Very special charity live stream on 15th April- 7pm!
Very special charity live stream on 15th April- 7pm!
I realised this morning that today marks one year to the day since I did my last gig with Urban Folk Quartet in Guildford, my last indoor gig and indeed my last ‘real life’ gig of any kind apart from one gig in Shrewsbury town centre back in the summer. It has been the most extraordinary twelve months of my life (and indeed for everyone of course).
I’ve blogged elsewhere about being a musician in lockdown, but a year on it’s interesting to reflect on that particular gig. It was a very very strange gig and I’ve done some strange gigs in my time! I’ve played a little bit drunk (I didn’t know I was going to be playing or I would have been sober!) at a reenactment festival looking out at Roman gladiators and German Nazis (not real ones just for clarification). I’ve played songs I hadn’t the notion I knew during a four hour epic in Golden Bay in New Zealand before being crowd surfed. But this was a whole different kind of strange…
Four days earlier we’d played in York amid a very different atmosphere. By now of course the pandemic was in the news but to be honest I was still playing it down, as were many of us. The gig felt like a normal gig and the atmosphere in the car its usual jovial kind. Ben, the band’s sound engineer was more concerned than the rest of us it seemed and suggested to me that no this was not another bird flu! By the time of the Guildford gig, we had all realised he was very right indeed…
I turned up at Joe and Paloma’s as usual to travel on to the gig and when they answered the door I tried to jovially say ‘well I guess this is the last time we’ll do this for a while’. I think maybe I was trying to convince myself I was not too worked up about it…but I never was good at hiding things. The atmosphere in the car was bizarre as we sat musing on what beckoned and from a more selfish perspective the prospect of losing a whopping May solo tour and even more heart wrenching, two tours of Canada. I was terrified frankly. It’s not exactly the most secure job at the best of times let alone when something wipes out your work in one fell swoop!
We turned up at the gig and we were all extremely mindful of washing our hands and keeping our distance. Some audience members did same, some went for the usual handshakes…I’m not blaming them. I think we all processed the gravity of the situation at different times and in different ways. But my god, it was weird! We did our usual gig and I have to say it was a good one and the audience seemed to have a great time! Again, we tried to ‘make light’ of it all with jokes about how long it would be til we did this again and how contactless payments might be best in the interval…
The journey home was just horrible. We didn’t say a lot and my own journey home from Birmingham was quite the weirdest feeling. I felt such a contrast with my usual emotion at this stage in my journey – gig high, adrenaline, looking forward to a nightcap and bed…all replaced by discomfort and stress. I was facing the reality of my work disappearing, although I don’t think any of us could have seen for just how long!
I thank my lucky stars that online teaching was something I was already doing as it gave me something to build on. In addition, I embraced Facebook Live gigs for donations which worked brilliantly for a while (and is still something I enjoy) and I’ve now set myself up as a home recording artist, video editor and running a subscription page for banjo players. Somehow, I am still a musician and even more incredibly not all that worse off than I was!
But mentally, I miss performing. I miss travel. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss going out not just for a run to relieve the cabin fever! And I really really miss my band. In UFQ we really are great friends as well as colleagues. Not seeing them and indeed Joe and Paloma’s daughter Sabela has been agonising and I dearly hope before too long, we’re back out there or at least in rehearsals! Joining UFQ was an outstanding career and life move – let’s please restart that chapter soon!
How are you all doing? What a year eh! I’m treating today as my last working day of the year so my last lessons, recordings and whatnot so thought as part of that I ought to review what has been a mad old year.
It started off quite normal…back in January I was gearing up for my Australian tour in February and all was quite normal. Normal. As if my life has ever been normal of course being a full-time banjo player…but anyway off I went to sunny Perth at the end of January and I enjoyed an immensely fun and successful three week tour of Western Australia. I did plenty of gigs, went to a few sessions and saw some old friends and generally thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was hearing more and more in the news about some virus but I thought I’ve lived through swine flu, bird flu and ebola and nobody in my life had ever seemed to be affected much by them so I figured it would be another one of those…
I returned to Blighty and was gearing up for the annual Urban Folk Quartet spring tour in March/April and then my first UK solo tour in three years in April/May. Even as the UFQ tour started in York on March 9th, I was still quite sceptical as to how much impact this virus really would have…then four days later was our next gig in Guildford. The atmosphere in the car journey was very very different. By now it had become apparent that no this was not another swine flu…this was going to change things a LOT. We knew it was our last gig for a long time and sure enough, day by day, gig after gig disappeared from my diary. I held out hope that my May tour might be salvaged but clearly it wasn’t and then even more heartbreakingly my two tours of Canada in June and August were also off. The devastation was palpable not to mention the sheer terror of what on earth to do for money.
