Facebook Live on Wednesday!

Dear all,

Greetings to you all at this quite exceptionally weird time! Firstly, a quick note to say that as for obvious reasons gigs are off for a while I will be doing a facebook live gig on my page at 7pm (UK time) on Wednesday. I’ll be playing for an hour, a bit of everything from my stuff with future gigs likely to be a bit more ‘themed’. Any suggestions or requests welcome! There will be a donations page as I can’t earn from regular gigging so chuck in what you feel 🙂

The enormity of being housebound for so long has probably not really hit me yet. After all, between touring I’ve quite often spent a week or two at home working away on material, teaching, sorting out admin etc. But usually there’s trips out to play at care homes, down the pub for a couple of jars and further down the line GIGS! It’s certainly strange but I’m trying to make the best of it. I’m working on my next book and figuring out one or two potential roads to go down in making money online.

Stay safe folks and I’d love to see you (virtually) on Wednesday night

Danjo

Upcoming live stream gigs

Greetings from this newly home-based worker! I hope you’re all looking after yourself. Needless to say, the likelihood of any live gigs in the next few months is looking very slim indeed. I’m flattered to have got some lovely messages asking me to do some live streaming gigs – I do intend to do this in the coming weeks with a donations/tip jar page. I remember when I was a young kid in town with my mum, we saw a busker and I told my Mum that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. I never imagined it would be quite like this…

Like many, I’ve enjoyed watching living room streaming gigs during this time and as a serial performance tart I am itching to get back at gigging, whatever form it may take! To be absolutely honest with you all, to lose my May tour is devastating. I was so looking forward to it as it has been a few years since I’ve done a UK solo tour and I’m not going to lie, it was a big part of my financial plans too and that brings a lot of stress too. Forgive the melodrama here, but I’ve needed time to process it and maybe even mourn the loss of it. But it’s time to move on! So I will see you in the coming weeks for some live gigs from my house to yours. Thanks so much to everyone for lovely messages and especially to my brilliant banjo students who it is a pleasure to teach (and shout out to Ian for suggesting skype lessons eight years ago – bloody good job you did!!).

Touring/Corona update

TOURING UPDATE:
Trying to keep calm and drink tea! In light of the world situation I thought it worth updating on my touring situation as I have, on paper, a very busy touring period right through April, May and June particularly and beyond. Of course this has been thrown in to doubt but to be honest at the moment, there is no major news. Just a note this is all about my solo work. UFQ will be posting about things in due course (but thanks Guildford for a great gig last night!)

UK tour: As yet none of my public gigs have been cancelled so my April/May/June tour of the UK is, for now, not totally thrown out. All I can really do is monitor the situation like everyone else and make decisions as things change – of course it’s entirely possible that some or all of the gigs are postponed but there’s no real need to make decisions on this yet as it’s mid-March and the vast majority of my solo gigs are in May/June. It will be decided on a case by case basis as it comes up. Much of the tour is in folk clubs and similar venues which means crowds not in the hundreds and quite a few purely on door sales so it leaves a bit of wiggle room.

Canada tours: This I am dreading having to make a decision about. I’m scheduled for a June tour of eastern Canada and an August tour of Alberta, both trips including a big festival appearance. Again, I’m holding off making a firm decision over this until I have to.

So no real news I guess…but I just wanted to check in with everyone. It’s been a whirlwind week where it’s become clear just how serious this all is and how much it will affect the self employed and everyone else.

Not going to lie, it’s scary. A lot is tied up in my upcoming tours for my living and my future and to realise it could all be gone is bloody scary. Tours and festivals are by far my biggest earner. Another income stream is care homes which of course quite rightly has also been cut off. The one saving grace is much of my teaching is on skype so I can at least carry on with that (and perhaps look for more!). I am also looking into the possibility of online gigging during the crisis.

This is all rather a selfish stream of consciousness folks. I know there will be people worse affected than me and people to whom the actual health aspect of this is far scarier. The virus wouldn’t harm me too much I don’t think but I know that’s not true for many. Solidarity with you all – stay in touch. Keep calm and drink tea.

