Check out my new album Turquoise Blues distributed by TuneCore and live on iTunes!

I've recently contracted Meniere's disease which has robbed me of my hearing, and so doing live gigs to earn a living has been impossible. they say it will eventually cure itself, but as there's no  known cause and no sure fire cure I just have to live with it, and wait for it to clear of it's own accord. From day to day it fluctuates, some days I can barely hear anything, next day, I may hear at about 50%, but with bad tinnitus. On very occasional days my hearing will return to almost normal and I think it's gone away and cured itself only to wake the next morning to find myself plunged back into the world of almost silence.

As a working musician this makes playing live gigs impossible so that's my lively hood on hold unless of course I could sell the music I have recorded online. I've have albums on apple itunes, and also on a site called bandcamp. The big problem is of course marketing, when there's millions of other artists and bands trying to do the same thing, how on earth do you cut through all this and reach fans that may buy my music. I'm with tunecore which posts my songs to spotify and other streaming stations but the earnings here are pitiful, 0.03 cents for one play is not going to pay the bills. On another site called bandcamp fans can download my album for nothing or pay what they like. Someone once paid me almost $15 for my album, One life to live, which was recorded with some friends and we called ourselves The Beat Combo, in fact that little team made an album back in 2008 that is also available on both sites but I'm afraid both albums have sold less than 20 songs from both albums. It's not they're duff albums, both are joyfull and well recorded with some class songs on both.

So in the world of instant access, it's still all about marketing. Sell your songs to millions of fans world wide says the tunecore ads and keep 100% of the royalties, all for a one off payment of $29-95. Sounds too good to be true, and in the end it is. Some are probably doing great business with this new model music industry, but I'm not and I wonder how many more of us have signed up, payed the fee and have made less in a year than the fee to join in this new internet game.

I'm not saying that it isn't possible, but wading through all the marketing stratagies that are bound to make it all happen is overwhelming, and so I've been happy to continue in the old fashioned way of going out there and playing live, and selling a few albums at the end of the gig. But since contracting Meniere's this has been impossible so I'm going to have another push at online sales until this dreadful affliction, especially for a working musician goes into remission and I can get back on the road.


Moving to a new blogger address

I know there's only a few of you that follow this blog but I now have a new blog called Capt's blog and its here http://novicestonavigaters.blogspot.com/  This is the new place to find me and leave comments. Or you will also find the same prose here as well. http://www.sailblogs.com/member/colinjackie/. you're very welcome to join us in our journey.

Very few postings will appear here so bookmark the links above.

Bye for now.


Enough of the trumpets

Enough of the trumpets, Jackie said.
It’s been one of those sort of weeks, our very last week at Ford Park where we’ve both toiled  for over ten years. I don’t say worked because it has never been a job in the sense of the word,  it’s been more of a mission. We were both recruited shortly after the trust was set up to save and develop this almost derelict country estate on the edge of town. Back then it was an overgrown gone to seed space, home to teenage drinkers and druggies. With a down at heal boarded up  grade 2 listed country house, an adjoining boarded up coach house, and the remnants of a walled Victorian kitchen garden, oh and the playing fields.
Now it has been transformed into a beautiful open space with a natural playground, the fields planted out with tens of thousands of spring flowers,  an avenue of lime trees, countless new oak, silver birch and beach trees with an Atlantic cedar right in the middle.

The Coach house  is a thriving five star cafĂ© with new offices, a community room with a roof terrace with stunning views  across Morcambe bay , and behind it the majestic Sir John Barrow monument three hundred feet above us  on top of Hoad hill. Of course we can’t pay claim to Morcambe bay and Hoad hill, they’ve both been there for a million years or more, but we seem to have made a difference to Ford Park.
We didn’t achieve all of this single handed, but I suppose we did become the captain and first mate who, with the help of countless shipmates steered our ship through some mountainous storms, caught the fair winds, and prevailed when we languished in the doldrums.
Many faces of the crew aboard the good ship Fordusparkus have come and gone over the years, some have perished on the voyage, others moved on. I’m talking here of the trustees, the members, or friends, and above all the volunteers.,
All of us have together have transformed this tiny corner of the world and left a lasting legacy for our adopted town of Ulverston, and this week in particular has been filled, for us with a constant stream of verbal accolades from so many acquaintances, some who have become close friends, others we hardly know.
It’s a very humbling experience, to know how much all this toiling away  has touched so many lives, and each and everyone wants to heap praise and tell us how it was all down to us. To my mind it was all down to the skipper,  Jackie, I was simply carrying out orders, but in the eyes of the crew and the supporters we achieved something special, and I suppose we did,
Leaving any port you’ve grown fond of is always going to be an emotional wrench, and so it is a hundred fold with this departure. Our sights are now set on new horizons and we just want to hoist our sails and slip quietly out on the rising tide. The goodbyes are just too overwhelming, as  I suppose is befitting after such a tempestuous voyage of over a decade, but we leave not with a heavy  heart but with the satisfaction of knowing we made a difference.
But enough of the trumpets already.

