My 2019 Playlist (So Far)

images.jpegI’ve always had an extensive and varied music taste. From Jazz, country, rock and everything in between, its something I’ve always been able to use to my advantage as a session musician because I am comfortable when it comes to playing different styles and genres. I thought I’d give you all an insight into the music I listen to with a quick overview of my playlist for 2019.

  1. Back To Life – Rascal Flatts

I became a Rascal Flatts fan about four years ago when I discovered their song “I Wish.” In fact, it was this particular group that got me into country music in the first place. I was very pleased to discover that they had been released new music (although I’m a fan I don’t actively seek their releases) and found “Back To Life” on the list of new songs. I played it, and I loved it, there’s so much joy and emotion in the song and I really connected with the lyrics.

2. Home – Nickelback

Nickelback are one of those bands that are much like Marmite, you do either love them or hate them. I am one of the people who don’t have a bad word to say about their music, it’s intense and high energy and really gets you in a pumped up mood. The same can be said for this song, it has a great balance of intensity and calmness in the instrumental and vocal arrangement and really gets me riled up whenever I have a big day ahead.

3. I Only Have Eyes For You – Jamie Cullum 

If you know me, you’ll know about my obsession with Jamie Cullum. Jamie has been one of my  biggest musical influences for a long time now and I can never get enough of his music. His take on this classic standard is nothing short of a masterpiece, he respects the integrity of the orignal track whilst putting his own unique twist on it, something that Jamie has been great at throughout his career.

4. Lingus – Snarky Puppy

Go to most music universities and pretty much everyone you ask will have heard of this song and better still, be aspiring to play it note for note on their instrument – I’m still struggling to even touch that monstrous keys solo from Cory Henry, I will get there one day! Lingus is definitely my favourite instrumental track, it never gets skipped when it comes on and watching live videos of it gets me drooling like a baby. If you like weird time signatures and dirty solos, Snarky Puppy are the band for you.

5. Everything She Wants – Wham!

Wham or George Michael usually fall onto the guilty pleasures list for most, not for me. The arrangement and groove of this track really get to me, it’s a massive 80’s banger like most George stuff but I just keep coming back to this over and over again. Ironically, it’s one of the songs NOT in the set list for the George Michael tribute band I’m in, might need to sort that.

6. Lose Yourself – Eminem 

One of the first Eminem songs I heard and still on the playlist today, this is the perfect track to get anyone out of the dumps and give them a fresh burst of motivation. In fact, the lyrics of this one are what frames my drive and desire to not give up when working my way up the industry ladder, or  when having a tough day at uni working through my degree – I even put it on before a show sometimes to get the blood pumping.

7. Hell Above – Pierce The Veil

I was introduced to the world of metal through my younger brother when he was going through this particular phase. It took me a while to adjust to the style of music I had previously dismissed as “just noise”, but I got there and haven’t looked back since. Pierce The Veil are much like Nickelback in the sense that they receive a mixed reception from the metal community, some swear by them and others instantly insult anyone caught listening to them. I’m not a huge metalhead, I just happen to like the agression in their music, don’t ask.

8. Do I Do – Stevie Wonder

Another artist integral to my musical develpoment has been Stevie Wonder. One of my favourite tunes to play is Supersition but by far my favourite tunes to listen to is Do I Do. Like most Stevie tracks, it is less complicated than it sounds when broken down, that keys run is a different story though, will I ever be able to be fast enough to play it? who knows.

9. Phsyco – Muse

I heard this song around two years ago whilst studying music at college. Many of my classmates seemed to develop a Muse obession during the final year and I was introduced to this song through them, it comes on most days when I put my headphones in and takes me instantly back to my college days, some of the best days of my teenage life.

10. I write Sins Not Tragidies – Panic! At The Disco

For years, I heard this song and could never get the name of it. I eventually met a huge Panic! fan and she finally gave me the name of the song, it’s been on my playlist ever since, I doubt it’ll ever be replaced. This one is also the soundtrack to many a teenager’s “emo phase” – I don’t think I had one of those? You’d have to ask my parents I guess.

And that wraps up my 2019 playlist so far! I hope you enjoyed delving into my musical world with me and have hopefully some more songs to add to your playlist!


