Tony James Shevlin

Tony James Shevlin

What we did this summer…

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Before I head off to the US for my Autumn solo acoustic tour, here’s a few photographs taken at some of the festivals I got to play this summer with my band The Chancers backing me…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Baird & Homemade Sin

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Dan Baird & Homemade Sin, The Railway, Ipswich, UK 26/8/18                                        

I received a text message from my friend Shane. It read: “Do you want to see Dan Baird play at The Railway?” I replied, “Dan Baird?” “Yes,” he said. “Dan Baird from The Georgia Satellites?” “Yes.” “At The Railway?” “Yes.” “I’m in,” I said.

For the uninitiated, The Georgia Satellites were a band of Southern rockers plying their trade in the late 1980s. I saw them at The Town and Country in London (now the O2 Forum). It was one of the best gigs I saw that decade (up there with Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Who, Ry Cooder, and John Hiatt).

The Railway was a premier rock music venue in my hometown of Ipswich, UK during the nineties and early noughties. I was last there when playing on New Year’s Eve 2003. The landlady was notorious for insisting on kissing whichever band member came to collect the band’s money. This could range from a peck on the cheek to full-on snogging depending on how she felt about the band member in question. No-one ever went willingly. Bands would often draw lots to decide who had to go to the office. I was told that on one occasion, a guitarist with a face that would have looked at home on the cover of a glossy fashion magazine offered to forego his earnings if someone would take his place…

Walking into the venue, it looked like time had been frozen on that New Year’s Eve. It looked like the same crowd as that night, albeit that everyone had put on 30lbs and dyed their hair grey or shaved it off. There was clearly a competition for ‘oldest tour band T-shirt’ going on amongst the men-folk, whilst some of the women were channelling Stevie Nicks circa 1978.

Dan Baird doesn’t seem to have aged a day since that London gig. The music hasn’t changed, either. He is still writing insanely catchy songs to a good old southern groove any of which would have sounded right at home on the debut album from The Georgia Satellites.

At the start of the show I was standing halfway back; the guy in front of me insisted on recording the whole gig on his phone (don’t get me started on this phenomenon!). Several times I moved his upheld arm out of my field of vision but after it drifted back a fourth time, I decided to make my way to the front. I’m glad I did – because a gig such as this is best received by being in the thick of it.

A band like this needs a cracking lead guitarist, which is what they have in the former Jason and The Scorchers member, Warner E Hodges. His rhythm playing entwined with the riffs coming from Baird in a manner that would have pleased Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood (plus it was my favourite mix of guitars – A Gibson Les Paul and a Fender Telecaster). And his soloing was sublime – never a note wasted. And yet there was no ego there; Hodges told the crowd that last week in Nashville he had seen Jeff Beck performing – and said it was enough to make him give up playing the guitar.

The rhythm section were no slouches, either. A seasoned drummer, and a bass player who wasn’t born when the Satellites were in the charts, effortlessly set up grooves for Baird and Hodges to sit their riffs on.

Baird is a charismatic frontman who is totally at ease with himself. When he wasn’t happy with the way one of the songs had been started, he just stopped the band, made a joke and started the song again. That takes a lot of confidence to do well.

It was so nice to see a band having fun on stage and they made it look so easy. If you like your rock with a southern feel, you should go see them if they’re playing near you. You won’t be disappointed.

The Letter

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After playing at a music festival recently, I was chatting to some people that were in the crowd and selling some CDs when I noticed a woman watching from a distance. After the crowd had gone, I called her over and said hello. “I like your music,” she said, “and I’d like to buy a CD but I haven’t got any money with me. Can I have your address? I’ll send you a cheque and you can send me a CD.” I wrote down my address and gave it to her. I also handed her a CD copy of American Odyssey. “Send me a cheque,” I said. “You’ll trust me?” she said, surprised. “Yes!” I said, “You’ve got an honest face!”

Two days later, the cheque arrived – with a letter. A hand-written letter! In it, she thanked me for my performance, said she had enjoyed listening to the CD and told me a little of her life.

