Derek Allan’s diary: January 1 to February 3
Musicians Derek Allan and Shaggy aka Jason Vare, make up the north Northumberland duo We Steal Flyers, who are well-known mainstays of the area’s music scene. This year, the Gazette is featuring occasional extracts from Derek’s diary, which will feature the group heading out on three tours of Europe and playing at the famous SXSW festival in Texas.
Waking up away from home after another busy year in music and people is a nice way to start the year. It makes it all feel like a new start and an end to another great year and the end to Christmas. Christmas is an amazing three months for me. Movies come out in October, decorations in November and the tree in December. Starting the year with Melanie and Shaggy is also a good feeling as these are big people in my past, present and future and we are an amazing team, booking, promoting, travelling together. The gig today at The Crown was amazing with 15 album sales and a crowd of people that loved our songs and the covers we played. Then the drive home to start a whole new year. I have a week off from gigs now. Last year was about playing more than 200 gigs, I have to make sure we have another 200 gigs for this year, all kinds of gigs – bar gigs, music venues, support slots with more well-known bands that we love from the past. It would have been our fourth gig with Roy Wood of The Move, ELO and Wizzard this year but he was not too well and had to take time out. He is amazing live, a great inspiration and, best of all, he is a friendly nice fella.
40 emails went out today for gigs. I will get maybe one reply from every 100 sent. But I have to keep searching and following up so from 1,000 emails, five new gigs is great to me. I appreciate anything and when playing a gig I run through in my mind the time and effort for this one gig and love it even more.
A ticket gig has been confirmed at Rothbury, this is good news. This is the night Rod Clements of Lindisfarne started off some years ago and it is still going strong. Each night sells out and people from all over the world come and play. This is where We Steal Flyers played our first gig together.Not so much good news for the Acoustic Magic bar gigs. I have talked to over 100 venues last year to make a start.
I am bringing back the plan of putting on three different acts in one night. This means more entertainment for the audience, it is also nice to share a night with other musicians. It is always nice to share life.
The dates in America are coming in now. More venues, support slots, open mic nights and full two-hour shows. It is an amazing feeling knowing this is coming but a little scary too. Three tours this year in Switzerland again, they are great tours and everything works so well, Brit Beats promotions do everything for us.
We have friends and fans over there now, favourite places to be, to see and to eat.
I have been working on the 30 gigs in 30 days of June around the UK too and will be spending Monday sorting a route, the petrol and food cost and so on. We will also have a second album out by then and more t-shirts.
I will feel better when that is all sorted. I also hope a few venues will help me out sorting a 24-hour busking night. The 100 gigs in 100 days raised awareeness but it was too much for too little, it was too big for most people to join in.
One-off charity nights will work better. That way I can change the charities for the ones people feel are more needy. It is their time and money so why not?
I can handle 24 hours and I love that people share these hours and feel great around friends and make friends and money is raised.
I fancy raising money for diabetes for the first one. I do not enjoy it and it changes everything. It is not easy touring with diabetes so getting rid of it would be amazing.
Today is the day I work all day with Mel sorting out gigs, tours and making sure everything is running well for the year. We always have to keep around six months ahead. But the landline and internet did not work again. So very little was done.
But the great news is that Shaggy kicked right in and pretty much finished off the album with some real good stuff.
I am thinking of putting out a poetry book. I have a little over 4,000 written and not done much with them.
I was published in over a dozen magazines and won some small competitions so I am hoping a good few poems are good enough.
Nice start to the weekly open mic nights at The Trap at Broomhill. Year three now and it is still going really well. Nice to be able to help out so many musicians.
I got to play my new guitar too through the PA system.
Things need to get sorted now for the 30 gigs in 30 days in June. Route needs planning, then gigs, costs and then promote it all and get in as much new merch as we can.
It is exciting but it is the main pain in my head now. With so many tours coming, I am hoping the tour is easy to book up.
A great day all day. Nice and relaxing and a new gig in for Yarm, a Thursday night too.
The gig tonight was in Sunderland at TG Doyles and it was brilliant. It has always been a good place to play at Sunderland. Nine more albums sold and we are booked back for September. Busy times and writing a mini diary has added a little something.
