likes increasing daily. I know this is one place that many fans share thoughts and views, but remember Smokie also have a website too!
I would also have to admit my disappointed that another year goes by without a new Smokie album (not for the lack of trying on my part . . . let me tell you)
So back to “Under My Skin” . . . . .
I’d sent the mixes to California and Reuben Cohen got to work on giving me my finished mastered project of the last two years hard work.
I burned a couple of CD’s and sent one to the guy who sent me a positive email earlier in the year.
The next day he called me and said in his very cockney accent “You’ve just blown me away” . . . . . So there you have it, I now have a new manager!!!!
It is my hope that he will take me forward and make things happen on all my solo stuff.
“Under My Skin” will definitely be released in March 2017.
2016 was certainly the year for the Grim Reaper when it comes to the music business though.
Over the years I have toured and shared a stage with the mighty Status Quo. The news at the passing of Rick Parfitt on Christmas Eve saddened me greatly. He was a nice guy and made a contribution to British rock music that needs no introduction. I am glad I had the chance to meet the man and talk to him on several occasions.
The Grim Reaper struck again one day later and took from the music world, George Michael. I didn’t know him but he was of course a huge talented singer.
I thank all you folks out there who take time to find out what I am doing and following me on social media and here on my website.
I hope you support my efforts to bring you some new music once again and you never know maybe “Under My Skin” can make some kind of impact on the blues scene both in the UK and further afield?
The plan to do some solo gigs will most certainly happen.
I wish you a Happy New Year my friends, and if your 2016 wasn’t a good one may your luck change in 2017.