Thank You Western Australia

Dear all,

I write to you from Perth Airport after a lovely few weeks in sunny (rather too sunny on certain days…) Western Australia. It was my second trip to the region after a successful visit two years ago and once again I loved it! It’s quite a unique place for me to tour because unlike most of my foreign tours which involve travelling from one city to another each night, the bulk of my gigs on the tour were in or around Perth. This meant I could actually really settle into a place for a few weeks and feel like I rather belonged there which I’ve rarely experienced elsewhere – perhaps Wellington in New Zealand was a little bit similar. My dear old friends Kira and Austin kindly housed me for the bulk of the trip which was delightful and as with last time Kira performed at Hills Folk Club (she is a fine singer/pianist who I went to university with) and we did a song together as well as her sister Jane.

In addition to the gigs, I was delighted to attend a couple of Irish folk sessions on my nights off which took me right back to my university days of going to tune sessions with some serious quality players. Special shout out to Derrick, Dympna and Phil. It was so so good to play jigs and reels all night again! It’s rather inspired me to dig out some more of those glorious trad tunes and concoct a few good clawhammer banjo arrangements. Might even do another book…

The gigs were a joy. I particularly appreciated the last gig in Woodlands being attended by Australian banjo legend Ian Simpson who I managed to catch up with over tea today! He’s a serious player and it was great to chew the fat about all things banjo. He even came to my workshop at Zenith Music during my tour as well. Not intimidating at all…Check out this classic clip of him in the awesome Sensitive New Age Cowpersons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep-ZTaREZyo

But…it’s always good to get home too. I’m looking forward to being reunited with my lovely lady and my friends and family. Lots of gigs to come with UFQ on tour in the spring and then in solo action throughout the UK (for the first time in three years) through May and June and two trips to Canada! Oh and the release of the live album…More to come.

Pat, the star of my gig!

Dear all,

It’s been a good year for music thus far although, as usual, I’m not gigging (in a public sense) too much in January. There was one notable exception which was my live album recording in Stafford at the lovely Floodgate Ale House. It was a wonderful night (thank god) and producer Mark was impressed so I know I must have done ok (he’s not a man easily pleased…). Thanks to all those who came out, especially those who came quite a distance.

Other than that it’s been more of the teaching side of things with lots of lessons and my work in care homes which I love so much. As many of you know, alongside my touring and recording and whatnot I play a lot in nursing homes for those living with dementia. Yesterday was one of my favourite gigs ever. I played Fly Me To The Moon and I was playing the instrumental break between verses when a guy called Pat suddenly joined in and let loose with the words. He had an absolute monster of a voice which was in mighty fine fettle so I just strummed and he sang and the whole room of staff and residents broke into ecstatic applause with mouths wide open in astonishment. The sheer power and beauty in his voice was absolutely amazing. Happily, he wasn’t finished! A few more songs got the Pat treatment before the end and it was just magical. That is a gig I will absolutely not forget.

In addition to this, I did some training earlier this week in playing music on intensive care units for both newborn children and adults. It was a fascinating thing to look at the effect of music in yet another sphere, I can’t wait to give it a go myself!

So next up, Australia. They’ve been having a hard time of course with the fires although I’m on the opposite side of the country from the main danger zone. I sent an email to my old banjo student who lives in the ‘danger zone’ and he said that while it was extremely scary, it was heartening to see everyone pulling together. One of my newest songs, ‘Still A Town’ is about the community spirit evident in Stafford as the town centre continues to decline alarmingly. The strongest example is the iconic greengrocer with its beautiful thatched roof rather than standing empty is now a ‘social supermarket’. Stick with each other everybody.

Live album and tours!

Dear all,

I have some exciting news to share with you. My new album will be a live one! For the first time I’ll be releasing a live album which is to be recorded in January in my old hometown of Stafford. I’m really excited to capture the energy of the gigs, live solo versions of songs I’ve recorded down the years, some live favourites not previously recorded and a few new numbers too. The album will be available on my solo tour in April/May/June in the UK and Canada. Exciting!