Been to see Shaggy today and make some more plans with Mel for the year. Never have we lived a year with so much going on at once. Three tours in Europe and three weeks in America is very exciting but nerve-wracking.
It is going to take more than a deep breath to do this.
I would have given everything to be where I am right now and I did and I do and that why I love it all, appreciate it and work as hard as I can.
I love meeting people, hearing music, seeing places. It truly is all a kind of magic.
After eight hours of work today I have ten days of the 30 gigs in June booked and confirmed. They span from home in Northumberland to the very bottom of the country and back.
Sadly a local gig we already had booked cancelled today but it wasnt so bad as a friend and fellow musician Ian shared a venue with us.
The snow is here now. I like the look of snow on Christmas cards but I am not too keen on it being around. If it fell and stayed nice and then left in the night it would be awesome. But it causes many problems for many people. It cost We Steal Flyers more than £2,000 two years ago.
Our weekly night at The Trap was cancelled today. It is not the fault of anyone when nights are cancelled but it is not always easy as we lose a day’s pay and there is no time to replace the night. January is not a great time for travelling out and about but it is summertime when these nights are booked and it is hard to guess if snow will come or not. These days the floods are here too. We have to try not to rely on a night.
A few days of porridge and all will be fine. It is a little harder having diabeties eating every few hours when eating is the last thing you want to do.
But it is only a few days of not much money and then everything will be ok again. Saturday is the next gig, place called Hamsterley.
I talked to a great helpful person in Manchester today, so the Manchester date is sorted for the 30 gigs in 30 days. It is exciting booking up this tour. I am trying not to book up the next one for next year. I can book that tour as I am on the tour.
I am looking forward to the new album and the DVDs of us too. Shaggy is finishing off the final hours. The album is called Sidecars And Sideshows.
I am trying to put more hours into the guitar. It is hard when working so hard on keeping out there to sit and play guitar and enjoy it. I am not sure it should be forced.
The snow was bad and a lot of nights were cancelled locally. Mel is a brave driver and we do not like letting anyone down.
Today was a gig in Hamsterly, a few hours’ drive without snow and someone was waiting for us to play for a birthday party. It was a great venue and stage and the people were great. Seven albums sold at our half-time point and another fifteen sold at the end and two t-shirts.
We were also asked to add Sheffield to our tour and I will try and sort that from now on. New places are always exciting. I have played music at The Boardwalk in a different band.
We left for the gig at 5pm and were home for 3am. Nice mission and everyone was happy. Well done Mel and Shaggy for the driving hours.
Mostly playing board games with the kids today and making plans for tomorrow’s works. A few hours catching Bill in the pound shop challenge.
I hope tomorrow day three and five of the 30 gigs in 30 days is sorted.
I am waiting to see which venues would like me to do a charity gig for them. I have left a few Sundays free so I can set up 12 hours busking for charity. I play and any others players can take my place and give me a rest. One-off charity events work better.
I have not played darts for a few years and I miss it. I have been thinking about doing 24-hour darts nights again and keeping the night away from music all together.
But I did suffer with my arm and shoulder when I did the darts marathons and I was playing in three leagues a week then. I miss my darts nights and all the friends I made then.
As we do on most Mondays it was all about calling people and writing messages about gigs.
Mel is sorting out out taxes and flights. Another 14-hour shift for Mel. She does some amazing missions and keeps everything going.
I spent eight hours sorting gigs for the 30 gigs in 30 days tour of June and got one date sorted, it is a Tuesday again. Also called a few North East venues, a few call-backs but nothing much going today.
Tuesday is a repeat of Monday. Talking to a lot of people about the 24-hour busking mission but it seems more likely to be for 12 hours now. It is a shame. 24 hours seems best and more happens in 24 hours than in 12.
It is looking like a few players will be there tomorrow for the open-mic night in The Trap. Magic.
Spent most of the day trying to get another date sorted for the June tour. It will be fine once it is done but it is taking too long.
Venues are not sure if they will be around in June and most venues don’t book so far ahead any more.
The Trap was a good turnout and a good night. Another night shared with good people and some good songs.
Mel is at work and another kid is ill today so when little Rebecca was sleeping I got some good calls in. A real top venue sorted for June in Manchester. Somewhere to stay, stage and a real nice helpful fella.
