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04
Apr

A Word From Our Sponsor

Written by Matt Backer on 04 April 2016.

Mid September in London now, (not April 4 as it says up there - I must learn how this works) and suddenly the festival season is over. Laura Mvula's "Sing To The Moon" has been nominated for a Mercury award, and she's been all over US TV recently. I'm proud of my small contribution to that wonderful album.

"Let's Art", the opening track on "Idle Hands", seems to have had some kind of banned preservative injected into it as it's shelf life at US radio seems to have been extended. At the time of writing, it sits one place below Bruno Mars' "Treasure" on the FMQB chart at number 13. I look at the chart and see my name there along with Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 and wait for the alarm clock to go off. It's also at number 1 on the New Music AC 40 Indie chart as well as number 1 on the Independent Music Network mainstream chart. Thanks to Larry Weir and team for all his hard work getting it there.

It was a fun and varied summer, beginning in Monte Carlo at the Whitefeather Foundation Gala Ball. Julian Lennon's charity got off to a fine start with an auction hosted by Whoopi Goldberg in the presence of Prince Albert, his lovely wife and a raft of celebtities. The charity is currently focusing on establishing sustainable supplies of fresh water to parts of the developing world particularly affected by drought or flood. Well worth investigating.

The festival season kicked off with Bananarama at Rock the Moor. ABC toured the West Coast of the USA and enjoyed the sunshine, and suddenly we found ourselves soaked to the skin in Liverpool and Western Ireland. More festivals followed in more clement conditions. I also enjoyed performing with Nick Heyward, Paul Young, Rick Astley, Marc Almond and Mick Wilson as well as playing Abbeyfest and the Stendhal Festival near Derry in Northern Ireland under my own name. This could be habit forming!

Forthcoming activities will include a trip to the Netherlands with ABC, the Far East with Belinda Carlisle and Bananarama, and gigs of my own on Friday October 25 at the Colourhouse Theatre in Abbey Mills in South London (accompanied by the fine rhythm section of Jim Kimberley on drums and Simon Edwards on bass), an acoustic show at the Dublin Castle in Camden the next day and another show at the Dublin Castle on November 13, but this time with SImon and Jim. I must figure out how to work that calendar thingy over there on the left...



You'd be forgiven for thinking it was January here in overcast London with temperatures barely above freezing. I was in the Netherlands for a concert and some radio shows (thanks to Mandy Taylor and Six Degrees Entertainment) over Easter and it was snowing. It seems that we have entered into a "Game Of Thrones" type of world with an endless winter.

Only a few weeks ago I was in Key West with my musical comrade Ian Shaw (and "Idle Hands" co-producer) recording an album with south Florida blues legend Bill Blue. He's a true southern gentleman who played with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup (who wrote Elvis' first single "That's All Right Now Mama") before establishing his own reputation in the 70's by doing it the old fashioned way-getting out there and doing it. It was nice to be recording in a room with a group of musicians all moving air simultaneously. Also the old fashioned way. I even managed to get some scuba diving in and do some radio shows touting my wares.

Prior to that I had the pleasure of contributing to"Sing To The Moon", the debut album by Laura Mvula, a new signing to RCA. Produced by another longstanding colleague, Steve Brown, (Rumer, Steve Coogan amongst others), she's a fascinating new artiste who sounds unlike anyone else, with the possible exception of Steve Reich and Roberta Flack's musical love child.

Another artist whose album "Life In Easy Steps" I played on, Rob Vincent, has been receiving deserved radio and press attention in the UK. Another old mate and Grammy winner Pete Smith (Sting, Joe Cocker, Peter Bruntnell) produced that.

"All That You've Wanted", my duet with Julian Lennon, the first single from "Idle Hands", continues to rack up radio play in the US, crossing over categories and, at the time of writing, is number 1 on the Western Regional chart and number 26 on the national FMQB chart. Julian and I also won Best Group/Duo at the New Music awards. A video for "Let's Art", the album's opening track and next single, has just been completed, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

"Idle Hands" is now available on on Itunes, Amazon, CDBaby and even record shops (remember those?) near you, on Right Recordings through Nova/Universal. The single is available as a download too. I've been travelling around the UK visiting BBC and independent stations all over the country who have been very supportive. It's also had some plays on Radio 2. It's an interesting new thing for me to be out there playing my own music and being the one being interviewed.

Before 2012 was out, I had the great pleasure of playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane with ABC and the Southbank Sinfonia, playing "Lexicon Of Love" in it's entirety, with Ann Dudley conducting. Who can believe that it's 30 years? I should add thanks to Martin Fry at this juncture, who contibuted another marvellous duet on "Idle Hands" as well as some fine backing vocals. The Winter Solstice was celebrated with Bananarama as part of a celebration of PWL Records' legacy featuring Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Rick Astley and many others at London's O2 Centre. Not a bad way to end the year!

