Sunday, 30 December 2012

Goodbye old year, Hello new

Firstly – a thousand apologies to those of you who started to follow this blog when we first appeared online in the Spring and have since been disappointed with our lack of activity on it recently. To be quite honest, we did a few blogs early on and then went away for a little tour and then once we’d missed a few weeks on the blog we just sort of, didn’t do another post for a while. There we go. Nice and honest.

So a big well done if you have stayed with us this far, thank you and we promise to be more timely and regular with these things from now on.

Which leads me (Holly) nicely on to the topic of this particular post. With the closing of one year and the opening of another, combined with the lovely time off that some are fortunate enough to have (we are amongst the lucky ones), I’m always drawn into the trap of thinking what I will do differently next year, what I want to change, things I would like to do more often etc. This sits fairly strangely with me, as one part of my mind says that real change should come from within at any time and shouldn’t need a different year number to prompt it. But it just so happens that I have some idle time right now and therefore I have had some time to think about it. Here’s my list.
           Listen to even more music
I had a bit of a panic early in 2012. Years ago, I wore out my iPod because I walked around a lot listening to it almost constantly. I now cycle far more and, since I don’t listen to music when I’m cycling, I often found that a day went by and I hadn’t made time to listen to just one song that I’d either never heard or truly loved. On realising this, I hastily got hold of a new little pod and invested in some new music and have felt completely enriched by the whole experience. Recorded works are often completely different to the artists’ live show as there’s more space to play with imagination and work beyond the realms of what is achievable live. Only by actively listening to recordings can you fully appreciate the artistry which has gone into developing them. The music truly can and will speak to you through those headphones. I want to do even more of this. I want to listen to music whenever and wherever and however I possibly can.
     Go to more gigs
Live music plays a big part in my life. However, the times I spend listening to live music are often a result of us also performing at the same event. This can lead to listening to similar types of stuff which, although wonderful, might get a little restricting. I want to experience a much wider variety of live performance. I want to challenge my own assumptions about what I like and what I don’t. I want to travel somewhere to take a chance on a show I’ve never seen before and I want to immerse myself in it. I want to be surprised. I believe I have a fairly open mind when it comes to most things but I want to actively expand my horizons in this way in 2013.

      Make more things
This encompasses quite a lot of things, not least of all songwriting. Over the last few years, I have been learning so much about being ‘free’. I once thought that this solely meant not working and writing music all day. I now know that it doesn’t work like that. My current definition of ‘free’ (which relates closely to my definition of ‘successful’) means enjoying every single thing that you do. And when I constantly put pressure on myself to write better and better songs when it’s not coming naturally, I start to not enjoy the process of songwriting. But what I have realised so far is that by occupying my brain and hands with other creative things that I enjoy, the songs will formulate themselves and all I’ve got to do is pick up my guitar and play them out. So I resolve to SEW, COOK, KNIT, RUN, DANCE, READ, LEARN A NEW GUITAR PIECE and do anything else that I fancy and not feel guilty about doing something else other than songwriting, because they are essential activities in the formulation of a healthy mind and hence good songs. (It also helps that many of these things can be done whilst listening to music, which can only provide a catalyst for those good ideas to come). And when I have made said things, I am going to share them with the world – which leads on to the next resolution.

     Get better at keeping in touch
I have always been useless at this. But in the age of the Internet, there really is no excuse. I am going to remind people that I exist at least once a day in the form of a little story, quote, pondering, link, gig plug or new video. Without you lovely people supporting what we do, we won’t be able to do it any more so the least I can do is say hello.

      Love everyone and everything
This goes without saying. There have been a few acts of fate happen this year which have made me lose a bit of hope that it really will all turn out alright in the end. But you simply cannot go through life being miserable, can you? So I am going renew my enthusiasm for laughing in the face of adversity when it hits me and finding the positive where there seems to be none. Nobody else can do this for me and it should be an enjoyable process for me to do anyway.

So there we go. Five (admittedly broad) things that I vow to do more of in 2013. Previous resolutions of ours have included 2010’s ‘Never Shop In Tesco Again’ and 2012’s ‘Go Vegetarian’. We have kept both of those faithfully and life has been immeasurably the better for it, so here goes. Come on 2013. Show me what you’ve got.