Two foreign tours to tell you about then. It’s back to Australia in February as I head to WA for a couple of weeks after a successful visit back in 2018. Then in June I am super excited I’ll be back to Canada for my fourth tour of the east coast! It’s a beautiful part of the world full of wonderful people and I feel privileged indeed to be part of Prince Edward Island for a few days at the Festival of Small Halls.

As if all that wasn’t exciting enough, I’ve also been in the studio recording with UFQ. My parts are pretty much down now and the album is going to sound amazing! It is of great benefit to have a recording engineer and producer in the band so good old Joe has been hard at it and he has a lot more work to do still. Then again, listening to banjo all day can’t be all bad can it?

See you down the road!

Danjo

More than just gigging

Dear all,

I got up at rather an ungodly hour to head down to London for an event related to a marvellous organisation called the Amber Music Trust with whom I’ve been working for a year or so. After my recent holiday (yes that’s holiday!) in Wales I’ve not gigged in the fullest sense of the word but I’ve been keeping up with two other key parts of my work – teaching and what I guess is called outreach.

Outreach music work has been an amazing part of my life. It started way back in my university days really so about twelve years ago. I was invited by my old pal James in Stafford to come and do a day of workshops at the school he worked at for children with learning difficulties. I was utterly new to this work and quite daunted but I had a cracking day and the impact on the kids was something that stuck with me. Happily, I’ve continued to visit that same school quite often to this day. Shortly afterwards I joined Live Music Now working with Will Pound, Nic Zuppardi and on my own together with a few collaborations. That charity comprehensively changed my life. I’ve blogged about it elsewhere (https://www.danwalshbanjo.co.uk/live-music-now-the-charity-that-changed-my-life/) so I won’t go into it too much here but essentially it involved playing in all manner of settings such as special needs schools, care homes, mental health wards, homeless shelters and hospitals. It was an amazing time and after my time on the scheme ended a couple of years ago, I was determined to stay in the sector alongside my gigging and teaching.

Happily I’ve been able to do that. Nic and I signed up with Music in Hospitals which works on a similar basis. It was with this scheme that Nic and I had a cracking day in Norfolk and Suffolk on Tuesday seeing music make a firm difference once again. In the morning we were in a centre for adults with mental health and learning difficulties and after an initial shyness there was dancing, singing and a request fest (which frankly put me on my toes rather a lot) and a sense that music had transformed the day. Then we were off to a dementia care home where as usual music worked a unique kind of magic. It is amazing to see people sing who barely talk any more. To see people dance who barely walk. To see people smile who do so all too rarely. The room was full of joy and it was a wonderful afternoon.

Playing for people with dementia has become more and more of a driving passion and this was something I was determined to keep up post-Live Music Now. It astonishes me the impact it can have and music works in a way you would think was impossible. Time and again, staff at care homes are amazed by the reactions of residents to music. It often triggers so many memories and reunites people with their personalities. I’ve been playing a lot of them lately and happily I have a few I’m visiting regularly. 

I’ve also become involved with Make Some Noise, a brilliant charity based in my old hometown of Stafford which brings music to children, often of troubled backgrounds, in the form of hands on workshops and projects. I’ve had a great time working with other musicians in various projects and last night I was in Lichfield as part of a weekly music club for kids, again many of whom have a hard time in life. We worked on a couple of cover songs with them and it was almost tangible the happiness and sense of achievement this brought. I was only covering here so I’m not a regular part of the project but it was palpable just how important these sessions have been and are to the children.