Thanks very much, and thanks to all the radio stations and listeners who have supported the music. And thanks to Julian and Grant Ransom for the fine production on "All That You've Wanted"!


Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like bananas. Summer's nearly over and I haven't written. Guess I've been busy again.
Emilia Mitiku is a wonderful new artiste signed to Warners Music with a voice that sounds like a cross between Billie Holliday and Dolly Parton and songs that she likes to call "Vintage Pop". Covering elements of country, jazz and soul, it's hard to believe she's Swedish of Etheopian descent. BBC Radio 2 has featured her heavily and I've been doing some low key acoustic gigs with her, accompanied by the lovely Lily Gonzales and the equally lovely James Nisbet.

The festival season got into full swing so there were plenty of performances in Europe and the UK with ABC, Holly Johnson and Tony Hadley. And Rewind Henley and Rewind Denmark had me in the house band playing with Heather Small, Sinitta, 5 Star, Roland Gift, Marc Almond, Jimmy Somerville, Midge Ure, Rick Astley, T'Pau, John Parr, Dr. And The Medics and, building a city from rock n' roll, Starship. A mere 70 songs.
I will be writing more soon, however, as my next solo album, "Idle Hands", will be released in September on Right Recordings. Watch this space!

Sitting in Doha Airport waiting to connect back to London, it occurs to me that 2012 has been busy and I haven't bothered to write about it!
Naughty me. I'll try to catch up. I've just performed at the opening of the new Hard Rock Cafe in Dubai with Bananarama. Just the other day I was on stage with the wonderful Rachel Morrison for the first time in many years when I got to sit in with Bliss at the Blues Kitchen. And next week I'll be in Germany with Tony Hadley along with my colleagues Andy Carr and Simon Merry, who accompanied me on this trip and ABC's recent foray to the Porsche Music Festival in Stuttgart. No rest for the wicked...

Thanks to Brandon Bakshi at BMI for organising a great weekend of writing and recording in Kingston, Jamaica for the second year running. A dozen or so writers from the UK, US and Jamica had a creative and productive time, coming up with 22 trtacks in 5 days across a vast spectrum of music. Participants included Italee Wartson, Don Yute, The Bombay Dub Orchestra, Jessica Bennett, Tony Grund, Patrick "Jester" Jordan , Dizzle and, of course, Wrench. Much ackee was consumed. A swift trip into Metropolis Studio with Rumer was then followed by a trip to the amazing ICP studios in Brussels to contribute guuitars and a few BVs to mmy old friend Greg Darling's new album. Got to hook up briefly with Julian Lennon, whose fab new single "I Thought It Was Me" is out now. Then it was off to Key West in Florida to hook up with my old Warmfuzz buddy Ian Shaw who has relocated there to record some blues. It's a dirtey job, but someone's gotta do it.
I hope I'll be able to report on release details for my next album - I've been in talks with a number of people looking for the best partners in the venture. It's been done for ages, so let's get it out there!

How can another year have passed so quickly? The start of 2012 sees me looking back at a mad second half of 2011.Following the end of the Festival Season, my old friend Julian Lennon finally put out his first album in 12 years "Everything Changes" (I can talk - yes, I'll put mine out!!) and got some positive feedback. The first single "Looking 4 Love" is a corker, and I was pleased to be involved in that, the album and the accompanying video. My touring commitments meant I couldn't help with the promotion as much as I'd have liked, but we got to do our first acoustic performance together in over a decade on the final episode of Bob Harris' BBC Radio 2 retrospective of "The Old Grey Whistle Test", which was a hoot. No rehearsal, just bang in. Old school.
October continued with various trips to Points East. Singapore with Bananarama and Belinda Carlisle, then home, then off to Australia with ABC. Then back to the UK in November in time to start a UK tour with Rumer, which culminated in an appearance at the Albert Hall late that month. The following night, I was still there, doing my second appearance with Julian in over a decade (the first with a band and in front of an audience) at the Prince's Trust Rock Gala, in the company of Tim Minchin, The Feeling, Joss Stone, Boy George, Pete Townshend and others. Mark King and Midge Ure lead the cracking house band. And the Albert Hall staff let me keep my gear there overnight!

Off to German arenas with ABC at the start of December, and then I finished off with a gig at the Blues Kitchen in Camden which resulted in a lovely review in the London Evening Standard. My thanks to Joe Cushley, Jim Kimberley, Simon Edwards, Elisa Backer, Rob Hughes, and the legendary Martin Fry for helping out with that.


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