The Importance Of Having A Good Press Pack and How To Create One

UnknownA press pack is one of the oldest but relevant and useful promotional tools in the arsenal of any artist or band. Usually in a word document, it contains all of their information such as bios, pictures, important dates and links to their music – essentially everything a member of the music press needs in order to write a well informed article on a band or artist.

Despite the importance, some bands still don’t have their press pack or E.P.K (electronic press kit) figured out ready for use. From a music blogger’s point of view, it can be extremely frustrating requesting a press kit from a band wanting a review and receiving an email with little information about them, it can be so frustrating in fact, that I sometimes decide not to feature a band on the blog because of the poor quality of their press pack.

Equally, when I first started out and was trying to break out as a solo artist I had bloggers turn my work down because my press pack wasn’t up to scratch. I’m not trying to be a hyporcrite with this peice, I’m just hoping to help up and coming aritsts learn from my rookie mistakes.

Now I’ve given a rather lengthy introduction, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of  how to create the perfect package that all bloggers and music industry professionals will love!

  1. Bio’s – Be detailed but don’t waffle

The bio is the piece of text that gives bloggers a sense of what you as an artist or band are about. You don’t need to provide your life story, just enough info about you for the blogger to give their readers the low down on you! The most important thing for me when reading a bio is that it’s engaging and interesting, if I’m falling asleep whilst reading, my readers will too and this is an instant red mark.

2. A picture speaks a thousand words

If you look at most of my blog posts, you’ll see that there are at least two pictures in pretty much every one. A picture not only gives the reader a break from the text, it can give an even more detailed look into you as a band/artist, put a face to a name and even sometimes encourage readers to look into your music. With that said, you need to make sure that all of the images in your press pack are up to date and of high quality, if the images are of an old line up and/or grainy and pixilated, they won’t make the cut.

3. A broken link destroys the bridge

In this digital age, links to your sites and videos are mandatory – How else are bloggers meant to research more about you and listen to your music? Depsite the obvious importance of links, the amount of links I’m provided that don’t work is shocking. Before providing links to your sites, please make sure that they are correct and don’t take bloggers to a “Domain For Sale” page. This is a major no no and will  put you on the rejected pile instantly. Also, make sure that your sites and social media pages are kept up to date, attractive to look at and easy to naviagte. No blogger wants to spend their time working out where the various pages of your website are.

4. The sound of music

This one is the most obvious, if you’re going to submit your music for review please make sure it is of high audio quality. It goes without saying that you should never upload anything sub-par online and this is a especially true if you want something reviewed. Finally and just for the record, most bloggers will not except downloadable MP3’s, a Soundcloud or Youtube link is your best bet.

That’s that ladies and gents! Provided you follow all four of those points when creating or updating your press pack, getting reviews should be a doddle!

Know any bands or aritsts that need help with their press packs? Be sure to send them this article, they’ll thank you for it.

The Ex-Factor: Is Simon Cowell Losing His Grip Of The Music industry?

Music industry mogul Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell is one of the most influential and famous music industry moguls in the world. He has dedicated his life to building solid brands such as his label “Syco” and worldwide talent competitions like The X Factor,American Idol and two “Got Talent” programmes in the U.K. and U.S.

The success he has acheived in his career cannot be disputed. However, in recent years it has been no secret that rating on all of his shows have dropped significantly, it even looks like The X Factor UK is getting either axed completely or given a complete overhaul by Simon and his team.


Well, that looked like the plan anyway. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be gaining the backing that Mr Cowell had hoped for. This coupled with the ever dropping ratings and the recent shocking news of girlband “Little Mix” parting ways with Simon’s label “Syco” really has made me start to wonder if the music mogul is losing his touch and influence within the music scene.

Although he has been known to give stars the breakout they have been waiting for (Louisa Johnson, One Direction and Olly Murs are the top three examples), his shows have also been plauged with negative press, with accusations of fixing and many former contestants  openly speaking about the fact that they had no control over their song choice during the audition process and at other stages in the competition.

Capital FM Summertime Ball
Capital FM Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium – Arrivals Featuring: Louisa Johnson Where: London, United Kingdom When: 11 Jun 2016 Credit:

In my mind, there isn’t really any use for shows like X Factor and Got Talent anymore. The shows have become less about talent and more about commical acts gaining airtime to drum up ratings, Simon has lost sight of what the music industry is about and is ruining careers before they’ve even started in some cases.