And finally, I’m also working with the Amber Music Trust whose musicians work one to one with a blind child and their family. The first child I was assigned to sadly suffers many health issues and sessions were frequently cancelled so I only got to work with her once but again music clearly brought joy. The child was very profoundly disabled but music brought a very cheerful smile indeed…then along came my next assignment. This was the main thing I wanted to blog about. It is very difficult to put into words how truly extraordinary the child I am now working with is. He is blind and has severe autism as well as a life limiting illness. Music is his life! He has a keyboard and has an amazing ability to hear a melody and then play it. He has ‘Echo’, one of those speakers you talk to and it plays you stuff…he utilises it rather a lot! He hears songs and if he likes them, he’ll play them! His repertoire is extremely eclectic – Ed Sheeran, Milo, the Animals, Stoke City football chants, fart noises…The way his mind works is fascinating. ‘Call and response’ isn’t particularly his thing. It’s not simply a case of play him something and he’ll play it back. He hears it and when he wants to play it, he will and often it’s a session or so later than when I’ve tried introducing him to it. He takes musical information in all the time when it’s not obvious that’s what he’s doing. He’s started playing chords and multiple octaves now as well as some mighty rhythm playing on my bodhran. Handily for me, he also loves the banjo! Our duetting is really forging ahead now whereas to begin with he tended to just play short melodies he knew. He sings too and playing music with him is a joy for me and much more importantly it seems to be for him too. He’s a very cheerful soul and roars with laughter at some of the slide effects I do on the banjo. His wonderful parents are keen to get him a banjo. I’d better watch out! Working with him is extraordinary and has been a remarkable experience for me.

It is wonderful to continue the outreach side of things alongside my gigging and teaching. I love performing and I like to think I reach people through that too but in many ways it’s for me. It’s my release and my story. What an honour it is to help others express theirs. Ain’t music wonderful?

Grandpa

Yesterday I attended the celebration of the life of my extraordinary grandfather who passed away a few weeks ago. My mum’s dad was an inspiration to me and a towering presence in my life and my family’s life. In the last couple of years I’ve talked about him a lot from the stage as my trio performed my tune ’80 Years Of Pleasant Half Hours’ which I wrote for his 80th birthday. Sadly by this point he was too ill to come out and see a gig but he loved the fact that he was being talked about up and down the country!

As a kid, he even helped to inspire my obsession with music though he always played down his musical abilities. He performed in a skiffle group called the Cotton Pickin’ Five back in the 50s and he used to play guitar and sing to me in my youth. As I began my musical adventures we also used to play music together, something which I will always treasure. Happily some of this was recorded on video back in 2010 so I have these precious memories to watch.

My sister and I spent many many hours with him, my grandmother and my great grandmother when we were kids. He loved kids and took great delight in playing daft games with us and my cousins. In fact when I think about it, it’s amazing how active our adventures where when you consider that he was already physically not in great shape and his mother was hitting her 90s! As a slightly older kid and into my teens I continued to absolutely adore my extended family and the legendary new years gatherings were my favourite night of the year (and still are). Grandpa absolutely loved being the host and his hospitality was famous. Family meant everything to him – his children, grandchildren, parents and of course my quite phenomenal grandmother. His marriage to her is an inspiration to anyone and a real tale of true love. Family has played such an enormous part of my life and his influence on that is colossal. Yesterday the sense of an end of an era was huge yet his influence will of course live on each and every day.

Grandpa was an unfailingly practical person and it’s fair to say not always the most tactful about it! He had his fallings out with his children at times during his life and was a complicated character. Sometimes he blatantly looked for an argument as well and because he was irritatingly good at having them, the results could be explosive! But for someone who on paper was very conservative and very opinionated, I also found him a good deal more open minded, progressive and willing to learn than my assessment above suggests. It was of course easier for me being one more generation removed as there wasn’t that same ‘parent-child’ difficulty – it’s easier with grandchildren he actually said to me! In addition, he rather liked the fact that I’d give as good as I got and happily we never did fall out. Far from it. We disagreed. A lot. A lot a lot a lot. But we always came away from our discussions with a healthy sense of a debate enjoyed.

