Americana and country artist brings his music to Garstang

One man is on a mission to bring top quality Americana music to the region and he is kicking it all off with a gig featuring his own talents.

That man is Simon James. Simon has been performing for over 30 years, blending his love of roots based music with relatable and thoughtful stories.

Americana and country artist Simon James.

Americana and country artist Simon James.

He is a UK Americana/Country recording and performing artist, and after a sabbatical of over five years has returned to the stage and the studio to deliver his heartfelt, passionate and revealing songs about life, love and honesty.

Simon is now signed to Gingerdog Records, an independent label that specialises in UK singer songwriters. His love of folk, country, rock and blues are fused together to create beautiful songs that work equally well solo or with his full band 'The Deep River Pilots'

He established himself on the Preston music scene with Preston band Hothead, with a certain Stephen Bayliss. Stephen is now a highly successful corporate entertainer who cut his teeth in the pubs and clubs of Lancashire.

He takes up the story: ""I was given a guitar 40 years ago now by my dad. He took it in part-exchange for some work he did on a car.

Americana and country artist Simon James

Americana and country artist Simon James

"So back in the 70s there wasn't any computers, nothing on TV and I wasn't interested in football, so I just started playing guitar when I was eight-years-old.

"And I've pretty much been in bands ever since.

"I was in a relatively well known one in Preston called Hothead, with Stephen Bayliss.

"Anyway, I went down to London for 10 years. I ended up doing business things, ended up getting into music marketing and promotion work.

Americana and country artist Simon James

Americana and country artist Simon James

"And then I've just basically been doing the singer/songwriting circuit.

"But more recently I've been picked up I guess by the UK Americana and UK Country scene. Because my music is influenced by that.

"It's influenced by all sorts - like Queen to Johnny Cash to Led Zepplin to Willy Nelson to Fleetwood Mac - obviously that's the sort of stuff I've listened to over the years. So naturally I got picked up by the British Country Music Association as well who put me on quite a lot of their gigs. And also I played at their awards. I played at the British Country Music Awards a couple of times.

"And I've been nominated for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Horizon Act of the Year. But I lost out to Ward Thomas this year for Album of the Year. I don't mind losing out to Ward Thomas because they're signed to a major label and they have a million more fans than I have to vote for them."

Simon is already a firm favourite on the UK country and Americana scene, and it is this sound that he is bringing to an event being held at Kirkland Memorial Hall in Garstang.

But what is Americana and how does that relate to the UK?

Americana, as defined by the Americana Music Association (AMA), is "contemporary music that incorporates elements of various mostly acoustic American roots music styles, including country, roots rock, folk, gospel and bluegrass resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band."

And it is this blend of roots music styles that has been picked up by a number of artists in the UK. One classic example of can be found in Joan Armatrading. Three times Grammy nominated, two times Brit nominated, winner of a coveted Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contemporary Song Collection, and winner of the BASCA Gold Badge Award in 2012, it is a recognition that continues to this day. The year 2012 saw Joan receive the British Folk Festival Award, 2016 was Radio 2’s Folk Award for Lifetime Achievement and, the same year, the MMF’s Artist’s Artist Award. And she was recently the keynote speaker for AmericanaFest UK.

So why play at such a venue as a village hall, rather than a pub or larger venue?

Simon said: "I know that in the singer/songwriter scene there's a lot of demand and preference for these kind of village hall gigs. Because in a village hall you get to sit down. It's not like a rowdy, boozy, noisy night. You sit down, you have yourself a few drinks, and you watch singer/songwriters. And they tell their stories. And it's just a nice evening.

"I run a thing called the Americana Music Club, which is a promotions business, promoting UK Americana, which is a kind of crossover between country and folk. So I just thought, well I've done quite a few in Manchester, so I'll give it a go and try one in Garstang.

"The idea behind it, is that what I want to do it do it as a regular thing. So every two or three months put one of these big acts on so it becomes well known. So it becomes a place where people actually want to drive out to or book tickets for, or come and visit and stay over.

"There's quite a lot of very famous venues across the UK where people will travel miles and book hotels to see an act play there because it's got that reputation.

"But you've got to start somewhere, so the starting somewhere is by putting on a night or two with some of the best singer/songwriters around."

Also on the bill for the evening is another one of the UK's leading songwriters - Lauren Housey.

Lauren's fusion of soul, country and blues music has been play-listed on BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio London. Her songs have been featured amongst Robert Elm's "favourite tracks of the year". She's been a headliner at Bluefest at the O2 Arena and has opened the stage for artists such as Van Morrison, Jack Savoretti, First Aid Kit, Vintage Trouble and JP Cooper.

After the dust settles on this new music venture, Simon will continue work on his latest album, for which is he is collaborating with Miles Myerscough Harris, son of Radio 2's Bob Harris, as well as recording in Nashville, USA.

If you want to get an introduction to Americana in the UK, or you are already a big fan of the genre, then head to Kirkland Memorial Hall in Garstang for this intimate gig on Friday, February 21. The night will be a seated event with a full bar, starting at 8pm, with doors at 7pm. Seating is on a first come basis. Tickets are available from https://www.skiddle.com/e/13704576.