Saturday, 24 December 2011

My top 5 albums of 2011

5. Frank Turner - England Keep My Bones

Frank is one of the hardest working artists out there right now and without stopping his constant touring he's back with an album that has taken him to the edge of the mainstream, does it match the anthemic songwriting of his prior efforts? Maybe not, but there are plenty of memorable moments that make it worthy of my Top 5. 

Stand out track: 'Redemption'

4. Marit Larsen - Spark

Marit is my future wife, she's just playing hard to get right now, but in the mean time I'm enjoying the third album by the Norwegian songstress. If you like folk music right at the poppier end you're gonna love this album. 

Stand out track: 'What if'

3. Ben Marwood - Outside There's A Curse

I'll admit the first time I heard Ben I wasn't won over immediately, I was 'hounded' into listening to him by a couple of my friends, and then out of the blue I was asked to support him. Come his live set I got what all the fuss was about, and suddenly I realised where the magic was live. After that the album has been on repeat and I've been to see him play again in York.

Stand out track: 'I Will Breathe You In'

2. Edwina Hayes - Good Things Happen Over Coffee

I met Edwina at an acoustic guitar party just under a couple of years ago, we got chatting about music and my then unreleased album, she gave me a lot of advice about how to get the CD pressed and released, and then more recently she contributed some amazing backing vocals to my latest E.P. Anyway to the album, this is one of the most honest, heartfelt albums I've heard in a long time, the recording is done in a way that you feel like she's in the room with you. 

Stand out track: 'Nobody's Coming Around'

1. Ryan Spendlove - Fable

For me Ryan is hands down the most talented singer songwriter in the U.K right now. He recorded this album within a week, mostly in one take via Candyrat records in the USA. 'Fable' is hard to pin down as a genre as he touches Blues, Folk, Pop and Gospel all delivered with a voice to die for drenched in vibrato. He's very proud to show his Yorkshire accent in the songs and it works. 

Stand out track: 'Silicone Puppies'

Honourable Mentions: Blink 182 'Neighborhoods', Joe McCorriston 'One Day', The Swellers 'Good For Me'' 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The reason why I do it.

Being a musician, the music element is only a small reason why I do it.

It's not about the perceived level of fame, the money (lack of!), or it's not about putting all your ambitions and dreams into reaching a goal of trying to be the next big thing that you forget to enjoy the present time.

For me it's about being given an opportunity to make a room of people come together as a community all sharing the same passion. It's all about meeting with other artists and promoters at the shows and sharing your experiences. The friendships that you form. The smile it puts on your face when there's that one fan that comes along from miles away just to see you perform. People telling you that a song of yours got them through bad times. 

Thats what makes what you do worthwhile.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Open mic etiquette for performers.

I've been to my fair share of open mic nights over the past 2 years, I even won an award at one (sad I know) and I've witnessed a whole range of performers from complete beginners to seasoned pros that play. Here's what I've learnt along the way and probably broke a few of these unwritten rules myself.

1. Have your instrument tuned up before you go on.
An acoustic guitar will need to adjust to the ambient room temperature so chances are that if you tuned your guitar at home and bring it out into a different climate it might be out of tune. Also when the artist before you is playing their last song, start getting it out of the case etc. Time is always precious at popular open mic nights. So don't be in the toilets or outside when your name is called up!

2. If it's a 3 song rule...
Don't play 3 epic ballads which have 6 choruses and go on for 7 minutes each. 1 long song is fine, but make sure you compromise with a couple of short songs. Songs should ideally be no more than 4 minutes long. You might see people starting to yawn if you take advantage by playing exceptionally long songs!

3. No life stories in between songs please.
30 seconds of chat is fine and a bit of crowd interaction is better than none. You can do the life stories at your own gigs.

4. Stay to watch at least a few of the other performers after you've played.
There's nothing worse than seeing the all important musician quickly scoot of after playing his or her set. If you have to be somewhere please at least stay for the next artist after you, it's just courtesy.

5. Alternate tunings in between songs.
Spending a couple of minutes in between each song tuning to DADGAD or some exotic tuning doesn't go down great. Only attempt it if you can do it quickly.

6. When you mess up, as we all do.
Don't stop the song! I've seen amateurs and pros do this. If you make a mistake, no one cares so just carry on. If you are a self conscious person, stopping the song or admitting mistakes is the worse thing to do to draw attention to yourself! If you really have to stop the song, don't start again right from the start, just carry on from the 2nd verse or wherever you messed up.

7. Introduce the songs.
This might seem a bit of a no brainer, but the amount of performers I've seen go into songs with no introduction always leaves me wanting to know if they wrote the songs themselves or which artist it's by.

8. Be supportive and encourage other performers.
Remember we all start off somewhere, and the place where most people learn to perform in front of people will be at an open mic. Go and tell someone afterwards if you enjoyed their set, it really makes the difference between a bad and good night. There is a huge difference between having a song down perfect at home and then bringing it in front of people. Nerves and stage fright will be the biggest thing to overcome for most beginners, so applaud generously you could be seeing the next big thing.