I spent my childhood looking up to him but If anything, my relationship with him was probably even closer as I hit adulthood. That practical streak was a big influence on me – I wouldn’t have said I was naturally an organised person or a pro-active person and the idea of me organising my schedule, flights, hotels, finances and everything seemed frankly terrifying in those days! But an immensely practical mother and grandfather and a massively driven self employed Dad were a big influence and somehow I’ve made a career out of this banjo lark. Grandpa embraced email way before most people and we exchanged very regular messages which featured his magnificent way with words, something else which fed into my life as my UFQ bandmates have frequently told me – ‘I don’t know a single other person who says that!’. I absolutely loved telling him about my career and his pride and interest in it continued to drive me on and I will so sorely miss telling him all about my travels. Happily, he did make it to a good few gigs too – my first ‘proper’ theatre show at Stafford Gatehouse and remarkably my appearance at Shrewsbury Folk Festival back in 2011 where he raised his hand as I gave him a shout out from the stage. In the later years, before his health declined further he also attended my gigs at a pub near to where he lived where it so happens I met my future girlfriend too. I played there mainly so he could attend – it is therefore because of him that I’ve met my partner, a fact which he immensely enjoyed! He welcomed her as he welcomed every other partner who has come into the family and it is a source of great joy to me that they got to know each other and he regarded her so highly.

Not going into details too much, but during some very difficult personal periods he was also a tower of strength for me. My grandparents’ location in Shropshire was absolutely ideal. Although I was living in the northeast I was frequently back in Stafford for longish periods and so always took the opportunity to head over on the train where he would meet me at the station in his electric buggy. I relocated back to Stafford in 2012 and recently to Shropshire itself and it has been such a joy to see so much of my grandparents. The many evenings spent ranting away over a glass of something nice were…well as he would say, a very pleasant half hour.

I’ve mentioned his health – he truly was incredible in this regard. He defied the odds year after year despite being medically retired in his late 40s and being convinced he wouldn’t last much beyond 60. I never once heard him complain about it – he had so many conditions and was confined to barracks so much which for a naturally active person who relished travel must have been hard. But he always focused on what he could do and not what he couldn’t and as mentioned above, embraced email very early, wrote books, came to whatever gigs and occasions he could and of course enjoyed the company of his family and in particular his extraordinary wife. He also encouraged my Granny to continue to enjoy trips, outings, walking and all the other activities she loved and relished hearing about them when she returned. The distressing period near the end where he lost his sight and began to lose his faculties was mercifully short and my abiding memories are of a larger than life character with an amazing positivity, wonderful humour, innate hospitality and a very strong moral sense. He adored his family who all adored him and I am of course greatly struggling with the idea of never going round for a rant over a drink again or sending him an email or postcard from my tours abroad. I’ll miss his sage counsel and his unconditional support. But I will forever treasure having 32 years of my life with him firmly a part of it and his colossal influence will live on in me always.

Chicago Airport

Dear all,

Greetings from Chicago Airport where I have been since 617. I don’t mean the year 617 although frankly it slightly feels like it…it’s now 9.30 here and it’s still a good four hours before I board my flight to San Francisco. I’m so grateful to American Airlines for moving my flight from Lansing to Chicago three hours early. Anyway…

I am tired but glowing with pride and happiness about the wonderful Midwest Banjo Camp which I’ve just been teaching and performing at alongside many of the world’s finest banjo players and some of my own heroes. Such a great atmosphere permeated throughout the camp during all the classes, sessions and concerts. Special thanks to my old mentor Ken Perlman for having me and to all the lovely students and fellow instructors. It was an amazing way to start my US tour.

It’s been a busy old time! The trio tour was great fun and it was lovely to see so many of you at the gigs. The album seems to have gone down well too with some lovely reviews (although one spent two paragraphs focusing on a previous one he didn’t like which seemed an odd move…). I’ve been on the radio a fair few times which has been very nice and I gather more is in the offing.

I must say America is great to be in (once you’ve managed to sort your visa and political leaders aside….) but there are some quite interesting misunderstandings. For one thing, I never realised my name was so complicated. I’ve always thought of Dan as quite a simple name. Yet here it causes no end of trouble. A typical introduction to someone goes like this:

‘Sorry what was your name?’

‘Dan’

‘Don?’

‘No, Dan’

‘Don?’