I can’t remember the last time I received a hand-written letter! In these days of rat-a-tat texts and emails it was lovely to hold in my hand a communication that had been thought-through and considered so I thought I would share it with you.

Ten Albums

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I recently participated in one of those Facebook fads/crazes where you name ten albums that either inspired you or you continue to revisit from time to time. There was no explanation needed – you just posted a photo of the album cover. Each time you posted, you nominated a friend who would do the same. It was fascinating seeing which albums meant something to people you know. Some were no-brainers; others, a complete surprise. My problem with the whole exercise was not explaining why I had made my choices. Regular visitors to this page may have come to know that I like words – I use them every day! So here for your delectation (and hopefully) delight, in no particular order, are the reasons behind my album choices:

  1. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: David Bowie

I am of that generation that saw that first appearance by David Bowie on the seminal UK music television programme of the day – Top of the Pops – singing Starman. Glam rock has already taken hold of the music scene with the likes of Marc Bolan filling our screen, so we were used to seeing people that seemed different from us. But then Bowie showed up: this was a different different. With those peculiar coloured eyes and spiky hair, he looked like what this 14-year-old imagined an alien would look like but with his arm slung casually round guitarist Mick Ronson’s shoulder he looked like he would also make a good mate to hang out with.

If we had had social media back then, we would have crashed the internet but, as it was, we had to content ourselves with rushing into school the next day saying: “Did you see that?” “Who/what was that?”

At the end of that week, using the payment for last week’s newspaper delivery round, I went in to town to purchase Bowie’s long-playing record – only to find that there were four to choose from. I opted for the latest one because it contained Starman, promising myself that I would work my way back through his catalogue.

I could hardly contain my excitement. On the bus ride home, I sat and stared at the cover, reading every word – at the very bottom was written: “To be played at maximum volume.” One side of the inner sleeve contained close-up photos of Bowie and the Spiders, the other side had the lyrics to the songs.

I took the Dansette record player up to my bedroom as I didn’t want sibling interference or parental criticism. Up to this point in my short life, I had only bought 7-inch singles; this was my first album. From the opening drum beat of Five Years to the cello ending of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, I was transfixed. Nothing would ever be the same again.

  1. Bring the Family: John Hiatt 

When I heard this album for the first time it was on an incredibly expensive stereo system – the control room of Power Plant Studios – where I was recording an album for CBS Records in 1988. After each session, producer Colin Fairley – who had worked with Hiatt through his connection with Nick Lowe (who turned up at one of our sessions one evening) – would play some music to help get the song we had been working on out of the heads of myself, guitarist Andy Williams and our rhythm section for the album – drummer Pete Thomas and bassist Bruce Thomas, normally two-thirds of Elvis Costello’s Attractions. This evening, Colin played Bring the Family – Hiatt’s first album for UK label Demon, which features musicians Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner.

As soon as I heard the opening bars of Memphis in the Meantime I was hooked. By the time the melancholic acoustic guitar of Learning How to Love You faded out I knew I had found a new musical hero.

  1. A Hard Day’s Night: The Beatles 

My mother told me that I could sing Beatles songs before I could recite nursery rhymes. The cinema in our town was showing the first feature film by The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night and my big sister was given permission to go and see it on the condition that she took me. She reluctantly agreed but banished me to a seat away from her and her friends.

The film starts with that distinctive opening chord of the song which gives the film its title, to a scene where the Fab Four are being chased into a London railway station by hordes of screaming fans. It was very exciting!

