You may not know who Glyn Bailey is but you will……..in 2059! In the title track from his latest album ‘2059’ Bailey predicts that he and his band ‘The Beholden’ will ‘have their time’ ……..
“They’ll visit our graves and sing out our praises
May that be comfort whilst pushing up daisies
For late praise is better than none to receive
Though you’ll never know it, or hear it, believe…
We shall have our time in 2059”
Glyn is a singer/songwriter from the Fylde coast. He was born in Barnsley but spent most of his adult life on the Fylde. He attended Blackpool Grammar school where his favourite subject was art and he thought English was OK but didn’t really like school. He returned to education later and gained a degree in Politics and Sociology which, in his own words means:
“as a result I have a piece of paper which tells the world I am clever :-)”
It is difficult to categorise his music, his songs are as individual and unique as the man himself. I stumbled across him one evening whilst idly clicking on music videos on You Tube. The first song I heard by him was ‘Not Guilty’ I was immediately hooked!
Glyn’s songs are anything but conventional – which is what made him jump out for me – he’s almost like a throwback to the wandering minstrels of old, not just singing ‘safe’ songs about love and heartbreak but actually telling interesting stories like ‘Elvis and Nixon’ I asked him about where the inspiration for his songs come from and this was his response:
“To my way of thinking lyrics should not be an afterthought, they are as important artistically as coming up with a good tune, or a groove. So having a good subject matter for a song is important to me, not to be lazy and write about love, which is where most songwriters go to automatically. Love has been covered so well, but few have written about the life of Dean Reed, or the dwindling number of moonwalkers, or the bizarre meeting between Richard Nixon and Elvis, etc. I inhabit a space for a particular subject matter, get really emotionally involved in it, then write the words. Lyrics are always the creative bottleneck for me, constant revision, moving around lines, searching for rhymes. Inspiration can come from anything that moves me.”
He may struggle with lyrics but in a quote on his website describing how he forms the melodies for his songs, he explains in his own inimitable style:
“Melodies just drop on your head, you don’t even have to pick them from the tree.”
So where did it all start? He spent his childhood listening to his parents’ records and spent his pocket money on seven inch singles ranging from Rolf Harris to David Bowie. He adds:
“You like what you like without worrying whether it’s cool or not.”
When he was eleven his parents bought him a reel to reel tape recorder for Christmas
“I never got tired of recording my own voice and noises. Primitive ‘songs’ followed on. In those days it was a case of using household objects to bang, this was pre-Tom Waits.”
So, is he from a showbiz family?
“Not professionally. My Grandfather was the main man in the Barnsley Co-operative Society Amateur Dramatics group. He directed as well as taking parts himself. He had a fine tenor voice apparently. Had an offer to join the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company as a boy, so he must have had talent. In those pre-welfare state days he chose to stay at home to provide for his mother. I get my love of Gilbert & Sullivan from him, it’s in the genes. Reading one of his scripts triggered my song ‘Night of Memories’, from the current album 2059. Mum also sang in social clubs, what we’d now call ‘open mic’ sessions and took part in a few am-dram plays.
No-one in my family has ever been a proper musician, I have continued that tradition”
I note that he has a wry sense of humour which also comes across in some of his song lyrics so I ask him if it’s true that he doesn’t take himself too seriously:
“It’s just music, not life and death. That said, if anything can be described as ‘important’ I guess Art has to be up there near the top of my list. I create music which amuses myself first of all, if it also entertains others that’s great. I’m quite a cynical person and see the ludicrous side of life, futility of human endeavours, foolishness in our desires and aspirations. My DVD collection consists mainly of classic British comedy, Tony Hancock and Steptoe & Son – the characters get knocked down, but they get up again, but ultimately they stay knocked down.”
Glyn’s idols were the Beatles when he was growing up, he tells me that he obsessed about the elements that made up their music – Paul’s bass lines,vocal harmonies, George Martin’s arrangements – and says that what he knows ‘instinctively’ about music today comes from that formative experience. He later started to listen to Marc Bolan,, Scott Walker and Nick Cave.
Glyn’s former bands were ‘The Urbane Gorillas’ and ‘Harveys wall of sound’ in the 90’s but it was when he was recording as guitarist for ‘the Container Drivers’ that he gained airplay on Radio One’s John Peel show which provided him with a confidence boost and spurred him on to develop his own material.
After releasing a series of independent projects with co-writer Andy Scott on the ‘Inane Records’ label. He put his guitar away in the attic for ten years. I asked him why and he replied:
“ The musical project I was involved with at the time seemed to have run its course after a decade. My co-writer moved away, so writing was made near impossible (this was pre-internet days so collaboration could only have been via posting cassette tapes and occasional meetings). We’d finally independently produced our ‘masterpiece’, a vinyl album at great financial cost, which got us nowhere at all. General disillusionment set in. Plus I thought we’d done creatively all we could in that format. ‘Give it up before you start to repeat’ is my firm belief. In addition, I turned 30, got an office job, a young family, debts…it seemed like time to grow up and put away youthful dreams of a career in music. With hindsight it was a good thing, came back to it refreshed and eager to prove to myself I could write alone”
“I turned my back on music completely, had no idea what was going on in the music scene nor cared. Then I got hooked again. So you could say I’m a relapsed addict.”
