We went for a wander, a long way from anyone & I took a few shots of nothing at all, really. Just little things we found. Here they are, in case you need them for anything. That sheep is called Lulu.
I’m an independent musician about to self-release my new self-funded album on CD & digital. I’ve done that before, over the years, in different genres of music. The tough bit is never making or recording – those bits are fun & rewarding – it’s what you do next that seems to hurt, whatever you do. Do you pay for press? Send promo copies out yourself? Just ask your mates to share? You’ll go down this rabbit hole – ‘without label support, it’s just a vanity project!’ Yeah, maybe. But what a hobby. I’m not spending my hard earned cash on coke, hookers or cars, it’s going on this.
So this time, I decided to ask AtTheHelm PR to help me. You pay for that service, but they’re well connected and they take your stuff and make it look all professional. However good you can do it, they can do it better, I reckon. Tom Blake wrote a press release for me. I loved his end of year 2019 albums list, I got loads of gems from that, so I was pleased he agreed to do it, and he nailed it!
I asked twitter this morning about all the ways in which I can give it it’s best start in life and folks had lots to say, so I thought I’d collate it all into this post. That way, you can look all these people up and send your music to them, too!
My twitter pal Nicola started things off by suggesting Mary Anne Hobbs, Radio 6 Music Legend & Elizabeth Alker, a well connected & impressive sounding BBC person who I have followed! A dear friend of ours, Mary Ann Kennedy, living legend harpist, a breathtaking musician, asked for a copy too – the Mary Ann/e connection being too compelling! Sometimes, a chance mention is enough to put your record into the ears of folks who might otherwise miss it. Social media is good for that. Nicola also shouted out Spotify Discovery Playlists – something I love using too – calling them ‘heaven & hell’ because yeah, they’re ace for finding music, but does any artist really benefit from that? I dunno. I dunno how to get on them, either. Time will tell!
Mike Prescott called out Secret Meeting as being an ace magazine and I can entirely agree that it is – they publish great reviews online but also publish a tiny little paper magazine too. Look them up. Along similar lines, Balloon Machine, Gold Flake Paint & Various Small Flames are some kind of new school vanguard of small independent publishers pushing new music reviews with the highest quality & integrity.
Ken Jude, a vociferous supporter of new music who I met at a PicaPica gig, had a list of suggestions of where he finds new tunes, including Richard Leaders American Pie show, Another Country with Ricky Ross, Ralph McClean’s Country & Roddy Hart’s radio 2 folk show. Some big hitters there. How do you get on those shows? Well, I don’t rightly know. I follow & interact with some of those folks on twitter, but that isn’t going to cut it. They can’t play just some random stalker from the internet. I’m hoping At The Helm can help open some of those doors. Jon Hillcock is another great bloke – his twitter profile is full of great new (and old) music to discover, he makes playlists and presents on Radio6. Look him up.
@Robkb2, one of those twitter tastemakers who you will find knows everything about everything worth knowing about well before you do gave away a few secrets, suggesting Folk Radio UK, BBC6Music, Songlines Magazine, Froots Magazine (now defunct, but they have a podcast) & “whoever’s playing at the NestFolk / Folk East Festivals”. Now, how one gets on festival lineups is beyond me, but I guess you need to play live more than I do. I would but it’s … tough to do. I might try to do it more. Folk Radio are huge & important champions of new stuff. Make sure you talk to them.
Andrew Leach, an author friend of mine had an interesting take – his daughter throws him new music! One up from the mates thing, that sounds good to me, word of mouth. And also he finds new stuff on twitter. Encouraging.
I enjoyed this tweet – a group of people with great taste & opinions. If one of them says to listen to a record, Blando will do it. So you have to kind of get into that, somehow.
Harry Ridgeway, promoter & stunning musician, shouted out Aquarium Drunkard, who really are terrific. Have a read of this article that Harry recommends about Bill Fay. High quality journalism & music writing, no doubt.
New music fan & promoter Mark Howson says he gets his fix from Richard Leader (a popular choice & great show), Mystery Train Radio, Adam Wilson’s Quiet Revolution show (another personal favourite), his mate Tim Smith (who record collection can be seen from space…!), Steve Arlene’s show, Three Chords & The Truth, Rock ‘N Reel Magazine & Ramblin’ Roots. A healthy selection, there, if you’re into the kind music I make, and I guess maybe you are, or you wouldn’t be here.
John Bath (edit, John is from Brighton, why TF did I assume his surname was not Bath??) suggests Brian Players Acoustic Cafe show, which I’ve been on before with JC, and Brian said he’d have me back on my own if I wanted to come, and I do & also Readifolk, a folk club I don’t know but would love to go to!