Furthermore, musicians and artists are becoming increasingly aware of how easy it is to release their own music without the need for a contract with a big label. I think that this will be the ultimate cause for Cowell’s downfall.


He has created success stories I won’t deny that. Equally, he has used artist’s lack of knowledge to take advantage of them during the most crucial time in their career. Simon isn’t the only selfish big name in the industry, but I think he has made too many mistakes and that his time at the top is coming to an end.

I know he won’t give up without a fight, but a fight means doing desperate things and the first thing that’s going to happen is the increase in low-standard contestants being placed on TV for commical appeal to increase ratings. I for one, am not looking forward to the industry being turned into a circus for the benefit of one person.

Has the biggest industry name become an ex-factor in today’s modern music world? I guess we shall have to wait and see.


Track Review: 100 – Past Kings

Loyal readers of this site will recognise the name Past Kings, they have been featured on this blog twice. They went quiet for  a short while and I was beginning to get concerned that they’d decided to call it a day.

Thankfully, I was wrong. The boys were just working in silence, writing new music and getting gigs booked. The mention of new music leads me nicely into talking about their upcoming release “100”.

The cover art to “100”

Recorded at SS2 Recording in Southend, this is the most professional and thought out release I’ve heard from the boys. The opening guitar lick is instantly filled with emotion and draws you in, leaving you wondering what sort of journey will take you on. The vocal performance from frontman Sam Charles is the strongest I’ve heard from him, he doesn’t do too much but he also isn’t timid either. He peaks in all the right places.

100 takes you on a 100 Mile Per Hour ride, showcasing everything the boys can do with even a solo from guitarist Jack Smith making an unexpected yet welcome appearance to close out the track, it could’ve been higher in the mix though! Come on Jack, you’re 6 foot 4, don’t be shy.

Although I have complimented this tune to no end, I have to confess that when I first recieved the track for review, I wasn’t expecting much. Past Kings have always been somehwat of a dark horse to me, they conduct themselves in a way that doesn’t scream talent or confidence when their on stage. However, audience members end up recieving a very pleasent shock to the system with tracks spanning across various tempos and styles and all of them having well crafted lyrics to compliment the tight instrumental backing.

The indie Essex lads have a few gigs coming up, including a performance at The O2 Academy Islington on 2nd March. ticket information for those interested can be found HERE. 

To round off my thoughts on the re-emergance of Past Kings I’ll say this; Don’t ever judge a book by it’s cover, these boys work hard behind the scenes andby the looks of things , its paying off.

100 will be released on all major music platforms on Friday 22nd Febuary, go get it!


Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m A Whore?: Everything wrong with Ariana Grande’s latest release

Ariana Grande comes back into the limelight with new album

After taking a short break from releasing records, pop music sensation Ariana Grande has come out with a new album titled “Thank You, Next.” I was scanning the tracklist earlier today and came across a track with a title that rang alarm bells immediately, it is titled  “Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m Bored.”

The title pretty much explains the gist of the track without anyone having to listen to it. There’s a man that Grande is clearly interested in, unfortunately he is spoken for. Of course you can see where this is going. Sweet little Ariana doesn’t care about the man’s relationship status and basically spends the entire song encouraging him to break up with his partner and be with her instead. She even goes onto sing about how she knows it’s the wrong thing to do, but she doesn’t care because she’s bored.

Ariana performing with fellow popsar Justin Beiber

I listened to the track as well as scanning the lyrics and let me tell you, don’t be shocked if the act of cheating in relationships becomes even more common and “normal” than it already is. Grande is (supposedly) a role model for many young teenage girls with many youngsters wanting to be a world famous popstar like her. It is due to this fact that many of her fans will soak up the lyrics of her songs as if it were a verse in a holy book. So, if she’s talking about wanting to break up a relationship to get the man she wants, the chances of her fans thinking that this is the right way to go about things is pretty high.

I’m not saying that just because Grande is in the public eye that she needs to write PG material, but writing songs about wanting a man to leave his girlfriend for you because you’re bored isn’t exactly the most positive message to be preaching. This society needs celebrities that use their fame in a responsible way, by encouraging people to be accepting of different cultures, sexualities and genders and writing songs about working hard to achieve your dreams.

Grande is preaching one thing and one thing only; if you want something, spread your legs and wreck some homes to get it.

Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m A Whore – That seems a much more fitting title to me.