If you agree with the above tips, please pass this on and let's try to make open mic nights a greater experience across the country!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Gig review, Ben Parcell at ‘Cafe Venue’ Scarborough. 18/11/11


    Playing one of the most intimate shows conceivable, Bridlington-based Ben played a stunning mixture of originals and covers from an elevated part of a cosy café with a difference. Located just downwind of the town’s university campus, Café Venus prides itself on serving low-cost, high-quality vegetarian meals. What’s more, the owners are all for championing creative talent, hence why their ‘Venus Live’ performance evenings have come to be so anticipated amongst literary and musical aficionados. Given that Ben’s presently in the throes of studying for a degree in ‘Digital Media’ at Scarborough University, he was already familiar with the café before first stepping through its welcoming front door.

    Buoyed up by recent gigs played in support of Ryan Spendlove and Chris Helme, Ben coolly launched into his forty-five minute set with a cover song that’s become a staple of almost every set he plays: ‘Good Riddance’. Staying true to its Greenday-penned roots, Ben then dove into ‘Close Your Eyes’, the opening track on his solo debut album ‘Humble Beginnings’. An upbeat anthem of repute, it provided the perfect introduction to Ben’s music for those in attendance who might have been unfamiliar with his acoustic-based style of singing and playing. Hot on the heels of releasing such a ten-track debut, Ben sought to write and then record some fresh tunes with Edwina Hayes, two cuts of which materialised in the equally as bewitching forms of ‘Painted By Numbers’ (after which his latest EP is named) and ‘Stay In Touch’, the latter tenderly focusing on the difficulty in moving on once a relationship ends. Indeed, it’s Ben’s emotional maturity which helps to seduce his listeners, his emotion-flecked voice soaring over his melodies, regardless of whether they’re frantically strummed or delicately finger-picked. Harking back to ‘Humble Beginnings’, a rendition of ‘The Only One’ proved to be a definite set highlight, while an extraordinary cover version of Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’ hushed even those who had previously dared chatter over their food. Later, a pitch-perfect interpretation of The Seahorses' ‘Blinded By The Sun’ further acknowledged the fact that Ben had supported Mr. Helme, who used to front the band, only the week before.

    Serving to please everybody with his tasteful balance of self-composed tunes and well-known chart hits, he also treated one and all to a gorgeous cover of ‘Driftwood’, the classic Travis gem. However, and gratifyingly, Ben’s songs were awarded the most intense waves of applause, not least because he’s so sincere in the performing of them, a succession of complex chord progressions and daring guitar solos proving that he’s a sensationally accomplished musician. Having played guitar for more than ten years, Ben initially poured his creativity into a trio called The Trailers, a Bridlington band heavily influenced by Pop-Punk. These days, Ben is concentrating on cultivating a career as a serious singer-songwriter, keen to show that he can write songs that are as poetic as they are anthemic, as uplifting as they can be heartbreaking.

    Closing with a lighthearted cover of ‘Baby Hit Me One More Time’, Ben grinned his way to the final chord, perhaps realising that his songs ooze far, far more substance than any old Britney Spears number could ever aspire to. Thanking the audience for their attention, Ben unplugged his guitar to embrace a figurative junction. Armed with a hundred gigs under his belt, and brimming with infectious passion about future musical endeavours, it seems safe to say that 2012 could well be the year in which Ben Parcell receives the nationwide acclaim that his natural talent and hard-working attitude both deserve.

    Please visit for more information.


Monday, 10 October 2011

New E.P 'Painted By Numbers' is here!

Well it's finally here, after months of blood, sweat and tears (any recording artist will understand). I present to you 'Painted By Numbers'. 4 tracks of stripped back acoustic music that I can confidently say I am super happy with how it has turned out.  I started working on this E.P in February of this year during a transition period of my music to more folkier pastures. Influenced by the new wave of folk artists: Frank Turner, Ed Sheeran and Ben Marwood and also local folk artists such as the
angelic Edwina Hayes who also kindly provided some breathtaking vocal harmonies throughout the E.P, I think it adds a nice contrast to my vocals. Thanks to Jan Moat and Kat MacIntosh for the luscious hand drawn and painted art work, and Ian Sadler who took my recordings and mixed and mastered them into something that I've never been able to achieve before with DIY mixing. The E.P is now available digitally only via iTunes at only £3.16 and most other digital music outlets.

Update: By 6pm on Monday the E.P has already gone to number 50 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart, with your help we can take it into the top 40.

You can check also check out the official video for 'Stay In Touch' on the video below, which is taken from the E.P.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Weekend of touring around the Yorkshire Dales for Ellie's Fund.