HT x

PS Here's a lovely video we did last week to say thanks for your support in 2012. Turn up the volume, it's quiet xx


Friday, 4 May 2012

Tours, hotels, CD frenzy, 90's celebrities and the lovely Steve Lamacq.

Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

   A warm welcome back to you all here on The Honest Music Blog, seems like forever ago that I was last here, bitching and moaning and generally having a good old rant about the more unsavoury side of our musical adventures. Well not anymore, because what a difference a week makes...

   Last week saw us depart for our Southern Tour. Now, the word 'tour' is used loosely, but it was more than one gig and we didn't come home in between, so if that's not a tour then I don't know what is. So we headed out with guitars and good intentions to Norwich to meet our good friend Steve Howlett and play a set at the lovely Grapevine@Bedfords. Last time we were in Norwich, it was very sunny, we went to a mustard shop and Ian Hislop gave Holly a fiver. This time it was raining, our 2012 vegetarian status renders mustard useless due to a lack of ham and Holly only spent money, on shoes. Having recently come back from Barcelona, we are now all about Tapas, and lo the biblical rain forced us into Norwich's finest Tapas Bar. Honestly, we were along way from Spain but the lady that ran it gave us a free umbrella, which was nice. Gigwise, all was well, we met some wonderfully kind people, sold a bunch of CD's, they had Estrella on draught and some epically comfy sofas. Steve and his wife Jan were kind enough to once again put us up, which is great because they are perhaps the only people we've ever met with a fully stocked bar in their living room - the sadness only came as we had to be up early to catch a train because I know from personal experience how good their black sambuca is.

  And so to our next day, which consisted of a rainy drive to Cambridge, a rainy walk through Cambridge and a rainy wait at the train station in Cambridge. We jumped on the train to London with fistfulls of CD's and bright ideas in our minds about strolling into the headquarters of major record labels, pushing Jessie J down the escalator and being offered suitcases full of money for doing jack shit. Firstly though, Spitalfield's Market is one of the few places in Britain where I'm able to get even mildly enthusiastic about clothes. I bought a hat and also high fived a man who looked alot like Wyclef Jean, which was worth the price of the train ticket alone. Now the thing about London is that it's very big and record labels try very hard to make their offices look as none descript as possible, mainly for the safety of Jessie J and to deter surly Northerners from wandering in and cluttering up the place with talk of deals and contracts. What I mean is, we couldn't find any. We stood outside the BBC building for a while, hoping to bump into someone influential, but people like that probably have some sort of secret tunnel so they don't have to talk to people like us. Holly swears she saw someone who once acted in Doctors, but I don't even know what that is. So we passed up the opportunity to visit Madam Tussauds (£30 each to see aload of elaborate candals), saw a man knocked of his motor bike, lying in the road while taxis swerved to get past him, went to Regents Park and ate The World's Biggest Pretzel and The World's Best Chocolate Brownie. We did see Frank Skinner in a health food shop, but genuinely couldn't think of anything we wanted to say to him. We fought our way through rush hour tube stations and caught the train back to Cambridge with all the bankers. A particular highlight was watching the man sitting opposite me repeatedly fall asleep and gradually slip further and further from his seat into the aisle, dropping his Kindle and dirtying his very expensive suit.
                                         London: worrying.
    So, onwards and downwards we went, this time to Essex and the quite wonderful High Barn. We'd heard only great things and the venue itself didn't disappoint. A huge 800 year old barn, converted into a totally acoustic music venue and recording studio, in the middle of fields full of sheep. And, the sun shone, which was a welcome change. Having arrived unfashionably early, we were told that one of the other acts wasn't going to turn up, so our set time would be increased to thirty minutes, which was good news for us as we rarely agree on which songs to drop for shorter sets. And so, with the place sold out and deathly silent, we took to the stage. Now, an unusual thing for us is our reaction to our sets is often at odds with the audience reaction. Sometimes, we leave the stage feeling particularly smug at playing to the absolute best of our abilites only to be greeted by some quite frankly luke warm reactions. Our set at High Barn worked the other way round. We played, in all honesty, poorly compared to our usual standards. So much so that I actually apologised to Holly after our last song, convinced we'd blown a great chance to win over a room full of people new to our music. Whether our quaint Northern banter won them over or whether our set wasn't actually as bad as we thought, we came off stage to be greeted by queues of people with beaming smiles and handfuls of money. We sold an obscene number of CD's, some people forgoing their sanity and buying the entire collection. Shrugging befuddledly, we sold even more as everyone was leaving. What a fantastic night. Maybe that is what is meant by the only way is Essex. Although probably not.
                                         Essex: warm and fuzzy.