But it was the next scene where the band are seen performing I Should Have Known Better in a train carriage that affected me the most. I didn’t realise at the time what an influential moment in my life that was but everything about that song – the acoustic strumming, the jangly electric guitar, the hook, the harmonies, the switch from major to minor for the middle eight section – are ingredients for a Tony James Shevlin recording. I may have only been five years of age but I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

  1. The Stranger: Billy Joel 

If you had come to visit me in my tiny room in a shitty house in a shitty area of South London in 1978 and rifled through my record collection you would have found vinyl LPs by the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Stranglers and The Clash. What you would not have found was Billy Joel’s The Stranger – for that was my guilty pleasure, hidden away when my fellow punk friends came to call. I had heard the saccharine-drenched single Just the Way You Are and had dismissed the New Yorker as a lounge singer. Then I heard Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) and immediately loved the scatter-gun metre of lyrics such as “Sgt O’Leary is walking the beat, at night he becomes a bartender, he works at Mr Cacciatore’s down on Sullivan Street, across from the medical centre”. At a dinner at an ex-landlady’s house I heard the whole album. Songs such as Only the Good Die Young and the sublime Scenes From an Italian Restaurant blew me away. And they still do. It’s just that these days, I don’t have to hide the album on top of the wardrobe.

  1. Arc of a Diver: Steve Winwood 

I had loved Steve Winwood’s work with Spencer Davis, Traffic and his contribution to the one-off supergroup Blind faith. He had been quiet for a number of years and resurfaced (excuse the pun) as a solo artist with Arc of a Diver in 1980. It was a new departure for the Birmingham-born singer-songwriter and featured layers of synthesizers. I was never into the synth bands of that decade but quite frankly, Steve Winwood singing to the accompaniment of a cement mixer would do it for me. Not only did Winwood write the songs (with Will Jennings, except for the title track which was co-written with Vivian Stanshall) but he played all the instruments, sang all the vocals, engineered and produced the record. The songs were quite beautiful with moving melodies. The record came out just after I had my heart broken (my one and only time – as a songwriter, I have been mining this event ever since!) and three tracks got me through the heartache – While you See a Chance, Slowdown Sundown and Dust. Thank you, Stevie.

  1. Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen 

I was quite late in coming to the Bruce party. As Springsteen was tearing up London’s Hammersmith Odeon, I was more interested in steeping myself in classic English singer-songwriters like Ray Davies and John Lennon, Squeeze’s Difford and Tilbrook, and was enjoying the new breed of punk/new wave writers like Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson too much to take much notice of the New Jersey rocker. A girlfriend had tried to turn me onto The Boss but I don’t think starting me off with the dour and melancholic Nebraska was the right way to go. A couple of years later, and despite its homage to small town America, Born in the USA resonated with me. Not so much the bombastic title track but songs such as Glory Days, No Surrender and My Home Town all struck a chord.

Later that summer, I saw Bruce at Wembley Stadium. It was an amazing performance. Bruce and I are still together; the girlfriend and I have long since parted.

  1. Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs: Marty Robbins 

My dad introduced me to country music, or country & western as it was termed back in the early 1970s. I loved the stories that songs sung by the likes of Johnny Cash and Charlie Pride told. One album stood out from all the others, though. It was Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty Robbins. The trail songs were okay but it was the gunfighter ballads that fired my imagination. When Robbins sang these, he painted visual images that took the listener into the tales being told. My favourite was the opening track Big Iron, which tells the story of a showdown between a nameless Arizona Ranger and an outlaw called Texas Red. As a burgeoning songwriter (I had just been bought my first guitar) I loved the rhythm of the words (I wouldn’t learn the term metre for another five years!). I still get annoyed when I hear songs on the radio that don’t adhere to a pattern or sound clumsy. I somehow understood instinctively that the line “It was twenty past eleven when they walked out in the street” couldn’t have been ‘quarter past ten’ or ‘ten past twelve’: it just wouldn’t work.

Years later, when I was on tour in the US I paid homage to Marty Robbins and visited the town of Aqua Fria where the story of the song is set (it has been subsumed in to Santa Fe). Much to the amusement of the locals, I got my guitar out, sat down in the main street and performed Big Iron. When I finished, I put my six-string away, got back in my car and drove off into the sunset.

  1. A Touch of the Blarney: Noel Murphy 

It was sometime in the late 1960s. I was shopping with my mum in one of those new fangled ‘supermarkets’ – where, instead of waiting to be served by the shopkeeper, you wandered around with a basket, getting your own groceries (“This will never catch on,” said my mother).

