06 August 2015

Chapter 15 – The curry, the showcase and the music manager.

Muff was keen to get things moving while we were waited for the legal issues to be resolved, so he asked me to get the band ready to perform a showcase at the Sony building. This would be the first time Muff would see me perform live, so he had taken a gamble on me really – he had no idea whether or not I could cut it live, I could have the stage presence of a womble for all he knew – so there would be a lot riding on this performance. He intended to invite the rest of Sony, music publishers, producers, possible managers and other industry odd-bods. It was going to be a big deal.

I wasn’t too nervous about the performance – I’ve always loved performing. Though not in a ‘ohhh check me out’ kind of way, it goes much deeper than that. I feel like I can breathe on stage. It’s a chance to put a voice to the stories and feelings that manifest behind these song, so it can be a huge relief to release that. Rehearsing is all about honing parts and technicalities, but performing is about letting those technicalities go, and allowing it to come to life. I can forget words (often happens) I can trip over the mic lead (awkward yes – but I can live with that) or I can accidentally burp/swear down the mic (has also happened) and all these things I can live with. But If I can’t lose myself in it for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter how note perfect I am or many compliments I receive afterwards, I feel frustrated and unfulfilled.

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So the showcase. I summoned my band of merry men. This band consisted of Stevie James (Lazy Habits) on bass, Ryan Forrest on drums, John Pickup on keys, Jon Green (The Bonfires) on guitar and Andy Platts (Mamas Gun) on guitar.

The night before, we finished our rehearsal with a celebratory curry, and the morning of the showcase we arrived bright and bushy tailed – ready to wow our audience. Once we had sound checked, I set about transforming myself into an ‘artist’ but this time I left the red PVC outfit at home in favour of a more ‘rock n’ roll’ approach of tight jeans and a top. I wanted to make a great impression both musically and personally – as everything was riding on this gig. Not just for me, but for some of the band members too.

 However, not long before showtime my stomach had started to churn and I was feeling a little sick. At first I put this down to nerves but it turned out to be food poisoning. Perfect. I rushed to the loo and didn’t leave there for sometime. Now I wasn’t sure I was going to share the following with you – sometimes I think it would be better if I fooled you into thinking I was a mysterious, sophisticated, enigmatic character (though the previous entries have probably already scuppered that plan) and while I suppose I can be those things, being brought up in a house full of cockney men has meant I’m also capable of being ‘one of the boys,’ so when l left the toilet it wasn’t out of character for me to declare, rather loudly “bloody ‘ell lads, don’t go in there it friggin’ reeks!” … but what I didn’t count on, was on of the UK’s biggest music producers sitting where I had expected my band to be. “Ah, you must be Jodie … how err, nice to meet you” I wish I could tell you that moments like these are embellished simply for your amusement dear reader, but sadly for me, they are not. Funnily enough, I never saw this particular producer again, though I can’t think why?

However, as the room filled up I still managed to flit around and charm the folk that weren’t aware of my recent bowel movement, until it was time to take to the stage. Thanks to the food poisoning I was also sweating profusely, so any hope of looking like a sexy artist-goddess was fast evaporating … all we could do was perform well, so we threw ourselves into it and hoped for the best.

It wasn’t an easy gig by any means. In fact gigs like these are the hardest you’ll ever do. Regular audiences feed you with energy, it’s a two way thing. But these weren’t regular audience members … these were music industry bods; some looked on with their arms folded, some didn’t show any expression at all, some grooved along and some tapped an occasional foot. All I could do was try and loose myself in the songs and feed off what my players were giving me instead – I buzzed off playing with these guys so we carried each other through it. By the time we had finished I was soaked through.

The feedback, thankfully was great – and Muff loved it. “I love that thing you do with your arm!” he said. “Eh?” I wasn’t aware of my wiggly arm thing. I then met quite a few people, that were about to become key figures in my story, the first being a woman called Emily.

Emily had recently been running Sarm Productions for the award-winning pop producer Trevor Horn & his business partner and wife; Jill Sinclair. Emily was well connected and had experience in managing producers and was now looking to branch into artist management. Back then, when I thought about ‘music managers’ I pictured a burly bloke with the face of a bulldog …. I don’t know why, I had just heard that some managers could be ‘bulldogs.’ In the same stereo-typical fashion I had imagined label A&R’s to be smarmy cigar-wielding New Yorkers – and on both counts I had been utterly wrong – I’ve no doubt the gnarly bulldog-types do exist but thankfully, Emily wasn’t one of them.

Emily arrived late to the showcase and only caught the end of the set. She bounded over and introduced herself – she was petite, a little taller than myself (5ft3″) had long shiny black hair and a dazzling smile. The first thing I noticed was her smile – the second was she had a slightly dizzy manner, not unlike myself (it takes one to know one) and I warmed to her immediately. Credentials and track records are important when looking for people to join your team, but in order to have a good working relationships with anyone you need to be able to relate to them personally, regardless of what their achievements are. A music manager is the person you will deal with on a daily basis – you need to be able to speak your mind, be on the same page and be able to trust they have your best interests at heart. In order for that relationship to succeed you need just as much honesty, understanding and commitment as you need in any successful marriage I think.

But like any marriage, it’s impossible to know if this is the right person for you on the very first meeting, that will only become evident in time. All you can go on at this point, is your gut instinct. I’ve always trusted my instinct when it comes to most situations, and up to now it’s usually served me well. Emily was the first manager I had been introduced to and I decided to join forces with her pretty much straight away. Though not just because I liked her, or because she had good credentials. It was because I knew she’d be an asset and an ally. It’s not easy being a woman in a male dominated industry – I was experiencing that first hand, and while you can’t always fight it, you can play it to your advantage if you’re clever. A bulldog of a manager is only going to get you so far before bridges are burned, but having a manager like Emily; a woman who is bright, amiable and well-connected – I suspected she’d be able to get things done, often without people even noticing they were doing it for her.

The next meeting at this showcase would introduce me to the savvy world of publishing – enter Simon Aldridge and Bob Grace, from the publishing house Windswept. Things were about to start moving! But first it was time to take the plunge and experience my first official ‘co-writing’ songwriting session as a Sony Artist.