   (It's Holly here now - this is such a long blog that we decided to do half each). After late night chips and experiencing the world's loudest snoring through the wall of our hotel room in that most cosmopolitan of locations, Peterborough, we headed off at 8am for the even more cosmopolitan Scarborough to play at a wedding. There's really little to be said about this wedding - apart from imagine every wedding that you have ever been to, and you are probably quite close to it. There was a very enthusiastic (and drunk) Tracy Chapman fan who reacted quite badly to the fact that we didn't know 'Fast Car'. There was also a dog called Patsy wearing a ribbon.

After the tour, we were forced on Monday to slide effortlessly from being proper musicians back into our respective day jobs. This can't have been good karmically, as no sooner had we returned to work than we were both struck down with colds (or as I like to call them, Girl Lurgy and Man Flu). No amount of mildly amusing names could have made them more fun. Colds are just crap.

However, what we did enjoy was the fact that one of the live videos we shot a few weeks back with the team at Ont' Sofa arrived happily on YouTube. If you haven't had a chance to see it, here it is:-

When we did a show in February with Liverpool Acoustic Live (another bunch of fantastic people there), we met the lovely singer songwriter Stephen Langstaff who was headlining. After watching our set in which we played this song, he told us that he knew the man behind White Town, and asked if we had a copy of our arrangement to send to him. When the video arrived, I sent Stephen the link and he promptly passed it to Mr White Town (real name Jyoti Mishra) and he has now watched the video, commented on it and re-posted it on his own Facebook page, to the tune of many likes and good comments from his fans! This is hugely brilliant news for us as we both completely love the song and it's so bloody excellent to know that the person behind it all approves of our version. What's more, we have found that Jyoti is a super-nice chap, and it's always good to know that having success doesn't make everyone act like a dick towards the normals like us.

AND to add more glee to the existing glee of the last week and a half, we found out this morning that our chum Steve Lamacq played our song 'The French One' on his BBC Radio 2 show yesterday evening! Given the fact that we are both still feeling pretty sorry for ourselves with our Glurgy and Man Flu, we were both fast asleep when the show went out live, however via the medium of the Internet we were told by a friend that we had been played on his late Thursday evening show. Bizarrely, it was during a programme entitled 'Rock College' - but hey, Chris is not complaining, and neither am I. Any time anyone plays us on the radio we are extremely grateful! Plus we were played amongst the good company of Richard Ashcroft and Radiohead, as well as super Yorkshire band In Fear Of Olive, who we have met and gigged with before. You've got a few days left to listen again to the show if you like, we're from about 42 mins in:-

Steve Lamacq's Rock College listen again

I always thought that Steve Lamacq was way too cool to play our music. But someone told me last year that he does open and play every CD that he gets sent (which I imagine is pretty much hundreds or thousands every week), and surely this is the sign of someone who is truly devoted to championing new music. For this we say a big THANK YOU to Mr Lamacq. Not just for us, but for all the other unsigned musicians out there who you've helped. To know that our song has been heard by potentially thousands of people listening to the show last night, well blimey that's just ace isn't it? And to cap it all, both our names are listed and spelt right on the programme information. Well done that man. Or his team.

So that brings us nicely to the end of this week's Honest Music Blog. Hope you have enjoyed reading about these excellent things - we're quite sure that there will be more tales of pitfalls for you to read and laugh at soon, but until then we're going to ride the wave of the good times until it breaks. Happy Bank Holiday Weekend everyone!

