The JD Family, Part 1
Something that appealed to me a lot with starting my own Patreon was the community aspect of it. Not just in the sense of you becoming Patrons and forming a community (because I obviously love that - seeing you all connecting with each other & becoming friends is incredible) but it also gives me the chance to welcome you into my community more, and being able to introduce you to my musical family as it were. I know it’s my name up in the lights, on the posters and album artworks etc. but I definitely don’t do it all on my own and I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve met so many truly amazing people along the way so far who go out of their way so much to help me.
Speaking of good fortune, over the last few years I have already been blessed to experience a whole multitude of landmark moments that I know I’ll look back on later in my life as amazing opportunities that I loved every minute of. Even though the opportunities themselves were unforgettable, what made each of them so special was the people surrounding me in those moments, not just for their presence but also how they all keep me on track too. It’s easy to get swept up in the negative things that happen simultaneously alongside the positive things no matter how much positive is happening right in front of you, and I really believe that without good people around me I would lose track a lot more than I do.
There’s no way I can talk about everyone I’ve ever worked with, without writing an autobiography of the last 7 or 8 years (which I won’t subject you to!) but what I will say is that in regards to the people I’ve not mentioned here, their absence in this blog doesn’t mean to say that they don’t or haven’t played an important role in my career/life. There are so many more people who have been great/taught me things along the way so far however explaining each and every relationship I have with all those people would be incredibly confusing and would overbear the sentiment of appreciation that I’m intending to get across here. I think my approach to writing this post is going to be to talk about the ‘immediate’ circle of people that I work with currently with a few extra mentions for context where needed. I am lucky in that I have no bad blood between myself and people I no longer work with or am no longer close with!
Anyway. I’ll start with the music, probably not a bad idea?
In recent times, since stopping working out of 14 Records studios in Leamington Spa in 2017 (which was a great experience that taught me a lot and I’m still close with Matt & Gemma Waddell who run the studio) I’ve been co-producing pretty much all of my singles/EP’s with Matt Cotterill. Honestly, from ‘Something Beautiful’ to now I have learnt more than I could ever explain in words from Matt about producing music and engineering creative ideas into records. There are many elements that go into making somebody a great producer & collaborator. I imagine when most people think about music production they focus more on the technical/engineering side of it (which is obviously an important part and also a part that Matt is second to none at; his ability of piecing together sounds and using them to portray a message/capture a feeling in any given moment within songs is something that always impresses me time and time again when we work together, as well as his other projects including his own band Speak, Brother who I am a fan of).
However another part of being a great producer is capturing great performances, the performance that best delivers the vision/idea the artist was aiming for. Matt is somebody who I trust whole heartedly to listen to all my ideas and help me shape them into the one I want the most; sometimes by bringing in ingredients I didn’t know I needed to create the result I wanted, or sometimes more simply helping me add the right amount of each ingredient I brought with me. Matt and I talk for hours on end about my direction as an artist, the bigger picture of where my music lives within the music universe and everything in between. I am incredibly grateful for his patience with my never-ending list of “hey Matt I had an idea-“ moments, but also for his unwavering presence in my ongoing development as an artist, songwriter & producer (reading this back before I post, I could say this about everyone in the JD Family, their collective patience for me is unbelievably kind!). Matt encourages me to be patient & think about what I’m doing, go out of my comfort zone and I am so grateful for him.
Creating music is experimental. As an artist i’m constantly questioning myself and it’s an open ended conversation that I share with everyone in what I call the JD family. One of the big parts of expressing myself as an artist is the visual element. Believe it or not (especially considering the amount of time I spend in front of them) I’ve never been particularly comfortable in front of cameras.
Talking about artistic expression rather than a lack of self confidence for a moment; I’ve never been sure about expressing myself in a visual way. Knowing how important it can be in music for artists, I would be totally lost on that without Transluceo - aka Em. I met Émilie Cotterill (yes you recognised that surname, what a power couple!) through my former manager Chris Rogers. Almost instantly when I started shooting with Em and having her input & skills in the project I found so much confidence in the visual side of my music. Not only from the individual photos Em takes/artwork she makes but also I felt that this element of my project could be explored more now as I felt in safe hands. Having people around you who enable you creatively and give you confidence to express yourself without fear of being judged is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced. I’m really excited to work with Em on the next wave of new music I’m making, I feel so lucky that she invests so much of her talent, efforts and passion into helping me create.
Em is also Queen of Photoshopping their dog Oscar onto the front of all single artworks we make and posting them in our group chat (Enjoy).