LIVE STREAM GIGS
I suppose in the end, my whole career has been built out of making things happen and being proactive so I set to work on doing live streamed gigs from my home with a paypal donations box. I have to say quite simply…thank you. So many of you donated so generously so many times and helped recreate some of that magic from a live gig with your comments. The withdrawal symptoms I was feeling from the adrenaline of travelling and performing was absolutely horrendous. I never realised just how much it had become a part of me and how horrendous the loss of it really would feel. It was like an alcoholic losing alcohol, a footballer never playing football again (that did also affect me as well of course although not in quite the same way…) or a thrill seeker having no more thrills. Since March 13th I’ve had precisely one in-person gig – in the centre of Shrewsbury. It was an emotional and wonderful occasion but that’s it. I haven’t tried touring – it just isn’t sensible. The live stream gigs plugged the gap, just about. And I will always be grateful to you all for helping me with them.
Where I was more fortunate than other musicians I know is I did at least have one income stream that was unaffected – skype teaching. Thanks to Ian Matthews who back in 2012 asked me ‘do you do skype lessons’ to which my reply was ‘no, but I should’. I didn’t know that eight years later it would save my bacon! My students have been nothing short of amazing and during the very strict lockdown really did help to keep me sane with their studies and companionship. And yes, financially I don’t know what I’d have done without them. I also ended up with a whole bunch of new students who have enriched my life considerably. Thank you, all of you.
I had never been near video editing in my entire life…but encouraged by Ciaran Algar and other chums doing split screen collaborations I thought what a great idea! So I asked a whole bunch of musicians I’d played with, admired, met, drunk with or thought would be fun to work with if they’d be up for a long distance collaboration. I’ve ended up with over 30 of them with heroes (Sharon Shannon, Gerry O’Connor, Leo Moran, Jez Lowe) students (Joe Danks), former collaborators (Will Pound) and even namesakes (Dan Walsh…from Canada). It’s been so much fun and kept my creative juices flowing. And I discovered editing videos and even ended up being paid for it a few times…whatever next!
I’d long planned to have some video teaching available to people online…again I bit that particular bullet and launched my patreon page with tabs, videos and whatnot. Thanks to all my patrons – they interact a lot with me and I really love hearing how much people have gained from it.
Again, I’ve never been a studio engineer. I’ve been in studios hundreds of times and have worked closely with engineers as they press their buttons (as it were) but I’d always been nervous about doing it myself from home. But I finally bit the bullet and am now recording banjo parts a-plenty from my home sort-of studio. I love it!
Finally I’ve been writing banjo tabs for people which I did a bit already but I’m now doing a lot!
Lastly, I have to thank my wonderful girlfriend Nicol. I’ve spent 2020 with her and she has been my rock, my strength and the best companion you could ever ask for. I don’t normally do coupley sap on the internet – but I couldn’t write a review of 2020 without mentioning her.
And here I am in December. When I reflect on the year it hasn’t turned out all that badly – I’m still a professional musician and I’m more set up for home earning than I ever have been that’s for sure! It’s forced me in to new directions to keep doing what I love and that will stand me in good stead even when some sort of normality does return. I miss performing like sin – that’s by far the hardest aspect of this whole sorry business. I’ve been through stress, anxiety and depression this year beyond anything I’d experienced in a long, long time. But in the end, it hasn’t turned out too badly. Somehow. But let’s hope 2021 brings some live music eh? Stay safe everyone and keep on keeping on.
Merry christmas y’all,
Whether you approach it economically, socially, psychologically, culturally…the arts matter. I can talk til I’m blue in the face about all these aspects but let’s start economically since that’s the only thing that matters to this government.
It’s estimated that the arts brings in £10billion a year. Just think how many jobs are wrapped up in arts – everyone who works in a theatre, cinema, concert venue. The many people who work in film and television. Actors, musicians, sound engineers, lighting engineers, directors, road managers, tour managers, agents, drivers. The export and brand value of Britain around the world is massively increased by our arts. When an event is on in town centres people come in and spend money in pubs, restaurants and shops. The vast majority of artists don’t get public money either, it’s not as if we’re all leeching off the government! Most of us are sole traders who pay taxes. So economically it works.