HT & CB xx

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The week that wasn't... until Saturday.

Hello all,

    Time for another large slice of musical honesty, this week with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Whilst making sure that here on The Honest Music Blog we rightly praise all those who are worthy of such  notable commendations for attitude, commitment and general all-round niceness, we must also cover the other 50% of people who would seemingly climb a hundred foot ladder just to make sure the dump they're aiming in your direction has a more satisfying impact.

Firstly, cudos must go to festival 'organisers' who in a rather backward move, ignore two successful year's slots on the Main Stage and the people who pay to come and see us there, and demote you to a pub, under the banner of 'Emerging Artists.' Perhaps it's like a musical hibernation, emerging periodically from your lethargic unproductivity to be spat blinking and naked as a newborn to desperately salvage what remains of your confused followers before your time runs out and you're replaced by someone less talented at music but much better at fawning and kissing backsides.

    Further on, we are graced with the presence of an ego so swollen it rather obscures an ability to 'scat' and create rhymes so awkward I found myself blushing with embarrassment just being in the room. Suffice to say we were the only ones who thought so (again a healthy nod to our own lack of cool and 'down with the kids' awareness) and we were left to waste a few peoples time after the real star of the show had made a swift exit, explaining that all communications were directed through their Manager, so as not to dirty oneself with the humdrum of everyday humanity. I may add to this that Mick Hucknall and Chris De Burgh are quite frankly, worse than Hitler.

    As a final kick in the teeth, we received a rather blunt retort at our request for a support slot at a particular venue. Now, I must make it clear that the venue and it's organiser have been more than helpful, and we shall be visting later in the year and are genuinely looking forward to it. Our particular gripe is with a certain group on being offered our support. When you are musicians actively seeking to further your fanbase in a certain area, it is customary to support a local or established act of a roughly similar style to yourselves, hoping that some of their fans become some of your fans. Its like social networking, only real. The promoter at the venue promptly contacted what booked acts they already had with the offer of a support slot from ourselves. Most replies were generally positive with a hint of unconcerned shoulder-shrugging, however the most spectacularly unhelpful reponse was this;

         "We won't spend a long time doing their sound, they will have to plug and play, we like to have  some time to chill before the gig.
- They MUST supply their own mic cable, guitar cable, mic, guitar and mic stand and get everything off the stage before we play."

Now, had this certain act been say, Neil Young or perhaps Rodrigo Y Gabriela, we would have doffed our caps reverently and bowed while shuffling away. The fact is though that this act has officially less than half of the online fans that we have and are quite frankly, terrible. So, just incase there is any doubt, they can take their shitty equipment and have a lovely 'chilled out' time inserting it up each other's arses, while we are playing with people who would at least appreciate our efforts.

   Now, being honest is one thing, but being a whinging tosser is another. So, to end on a more positive note, we come to our house gig in Bolton. This was held by a man who had seen us play at The Deer Shed Festival last year and liked so much what he saw, he subsequently travelled from Bolton to York on a rainy Tuesday night to see us play again, and asked if we would play a small celebration he was having in his home for his friends and family. Upon arrival, we were adopted as part of his family, shown the most amount of free beer and spirits we have ever seen, fed with a specially created vegetarian meal and given the world's best cheesecake, played a set of our own songs with a few requests thrown in and finally paid for the privilege of being there. My hat goes off to you kind Sir, and if the music business was filled with more people like yourself, perhaps I wouldn't have to moan so much.

We're off on a Southern jaunt next week, to reaquaint ourselves with some old friends and play some wonderful venues, so expect a happier blogging experience next time on The Honest Music Blog with Holly and Chris.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

The sign of a good promoter (Part One)

Hi everyone, Holly here.

We have just released our second EP together, which is called 'Never Winter Mind Part Two'. As part of the release, we have been sending the CD to all the people who have helped us along the way this far to thank them for their help in whatever capacity (if you have helped us and haven't got a CD yet, it's either in the post or soon will be!).