One of the best things about music is how it brings people together, and again I feel incredibly lucky that my music has surrounded me with some of the best people I could ever have imagined meeting, not just for their insane talents but their personalities too. Back in the 14 records days I was always bumping into cool bands when working for them, and also was on the lookout for other singer/songwriters to collaborate with. I am so grateful to Matt & Gemma for giving me a home there for so many years and teaching me so much. It became (and still is) such a safe space for me to not only work on my own music but also invite other artists in too. I remember playing a tiny school festival back in summer 2011 when really, I was just starting to sing my own songs in public and meeting a young but super talented Hannah Woof, who I’d only crossed paths with once before as friends despite living across the street from each other! We actually ended up performing a song together and afterwards got chatting about songs/recording, I suggested her coming to visit the studio some time in the future perhaps to try writing something together. Fast forward a few years, perhaps 2013/early 2014 Hannah visited the studio to meet Matt & Gemma and take a look around.
We didn’t work on any music straight away but I was very keen to. I was always a huge fan of Hannah from day one, if you haven’t checked her own music out I urge you to. When I was at BIMM Brighton studying my music degree, Hannah posted me an album of demos she’d made at home (I still have it) and after listening I said when I’m next back home we should make some music together. I helped produce her ‘Sleepless Nights’ EP with Matt Waddell (most of which just me and Hannah recorded in the early hours, making the most of Hannah’s insomnia and the studios downtime to save money). Hannah has ever since been a big part of my music, we share new ideas constantly and it was only natural to be involved in each others projects. One of the most supportive friends you could ever wish for and I still get giddy with excitement when she shows me her new song ideas!
One of the great opportunities I made the most of from 14 records was the work they gave me as a technician/front of house engineer/runner at gigs & festivals that they provided PA systems for. I met tonnes of cool local bands/artists doing those, one of which I met around the same time as working on Hannah’s EP was The Ellipsis. Two of the founding members of that band turned out to be Harry Green & John Connearn. Although my music and theirs wasn’t similar, I thought throughout all those gigs working for 14 they were by far the best musicians I’d met. I remember seeing John playing and thinking “he might be the best guitarist I’ve EVER seen in real life?” Turns out he actually is. I never thought my music would be John’s taste as we never got much chance to chat when we all met at that first gig, however me and Harry got chatting and I knew that when it came to me putting my own band together, he was someone I would love to have play for me, I just didn’t have all the right players living locally that would make it work - particularly a drummer. This was all around the time I moved to Brighton (Summer 2014) and although I met some great players there too I knew I wasn’t going to live there forever… If I’m honest, the music never felt right with any of the line ups I had in Brighton, despite having some amazing people involved and great musicians. Me and Harry spoke a lot, whether that was on the phone, meeting up for dinner or him coming to watch shows of mine - and the more we became friends the more I was just so desperate to find the right drummer to join the 2 of us to try out this 3 piece band I was wanting to do. I knew he was exactly the band mate I needed. Harry’s playing, singing and understanding of what I was and still am trying to do with my music is invaluable to me. He is incredibly humble as a performer (as is John, the best players always are) but once again with everyone mentioned so far, Harry is somebody I never have to be checking over my shoulder on. Simply, he’s exactly what I was ever looking for in a band mate, bass player, friend. Hero!
Remember ages ago in this blog I said about Matt being great at providing those perfect ingredients for my music where needed? The first record we ever made together, he did exactly that. I was nervous about working with somebody new on production especially as I left it in his hands to source musicians if he felt they were necessary; I can play drums but in no way am I pro. Luckily for me, Matt struck gold for me on day one with James Burgess. From the moment he arrived at the studio, set up his kit and started sound checking for the session; I felt pure relief. The feeling when people click with your music, your ideas and your personality as an artist is almost like gaining super powers or something... it’s like having extra arms and legs. Straight away I felt like I could do more, reach further, run faster and dig deeper with no explanation needed. James is incredible at just aligning with my ideas, sometimes even just to let me see it through when he already knows that idea is not the one. It’s a fine art of allowing people to explore/try and fail without it becoming a time wasting exercise. He isn’t limited in any way in his technical ability which allows him to just focus on the vision, and take the shape required to do the job. This is something I’ve actually watched the whole gang do, more and more every time we create/tour/record. It’s an ever evolving role as my music evolves too.
I feel like the luckiest artist in the world with no exceptions. I have this amazing group of creatives surrounding me and even though it’s not everybody all at once all the time; whenever I need them, they are there in whatever capacity needed. They all give me space to work through things on my own but I know they’re at the end of the phone whether I’m calling to talk or sending ideas or in fact, anything.
THE BEST PEOPLE.
I honestly feel like I can’t say enough good things about each of them, but I’m already aware of how long this post is, but I’ll be singing their highest praises forever no question. Like I said, I don’t do this on my own and I’d be nowhere without any of these people.
There are so many more other people that are crucial friends in my life who I work with in music that aren’t mentioned yet. I think I’m going to do a part 2 to this blog, because I want to tell you all about more people who are involved behind the scenes, not just with my own music but with The Adelaides, Billy Lockett, Infinity Music Group & more. I can’t express my gratitude for the people I want to talk about in part 2 and I want to shine a light on them even more so for the fact that they’re not in the limelight ever and they deserve so much credit.
Thanks for sticking with me this far.
To be continued!