I don’t know what has happened to sweet little Disney Ariana, but she has developed all the class and morals of a backstreet sex worker and it’s certaintly not a pretty sight.


My Top Five Love Songs

imagesWell there we go, another Valentine’s Day draws to a close. Cards, flowers, chocolates and vairous assortments of gifts have been exchanged between loving couples all day long. Rest assured to those singletons out there, you can come out of hiding, It’s all over for another year and normal serivce has now resumed. With love being so high on the agaenda yesterday, it got me thinking about love songs. I must admit I am a sucker for the ocassional heart-wrenching ballad. With that in mind, I’ve decided to compose my own list of my top five soppy love numbers. In no particular order of course:

1) If You’re Not The One – Daniel Beddingfeild

This is a particular favourite of mine. With great instrumentation, arrangement and lyrics I’m sure most poeple can connect with, it really is almost the perfect love song. Nothing too heavy, just a good old fashion chilled out 00’s ballad with some lovely harmonies thrown in for the musician’s of the world to understand and appreciate.

2) Hero – Enrique Iglesias

Keeping up with the theme of acoustic guitar led 00’s pop-ballads, we dig up this bad boy from the time capsule. Any male singer looking to get the attention of the ladies is bound to have this in their set list, and if they want to really seal the deal – They’ll sing it in Spanish! I have always loved this song at all times of year and you’d best beleive that being the overly-emotional aritst that I am, I’ve sent it to a few girlfriends. A great number, but a track that many would class as a one hit wonder. That is unless you were a huge Enrique fan and had his whole back catalogue.

3) I Found Lovin’ – The Fatback Band

Now we’re heading even futher back in time as we zoom straight back to the 80’s. Instantly recongiseable with its synth intro and lead riff, this is a song I’ve been raised on due to having an 80’s music nerd for a Dad. This is possibly the funkiest love song I’ve ever heard and also had the pleasure of covering in bands once or twice and my god it’s fun being a keys player if this is in the set list!

4) Bless The Broken Road – Rascal Flatts

Most people don’t know this but I am a HUGE country music fan. The level of musicianship and songwriting in most country music defies belief, so much so that it’s inspired me to save for a ticket to Nashville in 2020 – but that’s a story for another time.

Originally written by Bobby E Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon, this romantic hit ticks every box when it comes to country music writing and is actually one of Rascal Flatts’ highest selling records, peaking at number one in 2004 and staying there for a total of 25 weeks. It could of course be argued that the success celebrated by Flatts’ frontman Gary Levox and co wasn’t actually theirs to celebrate. Nonetheless, the track was a hit and continues to be in most romantic dinner date playlists across the globe.

5) Careless Whisper – George Michael

Alot of people reading will now be groaning and rolling their eyes as I hadn’t managed to dodge the typical George bullet. I’m sorry, okay? I’ve recently started working with a George Michael Tribute band and I’ve offically caught the bug (no, not that one, mind out of the gutter please…) Moving swiftly on and back to the music, everyone on the entire planet who isn’t a toddler or a newborn will recognise the unmistable sax riff that opens this ball of musical cheese up. Often found on the guilty pleasures list if you’re not aged 40 or above, but even the “cool kids” can’t deny it, that sax gets you everytime!


And there we have it folks, my top five love songs. Now, as I finish writing this it is 12:36am which does in fact make the date the 15th January thus, Valentine’s Day is no more, lovey dovey couples who are far too fond of PDA can get safely back into their little love nests and normal people can go about their days undisturbed! I like love and affection as much as the next man, but a whole day of it is just a bit too much.

The Importance of Networking and How To Go About It

Unknown“It’s not what you know, its who you know.” A fairly common phrase that couldn’t be truer when it comes to the Music industry. The way I get most of my sessions, wedding performances and teaching clients is through reccomendations from previous clients and colleugues.

Of course, I have built up a reputation as a session musician and music educator over time through performing and networking both on social media and at events such as open mics and jam nights. Getting your name out there in the industry and introducing yourself to people you haven’t even met can be a hugely daunting task when you first start out, it most definitely was for me!

With that in mind, I’ve devised a short list of tips and tricks to make networking on social media and in person easy for anyone.

1. Have a solid online presence
There’s no use in making yourself known within industry circles if you’ve nothing to showcase your work! Make sure you have a website and social media pages full of quality content (such as photos, videos and audio clips) that you can refer people to once you meet them.

