I’ve been singing and playing guitar on a full time basis since 2013. I started out in the pubs that my band had played in over the 9 years prior to that, using the numerous contacts and oodles of goodwill that I’d managed to build up. The pub gigs were a great starting point but I had to subsidise this income through teaching guitar and vocal coaching to make ends meet. I soon discovered that I am definitely more of a performer than a teacher! I am 100% self-taught, I call myself a cowboy when it comes to music theory. I’ve always learnt by my mistakes and learnt fast, I therefore found it hard to teach effectively as I often didn’t know how to explain certain techniques, I could just do them naturally as a result of spending 1000s of hours on the guitar for over 30 years. To this end I can’t say I enjoyed teaching all that much although I did meet some lovely people.
In 2014 I met a wonderful man called Carl Gordon. We were both taking part in a working men's club audition for clubs in the Tameside area of Manchester and Carl and I hit it off straight away and got chatting. Carl asked me if I had considered gigging in nursing homes. It’s something that he had started doing and he found it very rewarding. I called Carl the next day and chatted for an hour about how to get started in nursing homes. It was an hour that massively changed things for Kirsti and I. I built a database of over 600 homes within a 45 minute drive. I then met with Maddie, the activities coordinator in a local home to try to get a feel for the type of songs I should learn. Maddie booked me to sing at the home, she gave me just 14 days to develop, learn and rehearse an hour of music that was mostly alien to me!
I spent day and night working on the set, did the gig, got paid, loved it, and never looked back. I called every home on my database and after about 6 months I had enough work to enable me to stop teaching. My reputation built very quickly and by the time we got locked down I’d performed 2378 care home gigs. Thanks Carl!
The downside was that I was too busy. I was gigging pretty much everyday, sometimes three times a day. Being self-employed it was hard to turn work away, this of course affected every aspect of life. Yes, the money was good but quality time with Kirsti, my kids, my mum, brother and auntie, friends and extended family was far more important. Further to this my voice, hands and arms were developing problems from my crazy workload. I had major voice problems throughout 2019 which one of my voice specialists attributed mainly to my dad’s passing in the February. Apparently it’s not uncommon for stress and anxiety overload to affect the voice, how cruel!
Another downside to my workload was that I had no time to develop new songs, to enhance my repertoire, to constantly rekindle my own interest in what I was performing. Things had gone a bit stale. Then lockdown happened and, due to my Sunday evening requests show, so far I’ve added 47 new songs to the repertoire in just 67 days!! I simply can’t believe it.
I believe that for every challenge created by lockdown there is an opportunity. The universe has to balance and I’m sure this is what’s happening right now. For me personally it’s been a great opportunity to spend quality time with Kirsti, repair physically and massively enhance my repertoire. That said, I’m itching to get back to performing in front of people instead of a camera, maybe not as much as before though!
May the lockdown continue to be safely eased. Love & peace, Graeme x