Jon Tait, an old friend of mine, huge supporter of music & label owner says Wire Magazine. Yeah, they are the best at what they do, absolutely no doubt. I doubt my quiet little acoustic album is going to make it into their holy halls, but you never know.
Lots of folks recommend Sarah Gosling highly. A Radio presenter I don’t know, but apparently should! Followed!
Don’t forget Rocking Magpie – Alan is one of the good guys, he supported me when I was nothing from nowhere; I still am & he still supports me. That’s worth so much to an artist. Send him your tunes. He’ll have a listen and tell you what he thinks.
Lots more people call out BBC6Music, Spotify Recommends, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Drowned In Sound, Clash Magazine, Echoes & Dust, The 405, Line of Best Fit, The Quietus, Pitchfork, The Skinny, Louder Than War, Loud & Quiet, Noisey, Buzz, American Songwriter, NoDepression, Paste, American Songwriter, Noisey. Deep Breath. I can’t do links for all those. You can find them if you like!
Then there’s the folk ones – Folk Phenomena, Northern Sky, Folk Connection, Folking.com, Thank Folk For That, BookFolk, Roots & Fusion, FolkCast, Spiral Earth, UK Folk Music, Fatea, ShireFolk. And lots more!
Don’t forget The Guardian, Q, Uncut, MOJO & Record Collector. These old guard magazines repeat the same old covers of wizened old dead white blokes month in, month out, because, apparantly, according to their editors, who I’ve chatted to about it, this is how you sell print magazines in heartland waitroses. Folks don’t buy em with minorities on the cover. I wonder, how much longer can they last? Still, they have a huge circulation and there’s no pull quote bigger than something Uncut say about you. So, getting in them is harder, but At The Helm are gonna try. They need 3 months notice, though, I know that much.
I had lots of recommendations for metal & rock & punk, but I don’t really do that, so I won’t link them here. I’m more quiet than that. Not that I don’t listen to loud music, because I do, but they won’t review my album because it only rocks inside your head, slowly, back & forth, crumbled, curled up in a corner.
So! Are you going to release your own music, yourself, and wonder what it’s like? It’s stressful! Get a pro to help, because they take the weight. But then, will you ever know if you would have succeeded without them? Nope, you will not. Just send it out then crack on writing more, I reckon.
Last thing – sorry for the hundreds of thousands of new music supporting writers, journalists, magazines, blogs that I didn’t mention! Feel free to leave a comment below or link me @mralecbowman on twitter 🙂
Thanks for reading and I hope that’s somehow vaguely helpful.
It’s time for my least favourite part of making a record!
Writing is incredible, watching words & music appear out of nowhere. Actual alchemy. Nobody can say where it comes from, for better or worse, richer or poorer. Read Frank Turner’s songwriting guff as much as you like, you really just have to try it and see. No special secrets. Have a thing to say. Say it. Next. Recording is MADNESS, so hard, but intensely rewarding.
But this part – playing it to people? Fucking terrifying. I don’t really even wanna know. Up until now, only a small a handful of folks have heard it. Today, though, it got sent out into the big wide world to live or die on it’s own two feet, to cleanly snap the neck of the metaphor. The first review came from Jon Wilks, celebrated Midlands folk singer and I could have hoped for no more. I am deeply flattered that he would care enough to play it, let alone review it! He shared a song of his own in reply and I include it here because I do love it so:
Now – here is Jon’s review of my LP, stripped out of his twitter thread:
“I’ve got no sleeve notes here, so I’m purely going on sound and intuition. “Physics and Form”. It’s raw. Alec’s voice and lyrics are direct, unrelenting, but the fingerpicking gentle… lilting. There’s something for Leonard Cohen fans here, and even a hint of Peter Sarstedt. “A Ditch Worth Dying For” feels like there’s an aesthetic forming. Similarly minimal. Washes of metallic sound. Weirdly, the soft pulse, the descending progressions, the deep-register vocals, the snapshot lyrics… I could put this on a mixtape alongside @KnowleWestboy Collab? “Safe Mode”… the album’s credentials now feel like they’ve been established. A wall of heavy electric guitar reverb adds a new texture to the palette. The producer steps in on backing vocals, a higher frequency cutting through what feels like quite a lot of anguish. “Leaves” – There’s a lift in mood – a hint that the sadness is lifting. Woodwind blows through the leaves. Alec’s lyrics continue to plumb the depths, but there’s a buoyancy here. Am I listening to a concept album? Are things afoot? This song tickles the ears. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 1 … OK, I’m cheating now. I’m having to go back and listen multiple times. I’ve been drawn in. This album is a mood, and I’m a sucker for a slightly distorted Rhodes. Juxtapositions. Alec’s battles rage. The Rhodes gazes softly. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 2 … I’m not sure what’s going on here, lyrically. I listen in pictures, as if I’m watching a movie, and this album is cinematic. There’s a lot here to see, and try and work out what you’re seeing. One viewing won’t do. Is this a Western? “Intermission (The Old Rugged Cross)” – Broken sound. Fragments. Hallucinatory. Album in microcosm. I’m having a little lunch break. Strange urge to eat a load of mustard. Not sure if that’s significant or not. “Patience” – The previous track established that the album is in two halves. Like someone trying to guess the end of the novel, I’m glancing at song titles ahead. “Dust down your wings, head for the light, pack up your things, you’re leaving tonight”. WHERE WE GOING, UNCLE ALEC? “Hand in Hand” pt 1 – I’m also a sucker for song lyrics that juxtapose the decidedly unromantic with eternal love. Examples: Morrissey’s double decker bus, Brian Wilson stating that he “may not always love you”. This is one of those. He’s not going to be done in by a virus or a dog-savaging. He’s heading into the light with his lovely one by his side. They’re going together. This is essentially a very long list of ways that Alec Bowman is *not* going to end his days. My favourite track so far. “The Event Horizon of You” pt 1 – The opening sigh is ominous. But it’s OK. If much of the first half was an ode to self-hatred, the juxtapositions we’ve been hearing are clear and powerful now. We’re in a gently loved-up world, and the lyrics are really very touching indeed… “The Event Horizon of You” pt 2 – Have a go on this one: “You’re still here today and I hope that you’ll stay, said the animal to the air”. Isn’t that special? I love that. The following couplet is just as wonderful, but I’m running out of space and I mustn’t give it all away. “My Kind Of Chaos” – Ah, this is great, too. Unapologetically romantic. “She’s my kind of chaos, strong just like me, which is weaker than I ever knew a person could be”. Alec might be my kind of self-deprecating songwriter. “Never the End of the World” – I’m at the end of the novel now, and I’m glad it never reached any kind of mariachi crescendo. It’s a gently positive ending – the sound of Alec having a word with himself and his listeners; urging them on. How to sum all this up… Summing up “I Used to Be Sad & The I Forgot” by Alec Bowman. Look, Alec’s new album is not an easy listen. It’s hard-going and it’s fairly unrelenting in places. But why make an honest album – and that’s what this is, no question – if you’re going to hide away in it? The emotional journey it takes you on is hugely rewarding. It’s the sound of an ordinary man emerging, but not in any phoenix-from-the-flames way. It’s a humble emergence – a gentle emergence. You’re left with a huge urge to give him a hug, probably because you recognise something of yourself in his journey and you needed to hear that story told, too. And as you listen to the final tracks – “Event Horizon” and “Chaos” – know that you’re listening to his muse on backing vocals, and make a mental note of how healing love is. This is a kind album, and with the world in the state that it’s in, it’s a great thing to have spent time with. Thanks for making it and sharing it with me, Alec.”
No, thank you, Jon xx
So, the first words are pretty much a dream review. I couldn’t have wished for more:) Let’s see what happens next!
Pre-order digital & CD here, streaming pre-saves coming soon x
My album is now available to pre-order at bandcamp, released to the world on CD / digital download & streaming services on May 1st 2020.
It’s been a wild ride, taken so much from me & given more back. Watching these songs build from tiny embryos fumbling around in the ocean washing round my head, being teased out onto a page, then captured on tape by folks with the skill & patience to do it. It’s really something else to be inside.
There’s nothing like making a record & this is nothing like what I’ve done before. This is all me, 11 songs about the journey I’ve been on last few years. It’s angry, in places. Broken, in others. Fragile, nearly everywhere. Quieter than I hear it myself, in my own head, where it sounds more assured, more like other things. I’m no good at objectively assessing my own work, I just do the thing I do and someone else is going to have to say if it’s folk or alt-folk or lo-fi or no-wave or anything else. These aren’t characters, that’s what comes out when I open my mouth, that’s what I sound like, one of the voices of a person in the world. I’m not proud of feeling some of the things I express, but I did it anyway because I did feel them. I’m not giving answers or telling anyone else what to do or think. I’m just saying what I see, being honest as I can, using words to close chapters, end dialogues & start over. A new leaf. A blank page. A clean slate. That’s what I want, to own my vulnerability by expressing it, shout my flaws from the rooftops, then anyone naming them will be weaker because even if they remain flaws, they are mine, my scar tissue on my skin, owned by me, worn on the outside, and if you’re going to judge me, then do it with an open hand in the cold light of a future day, rather than under the cover of a darkness past.