Then we come to what the arts are really all about. You know the way people with dementia transform before my very eyes because of music in to people who smile, sing and remember who they are. You know the way a little child’s face lights up when they see an instrument being played. You know the way I walked past a beer garden yesterday and a table of people were singing along to the song that was playing on the stereo. You know the way songs transport you back to a place in time because you remember the song being played there. You know the way song lyrics touch a nerve and make you cry. You know the way the music in a pub or club when you’re a bit pissed makes you dance. You know the way people smile, cry, laugh or just about any other emotion because of ART.
We need the arts. Without it we’re nothing. Just people existing to work and then die. You might be an enormous music, film, art or theatre fan. You might not be. But however you measure it the arts matter.
I’m not a musician begging to be given shed loads of money or major entitlements just because I’m an artist. I work bloody hard, I always have done and I pay taxes. Prior to the pandemic I had one arts council grant ever and everything else I do is just going about my work and being paid by whoever wants to pay me. I’ve adapted during this time to being an online musician best I can, I haven’t just sat back and waited to be saved. But I will not tolerate being told in an offhand way that we should just retrain and get other jobs because the industry is insignificant, economically unviable and not worth saving because it is incredibly significant, economically crucial to the country and for all of us, well worth saving.
After a few months off owing to sardine-gate, a dodgy shoulder and various other things I shall return to a bit of live streaming! An hour’s set on September 30th at 7pm from the facebook page. Mix of old and new and donations are welcome at the paypal.me page or you can subscribe to my Patreon for exclusive videos and banjo tabs and videos. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to hear.
It will be nice to get back to some kind of performing again. The drug is always there for me and as much as I’m enjoying my teaching and producing videos and tabs, performing is always something I relish!
I am delighted to announce the launch of my subscription pages on Patreon. Find it here: https://www.patreon.com/danwalshbanjo
I’ve been asked for ages to do some sort of online zone so now seemed the time! On it you’ll find lots of exclusive video performances, banjo tabs and instructional videos. Here’s the full breakdown:
£6 – Just The Performances
For those of you who are followers of me but not banjo players…this tier entitles you to two exclusive performance videos a month, one video a month looking in-depth at a song/tune and occasional perks like first listens, Q&A and giveaways
£12 – Banjo Tabs
All the above plus two banjo tabs per month of various difficulties
£18 – Banjo Heaven
All the above plus video lessons to accompany each tab plus two exclusive videos a month spoitlighting a particular area of banjo technique
There’s a few subscribers on already which I’m very pleased about! Do subscribe and join them! It all goes to a very worthy cause…
So I haven’t written a blog for quite a while. What a strange time it’s been eh? I’ve been up and down like West Bromwich Albion to be totally honest with you. I can broadly divide this year as follows:
1) The buzz of a live gig recording in the UK and then a tour in Australia
2) Returning and looking forward to my tours
3) The dawning realisation that this virus lark might be a bit more serious than swine flu was…
4) The utter devastation and misery at losing two tours of Canada, two band tours, a UK solo tour and a festival season
5) Perking up as I embraced the novelties of live streaming and music making all at home
6) Utter misery as I pined for touring and travel
7) A vague return to normal mood
And I guess that’s where I am…Thanks largely to my banjo students I have maintained an income and had social interaction! I’ve loved the teaching and it genuinely has kept me sane a lot of the time. I have also rather enjoyed the live streams, zoom gigs and recording work too. Particularly exciting was heading to London to record a banjo part on the new Ward Thomas album which was a lot of fun to do…especially as I only had three working left hand fingers at the time owing to an incident with a sardine tin. I’m fine now thankfully apart from a very small numb patch on my finger. Twit.
Otherwise I’m continuing to keep on keeping on. My second tab book is in the works – I’ve been arranging Irish tunes from the legendary O’Neill’s collection so I’m excited to be releasing that quite soon. I’m also writing plenty of new material and as many of you who follow me on facebook and such like will have noticed I’ve been doing my split screen collaborations with some mighty musicians including the legendary Sharon Shannon no less! I’ve got a MEGA exciting one coming up as well. Seriously can’t wait…anyway if you want to catch up on these videos head to my youtube channel.
Stay well everyone!
I’m delighted to say the live streams will return to my facebook page in the coming weeks! I’m doing four album themed gigs:
13 ‘Old Stuff’ – material from Tomorrow’s Still To Come, Walsh & Pound and The Same But Different – 7pm
17 ‘Incidents And Accidents’ – the whole album performed live – 1pm
27 ‘Verging On The Perpendicular’ – the whole album performed live – 7pm
31 ‘Trio’ – the whole album performed live – 1pm
Please note the planned Youtube Live won’t happen – it turns out it’s more difficult than I thought!