As we queued up to pay, my mum noticed a rack of albums (or LPs as we called them back then). She picked up one by Noel Murphy – an artist that I had not heard of (and haven’t since!) titled A Touch of the Blarney. “Your dad will like this” She may have got it wrong about future shopping habits but she was dead on when it came to this record. He didn’t just like it – he loved it more than any other record in the house. For many years, no party in the Shevlin household could finish without this platter being given a spin. And every time it was played, it was like he was hearing it for the first time. He would laugh uproariously at the antics of a cheeky Irish greyhound on Master McGrath, and furrow his brow on songs about the 1916 rebellion like The Foggy Dew.

This album was my introduction to Irish folk music. In fact, it was my introduction to Irish history, too, for these songs are historical documents. Someone once asked me why Irish folk songs are often so maudlin. My answer is that if you had been through just a fraction of what the Irish people have had to endure, you’d write some bloody sad songs, too.  And yet, every time I hear the song Patriot Games, I think of the old fella and smile.

  1. Quadrophenia: The Who 

I don’t like Tommy that much. There, I’ve said it! I find it overblown and a bit pompous. I much prefer Quadrophenia – Townsend’s tale of the life of a mod in the 1960s (told with hindsight from the 1970s). There is no fat on the bones of this album. Townshend is at the pinnacle of his creative powers and his band mates all bring their A game to the sessions.

I missed the album on its release in 1973 – I was too into the glam scene of Bowie and Bolan to notice it. It came to my attention during the brief ‘Mod revival’ period of the late 1970s which gave us bands like The Chords, Secret Affair and of course, The Jam. In an effort to promote the recently-released Quadrophenia movie starring Phil Daniels, The Who were even playing songs from the album in their live set. I saw them playing at Wembley Stadium in 1980 (on the bill were AC/DC, the Stranglers and Nils Lofgren) and I’ll never forget the power of John Entwhistle’s bass on my favourite track from the album – 5.15.

Some bands struggle to fill a conventional album without having one or two weak songs in the running order; Townshend manages to fill a double-album with great songs, telling a story about a disaffected youth while incorporating the personalities of all four members of the band. An absolute triumph.

  1. Trio: Dolly Parton, Linda Rondstadt and Emmylou Harris 

Of all the albums in this list, this is probably the only one that hasn’t influenced me – I just love it to bits! It’s a joy from beginning to end. When this album came out in 1987, I was well aware of the career trajectories of all three women involved. I wasn’t particularly a fan of Parton who was well in to her pop/country crossover phase (9 to 5, Islands in the Stream, etc.) whereas I loved the work of Harris – both her solo output and her seminal work with Gram Parsons. I had been following the work of Ronstadt ever since hearing her version of The Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice in the late 1970s. I loved the sound of her voice, no matter what genre of music she sang (I am also a big fan of her Big Band albums with Nelson Riddle) but I think that country music is her natural home.

I first heard  their combined voices when I was browsing in a record shop and the opening track The Pains of Loving You came over the sound system. After enquiring who the recording was by, I purchased it on vinyl (I had yet to make the move to CDs) and, 21 years on, I’m still enjoying it! Along with Bring the Family, it is probably the most played of the ten albums listed above.

According to the record’s producer George Massenburg, there were never any egos on show and I think the love and respect that these three artists have for each other just shines through every song.

Tony James Shevlin & The Chancers

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As much as I love playing solo gigs where I get the chance to tell stories as I introduce the songs, there is nothing to beat the feeling you get when playing in a band, particularly when it’s with the calibre of musicians that I am lucky enough to call upon! Plus – when there is a great camaraderie between the people in the band – that you love being with each other as much when you’re off-stage as you do when you’re on-stage (and there is a lot more time off-stage than on!) it makes it the best job in the world. And the fact that they can all sing a harmony is the icing on a very musical cake.

So I salute the members of The Chancers: Jonny Miller (guitar); Dirk Forsdyke (drums); Jules Shevlin (acoustic guitar) and Thérèse Miller (keyboards).

