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RICHARD TOWNEND

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LIVE BLUES INFO TALKS TO RICHARD TOWNEND

 

 

Tell us about yourself and the background and lead-up to the latest recording – also what got you started playing guitar? 

 

 

I was a professional musician after studying Guitar at LeedsCollege of music in the 80’s. I was working on shows with variety artists of the time e.g. Ronnie Corbett, Dana, and Tony Christie etc. It wasn’t really what I wanted to do to be honest so when I moved to London, after playing for the Platters, I decided to stop playing professionally and do it for fun whilst I earned a living to support my family. I played occasionally but started playing properly again around 2010 and Jan 2011 marked the release of the first band album.

 

The latest album, is my 6th in 3 years, it’s a band album. It was just time to do a band one, I have done 3 solo ones and I just wanted more musicians input, I am quite proud for this one for sure.

 

I started playing guitar because it was an instrument which was current and in vogue, dad played classical piano so there was always music in the house; I just wanted to emulate the people on Bob Harris’s Old Grey Whistle test and so seeing people with guitars just seemed a natural progression to get one and try master it. Still haven’t succeeded

 

 

You have a new album coming out; tell us more about it and how it is different from your last one?

 

The last album I did was a solo effort a selection of songs I basically recorded my self, playing most instruments, but begging and stealing musicians to come in and do the odd part here and there. The new album is more band orientated and a collective sound; People often quote JJ Cale, Chris Rea and Dire straits as influences and I guess some songs would fall in that genre, but you know I think that’s a huge compliment.

 

Boiling Pot is a collection of songs with a variety of musical influences but basically has west coast vibes, country, rock, blues, gospel and a smidgen of blue grass. It was called Boiling pot because of the simmering mixtures of influences. I wrote the songs then got a drummer, keys and harp player and a bass player. We rehearsed up and then recorded the tracks in 2 days live, overdubbing vocal, lead and other bits and bobs to give it a more formal produced sound over a few months. It’s getting some nice reviews, which is always really pleasing and gives you a great sense of satisfaction.

 

 

You release a lot of records – would you describe yourself as driven?

 

I would say driven to some degree, its hard, but you wont get your music out there unless you work hard at it. It’s not just the writing and recording but the behind the scenes PR, organising, booking, rehearsing and financing it.  It’s also difficult to get a roster of musicians together who are available when other people are. I just enjoy writing and recording and performing. I do what ever it takes to achieve those 3 goals.

 

 

The ‘lot of records’ seemed to start quite late in life – what’s the story leading up to that

 

I hadn’t played for quite some time when I moved from London to Essex. About 7 years a go I decided to go to jam session and play. I was rusty to say the least. I practised, enjoyed it and got a trio together. We then extended to a 4 piece with an acoustic guitarist. He showed me lots of new tunings and I decided to do some decent writing and recording, which started with our first proper release in Jan 2011.  I’d always wanted to do that, but now I have the maturity to be able to drive it through from embryonic idea to finished album. I have a lifetime of things to share, hence the large output over a short period of time. I have am really pleased with the reception the music has received, this just encourages me to produces more and more. I also decided to video most of my songs, which adds another dimension to the finished product. I have over 50 videos on the Richard Townend YouTube channel.

 

 

 

 

 

Do any songs on the album have special meaning to you?  If so why?

 

All the songs mean something; they either document a life experience, or tell a fictional or non-fictional story. I really work hard on getting stories into the songs, often they may be quite deep and its always pleasing when reviewers recognise that. All songwriters are minstrels really recounting news.  I had one song about the Omagh bombing and I had some comments from people form Omagh saying it was a moving song, a great song of remembrance, which was a nice feeling. Any feedback, which has indicated that the song has put them in a pensive chilled mood, makes the song special for me.

 

 

What is your song writing process?

 

Depends, I am working on a 7 deadly sins album, so here I already have the 7 song subject matters, but I try look at different angles to it rather than going down a clichéd route of what people think of each sin.  Other times it may be just a riff that comes in and you fit lyrics to it. I often take notes of interesting stories I hear, for example the story of Alan Turing the World War 2 code breaker. Saved the lives of thousands with his work and the prosecuted for being gay as a thank you form the establishment.  Sad story but one worth documenting, I understand he has now been granted an official pardon, unfortunately 60 years too late!!