Thanks so much to everyone who ‘attended’ my gigs for Oxford Folk Weekend via Zoom and Stafford Live via Facebook. I had such a good time at both, the latter felt a lot like a virtual get together with Stafford chums while Oxford was a lovely experience as the app panned across various audience members clapping from their homes! To actually see an audience again was momentous!
A big thank you also to everyone who tuned in to UFQ TV week. We had a great time in the comments! Head over to our facebook page if you want to see what we did – a virtual gig, two live gigs, a live chat and…er…a cookery show. It was quite an experience and again very emotional too. Sadly it will be a long while I fear before we actually get to play together live again but this was a great way to plug the gap.
So what’s next – I’m live on Sunday thanks to Penrith Plug n Play who have been brilliant at carrying on their lovely gigs during lockdown. Open mic (excellent stuff) from 7 then I’ll be live at 8 for a full set. It’s in their facebook group but you don’t have to be a member or even have a facebook account – just head to https://www.facebook.com/groups/plugplay.email/
So what have I been doing? Well being a musician during lockdown is in many ways quite different from how I’d imagined. And not all in a bad way! It’s sort of pushed me to think about how I do my job in a different way. Skype teaching is the one thing that has remained unchanged and I have been extremely grateful for it! I’ve had to quickly learn how to edit video – I’m in the process of doing some split screen videos with other musicians. I’m also working on an online page of stuff you can subscribe to – I’ll keep you posted! Then I’ve been working on my new book of arrangements of Irish tunes, live streaming of course, writing music and writing arrangements for people. This latter one is something I’ve been doing since not long before lockdown and has been great fun. Someone asked me to arrange Beeswing by Richard Thompson and an old Mississippi John Hurt song…could be a lot worse!
I do of course miss seeing friends, having a pint down the pub, seeing family and of course live gigging and playing with my UFQ chums. I have good days and bad days but overall I’m just fine and I know am considerably luckier than many others. The support from you all in your messages, comments and tuning in to my ‘gigs’ has meant a lot and I am delighted to have brought some cheer with those performances.
Stay safe everyone,
I have to start by saying a massive thank you to all those who tuned in to my Facebook Live gig last Wednesday. Click on the link there if you missed it! I was so touched by how many of you tuned in, commented and donated to my paypal link. It meant the world to me that it seemed to bring people together at this mad time and it was wonderful to be performing again, albeit in a very different way. Huge thanks to my wonderful girlfriend Nicol who set up the room to look nice, adjusted lights, replied to comments for me and provided me with a real life audience!
So when’s the next one then?
APRIL 19TH 6pm-8pm via ZOOM
So please note this is NOT on facebook live this time. Oxford Folk Weekend have had the splendid idea of moving their entire festival online using Zoom. The advantage of this over Facebook Live is you will be ‘in the room’ with me in that I’ll be able to see and hear you. So I can play a load of numbers and in between we can have a bit of a chat, you can ask questions etc. Should be fun!
You can get your tickets here: https://fao.yapsody.com/event/index/524606/dan-walsh?fbclid=IwAR3kKIg7Wdw_JRG-fycMlPAbRTZgju9wwsSD3_kbRctkCYORkk6kD8K7YFs
Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Zoom. Once you’ve got your ticket which is ‘pay what you feel’, you will be emailed full instructions.
There will be more gigs on the way! One of my many cancelled gigs is also going ahead with the gig but online – thanks to Penrith Plug’n’Play! That gig will be on the facebook group for that particular gig (which is public) and will once again be totally live with a paypal donations page. Then I’ll do lots of gigs from my living room for you on facebook live and youtube live until all this madness is over! Any ideas for show themes let me know – I’m thinking of doing a covers gig, genre-specific gigs, artists that have inspired me. For now though I’ve put dates in the diary for April and May…
So the ‘Home Tour’ for April/May looks something like this:
01 Facebook Live – 7pm (THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR SUPPORT ON THIS ONE!)
19 Zoom Live Stream presented by Oxford Folk Weekend – 6pm
20-25 UFQ Live Week – my band will be doing a week of live stuff on our facebook page
03 Facebook Live presented by Penrith Plug’n’Play – 8pm
13 Facebook Live – 7pm (‘Old Stuff’ – material from Tomorrow’s Still To Come and Walsh and Pound)
17 Facebook Live – 1pm (‘Incidents and Accidents’ – the whole album performed live)
20 Youtube Live – 7pm
27 Facebook Live – 7pm (‘Verging On The Perpendicular’ – the whole album performed live)
31 Facebook Live – 1pm (‘Trio’ – the whole album performed live)
Hope you’re all well. Funny old time eh?!