I am looking forward to this tour but sorting it is a massive part of it and most enjoyable. Also looking good now for day three, which is a Monday in Cheltenham. A good day all day.
Plus a new bar for my Acoustic Magic gigs, they are putting on a monthly night with three musicians playing on the one night. I arrange the musicians for them. It works very well when it works and I am looking forward to it. It helps players be heard and gets people into venues. Nice all round.
I have spoken to Daniel today about producing T-shirts for tours. He is a possible sponsor for us...wait and see what happens.
The snow came down more than it has for some time and within an hour the roads were not too safe. It is always a worry for gigs being cancelled and with such short notice...I like porridge but not all the time.
Setting off at 6.20pm, we arrived in South Shields just after 8pm. Before we left Mel showed me how to watch cricket on my mobile phone. The world is amazing. I still hear that some people stay say they are bored. How?
The gig was the best one in the Life Of Riley yet and even a CD was sold. It all adds up. People joined in singing and dancing. Some venues take longer than others to crack but if it takes two minutes or three visits it is always a good feeling when it happens.
Then the three-and-a-half-hour drive home in the snow. A few little crashes but at 20 miles-an-hour it is not so bad. Mel did well once again.
We then watched a film and had our first curry of the year to unwind our heads at 4am.
There was supposed to be a gig today but it was cancelled just before Christmas. It was on near Yorkshire so maybe it was a good thing as we would have had to have braved it in the weather.
Did some more promotion for the year with UK, Europe and USA posters and flyers needing to go out. We do these things every day and luckily I can do so much from my phone It means I can do jobs as soon as they enter my head. I plan so much that I even freak myself out so to ignore what is coming I plan more stuff for later in the year. I am also going to see if Shaggy will prefer half-a-month off and then half-a-month touring next year.
I have been talking to a lot of people for a good tour for Manchester and Liverpool. I like going to all of these places.
I did not go to sleep and stayed up for the cricket. Last game against India. I rarely miss cricket and never have.
It was a good night. It amazes me that I can see a cricket match in another country.
How did us humans get this far? I am pleased we did and hope we can go on and on.
Mileage and fuel costs for the 30-day tour in June have been calculated today. It is a 900-mile round trip. The furthest point is in Bridport. We reach there on Day 4 and gradually work our way back up the rest of the country.
Today was also the usual calling for new gigs.
We did a photo-shoot tonight before the Trap Inn with Gary the photographer.
It was a great shoot and so funny.
It was taken in our friends Chris and Jo’s house...now their bathroom will be world-famous and shown on posters in venues from UK to Europe to America.
Extra photos will be on the inside cover of our new album Sidecars and Sideshows.
The Trap Buskers night was a success.
19 players turned up and everyone managed to play three songs each by midnight.
Flights have been booked for Switzerland today. We are leaving on February 8 for three weeks.
Gig dates have been confirmed in lots of places including Luzern, Grindelwald and Andermatt. We have been to these areas before and have friends and fans who will be coming to see us which is great.
The tour in February also involves going into the Alps to Zermatt for several of the gigs.
The date for the online release of our new album has been sorted today. It will be available worldwide on all good download sites (iTunes, CDbaby, Amazon MP3 and more) on 23.2.2013. Woohoo, cant wait.
I have one pub venue sorted for Acoustic Magic gigs.
I am very much looking forward to tomorrow night’s gig at The Red Lion at Alnmouth.
It is our last full gig in this country untill after we come back from America at the end of March. Hopefully it will be busy.
Another great gig at Alnmouth at the Red Lion.
It is one of the best gigs in the UK.
It is in an amazing location and in Northumberland...It feels like how pubs used to be.
Full to the brim and friendly, hopefully more pubs will be like this again.
A guy at the bar heard the story about us going to America –it turned out that he was from Texas. He bought his album with a $10 bill!
We sold so many albums tonight and badges too. It was great.
Such a good feeling to know that so many people like your music and will continue to listen to it.
Some people came to tonight’s gig as a result of reading my diary in the Gazette, this too is a great feeling.
I did some extra hours on the guitar today.
Shaggy finished all of the artwork for the album.
Mel has all of the posters ready to send to Texas...not long now...
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Weather for Northumberland
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 20 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 6 C to 9 C
Wind Speed: 32 mph
Wind direction: North west