This time, we get to know Mel Randall, and what a treat we have! One of the things I love about NAS is the diversity among artists and genres we have here, as well as getting to hear more behind the music and everyone's individual story. Mel is a folk artist with some fabulous tales to tell and insight into how things have changed in terms of recording and ownership of work. Mel, is a singer-songwriter from the UK, who started out in the seventies! He has played with various bands and artists over the years, including The Fifth Amendment, and FTM.
His track "The Witch" from his latest album, The Stripy Tent, is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.
Link To New Artist Spotlight Playlists:
Let's get into it! It's a great read!
1. Tell us a little about where you are from and what you are currently doing.
I am currently filling in this 10 questions form.
Seriously I live in the UK, originally from Sheffield, but now living in a little village away from the hustle and bustle. I have reached retirement age but I still do a bit of work testing gas tanks and a little bit at a training centre.
I am currently working on my second solo album after releasing my first last year, which is a mainly a mixture of my interpretation of some traditional folk songs and some of my own called The Stripey Tent.
2. What inspired you to start playing and making music?
When I was very young my mother gave me piano lessons, she was an accomplished pianist. Unfortunately we lived in a very old house riddled with dampness which eventually destroyed the piano. My parents at that time struggled to make ends meet so the piano was never replaced.
I kept the music interest going at school, where after learning that useless school instrument, the recorder, I went on to learning to play brass instruments. After I left school I thought I would try the guitar which is now my main instrument.
𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?
Difficult question - my music has changed completely over the years. I don't think I really have been influenced by anyone apart from my mother. I played the type of music which came along for me.
I did start off playing lead guitar in a blues group for a while which played covers, and some of my early attempts of song writing, and then ended up in a couple of groups playing covers of pop music and Country. I had a family so couldn't mix raising them, working during the day, and playing at night, so the music went for around 20 years when I was in a local working mans club who were looking to put on a St. Patricks night event. Me having had a few to drink opened my big mouth and told them not to book the last one as he was, err, not very good. They said can you do better, so me in my state said yes.
I never thought anything of it but the next time I was in, they handed me an acoustic guitar and said, here you've opened your mouth now play something Irish. The only Irish song I knew was Fairytale of New York which I adlibbed the words from Christmas to Patricks night. They thought they had me as they didn't know I played guitar and I must have impressed them because they gave me the gig and I had 2 weeks to learn 20 Irish songs, and I only knew one.
The gig went down well and I then went into folk music and since then I have never looked back. I wish I had been into folk years before as it has been really good for me.
4. What are your goals in the music industry?
I don't think I have any new goals left in the music industry, as been there done it and got the t shirt. I would like to play in front of a crowd upwards of 1000 which I have never done. I am used to small venues probably with a max attendance of around 50. I want to finish my second solo album and then go onto my next, which will be inspired by some of the brilliant artists and songs on NAS, and will be more musical than what I usually perform as a solo artist. Oh, and I want some gigs which have completely dried up since the pandemic. Then again I am going to some folk clubs and playing along with everyone else.
5. Tell us about your creative process when you make new music.
You don't ask easy questions. (Sorry, Mel!) The last couple of years while things were quiet I concentrated on songwriting. I need inspiration and it doesn't come easy to write songs that I am happy to record. I usually go for a walk in the countryside with the dogs, and a melody might come up out of the blue, so I hum it into the phone voice recorder. Then I play it through on the guitar and record it. Once I have the music, the words sort of come out of nowhere. However, if I try to come up with lyrics to order, I can't do it very easily. Some of my songs have been trawled from the internet of ancient poetry which I put into my own words to make the lyrics up. I won't record anything I am not happy with.
My latest song called The Witch, I wrote with the idea of using my grandson, who is into witches, as background to a song I aimed at the child to teenage range. I was so impressed with the bits he recorded on his own, I rearranged the song to include him in a larger role than I originally planned, where I had planned for some witchy bits and cackles in the background.
6. What is your all-time favorite song?
Ask me this on different days and you will get a different answer.
At a push today I would say Rainbow Rising by Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow. I have always loved this song since I first heard it in the 70s. I used to go into rock influenced clubs and pubs and it was always played. So it has always been a part of my music, though I have never been in a rock group so I have never played it. I recently toyed with converting it into an acoustic version to perform at gigs but that is still on my pending list.
7. What is the best advice or council you have either given or received in terms of music?
The best advice, and it comes with good and bad experiences, is play what your audience wants to hear. This takes me back years to a family holiday where there was a talent night. I sang a song I thought was cool to me, but the winner sang a lively sort of rock and roll song which went down well with the audience. The next holiday I took note and I sang Jeff Becks Hi ho Silver Lining, which went down really well and it got us a free holiday at finals week.
8. Proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment in the music industry is to do something that I never dreamed of doing, and that was to record my first solo album. When I started out in the 70s the only way to record an album, unless you were rich, was to get the backing from a record label who in effect owned your recording and had the say of what would become of it. You would pay for it, and at the time it was about £300 for a single, which you never legally owned, and I came across quite a few musicians who went down this road and ended up with nothing.
9. What is something about you that might surprise someone who knows you the best?
And the questions get harder... Have to think about this, but one that sticks out is I used to play hockey for the school team. Everyone always thought I only ever played football. In fact I don't ever recall telling my family that.
𝟭0. Tell us about your highest and lowest points in music so far.
My lowest point, and it still makes me cringe, is when my first group was about to split up. The drummer, who used to play part-time with The Skids of Into the Valley fame, said he had been approached wanting a drummer and he told them about me. So we went for an audition at one of their homes. They were, in fact, an established duo who made it obvious they didn't want me and only wanted a drummer. They didn't know my music and I didn't know theirs at the time, and it was a really cringe worthy experience, which even for all these years still makes me cringe. I don't know the outcome, but I made an excuse and left and never heard again from the drummer, who I can't recall his name.
Obviously what I said earlier, my highest point is what I am doing now writing and recording my own music in my studio.
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