It was when I asked Glyn to expand on what he’d been doing during his ten year break that he surprised me with his response::
I was offered a job as assistant to Hilton Dawson MP It was a wonderful life experience and I got to see and do things I’d never thought I would, such as stepping in through the front door of Number 10, visiting Parliament behind the scenes and so on. However, when the decision was made to invade Iraq I felt let down and became disillusioned……………
So I went back to my old job.
“Music is like a drug in that the more I hear, the less impact it tends to have. So I need to have periods where I come off the drug entirely in order to reconnect later. I’d rather just listen to Radio 4 a lot of the time.”
I suggest to Glyn that his videos are as innovative and creative as his songs and ask what/who is involved in making them:
Thanks for that kind comment. As with music, I’m self-taught, there’s a lot of trial and error and re-editing involved. They start with the spark of an idea from the song lyric, a vision to illustrate the words. I already know what the song’s about, pictures in my head. It’s a case of working out how to make the idea appear on screen, given the material constraints of using a single primitive video camera, figuring out the angles, coping with editing software, relying on friends to call on as actors, and my imagination. The videos take weeks to complete, but that often includes gaps to have a rethink and let things settle before re-assessing, which is the same approach I take to song writing. I’m lucky to live in a time when advances in technology make it possible to produce quality output alone from home, to handle both sound and vision, on a very limited budget.
Glyn Bailey seems to be a man of many experiences with some very strong opinions. He is not afraid to express his views – in life or in his song lyrics. I ask him about one of his ‘controversial’ songs, ‘Groomed’ from his album ‘Songs From the Old Illawalla (2007)’
“There’s a story about that one. We performed at an open mic night and, there being so few people in attendance, we gave out some free CDs to the audience and got on with packing the gear away. After a while a guy came up and handed the CD back, shaking his head he pointed to the lyrics of Groomed and said he couldn’t accept it and walked off. On the one hand as an artist I was impressed that my words had affected someone so strongly, on the other hand had it been too close to the bone for him personally? We shall never know. I had to get into the mind of an abuser. I don’t regret writing any songs, but wouldn’t write or perform some of them currently. ‘Groomed’ predates the Saville affair, powerful men exploiting the weak for their own pleasure/obsessions/gain with no thought for the permanent impact on their victims lives, chimes with my general misanthropy. My view is there should be no off-limits subjects for artists, including people trafficking.”
Asked what his hobbies are away from music, he tells me that he likes to grow vegetables, potter about in the house fixing things and sell things on Ebay. He also spends a lot of time in Spain which he says is good ‘clear head’ time for lyric writing.
So, What does the future hold for Glyn?
“The immediate future? Ready very soon is a four song download ‘E.P.’ collection of favourite tracks by other artists (Beatles, Kraftwerk, Buzzcocks, T.Rex). It’s the swan song of The Beholden, as our violinist Lizz Beahan is moving on to other projects. The recordings feature stripped back arrangements of just voice, guitar, bass and violin. I had to be very disciplined and resist temptation to add extra instrumentation in the studio, we wanted a more live feel.
There’s a new solo album slowly taking shape. Two tracks for that have been completed and mastered, a further eight songs slated are in various stages of recording. It will feature my most personal songs, held back for just the right time. We’re not rushing things, we want to perfect the arrangements. I’d anticipate a spring 2017 release. ‘We’ is myself and musical director Phil Senior, who deserves so much credit for his work on my stuff over the past decade.
After that… an album of songs for ‘children of all ages’, aimed at their moral education and instruction Bailey style 😉
Even longer term, a plan to write a musical. The story for this is in draft format, it will include a mixture of existing and as yet unwritten material.
All dependent on life not getting in the way, as it has a tendency to do, whilst waiting for Godot to arrive.”
Finally I ask Glyn what he thinks about the concept of VBL where people give up their time in order to help creative people like himself with no thought of making fast profits:
“The aims are laudable.We independent musicians tend to get contacted by lots of sites offering to ‘promote’ us in return for a fee, but in reality they don’t promote at all they merely ‘host’. Hosting music is not promoting and does nothing to gain an artist extra audience. After a time one tends to get jaded with ‘offers’, new hosting platforms, and assume it’s just another money making scam looking for gullible young musicians. So it’s great when you get something like VoiceBoxLive that is genuinely trying to help people”
“I love it that there are people like Grimnien around, though I don’t know where he gets the energy!
We need them to be doing their thing, giving fellow creatives a chance to be heard in new ways.”
After speaking to Glyn Bailey I have come to the conclusion that, like the vegetables he enjoys growing, he is very much like a brussels sprout. I have peeled off the outer leaves but I am sure that there are many, many more layers to this fascinating man.
Thank you Glyn Bailey for taking the time to answer my questions in such depth and for giving Celebrity VoiceBoxLive readers a glimpse into your fascinating life.
This is the website for Glyn Bailey and the Beholden: http://www.glynbailey.com/