RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW CAMBRIDGE ARTIST HENSHAW
Hiya Henshaw thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Thanks for having me, nice to meet you.
What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
This is probably going to sound really corny but I think it decided that it was a thing for me. I was always into music and grew up in a home with a Mum who sang and a Dad who drummed and the house always rang with music. They took me to some great gigs as a child, admittedly they were jazz gigs but I saw and learned how a musician can communicate with an audience. I kind of fell into playing guitar but never knew that I could hold a tune so didn’t attempt to sing till much later on but like with many people I needed to find my voice, an output for what was eating me up as an angry kid. I love that music became my thing because there is literally no boundary to subject or style or approach.
Introduce usto you and your musical history.
I spend the majority of my time playing solo so I’m Henshaw and I’m a bit of a gig junkie, I love that feeling on stage but the whole creative circle music offers you. I’ve been playing since I was a kid but cut my teeth playing bass in a punk band and when that folded I bought an acoustic and started writing. It’s taken me to some fabulous places having played in the USA, Canada, China, Thailand and Taiwan and all across Europe.
Solo isn’t the only thing though, I have a band that performs versions of what I do who are currently demoing an album that I’m looking to release in 2023. They’re a stunningly talented bunch of people who I am very lucky to say play my songs. They are Tom Wibberley the Bassist, Marcus Carter on Drums, Del Scott Miller on guitar, and Gareth Rhys Jones on Keyboards. Gareth has produced “Nobody Cares Work Harder”
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
It is hard but I think it depends on what you want from it. I think if you expect to sell out Wembley or Madison Square Gardens then it’s always going to be a hugely tough ask but I remember reading a quote from Billy Joel, he was asked about the best thing that ever happened to him musically and he said it was the day he realized he could make a living out of playing music. It’s not the houses and the yachts, or the red carpet events, etc, just being able to make a living. I’ve always felt the same, I obviously want to progress my career but the underlying goal is to make a living playing songs that resonate with the people that listen. I think that where that’s concerned I’m doing pretty well but I learn something every day, I learn different ways to do stuff and different avenues to get the songs to new people, I’m enjoying that journey a great deal.
We set up RGM USA and many other countries in the world to share music with America and the UK, good idea?
I think it’s a fabulous idea, there’s an absolute ton of info and depth with what you do. For me, it’s really cool too because every so often I play a show and someone on the bill will be someone you’ve written about. Love it!
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
Oh hell yes! How long have you got? Ok, I’ll pick one, I believe there is enough evidence to suggest that Van Gogh did not commit suicide and it was actually a prank gone wrong by a young guy called Rene Secretan and Van Gogh didn’t see the point in wasting 2 lives so kept quiet about it. Unfortunately, it makes no difference anymore and any kind of evidence will have been lost, unlike Kurt Cobain’s alleged suicide, of course, I’d say there’s enough evidence to reopen that case. Yes, I have written a song about the Van Gogh conspiracy theory.
Lets share the love, what bands are doing really well in your Town / City?
In complete honesty I don’t know, I spend so long traveling and playing on line-ups that have nothing to do with the local music scene that I’m just not close to it. Looking at venues in Cambridgeshire it seems like an awful lot of covers artists but that’s very likely to upset original bands in Cambridge, it’s my fault and a lack of time. Pretty close by is Colchester which has got a decent scene going with the likes of PET NEEDS, GHOSTS OF MEN, and ECTO PEACH who are 3 stunning bands. I know Ghosts of Men from years playing similar festivals, Colchester definitely seems to have it going on right now.
What advice would you give other artists starting out?
Look at what other acts are doing that is working and do similar stuff, be nice to everyone, even people who are giving you shit and don’t have an attitude. Remember that you need venues, fans and promoters much more than they need you and respect the soundman, respect the promoter, don’t piss other artists off by saying “WOW! How did you get so lucky to get so many gigs…….” and work harder than anyone else and have belief in what you do.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic?
I’m not sure if it’s not going to be needed just yet but I had really grand ideas of learning to play piano so bought a decent keyboard. Now I’m not someone who just gives up easily but really???? Just how difficult is playing a piano? I also bought a really retro guitar multi-effects pedal which I discovered is retro for a reason. I bought it to start demoing some songs and I think maybe I used 2 sounds and that was only to give an “idea” of what I want, not something that would ever be used, leaving 998 sounds that are horrible
What was the worst experience on stage?
When I first went full time music I paid the bills by playing covers in a duo, it was still fun playing music for a living albeit a little less satisfying than hammering out my own songs but the duo was booked for a grand opening night at a place in North Wales. There was a fair amount of promo and it promised to be a good night but as show time got nearer and nearer there was a distinct lack of people. We went on stage to the bar staff and no one else. We played the first of 2 one hour sets and the number in the venue was exactly the same, ZERO! Luckily the venue wanted 2 sets and I managed to talk the venue into pushing the 2nd set back an hour to see what happened in the hope that someone would turn up or I could convince them to let us go. Not a single person turned up so we got paid off 50% of the fee and went home. I did a little bit of investigation after this and found that the new owners were previously local residents and universally disliked by their ex neighbours so they boycotted the event! That is about the worst experience.
Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.
Bizarrely I find myself totally unamazing but then again I live with me all the time so I have no idea except I have never seen a single Star Wars film, I’ve never seen any Game of Thrones and I’ve never seen Pulp Fiction BUT I have seen every Laurel and Hardy film that’s are still in existence so 100 plus and have read every one of the Famous Five books in the last year because I’d never read one and thought I should. Surprised? Haha
If you had to describe your band/music to an alien how would you describe it?
I’m dreadful at this so I would use 2 descriptions I have had said to me. 1 is RIOT FOLK and the other was “Music for smashing furniture to”. I think everything I write and how I perform it fits well into either, it doesn’t need to be a million bpm or shouty but lyrically they can be intense, I like the songs to elicit a response
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
I don’t really analyse it however Johnny from PET NEEDS to be said a really lovely thing the other day on one of his vlog posts and that was how much he felt he’d learnt watching me live. He mentioned about how to front something and communicate. That was really emotional to hear by someone I believe to be one of the very best front people anywhere right now. I hope that when people come to a show, solo or band they leave feeling like they were part of something, I try to encourage as much interaction as possible. I’ve been to hundreds of gigs where I’ve watched, listened and gone home, some of those shows have been great but I’ve not felt part of it. I saw Nizlopi once, I didn’t know a single song, I still don’t except the one about JCB’s BUT they were incredible, I left that night feeling like I was a member of the band. I learnt a lot that night and work really hard at that so I hope that comes through in my shows.
I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.
Yes, I have a lot of new music but right now I am releasing an album called “NOBODY CARES, WORK HARDER” It’s a collection of songs very much about me, and where I’ve been over the last couple of years. The overall feel of the album is pretty acoustic except for a full band section at the end of the last song which is kind of a forerunner of what to expect on the full band album that will come out in 2023/24. I do have some guests on it too, Hannah Johns from The Leylines plays violin on 2 songs, and Somantics guests on one song. Dan Booth from Ferocious Dog plays on a song in the middle of the album which we recorded live at a gig we played together and then Marcus my drummer is on few as is Gareth the producer playing everything from piano to tin whistle.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
The first album written was the full band album but for various reasons it wasn’t the first recorded, I wanted something that was more representative of what people get at a solo gig so I set about writing a set of songs that could work as completely solo songs live but still gave room to add some space and mass to the songs on the record. I never ever sit down with the need to write a song or write about a certain subject because I’ve been very lucky and to date, songs have flowed when they’re ready and when I start pulling various ideas together the lyrical subject always seems to flow too. I’ve tried to sit down in the past when I was asked to write a song for a radio advert but in a John Lewis Xmas advert-type idea with a video, the less said about that the better hahaha.
What was the recording process like?
I’m very lucky that the keyboardist in the band is also an exceptional producer and a great friend, just a really, really warm human being so recording for me was fabulous. Like spending time with one of my best mates and being creative. The great thing about Gareth (Rhys Jones) is he’s totally open to any kind of idea and is just as likely to throw an idea out as I am so I say it’s a solo thing but it really isn’t, it’s me and Gareth.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
It was Definity that I could be as honest with myself as I was lyrical. Where I had some reservations about whether I’d be able to write an album that was basically just me and make it interesting enough across 12 or 13 songs to keep people listening and tell stories that kept the engagement. I lived all the stories in the songs y’know so it’s easy for me to keep my attention. Communicating the stories to others was something I desperately wanted to do because I feel that if I’ve gone through a certain situation, whatever it is, and someone finds something in the song to laugh about or finds something that helps them then I’ve achieved what I wanted to. I also discovered that I could write about personal feelings about what we are as a country and a World without getting overly political.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
One lyric and one guitar part but other than that not a thing, I’m very happy with it but I think it’s inevitable that the more you listen to something you’ve created you hear more and more that you’d change. That’s just an extension of the creative process. I think its very healthy to want to improve and I’m accepting of this, it captures exactly where I was at the time of writing the album and the recording, I can hear emotions about the songs coming through in the vocals so where as I’m completely happy, I’m happy because I accept it’s a moment in time and the next album will carry those changes through into its recording
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
A massive THANK YOU to all the people that got behind musicians during the pandemic. It was just so humbling. There was true support and the way people tuned in to live streams and chatted in the comments section and even did the sing-a-longs made me feel very much still part of the music family. On the surface we lost income but its more than that, it’s the interaction between you and an audience, that’s like a drug. I felt like I’d lost a limb so that right there, that show of support? that was incredible. I love meeting and talking to people and always say about coming up to the merch desk after a show, you don’t need to buy something, just come and have a chat. I really hope to meet some of you at a show soon