Playing at a festival near you this summer…

Photographs by Dawn Hynes Photography


The Humble Set List

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You’re at a gig; the artist on stage looks down at his or her feet and reads from a scrap of paper.  Scrawled on the scrap of paper is a list of songs.  You think it was probably thrown together in the same way as a shopping list.  You would be wrong.  For this is a set list…

A non-musician friend called me up and asked if I was busy.  I told him that I was.  I said that I was writing out a set list for an upcoming gig.  He chuckled and said, sarcastically, “Well, that will keep you busy all day!”  In actual fact, he spoke the truth, for the set-list is not a thing to be taken lightly.

Here are some things to take into consideration when putting together a set list:

Pitch
The musical pitch the songs are played in matters.  A record producer once said to me that the running order of an album should always ascend in pitch, never descend.  (Note – the album running order is the distant cousin of the set list and as once the record is mastered the running order cannot be altered, it is even more critical to get it right first time!  I always think long and hard about an album’s running order and so loathe Spotify’s ‘shuffle play’ for this reason).  The same goes for the set list.

Major and Minor Keys
Major keys tend to be happier, minor keys more sombre and sad.  I like to mix it up to elicit different emotions from the audience.  A rule of 2:1 should apply here – if you play two minor keys then play one in a major key and vice versa.  If all your songs are in a minor key you should seek professional help or try and get out a bit more.

Song Tempo
Most of the gigs I play tend to be to listening audiences in small clubs or at house concerts, which tend to be much more intimate so you can play a couple of slow songs one after another without losing the crowd.  As with major or minor keys, however, I don’t ever play more than two in a row before offering up a medium or fast-paced ditty.  As the old saying goes, a change is as good as a rest.  Of course, if I’m playing with a full band, particularly on a festival stage where people are seeing you for the first time, I tend to play the more energetic, upbeat songs.  To watch people dancing to your tune in a field with a beer in their hand is a thing of beauty.

Time signatures
Most rock and roll songs are in 4/4 time.  I have some that are in 3/4 (waltz time) that sway gently.  You should never play two of these in a row.  If you do Morris dancers will appear from nowhere.

Rhythm
Some songs you strum, some songs you finger-pick.  Rule of 2:1 applies here, too.

Introductions
I’m Irish so I like a good story. I once wrote a song just so I could tell a favourite story.  It has been pointed out to me that the introduction to one of my songs was actually longer than the song it preceded. My rule is not to tell a story of epic proportions before every song. Sometimes it’s good to let the songs tell their own story.

Merchandise
It’s easy to forget that this is the music business.  As much as I love playing gigs, when I’m out on the road I need to sell merchandise to make a living.  Your set should contain a good mix from your catalogue (I currently have two albums and an EP available to buy).  If there is a new album to sell, songs from that record need to be included in the set, tucked safely between tried and tested songs.  But which ones do you favour and which ones do you drop from the list to make way for them?  I try to swap like-for-like either in tone or rhythm, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of songs that have served you well.  If you’re playing a repeat venue and you know that the bulk of the audience bought what you had last time you were there, you’d be crazy not to tempt them with newer songs that they don’t own.

I am often tempted to play some new songs that I haven’t yet recorded (you always love the last song you’ve written!) and, while it’s good to keep the set fresh and to see if it gets a good reaction (so you can put it on a shortlist for your next recording), I once nearly lost out on a sale at the merch table when a guy wanted to know which CD a song he had really liked was on.  It wasn’t on any of them.  Thankfully, he bought an album anyway.

Covers?
Oh, the age-old question: whether to throw in a cover song or not?  For me, it depends of the length of the show.  If it’s just a 45-minute slot, I’d want all of the songs to be self-penned.  If I’m playing two sets in a new venue to a new audience, midway through the second set, I might slip in a song that they know because an hour and a half is a long time to expect an audience to focus on songs that they have never heard before.  In the US, this can work to your advantage thanks to the tip jar.  I was playing in a bar called Swampers in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the artists are expected to perform three 45-minute sets.  I peppered the sets with traditional Irish songs and each time someone came up and dropped a 20 dollar bill in the jar, with a nod that said ‘my ancestors were from Ireland’.  By the end of the night there was over a hundred dollars in the jar, which to a touring musician on a budget is four sleazy motel rooms!