A walk down memory lane

There used to be a television series called “Last of the summer wine”  which was a gentile sitcom about a bunch of old friends who, now retired, would wander the surrounding countryside of their village in the Yorkshire dales having adventures. They had reverted to being children, and although now well into old age they revelled in pranks and foolish games, to the annoyance of their wives who took tea and tended the day to day necessities of life.
Yesterday I met up with my childhood friend, Malcolm. We grew up in the same street  together on the outskirts of Barrow. The road we lived in, Yarlside road, petered out into the countryside of hedgerows and famers fields. In fact in my first few years we lived in a lane, where on the opposite side of the road,  were hedgerows and beyond that fields. By the age of reaching ten those hedgerows would begin to be transformed into a new housing estate, we would soon be no longer living in the country side.
Just a short walk from our homes, less than a few minutes, we would be in country lanes where Yarlside road would finish and the countryside would begin. In those days we would have this as our natural playground, in the Spring we would comb the hedgerows for birds nests, but often we would make our way over the farm gates into an area we knew as “the forts”.

Playing out up the forts today Mala?
The forts were not forts, but the remnants of a long since abandoned mine works, where many years before we were born they used to extract very high grade  iron ore called hematite.
The whole area of, perhaps 100 acres was littered with collapsed mine shafts that formed holes in the fields, cordoned off with barbed wire that plunged deep into the ground. We could easily sneak under this barbed wire and drop stones into these chasms and count the seconds to see how long it took for the  thwack of the stone to reverberate back up the hole, one and two and  three, crack.
There were other holes that were  always full of water, collapsed holes that had been dug perhaps or just collapsed and sealed themselves. Around some of these were “the forts” Huge lumps of concrete structures that would have  housed the guns of Naverone. With the 2nd world war having  ended just before we were born we christened them the forts. But more than likely they were simply part of the rush for iron ore in the early part of the 20th century, or perhaps earlier than that.
But to us as kids it was a magical area where we could conjure up all kinds of games and scenarios.
Back then a railway line still ran from this outpost to connect up with Roose station a couple of miles away although no  engines ever rolled down this disused  branch line. There were signs that in a distant passed other lines had criss crossed this hillside, perhaps dumping spoil that now was gassy humps. One of these  humps was known as “rice pudding”. Rice pudding was a prominent bump in the fields that we often sat upon as a rendezvous point as we waited for our mates to arrive back in the 50’ when we used to play around there.
Today it looked quite inconsequential but back then with it’s conical shape it was Everest to us well Hillary had just climbed  Everest. Rice pudding is about 30ft high.
Fifty five years  later, on  a  glorious late summer afternoon me and Mala went to revisit our old playground, and it’s still there almost the same as we left it all those year ago. The only difference being that it was now surrounded by barbed wire fencing. No cattle or sheep graze here so the thistles and nettles have taken over. The ponds are covered in weeds and are a haven for dragonfly, in fact it’s become a sanctuary for wildlife. We saw a dragonfly the size of a small sparrow and Kestrels hovering and waiting to strike.
We took in the immense vista from Morcambe bay to the  Furness fells and marvelled  at the privilege at being able to grow up in such a stupendously beautiful place. We sat on the edge of one of the “forts” with a   twenty foot drop into one of the ponds below , like we perhaps did all those years ago when proving  our bravado would have been so important , today I sat a long way back.
We  walked, and talked, as old friends do about the past  about how life has twisted and turned, about our kids, about our plans for the future, but most of all we just enjoyed revisiting this special place in our childhood,  a place fraught with the most abject dangers that we just took for granted back then in the late 50’s.
It was a wonderful place to grow up in, a huge leap from there into the world of rock n roll, where we both ended  up, me into sound engineer, Malcolm as a soundman for the  BBC, me with my own recording studio, walking the fields of our youth,.
A fitting end to my time in England,  a walk down memory lane.



So I hungout on Google plus, which to say the least was a very scary experience, but in the end it wasn't anywhere near as bad or difficult as I had imagined, The host Johnathan was very forgiving and friendly and did a great job in connecting us all up. like all live events it had it's moments. Some of the artists never quite got connected, others had sound problems, like at gigs, but all in all it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

looking back at the recording I think I need to do a little less talking and stop scratching my face, saying errr a little less and get my instrument into the frame.

There is something going on here though as a vehicle for getting our music out to more people it's a great format, and in it's own way entertainment.

at the moment it's difficult to find, you have to know how to find it, which isn't easy but in time we will find a way to make it more accessible.

So after my first excursion into open mic in cyberspace I can only give it a big + and I shall be recommending my friends to join us on this 21st century way of getting our music out to the masses.

Thanks again Johnathan for a great job in hosting an intriguing concept, I look forward to being with you all again.  


Open mic on Google plus

Tomorrow night, that's Sunday 17th I'm going to be taking part in this Open mic songwriters showcase on Google plus. Maybe you read my last blog and know all about this but if not here's what it is.

There's someone who plays host and is joined by another nine songwriters live at a predetermined time, this ones at seven in the evening. We all connect via the host via some sort of you tube connection, and the show lasts for about two hours.