We sent an EP this week to a chap called Steve Howlett, who organises and promotes an acoustic evening in Norwich called 'Grapevine @ Bedford's'. It's a relaxed night in the upstairs room of a lovely little restaurant/bar in the heart of Norwich (which is pretty nice too, we went in the mustard shop and met Ian Hislop there when we visited last year). We went to play at Steve's evening in May last year after having contacted him to book a date for our tour to which he was really accommodating, and it was a fantastic gig. Really responsive, packed out audience, we were looked after well, and we met Dan Wilde too from Cambridge who was also playing and was excellent.

This is what Steve had to say about our new CD:-

'Just received a copy of the new six track mini album/ep " Never Winter Mind - Part Two " by Holly Taymar and Chris Bilton. ( Many thanks, Holly ! ) It's a thing of beauty, and I love the way Holly and Chris quietly subvert the whole " folky " thing by constantly writing and playing outside the box. People like them keep music vital and fresh. Please make sure you come to Grapevine@Bedfords on 25th April and catch a live set'll love them !'

Big thanks for the mention, Steve! 

Perhaps the most important thing to mention about Steve as a promoter is that yes, he organises the gigs well, yes, he treats visiting artists very well, and yes, he does enough promotion before the shows to ensure that there is a full house almost every gig. But what really matters here is that first and foremost, he is a person who purely loves music. He lives and breathes it. You can tell from his comment that he has actually listened to the EP we sent and really thought about it, not just described it but given his opinion on it. A rare thing indeed!

We were fortunate enough to get to see Steve's record collection after the show and goodness me, that is also a thing of beauty. Not only that, but he literally couldn't wait to play us some independent, new music which he liked a lot and thought we would like. Judging by Steve's example, I think as a promoter you obviously do need to be really organised and plan well enough for the shows to ensure they're a success - but without this underlying, all consuming passion for music and live performance, you got nothing but empty chairs and miserable artists.

As such, we are really looking forward to returning to play at Grapevine @ Bedford's in Norwich, Wednesday 25 April.

Speak soon,

H x

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Good Morning(ish)

   It seems I have been brought shudderingly into the future with all this internetty blogging malarky. They did it on Sherlock and that seemed like a hip show, so anything they can do I can make a half arsed attempt at. Here are some musically related conclusions I have made from the last two weeks:-
1. If a man offers to sell you a bass guitar that you have coverted for many years, but have never even been close to affording, for a gob-smackingly low price that you can afford, chiefly because he's "having a clearout," don't believe him. He is a liar and a thief and what he's really selling you is a shonky, Chinese made knock-off. Thankfully my head over-ruled my heart and spared me the world's most expensive egg on my face. Phew.
2. Holly's Later with Jools Holland related April fools japery has gone viral. From now on anyone who asks me when we are appearing on the show shall receive a fully comprehensive, detailed and encouraging lie, simply because that's what they want to hear. I may add that the lie shall only appear in verbal communication and therefore The Honest Music Blog remains valid. Honestly.
3. Teenage boys should not be allowed to touch musical equipment, as two things are guaranteed to happen - breakages and bad Nirvana covers. Not necessarily in that order, but you have been warned.

That's all for now folks, over and out.


Monday, 9 April 2012


Hi everyone, welcome to our blog.

We (Holly and Chris) decided to start a blog to document our experiences, thoughts and ponderings as we go on our journey as gigging musicians.

Sometimes it will just be Chris posting, or Holly, but either way we both promise to be completely honest about gigs, performances and everything that goes on to make them happen. Hopefully it will provide you with some interesting information, either if you just want to know us a bit better, or whether you're going through a similar journey.

We are also going to post about relevant sources of inspiration and link to things that we like, and that hopefully you will also like.

Perhaps the most interesting thing to note is that this may be a sort of 'yin and yang' blog; we both often have completely different views on what happens throughout our career, so hopefully we can put across to you the whole picture through the medium of these posts!

Any queries or questions or anything, please do get in touch. We're fairly new to blogging so any feedback or anything is welcomed at this stage (we promise also not to throw diva strops - at least not in public).

Thanks very much for reading and look forward to connecting with you soon.

Holly and Chris