At which point I either have to just go with Don or do a terrible American accent and say ‘Day-en’.

There are one or two other language barriers too. I saw a sign at Chicago airport today which read ‘anyone who asks if you need a ride shouldn’t be giving you one’.

New album and book!

Dear all,

It’s been a rather lengthy break in bloggage for which I apologise and I can only say it’s because I’ve been ferociously busy! Work has been its usual mix of things but I’ve also moved out of Stafford would you believe and am now a resident of Shropshire! So all in all it’s been a rather fun time. I’ll bring you up to speed on all the giggage but firstly two very important announcements…

NEW ALBUM!

Yes I have a new album out and it comes with reinforcements. After two very solo-heavy records, this album is simply called ‘Trio’ and every track features the mighty Ciaran Algar and Nic Zuppardi. I’m really very happy with it and we’re touring it as we type – greetings from a travelodge somewhere near Cambridge…There’s one or two numbers that have been in my set for a while – the bluegrassy opener Late Night Drive and the bluegrassy closer One Eye Open – but largely this is brand new stuff and there’s a fair mix as usual with nods to my fondness for Eastern European and Indian stuff, Irish and Scottish tunes and some fairly optimistic songs (no, really!) about people and places. Check it out and get your copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Trio-Dan-Walsh/dp/B07QDQ141J/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=dan+walsh+trio&qid=1557502488&s=gateway&sr=8-1

Our remaining tour dates are:

Tonight! Cambridge Folk Club

https://cambridgefolkclub.co.uk/

11 WOLVERHAMPTON Newhampton Arts Centre
17 ASHINGTON SUSSEX Music At The Buildings
19 WOODBRIDGE SUFFOLK The Froize
22 STAFFORD Gatehouse Theatre
26 NORTH YORKSHIRE Swaledale Festival (Extra show added due to demand)
28 MALDON Blue Boar
29 MILTON KEYNES The Stables
30 LEICESTER The Musician
31 BRISTOL Folk House

 

NEW BOOK!

My book is out and is available here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tabs-Vaults-clawhammer-compositions-arrangements/dp/1093336242/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=dan+walsh+tabs+from+the+vaults&qid=1557502600&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull

I am so thrilled that this book is finally here. I’ve worked hard on it for quite a while now so I’m really pleased that it’s available online and from me very soon if you’re at a gig! It features tabs of tunes recorded across four studio albums including the new one. It’s aimed primarily at those of you who have been picking for a while rather than beginners, but it does include some helpful tips and guidance (I hope!) alongside the tabs.

So how’s it been going then? Well jolly well. Firstly the UFQ spring tour was a big success with lovely gigs around the country which even included a couple getting engaged at our gig in Church Stretton! That was definitely a first! In amongst the band gigs I was out on my own a few times too including a return to none other than the Market Vaults in Stafford. I never thought I’d be playing the old faithful again with the departure of Oli and the arrival of an absolute bonehead but thankfully bonehead has departed and thanks to the wonderful Ben the pub is back and in sensible hands. It was a great night 🙂

I’ve also been doing some work in schools and care homes which has been absolutely lovely. I watched a BBC show the other night about music and dementia. Hats off to Vicky McClure and her dementia choir for a wonderfully uplifting bit of television and a reminder to everybody of the sheer power of music to those suffering from this highly cruel disease. Music penetrates in a way nothing else does – I’ve never forgotten all these care home gigs where people barely able to speak anymore can still sing the whole of Sunny Side Of The Street and even learn new songs and be familiar with them. Amazing stuff.

Interesting to read about Danny Baker’s dismissal. Leaving aside the fact that I have always found him about as entertaining as touching a raw chilli and then inserting my hands in my eyeballs, I was rather astonished that a man who has been in the media for as long as he has never got the memo that it’s not ok to be a small minded racist idiot not to mention then blaming his entirely appropriate sacking on pomposity. Given that he managed to not post a picture of a chimp in relation to Kate’s children, I’m thinking his claim this wasn’t race related is a little thin…