 

 

Tell us about the influences on your music?

 

I like all sorts of music form classical to RnB to new world.  Originally it was Guitar based, but now I appreciate the songs rather than the guitar solo!!

 

I used to be into Queen and Hendrix at the same time, as people liked ABBA. I now love ABBA because of the quality of their songs, great playing and super singing on there too. Takes half a lifetime to come to your senses. I love the Eagles, and I also listen to and admire huge talents like BB king, Clapton, SRV, Ry Cooder and of course Mark Knopfler. There’s nothing really I don’t like if it’s musical, it all influences you in some respect.

 

 

Notice you dabbling with several jazz standards on-line – what’ s your interest in jazz

 

Jazz extends your playing; it gets you thinking about key centres and sounds and lines rather than repetitive riffs. I studied jazz guitar for 3 years at Leeds and so it’s just a throw back to that time. They do have great melodies though, something which tends to be lacking in some modern music.

 

 

Do you find more to explore in say ‘All the Things You Are’ than in a blues sequence? Do you think you can express a blues thing in a standard tune like that?

 

There is harmonically more to explore, all you are doing though is just moving form one key to another in jazz where as blues tends to remain in one key centre in one song.  The phrasing is also slightly different.

You do have to work on your ears and technique to play jazz, but blues is equally as hard. It’s the notes you choose and the spaces in between in both genres; just jazz you have more notes to choose from on account of the key centre changes and the more elaborate chord voicing. ‘All the things you are’ is a great song to practice against it goes all over the place.

 

 

 

Any jazz standards that really enable you to express yourself (we mean some are much more open to a blues sensibility that others)

 

If I am doing an instrumental something like Summertime or Cry me a river are great melodies to try and express your self with. If you think of a great singer and how they articulate the phrases, push when they need to and hold back in the right places, then trying to emulate that on a great melody over some beautiful chord progressions with a guitar is a great challenge. You only have to listen to someone like Jeff Beck to appreciate that – he has got it off to a tea.  A great melody and nice chords are really all you need to extemporise on whether it be Jazz or Blues or anything really.

 

Something like Charlie Parker’s catalogue would  probably wouldn’t be as adaptable to a blues player as they really are hard technique pushes and the phrasing you would use wouldn’t be as adaptable to blues as the 2 previous songs mentioned.

 

 

Musical career highlights and lowlights

 

I love doing festivals so those are my highlights, especially far flung ones, its then more of an experience. You get to meet some really interesting and friendly enthusiasts and great musicians as well. It’s a super community spirit that you can’t help but soak up.

 

When I was 18 I played for the Brian Smith Orchestra at Butlins in Filey. He had an old time dance orchestra to play for the national  old time dance finals. He had an album called Brian Smith does Country and Western, he had a picture of himself dressed as a cowboy sat on a donkey on the front. It really wasn’t my gig and I sort of questioned whether I wanted to be a musician if this is where I was heading. It was well paid though !

 

 

 

If you could have the chance to do anything at all with music, what would it be?

 

I would love to work and play with some of my heroes, may be write some songs with them, I am talking fantasy world here  , but who knows.  I’d love to write a classic song which either touched peoples souls or made them ecstatically happy, either way a song to remember.

 

 

What do you have planned for 2014?

 

 

This year I plan to continue doing more festivals solo and with the band, I have 4 already lined up so far. I will also planning to release at least 3 more albums, a new band one, the 7 deadly sins project and some acoustic songs I have just written.

 

I am also intending on writing songs for other people and getting them recorded, I have a few people lined up, its going to be a busy year!!

 

 

 

What would you say to a younger person wanting to start out in the blues?

 

 

I would say start to develop your own style, be different, write your own music as early as possible. Hendrix was Hendrix, SRV was SRV, be your own player and document your own life, experiences and sensibilities not regurgitate what has gone before. Be you and work hard at it, nothing comes easily.