Overall Feel
The first two or three songs should let the audience know what they’re in for.  You should come out all guns blazing, settle down and then gradually build momentum, “like an inverted Gaussian Curve,” said that same record producer (don’t worry, I had to look it up too!).

Now you’re probably thinking that you would need a NASA computer to help permutate the above criteria but believe me – you get a feel for it after a while.

So how do I go about it?

I type up a list of songs I want to play.  I then print up the list and cut up the paper to contain individual songs.  I lay the pieces out on a surface taking in to consideration all of the above criteria.  I play through the set (some times I top and tail the songs) going from one song to the next to see that they flow nicely, complementing each other, and then I adjust the place order to suit.

However, the list should never be written in stone.  The artist may need to adapt to the situation.  I was once playing a place in Chicago which was split into two separate venues – separated by a brick wall that was no match for the volume that the metal band next door was playing at.   I immediately ditched my delicate, introspective, soul-searching, finger-picking songs for up-tempo, loud, raucous ones where I could beat the hell out of my acoustic guitar.  Afterwards, I said to the bar’s manager, you need to soundproof that wall.  He sighed and said: “It is sound-proofed – you shoulda heard it in da room!”

So, while the set list should be as finely-tuned as the instrument that the songs are played on, it should also be a living, breathing thing.

The real test is out on the road.  That’s the time you find out if your running order works or not.  If it’s not feeling quite right, juggle the songs until it does.  I was five days into a tour, on stage at the Barley Street Tavern in Omaha, Nebraska, when I thought to myself: I’ve got this! I knew what to play, when to tell a story, when to shut up and just play the song, when to finish, and what to finish with.  It was a moment of zen-like enlightenment.  The set list and I were as one.

So next time you’re at a gig, think of the effort that the artist on stage has put in to preparing for the show, and maybe think twice before shouting out that request.

2017… thank you and good night…

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As 2017 heads for the door marked exit and 2018 takes its first tentative steps onto the stage, it’s always good to look back on what has been achieved in the previous 12 months and take stock of what went on.  Have the seeds planted in previous years borne fruit?  Has momentum been maintained?  Did I have fun?
Here’s what went on…