Here’s the tracklist:
- Physics & Form
- A Ditch Worth Dying For
- Safe Mode
- Long Goodbyes
- Intermission – The Old Rugged Cross
- Hand In Hand
- The Event Horizon Of You
- My Kind Of Chaos
- Never The End Of The World
I don’t know if those track titles speak for themselves or not. I hope they make sense when you hear it. Which will be soon. To anyone who has already pre-ordered, I can’t thank you enough, your faith in this project is nearly the only thing keeping it going. That’s kind of what ‘My Kind Of Chaos’ is about; singing because if you don’t, anyone else singing will be doing it alone.
If anyone wants a copy to review, please let me know. If you’d like to interview me about the record, then I would be delighted to do that. I will come & play songs on your radio show or at the night you promote or in your house or at your local pub or Premier Inn Brewer’s Fayre music appreciation night.
Be seeing you!
It’s been a crazy start to 2020 – Josienne & I spent a week touring Ireland then headed off to Scotland to make a music video. We drove the whole way. Covered something like 3,000 miles in a car. I wasn’t sure survival was an option during the ferry crossing from Holyhead to Dublin, 3.5 hours in 4 metre swells – I’ve never felt so travel sick. We stayed in a fascinating series of places & met some wonderful & terrible people. Truly, touring is a train wreck of the best & worst of humanity.
Here’s Josienne before the Waterford show.
I was doing my usual thing – driving, photographing, tweeting, tour managing, arranging stuff, carrying boxes, loading in, loading out, fielding questions about whether or not I’m playing myself, helping on the merch desk & generally just having a fucking ball of a life with Josienne.
I don’t know, does it just make no sense to anyone else that I’d want to do that with my time? Folks look at me like I’m mad because I’m there, just sort of quietly helping. Not trying to make it about me. It’s her show. Not mine. I play the guitar & bass. I write & play my own songs. I love doing those things. Josienne helped me make an entire album that I’m releasing soon! I don’t play with her band, though, and folks struggle so hard with that. I bothered to come along, so why don’t I take part? I’m a bloke & she’s only a little female. Man up!
Think of it like this – I happen to believe that she’s an important, valuable artist and a terrific, fun & inspiring person, so spending time with her is just good. It’s where I want to be. I enjoy supermarket shopping with her, too. She likes it, it’s useful, I can do things that help her out. Gigs are her job. It’s harder work than you’d think. It takes a toll. She needs things, and sometimes, it’s not what you’d expect. I try to give her those things freely & to the best of my ability. It’s an exciting & rewarding life, hanging on her coat-tails, watching her through a lens, dreaming of playing to her, helping her do her thing. I could be no happier. If I tried to insert myself into that, into a redundant sideman role that doesn’t exist, if I made her hang a percentage of her life’s work on my shoulders, took the applause for a thing that was not mine, that I did not make, then what kind of man would I be? She wrote those songs, recorded them, played them & sung them. That’s how they go. They don’t need a bloke wanking all over them. They never did & you know it. If I tried to steal credit, use her to access a life I never earned, I never worked for, I never gave up anything for then how could I claim that I was in this for the right reasons? I’m right here, and if she ever needs a mediocre bass player or guitarist, she’ll ask & I’ll do it. Until then, I’m a pig in shit right where I am, sat by her side, doing my own thing while watching her fly & sharing my view with you.
Bit of an unplanned rant there! Ha. Better out than in.
Here’s a few other shots that I grabbed of the locations we found ourselves in. Shout out to Derek at Spirit Store in Dundalk – a great venue that seems like a perfect nightmare when you’re driving up to it and then – boom – there it is, a perfect little place. Reminds me of a venue in Paris I’ve forgotten the name of. Nice work. Also, Tom, Patrick & Garret who run nights called Subterranean Sounds at the Phil Grimes pub in Waterford are truly best of us, they are. What a show they put on. If you’re near, be sure and go. Garret says they’ll book me to go play in their room and I reckon I’d die happy right there onstage if that ever happened. I told him, have a listen to my record first, mate. He said OK. We’ll see.
There’s our hotel room in Dundalk, the ferry crossing, a swan on fire in Dublin, Waterford in a canal, Josienne relaxing after the show in Waterford & the time she visited the afterlife on Paul McCloone’s show on Today FM.
Here’s Misery Hill, Cry Chapel & a Hostel that I am sure is fine & safe:
Then we drove over to the north east coast of Scotland, through the Cairngorms to shoot a music video. I cannot tell you a thing more yet, which is a bit mean to even mention it, apart from, you will know who it is for and from spending the afternoon scanning through the footage as I import it into Premiere Pro, this is the best thing I ever shot. We got so lucky on the day, it was one of those ‘everything fell into place’ things and the results will be along soon. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.
Here’s Dublin port as we were about to set off of the return journey, a much more relaxed affair and a Dundalk candle, burning in a bar.