I've checked out a couple of these and then the other day I noticed that they still had one slot still available so I messaged the guy who was hosting it saying, perhaps foolishly that i would like to do the 3rd slot which was still empty. He came back to me and said OK, so that was it I'm now committed.

So I rigged up my mic through the desk in the studio and ran it through my old soundblaster external sound card, that still seemed to work, put on a pair of headphones and fired up the webcam. Next thing was to try and connect with Jackie via this thing called Hangouts on Google plus. This is a sort of one to one affair a bit like Skype I suppose. Well it seemed to all work ok except that I was a bit dark, so I need a bit more light but seemingly the sound was fine, I was at Ford park, Jackie was home in Sun Street. Tomorrow night this set up will have to work across the Globe.

Now there will only be nine of us in the songwriters open mic hangout room but one of them is in India, the rest in the States. In fact all the participants I've seen have been in the Americas, they seem to have sussed it out first, but they're doing this one at an earlier time to try to encourage musicians from Europe to get involved.

As far as I can see there's so much that can go wrong, cause in the end it's all connected up with bits of wire and wireless connections, somethings bound to fail. Although saying that the ones I've watched have had very little in the way of glitches, and what glitches there have been have in a way made it entertaining. Well maybe not entertaining, maybe thats the the wrong word. But you know what I mean, it's like going to see any live event, there's always that air of flying by the seat of your pants.

So here it comes, tomorrow at 7pm, we even get a soundcheck half an hour prior to the show going live, so even though I don't know what is going to occur there will be some preamble where hopefully I'll understand how it all fits together and works.

Back in the year 2001, when the internet was new I used to run a recording studio where we had a webam to film our artists. I would record them and then afterwards encode the video on real producer and upload it to our website. It would be so compressed because we were all running on 28k modems that it was very pixalated, but I could get it all done within an hour or so, almost live. To think that it has taken 10 years to get to do what we were trying to all those years ago. but now we've all have broadband it's all come to pass.

So I suppose that's why I diving in to this tomorrow, so wish me luck, and if your plugged into google plus come and join me, and the other nine songwriters on our global open mic experiment.


Discovering G+

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I've just turned sixty five so maybe I should have known better, maybe I should have just stuck with learning to play the ukulele. There seem to be this "new" network  that I needed to figure out. How difficult could it be, well here's how.

I'm not sure how this all started but a few weeks ago I decided to have a look at Google plus.
I was coming at it after using facebook for quite a number of years, and I thought it was just a google copy, but in the end it was nothing like it. But after a crash course of teaching myself how to use it I'm now converted and doubt I'll be staying with FB too much longer.

The big thing about G+ thats tricky to get at first is the concept of circles. You get presented with these little round blobs that are labeled Friends, Aquaintences, Family, Following, VIP, and other stuff I can't recall. It tells you to drag people into your circle, but of course you've no one to drag, cause as yet you have no contacts in G+. And then again, dragging somebody to join your circle seems a bit on an uncivilised way to go about making friends with people, especially people you don't know.

But first things first, you can't see any link that is entitled CIRCLEs, there's some link called Communities,but the next button down is Explore. The other confusing thing here is the menu bar down the left hand side that looks like its greyed out, it's not really cause when you put your mouse over it it wakes up and you can click it.  Makes perfect sense now but at first it was just another confusing thing about G+.

So you click the explore button, looks a bit like a compass, which is a bit old hat as us sailors are all on GPS, but then maybe that's a bit obscure as an icon, anyway I digress.

So you click on explore and get a stream of whats "hot" postings, random postings from people and places you don't know, so you browse one or two but there's no way of knowing how I make friends like I used to on FB, So I wander around aimlessly.

I skip events and try Communities. Now this is where it gets interesting. Looks like there are collections of users, into all aspects of life. Be it baking, books, politics, philosophy, Heavy metal, fixing machines, in a word an endless array of icons to scroll through. I find one called recording engineers, I click it and I'm taken their page where there's some fascinating discussions going on about studios and techniques, or about tech talk. But to me it was fascinating so I clicked a big button that said Join this community. So I did.

Next thing I'm bombarded with emails telling me that so and so has posted a comment in that forum, so eventually I go back and unlink myself from that G+ stream, and the notifications stop, thank goodness.

I dip my toe once more into these murky waters of G+ and discover this button called hangouts. What a horrible word I think but there's a link to a songwriters open mic hangout that intrigues me.Open mic on the net, what's this.

Well it turns out to be a gathering of nine people who play and interact with each other over a couple of hours, live, that I can watch in real time. There's one guy who's been doing gigs in second life????????????
All of this is too much for a 65 year old brain to quite comprehend but i'm intrigued.

Hangouts are like mini conference calls I suppose with people connecting with people via video on subjects they are into, I happen to see this musicians link up as being fun, and scary at the same time, but I want to try it out.

So here I am, my circles are a bit more organised, I've joined some communities and I'm interacting in what I think is a meaningful way. I plus 1, now and again, even though I don't quite understand what that signifies, and have tried sharing.

It amazes me how lots of you out there seem to connect, and understand how this stuff works, to me it's still work in progress.

No doubt it will all become clear soon, but for the last few weeks it's been very confusing, but sort of fun.