The year began with me putting the final touches to the new album American Odyssey – there were some harmonies needed which my sister Jules AKA Tiny Diva supplied in a couple of quick sessions – then the task of mixing began.  Engineer Ian tends to do a mix after each recording session so final mixing was not an epic task to undertake.  He did a mix of each track on his own where he seemed to sprinkle a little fairy dust, subtly bringing out elements in the recording that had maybe got a little lost in overdubs.  I lived with the results for a few days, playing it on every audio device I have: from the quality hi-fi system in my music room, through headphones on a laptop computer, and on the CD player in the car, and I made notes on any changes I thought were necessary and Ian made those accordingly.  We repeated this procedure until I was happy. American Odyssey was complete. I spent the next few weeks telling everyone I knew that I had made the best recording of my career.
Most of February and March was spent in the US.  I spent time in New York, Kansas City and Nashville.  The main event was being back in Kansas City for a music festival/conference called Folk Alliance International.  Five days of workshops, seminars, showcases and gigs in the usually corporate environment of the Westin Crown Hotel.  I was there as part of the British Underground – sponsored by the Musicians’ Union and PRS for Music.  It was great to meet up with acts whose careers I’d followed from afar such as Jack Harris, Bella Hardy, Sam Kelly and Gwyneth Herbert.
FAI is an excellent opportunity to be introduced to industry people it would normally be hard to make a connection with such as record label representatives, publishers, booking agents and artist managers.  I was also able to be up-close with or interact with the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Darden Smith, Danny Kortchmar and Billy Bragg.
Of course, I also took the time to consolidate my relationship with KC with shows at The Dubliner and a farewell gig at Johnnie’s Bar, where just about everybody I know in town was present.
I then drove down to Nashville to spend a couple of weeks catching up with friends and people I had previously co-written with.
The next few months were spent preparing for the release of the new album.  There were meetings with my label, PR companies, and CD duplication companies.  I’m well aware that it’s called the music ‘business’ but this is my least favourite aspect of my career – albeit a necessary one.  If people don’t know about the record, how can they buy it?  If the logistics of making it available via digital technology or good old-fashioned CDs are not given due attention, people will not be able to purchase it.
There were interviews with radio stations and magazines.  These were not a problem because the story behind the album was my three-month tour of the US in 2015 so there was a lot to talk about.
In between this, I managed a trip to Australia.  I was hoping that I could develop a similar routine as I do in the States but the costs of just getting there outweighed any chance of making a profit from touring. This is a shame because it’s such a beautiful country; I loved being there, and would love to see more of it.
The single Travelling Man was released in late July.  The BBC played it, saying: “You will be singing this for the rest of the week… It’s a great song.”  While the folks at Folk Union said: “There’s something about that type of country that I love… it takes me back to 1979 and Dave Edmunds, Elvis Costello et al.”
The album was released in August. VENTS Magazine wrote: “The trials and tribulations of life on the road are captured in a set of songs that draw on classic Country, gritty rock n’ roll, swampy blues rock and 60’s powerpop in equal measure.”  The Daily Country called it “an outsider’s love letter to the United States.”  Americana UK said it was “a sonic postcard”.  The icing on the cake, though, was RnR Magazine saying: “It’s like listening to a musical roadmap and at each stop there’s a good song with something to say.”
During the summer I played some festival dates with my backing band The Chancers as well as solo house concerts up and down the country.
The last few months of the year have been constructive in preparing for 2018.  There are a bunch of songs that have been written since the tour of 2015 that are finding their way into my live set, so I’m keen to produce another acoustic EP along the lines of Restless Celtic Heart (which started life as a ‘white label’ to sell at shows alongside Songs From the Last Chance Saloon).  Recording on that should start in April.
I’ve also been researching and planning a return to the US for the coming summer.  If I can get the stars to align I hope to be spending a month in the Midwest and then either a month travelling up the Pacific coast of California from San Diego to San Francisco or venturing into new territories such as Montana and Wyoming.
2017, you’ve been great, but bring on 2018! I can’t wait…

The Story so Far…

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I thought I’d do a round-up of what press and radio have been saying about American Odyssey.

Up in Lancashire UK, BBC DJ Joe Wilson has played  Travelling Man twice on The Country Show saying: “You will be singing this for the rest of the week… It’s a great song.”

Closer to home in Norfolk, the BBC’s Keith Greentree said: “He makes good music doesn’t he?”

Carl Spaul at Folk Union in Chelmsford said: “There’s something about that type of country that I love… it takes me back to 1979 and Dave Edmunds, Elvis Costello et al.”

Russell Hill at Portsmouth Express FM has played Rambling Days and Tucumcari Sunset playing the latter song back to back with The Eagles’s Tequila Sunrise.

VENTS Magazine wrote: “The trials and tribulations of life on the road, are captured in a set of songs that draw on classic Country, gritty Rock n’ roll, swampy blues rock and 60’s powerpop in equal measure.”

Songwriting Magazine said: He’s been recommended for fans of Celtic-infused Americana, but we also think that those of you who enjoy Don Gibson and Marty Robbins (one of Shevlin’s influences) will enjoy Travelling Man

The Daily Country called American Odyssey “an outsider’s love letter to the United States.”

Pure M Magazine said “Eleven songs – one for every thousand miles of road – take the listener on a remarkable journey that is one man’s American Odyssey.”

