24 February 2015

Chapter 8 – The phone call and the meeting

 So, in the last chapter I was telling you about Muff Winwood, the then Vice President of Sony UK, and why I was making a bee line for him. Well, Muff and Lincoln Alias (founder of the label) were responsible for signing some great artists to the label, including Sade, Des’ree and Jamiroquai to name just a few. These were the days when acts were signed and developed … this means they were signed, and were then given time, money and breathing space to write, and figure out their direction along with the guidance and help of the label.

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 22.01.32
Back in the day it wasn’t unusual for acts to release quite a few albums before they even came close to hitting the big time – and this was acceptable collateral damage. Artists such as; The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Radiohead, Queen, Pulp, Nirvana, U2, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Blur and Red Hot Chilli Peppers all took their sweet time before they hit the ground running, and in some cases it took years. Note: If you’re reading this and you have no idea who some of those artists are that I just mentioned, and yet you do know who ‘one direction’ are, then shame on you! you better go have a listen and save your soul while you still can : ) 

Unfortunately times have now changed. Labels can no longer afford to invest money into long term development projects.  Now, often when artists are signed they are expected to make the money back (with hit records) on their debut album. In many cases if they don’t recoup their advance, they are dropped like a hot potato. If this was the case back in the day, think of all that great music we would have missed out on! it also makes you wonder what great music we might be missing out on today … no Bowie, no Queen, no Beatles??!

I guess you could argue that with the arrival of youtube, there’s a level playing field now – anyone can achieve worldwide recognition and that’s true, but also it’s worth noting that; it doesn’t matter how talented you think you might be, developing your craft/sound/musicianship takes years – and that level of devotion is born out of a love of music. For that reason alone, anyone just looking for overnight stardom might well enjoy some flash-in-the-pan success but (and this is just my opinion) they will never come close to achieving a long term successful career in music.

This is the reason why I had sought out Muff Winwood; he was a musician himself and he had a reputation for helping and establishing artists. All I had at this point were a handful of very commercial pop songs that I’d written with Jed, and a back catalogue of ‘Jodie’ songs that had never seen light of day. I knew I was going to need help, time, and guidance but I also knew that getting into bed with a major label could be well dicey, so if I was lucky enough to be picked out from a pile and if I did go down this road, it would have to be with someone I felt I could trust. I needed to be taken under somebody’s wing and I was praying to the universe, that somebody might be Muff Winwood.

The following week Muff called me. We had a short but sweet conversation, during which he invited to come into the office for a chat – I hung up very calmly and ran screaming all over the house.

In the lead up to my meeting with Muff, I met with some other labels. These included Reprise Records and Edel Records UK – both of which no longer exist today. I met with Clive Black from Edel records, and we hit it off immediately. He loved the songs and was keen on taking it further, so we set up a second meeting so I could perform live for him.

In the meantime, on Friday 20th April 2001 (the only reason I remember that exact date is because my mum has kept all her diaries since the early eighties) I got the train to London to meet Muff Winwood. The Sony S2 building was at number 10 Great Marlborough street W1F 7LP.Great Marlborough street runs west to east through the western part of Soho in  London, and is home to the famous Tudor buildings which house the likes of Liberties.

I can’t tell you how long it took me to decide what to wear for the meeting … “do I go glam / do I wear the red PVC duo I wore to the other meetings / do I bear flesh / but I don’t want to look slutty / shall I go rock chick???” etc etc etc. The truth is, I hadn’t felt comfy in the PVC get-up, it was more Kylie Minogue than me and I had the feeling Muff was going to see through any pretence so after 50 outfit changes, I opted for the I-haven’t-really-tried-but-actually-I-have kind of look, and  I threw on a vest and pair of jeans.

I arrived early and went for a coffee in the nearby cafe Maison Bertaux on Greek Street. I was so nervous, I smoked my way through half a packet of Marlborough lights. I smoked quite a lot in those days, it went hand-in-hand with my wild musician ways. This was back in the day when you could smoke INSIDE bars / cafes / restaurants! can you imagine that now? oh the days when you could prop yourself up at a bar and enjoy a ciggie WITH your beer! I don’t smoke now *ahem* ok aside from the odd party, but I do miss it. KIDS – For the record, smoking is NOT cool. Aside from the possible onset of death it stinks and gives you wrinkles. It’s better not to even start …. drink shots instead. PS. That last bit was a joke. But I do miss it.

 I wasn’t so much nervous of meeting Muff himself, it was just one of those ‘everything hinges on this’ kind of moments. I had an amazing opportunity sat in my lap, It felt BIG and and the gravity of it made me feel a little sick / but also unbelievably excited! Despite giving myself plenty of time, I arrived at 10 Great Marlborough Street late, since I have the sense of direction of an unborn baby so I clambered into the building flustered and sweating … which was not the entrance I had hoped for.
The Sony reception was huge, stark, very white and very stylish … with big vibrant images on the wall, of the various artists signed to the label, like Jamiroquai and Sade. A stern looking security-type dude behind the desk eyed me suspiciously, as not only was I sweating profusely but I was probably looking a little peaky now too. In between trying to catch my breath I managed to blurt out “Jodie Seymour for Muff Winwood please!” Suspicious looking dude fumbled around in a drawer and pulled out a security badge which he clipped onto my vest. “Er can’t I move it to my jeans?” security man shrugs. “Take a seat ma’am, someone will be down for you shortly.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 22.25.11

I took a seat on one of the modern benches and got myself together. wiped the shine from my face, applied some lippy and took some deep breaths. I then idly leafed through one of trendy mags on the table, not reading a single word while I got my thoughts together. I had showcased for other labels so I didn’t know why this should be any different? It was just a chat, I wasn’t even performing! Perhaps it was because I already thought so highly of Muff. I didn’t want to disappoint him, and everyone else who was rooting for me … Jed, Andy, the band, my parents. But then, I was here because Muff liked the music, so surely he just needed to see if I was ‘star’ quality. Then words of the Arista A&R came back to haunt me … she sounds and looks great, but she doesn’t act like an artist … I hadn’t understood what that meant at the time, but I did now. All the great artists are great because they are uniquely themselves, they are not pretending. During the meeting with Clive it was true, I wasn’t myself, I felt awkward, and I was trying too hard to be what I thought they wanted me to be. I was trying to ‘be’ an artist.  So the trick, I decided, was to simply be myself instead.

Seconds later a young, funky-looking, friendly-faced bundle of energy came hurtling out of the lift towards me, and introduced himself as George. George was a JNR A&R at Sony. In fact when I think of Sony, I always think of Muff, Lincoln and George – The three Music-teers! (ok it almost worked.) I liked George from that very first meeting, he was unlike any music industry professional I had ever met. He had an easy, warm, unaffected nature and his presence always put me at ease. We chatted easily as we made our way up to the 6th floor and I was thankful to have him by my side at that moment in time. We stepped out of the lift, and that was when I met Dawn John and Muff Winwood.