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Interview: SJ Denny
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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
When I was a kid, I stumbled across some old vinyl’s… The White Album by The Beatles and Harvest by Neil Young. I then decided to get a cheap acoustic guitar from Argos and restring it left-handed. Songwriting happened pretty quickly, and I just kept on persevering.
I honestly don’t know what I would be doing without music in my life. It’s saved me from some pretty dark times. Whether I’m happy, sad, confused… it all comes out in songs.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I live in Essex with my wife and my son. They are one of my main sources of inspiration and since having my son, I think I’ve become a lot more confident in who I am, which comes across in the songs I’m writing. Professionally, I work in London as a Business Analyst, which is about as far removed from music as you can get.
How long has your band been around?
I’ve been releasing songs for about ten years.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I’m based in a town called Benfleet. I’m quite lucky that my house is on a hill with some lovely views. This tranquility helps my songwriting. We’ve also got a cabin built in our garden so that’s doubling up as a home office and a recording studio. The home setup is giving me more of an opportunity to refine songs and arrangements.
Tell me about the best and worst shows you have played.
The best shows I’ve played have been:
supporting The Bluetones at an acoustic set in Lewisham. They’re one of my favorite Britpop bands and Mark Morriss has really influenced my singing style.
playing the O2 Academy in Islington. I had a lot of support and it’s a venue I’d always wanted to play.
The worst gig I played was in Norwich on a Monday night. I drove all the way there and the place was empty. Things were summed up when a punter had a go at me for sitting in his seat. He also wasn’t keen on my accent. Good times!
Tell me about your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you haven't already?
One of my favorite venues is The Bedford in London. I’ve played there a couple of times. It’s got a really nice vibe and the audience are always very respectful.
There are so many venues I’d like to play. I’d love to play The 12 Bar Club and lots of UK Festivals.
If you could play any show with any lineup who would be on the ticket?
I’d pick three other artists…
Sir Paul McCartney, who I consider the finest composer ever!
Neil Young, who is so cool and doesn’t care what anybody thinks (a true artist)
Damian Rice, because I saw him live at Hop Farm festival and it’s the best acoustic set I’ve ever witnessed.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band?
Hope for the best but expect the worst. Music is a tough business. I’d also recommend writing for you, rather than what you think people want to hear. You usually find if you keep it real more people engage with your songs anyway.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
The coolest people don’t realize they’re cool. Believe in yourself and what you do. The sooner you learn that, the less time you’ll waste.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why? A song called ‘The Unsung Hero’. My wife came into my life at the time when I needed her most. She’s also such an incredible mother. This one’s for her.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I really love playing ‘All the Signs Were There’. It’s a really lively number and seems to get the audience in the mood.
The song that seems to get requested the most is ‘A Place We Knew’. This is really fun to play too, as the bouzouki gives my sound another twist.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
So many things inspire me. My family. A good or bad day at work. My childhood. COVID-19 and the current political landscape have certainly been responsible for a few songs too.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I think my music should help people know that there’s other people out there feeling the same things. There’s also an optimistic undercurrent, that things will be ok in the end.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
As a solo artist this is a hard question to answer. However, I frequently disagree with myself!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that's coming up?
I’ve just released a single called ‘The Sticking Point’. I have an EP and two more singles planned for 2021. Once COVID-19 subsides, I hope to get back to gigging. I’m also currently working on a batch of releases for 2022.