Songwriter News‘s highlights were: “Eleven tracks of inspired creativity…a masterpiece that salutes Americana…. illuminates the talents of an awesome singer-songwriter… a touch of understated genius”

Americana UK called American Odyssey “a sonic postcard” adding:

“Santa Fe Sadness [is] a wonderful Tennessee type waltz while Ride The Mississippi is a very fine example of gusha gusha gumbo as cooked up years ago by Danny Adler.  The album’s single, Travelling Man, is a breezy ride of a song lifted by its pedal steel and soaring refrain and there’s some Rockpile-like rambunctiousness on When Ginny Gets Her Wings while Mockingbird benefits from the female harmonies surrounding Shevlin’s voice over some fine guitars and mandolin.”  They finished their review with ““Anglo Americana travelogue that hits the spot…”

The BBC‘s Stephen Foster wrote: “American Odyssey is as good a record as you’ll hear all year.”

RnR Magazine concluded “It’s like listening to a musical roadmap and at each stop there’s a good song with something to say.”  And “Shevlin deserves to be much better known and this is definitely a trip worth taking.”

American Odyssey is available at:
https://itun.es/gb/u2_Clb or on CD at http://www.tonyjamesshevlin.com/shop/

You can read my interview with VENTS at:

I was also interviewed by East Anglian Daily Times editor Andrew Clarke. You can read the feature here: http://www.eadt.co.uk/what-s-on/tony-s-epic-road-trip-to-discover-america-s-musical-soul-1-5153781

And finally, the review in Songwriter News:

Travelling Man

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Travelling Man is now available on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/id1259383746

Here is the story of how this song came about…

You never know when the Songwriting muse will tap you on the shoulder and say ‘how about this for a song?’

I was en route to Amarillo for my next gig.  I had stayed the previous night in El Paso – at the El Paso Motel to be exact, my fondness for Marty Robbins getting the better of me.  I suppose I hoped that I might find ‘Rosa’s Cantina’ where ‘music would play and Felina would whirl.’  As it turned out, it was one of the seedier places in which I spent the night.

Next morning, I was up at dawn.  The cute girl with the beaming smile on reception remarked on my early checkout.  I replied with a smile: “Oh well, another day, another town,” …

The line stayed with me.  I had only been on Highway 54 for a short while when I knew there was a song stirring in my head.  I reached for the digital recorder that I had sitting on the passenger seat in case of times like this and turned it on.  I sang the first melody that came into my head and these words came tumbling out: “Another day, another town, on this road that I’ve been running down, I’m making music anywhere I can.”

I’ve written a lot of songs over the years but I can’t remember one that was not changed or edited in some way but I felt this one seemed to be perfectly formed.

By the time I stopped to look for aliens in Roswell, New Mexico, I had added: “I was born with the need to play to the rhythm of a lost highway”.

The final line of the chorus had been one that I had been using for a while on my trip across the US.  In various bars and diners I had frequented, people would ask me if I was travelling with a band. “No,” I would say, “just me, a guitar and a car.”  All that needed to be added was “I’m a travelling man.”

The verses would be written the following week when I was back in Nashville.  A music publisher had asked me if I wanted to co-write with one of the artists on their roster, a young guy called Ty James.  At the writing session I offered up the chorus I had and together we wrote the verses.  My only stipulation was that if we mentioned US name places, they had to be towns, cities or States that I had passed through on my tour.  A couple of hours later we had the finished song.  Or so I thought.

A week later, back in the UK, I played it to my sister Jules.  She is always the first person that I run new songs by.  She liked ‘Travelling Man’ but agreed it needed ‘something else’.  We settled on a musical change at the end of the song which reinforced the title.  Job done.

I hope you enjoy listening to this song.  More than any other song on the album I think it sums up the epic journey I undertook, which saw me drive 11,000 miles, passing through 17 States and 21 cities that made up my American Odyssey.

Travelling Man: drums – Tim Bye; piano – Adam Whyatt; electric guitars – Jonny Miller; backing vocals – Jules Shevlin; pedal steel – Nick Zala; bass, acoustic guitars, lead and backing vocals – Tony James Shevlin

Recorded at Amblin’ Man Studios, Otley, Suffolk, UK by Ian Crow.

Available on itunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/id1259383746

American Odyssey will be released on Oh Mercy Records on August 11th