I've just had the most epic adventure of a 3 date tour with a bunch of amazing people around the Yorkshire Dales. We started in the quaint village of Grassington where we were greeted with a pub full of customers and we played the warm up open mic style event at the Foresters arms. Next up on the Saturday Evening was quite simply the most stunning location for a venue I have ever been in The Cruck Barn in Appletreewick. A medieval style thatched roofed barn with a tall roof and swinging chandeliers. The crowd were very enthusiastic and pretty much every artist shone for the occasion. The Sunday date at the priory in the ruins of Bolton Abbey was such a humble experience to be involved in, It really did feel like we had an audience much more than who was in attendance.

By the end of the weekend, we had raised £393 for Ellie's Cause which was set up by Heather Othick when her daughter Ellie was diagnosed with terminal Brain Cancer. It's a real warming experience to be involved with such a real cause. The cause has raised over £47,000 in the past couple of years, with money going towards a research lab and currently helping 8 children who have been diagnosed with the cancer which is the most deadly cancer with only 14% of victims making it past the 5 year mark. Ellie's fund has created awareness (it opened my eyes for sure) and has given real support to children with the most common form of cancer.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Unity: A benefit for the children of the Japanese tsunami disaster

Unity benefit compilation

I submitted a song for a benefit music compilation to Engineer Records a few months ago for the Japanese tsunami disaster charity, a few months went past without hearing anything back and then I was quite shocked yesterday to find that I'd made the shortlist for the 25 track compilation.

I'm very honoured to be part of such a high profile compilation which includes mainstream acts: The Gaslight Anthem, Fightstar, Funeral For A Friend, Luke Pickett and my close friends in Call Off The Search and solo artist Mikee J Reds with 100% of the proceeds going to help the children affected by the tsunami in Japan. 

A few weeks after the earthquake and terrible flooding the news coverage of the tsunami event slowly came to a stop but almost 6 months on the country is still in a state of repair.
The scale of the disaster left 10,872 people dead, with 16,244 still missing. More than 387,000 people were forced from their homes, including around 74,000 children. They are now living in evacuation centres, and could well be living in them for months.
Engineer Records works closely with many recording artists around the world including a number of partners and labels in Japan. It has made a commitment to helping those children affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

We really need your help to publicise this compilation so that we can raise funds for this important and worthwhile cause. Any publicity that you can give to promote Unity will help us to make the lives of the children in Japan just that little bit better.

You can buy the compilation for only $8 (£5) and preview the tracks here:

Also check out Engineer Records on facebook for making it all happen, I have nothing but praise for them.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

10 Tips for new bands or artists

For my very first blog I'd like to talk about the first 12 months of a band / musicians life. This period can make or break your band, set your identity for the future and is really all about making an impression which will set you up for the long run. Think of it as an investment or taking an unpaid apprenticeship. (Yes its unlikely that you will make a profit during your first year)

1. Register with PRS. PRS offers musicians in the U.K real money for performing original material, the payments per gig may be quite small, think £4-£6 but multiply this over a year and the money soon adds up, you could use this money to make a debut recording. Join PRS

2. Don't burn your bridges - be polite to promoters and don't slag them off if you are not selected to play or are dropped from a gig, it will come back to haunt you! If you played a venue which had horrible turnout or the crowd wasn't paying attention, you are either playing the wrong venue or you need to work on your engagement with the crowd.

3. Show an interest in other artists material by networking with similar bands. A little niceness goes a long way.

4. Don't try to play gigs which are more than 50 miles away for the initial period unless you are supporting a breakthrough artist or you are been covered for your expenses. Spending £100 on fuel and over night stay to play in london to a room of 10-15 people isn't a good way of using your finances sensibly. Travel costs make up the musicians main costs so don't bankrupt yourself or put yourself into debt by being over ambitious.

5. Play as many gigs within your 50 miles radius as possible as there are no shortcuts to experience of playing in front of people. Don't turn down gigs because you cannot get travel costs, you are a new band finding paid gigs is very hard, but by all means ask.

6. Keep in touch with your fans by using social media, the main one here is a Facebook artist page. Let the fans know that you are serious by keeping up a presence, if people come to your page and they see a few out of date posts, they will leave.

7. Don't complain about how tough it is to get heard when you've not done everything you can for free promotion such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, emailed local press, played at open mic clubs, flyered the streets, etc By thinking 'I want this so bad' will not get you by.

8. It's inevitable that you will have quiet times when you are not gigging, use these periods to work on new material and record demos, youtube videos.

9. Create an identity. Decide whether you want to be an original band or covers band and stick to it. For you will be known for this. e.g a prominently covers band who throws in the odd original song will not be praised for their songwriting, and you're unlikely to have people sing along to your songs. Whilst playing a full set of covers can get you pub gigs and quite often paid this will more than often sidetrack you from what you set out to be. Don't fall into the 'covers trap' as I call it!

10. If you put the effort in by being proactive in your first year, you will get to a stage where you can start looking for paid gigs and be happy with a decent following. Remember gigging in the real music scene is not like X factor, it can take years to get noticed. Very few artists make it 'overnight' Most of all enjoy the early stages, it is somewhat of an eye opener.

I am Ben Parcell an Independent musician/producer/singer songwriter from Yorkshire. Please follow me on Facebook