2. Join online groups and forums
Social media is at the centre of how our society operates these days and has proved a brilliant tool for networking. If you’re too shy to go out to public networking events, you can start by joining the various groups and forums online. I’ve found Facebook and Linkedin to be the best place for this. Just go to your preferred one and type “Musicians” in the search bar and you’ll be spoilt for choice! There’s groups for session musicians, covers bands and music teachers, something for everyone.

3. Don’t be shy to say hi
when I first started out, I found it impossible to introduce myself to people. It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed at the prospect of walking up to a random fellow industry person in the room and going “Hi my name’s Gary Cunningham, I play Piano!” Did anyone else hear a five year old’s voice in their head when reading that? I know I did *Cringe.*

That being said, you MUST take the plunge, the best ice-breaker for me when it came to making introductions was complimenting somebody’s performance. Something like: “That was amazing! I’m Gary by the way.” It may seem really kiss-assy but you’d be surprised at how well the conversation begins to flow after that.

4. Follow up
This is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to networking. You spend all night make introductions, complimenting performances and exchanging business cards to then get home and forget to follow up the next day. What.a.waste! If you’ve managed to bite the bullet and make some connections in person, make sure to keep the relationship going online by sending a DM or email, or even giving them a cheeky follow. It’s important to keep the image of you in the minds of the people you meet for as long as possible and keep that connection alive, you never know what that person may be able to do for you one day!

There we have it, four tips to help you make yourself known in the industry. I hope all of these little nuggets help you get as many gigs and students as possible in 2019.

Is The CD Dead (and is it killing the music industry?)

cd-81826_960_720.jpgThe CD or Compact disc has been the most popular form of audio consumption for years, decades even. Everyone remembers their first CD, mine was Mcfly’s “Room On The Third Floor” – A great record that I still own. As time has gone on and generations have succeeded mine, I have started to notice a decline in the purchasing of CD’s, in 2019 people much prefer to stream their music instead of having a physical disc copy.

HMV have been fighting closure for a number of years.

The rise of streaming coupled with the slow death of brick and mortar music stores such as HMV have made me really question the future of the CD as a viable audio consumption and distribution method. Let’s be real here, what are you more likely to do, add your favorite song to your Spotify playlist for free and from the comfort of your own home OR go out to an actual store and spend money on a CD? Unfortunately, the majority of the modern generation, including myself, would choose option one.


Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming platforms

The only time I’ve even seen a CD in recent situations is if I go to see an unsigned live band and they happen to be selling an E.P of some kind, but even then the band rarely make sales and would be much better off promoting their Spotify handles.

Why has the music and audio industry become so streaming heavy? Purely due to the convenience OF streaming. As stated above, in order for someone to grab the latest tune, all they have to do is add the track to their Spotify playlist with one simple click. Frankly, the modern generations have become lazy in many ways of life and would rather not venture outside and spend money when they can get the music they want online to stream for free.

So, we’ve looked at why the CD is becoming less and less popular, what does that mean for music industry professionals and the music they write, produce and distribute?

Let me start this off by saying that it’s not a pretty picture. It is near on impossible for unsigned artists to make a solid living off of streaming royalties, if you want to make money from your music, you’ve got to think of other ways to do so. I can imagine some of you are skeptical about this so rather than take my word for it, lets look at the actual figures.

Pretty shocking numbers right? What the above image tells me, is that in order to make any form of decent money purely from streams, you have to have serious backing from a label. Obviously, bands at all levels make the majority of their money through touring and merch sales anyway but its a real kick in the teeth for artists knowing that in the streaming world, their music that they’ve worked extremely hard to create, holds pretty much zero monetry value.

I’ve heard the argument that if you want to make money from your songs then you’re better off selling CD’s. My response to that is always that nobody in this day and age is going to buy a phsyical CD when they can just go home and stream the track online. It may be an extremely pessamistic way of looking at it, but no matter what bands do, the reality is there is no money in selling records anymore.  This is the conseqeunce of streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

I’d like to wrap this up by encouraging music consumers and fans to support their favourite unsgined bands by going to shows, buying their merch and if they have a CD for sale, by that too! They would’ve slogged in the studio for days, sometimes even weeks to get the record finished, the least they deserve is some form of small finacial reward.