St David’s Day

With the weather we’ve had this week it’s been hard to believe that it’s been half term. Normally school holidays mean rain and drizzle.  It’s hard to believe but this time last year most of Wales was covered in a thick blanket of snow as we tried our best to cope with sub zero temperatures as the Beast from the East gripped the whole of the country. Well, all of the country except Swansea Bay.  While we watched kids enjoying snow days on the TV, we just stared longingly at the skies hoping for a few flakes.

St David’s Day 2018 and 2019

Once again, I suppose that’s why the weather is always a good place to start a conversation. In Swansea you just never know.  This year, the near record high temperatures have certainly been a God send for kids and parents alike.  I been working everyday but I’ve still managed to get to the beach for the odd ten minutes in between meetings and its been great to see so many people out and about.  There is something special about the sound kids’ voices, laughing and screaming and the sound of the waves are mingling in one sound poem.

On the road again in Washington DC. Left with Jane O’Brien.

One of the reasons I haven’t been able to top up my tan this week is that I’m preparing to go back out on the road for a series of concerts starting later this month at the Wales Millennium Centre. It’s been some time since I booked in a tour, what with early morning radio and the Cappuccino girls show it sort of went to the back of the queue of my priorities.  It was only when last summer I was invited to perform in Washington for the North American Festival of Wales that I realised how much I missed playing my guitar, singing some songs and telling stories.

Putting a tour together involves lots of different moving parts and surprisingly the songs and rehearsing are some of the last things you really have to think about. Firstly, you need to book the venues. I came back from Washington at the end of August all fired up to get back out there and sing for my supper.  It soon became apparent that if I wanted a tour, I would have to wait up to 6 months.  Theatres have to book ahead to get their brochures all sorted and printed. It soon became apparent that this would be a spring tour at the earliest.

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Flyer with the image and Blurb!

Then you need artwork and you need a blurb.  What’s the show about, who is going to be in it, how long does it run.  I decided to go on this tour solo, with no band or support act to hide behind. What I noticed was that every song I have written has a story behind it and sometimes it’s good to share its history.  Not everyone agrees with this concept often preferring to preserve the mystery behind lyrics.

When asked what a particular song was about Bob Dylan replied, ‘It’s about 3 minutes man!’.  American Pie is a great song and I probably still know almost all of the words but although I know it has something to do with the death of Buddy Holly, I’m not sure exactly what it’s all about.  When Don Mclean was asked what American Pie means his answers is always the same ’American Pie means I never have to work again!!!’.

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Having said that sometimes it’s possible to ramble a bit too much.  I do remember performing at a group session in Swansea Prison.  I was explaining the story behind a song of mine called ‘Heaven’s Sound’.  I wrote the song for a TV show during a journey across the Deep South.  Every town and every story would lead to a new verse. Like going to the birthplace of Elvis Presley in Tupelo or Parchment Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary or meeting the man who spent the last afternoon in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis with Dr Martin Luther King. As I set up the story behind the song, I realised that time was moving on.  I turned to the Vicar who was in charge of the event and asked how much time did I have left.  Before he could answer one of the prisoners turned to me and said, ‘Don’t worry mate I’ve got 6 months!’.

Having worked out what exactly the show will be about there is always a bit of a lull as the various theatres print their programmes.  With a month to go until the first event we now move into the next phase…Promotion.

What I have found over the years is that you can never tell people too many times about any event you are running.  If I had a pound for every time someone has said to me the night after something I’ve been involved with that they would have been there if they’d only known, well,  I’d be a lot better off than I am today.  Of course, they could just be being nice but these days I don’t risk it. I tell as many people as I can and as often as I can.

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Ammanford,  promoting Cappuccino Girls in  2018

There is nothing like actually going to each venue and meeting people in the town or at the venue and getting a feel for the area. The good thing about touring with ‘Cappuccino Girls’ is that I made lots of friends and contacts across Wales.  The Ammanford Miners is a lovely venue and last year we played there once again with the musical.

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Promoting ‘An Evening with Mal Pope’ with real ‘Cappuccino Girl’ Claire at her Cwtch cafe in Ammanford 2019

One of the local Cafes ‘Cwtch’, is run by a real Cappuccino girl named Claire.  As always, she took the flyers and posters and started tweeting and send social media messages out to all of her customers.  It was also good to get the local gossip too.  If you been to Ammanford anytime over the last year you will know there have been massive roadworks causing tailbacks for months.  I mentioned this to Claire, and she told me a week or so ago someone had put lots of Happy Birthday balloons on the roadworks to mark its first anniversary!  I’ll probably use that story when I play at the Miners.

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There’s more to a tour than singing a few songs

One day this week I went to Cardiff Bay to meet up with the promotions team at the Wales Millennium Centre.  I did my usual thing of taking a photo and recording a video message to send out this weekend to encourage sales. I remember when Cardiff Bay was just mud flats.  It is amazing how millions of pounds can transform an area. Having said that when I got back to Swansea and dropped off the posters to the Grand, I then drove home along the Mumbles Road and as I looked left at Mumbles Head, I thought to myself, now that’s a view money can’t buy.

This weekend I pick up my guitars form the menders and next week I start to lean the sings I’ll be playing this spring.  I expect my fingers will hurt as they get guitar hardened and I’ll probably have some trouble remembering all of the words but at last I’ll finally be doing the thing I really want to do… and I can’t wait.

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