Goodbye 2017 

As 2017 draws to an end, I want to reflect back on the year that has probably been the most important of my musical career. 

I write this blog as more of a self assessment than boasting, but it’s been a pretty spectacular year for me musically, and also a year that almost ended my career. 

In January, I was finishing off my debut album in Leeds and it was going as well as it could’ve. Andy was great to work with and I made my imprint in the studio sofa, sat there in awe of what Andy was doing to my songs. However, when I was called up to sing on one day, something was wrong. Over Christmas 2016, my voice completely went. I struggled through 25 gigs that month with the help of every vocal enhancing gadget and tea bag you can imagine. It was horrible, but at some points, behind me on stage were more pills, pastilles, hot tea, lemon and honeys than there should’ve been. Before recording my album, I took a week long break to recover and it seemed to have done the trick. We managed to record everything just about, but it taken way longer than it should’ve because of my voice. 

Recording the Album

We finished tracking the album in January and I went back to my job of singing at bars/pubs/weddings but my voice still wasn’t right. I ended up biting the bullet and going to see a Doctor. I hate going to see the Doctor because more often than not, it’s bad news. Lo and behold, it was bad news. I got told I have vocal nodules, which is pretty much every singers nightmare. Since that moment, I’ve done everything in my power to dissolve these modules back into the muscle (this was option 2 after surgery, which didn’t really appeal to me *google Julie Andrews*). I’m happy to say that my voice is now up to the point it was circa June 2016, when I thought it was the strongest it’s ever been. I had to learn to not take so much on and had to start exercising….physically and vocally.  I go for a check up next month to look at the state of the nodules but I have high hopes. I’m not worried though, Freddie Mercury had nodules…..actually, maybe that’s what killed him? 

Me Steaming and Drinking Tea before a gig

Aside from that ‘minor’ setback, I powered on and released my debut album and the feedback has been incredible. Some radio stations actually played it, while some continued to ignore me(thanks BBC introducing…), but most importantly of all, it was listened to. At this point of writing, it’s had 270 000 individual track streams (Comfortable is nearly at 100k on Spotify) and I’ve managed to shift a few of the CD’s I made (I mean, who buys CD’s anymore?).

 Album Artwork by Josh Elms

One of my favourite things to do as a musician is touring, and I’ve been on 3 tours this year. The first was around Europe before the album came out. This was the first time I was playing the new songs and it was great. I met so many nice people and alas, fell in love with Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany and had a panic attack in Amsterdam. I’d love to be able to do this again, and hopefully the Swiss police won’t fine me next time. 

This building was opposite the leaning tower in Pisa

The second tour was to promote my album in the UK. It was a relatively small tour, but it was my biggest headline tour to date. A month before the tour, 3 of the dates were already sold out, another 2 closely followed and other 2 were just as amazing. I got to have Candle Thieves and Dave Giles support me, which is always a nice day out. I didn’t drink alcohol or eat chocolate on the lead up to this tour, maybe that was the key to its success, the hunger….the literal hunger. 

On Stage in a sold out show at The Castle, Manchester (Photo by Pamela Hardcastle)

The third and final tour was with a band (ish). I did 2 dates with a band and 2 on my own, one of the band shows was my biggest headline show ever and of course found it’s way into top 5 favourite shows I’ve ever done. Thanks to Jac, Tom and Nick for making me sound good. 

On Stage at Camden Assembly (Photo by Pamela Hardcastle)

These were all part of my New Years Resolutions last year. I also wanted to book a flight to Nashville, which I didn’t do. But my friend Dave Giles did raise over 20k to record him album there, which is pretty much the same thing. I also planned to learn Piano, which I’ve planned to do for about 5 years and still haven’t managed it. My problem is, is that I assume it will be easy. It turns out, it’s quite hard. I have wrote out my goals for 2018, but as my friend once told me, never tell any one your goals, so I won’t. Which makes the end of this blog quite the anti climax, but then again so was the TV show ‘Lost’, and people fucking loved that show.

October Support Acts 

The 4 gigs in October are approaching, and I’ve now confirmed all the support acts, how exciting! I wanted to play with people that I’ve never played with before. This is a blog just to talk about them a little bit and to try and convince you to come and see me. I’m so excited to get out and play again. Even more so for Manchester and London where I play with a band. The band are sounding great as well. But anyways, where was I? O yeah, supports….. 

1st October, Wrexham, UnDegUn 

Supports: Joseph McCorriston and Jamie Jay 

The first night of this tour is the return to my hometown of Wrexham. The venue is an arts space, which used to be JJB sport. I played there a few years for ‘Focus Wales’, a lovely festival based in Wrexham that you should check out. First on this night will be my mate Jamie Jay. I’ve known Jamie for many years now. We were on the same pub circuit when we both lived in North Wales. I remember playing around Llangollen, and people saying ‘You should check Jamie Thomas, his voice is incredible’. I then met him, at one of my gigs I think. He moved to London for a bit and we were both residents at Proud in Camden. He’s a great lad and his voice is something you have to hear. 

Second up will Joseph McCorriston. It’s really strange that I’ve never actually met this guy. He’s toured with Dave Giles a bit, but for whatever reason, I wasn’t able to make that tour. When Dave returned from his tour with Joe, he said ‘You’d love Joe, you’d get on so well, he likes McFly’. That’s enough for me to get on board with someone. Joe released his album ‘The Party We Came For’ last year and it’s great. He tours pretty much constantly and I love that about him. Don’t be surprised if we end up doing a McFly cover on the night, I’m already planning it. 

8th October, Manchester, AATMA 

The second night of the tour will take place precisely 7 days later in a new venue for me. It’s called AATMA, and it’s in the Northern Quarter, around the corner from The Castle and Gullivers. This night is also the first time anyone will see me play with the brand new band. First up this night, will be local boy(ish) ‘Arms and Hearts’. I was sitting at my computer one day replying to emails and doing what can only be described as ‘Painfully boring admin’, and I put a tweet out asking about new music to listen to. My friend Steve (I like to think we’re friends, I’ve met his missus, that makes us friends right?) replied with a link to Arms and Hearts. It took me approximately 10 seconds to fall in love with it. He sounds like Gaslight Anthem crossed with Tom Joad era Springsteen. What’s not to love? 

Second on the night will be Scribble Victory. When I played Bodega in Nottingham a couple of years ago, these guys were opening up. I completely fell in love with their stage craft. It was just the two of them on stage harmonising like their lives depended on it. The drum set up is a beauty to behold as well. If you’ve ever seen MckNasty, the drummer reminds of him a little. It’s so good. Think Dashboard Confessional crossed with Modern Baseball. So excited to have these guys on the bill. 

15th October, London, Camden Assembly 

The third night of this tour is my biggest headline show ever, in that it’s the biggest venue that my name has been on top of the bill. It’s at Camden Assembly, previously the Barfly. I played my first ever London gig in Camden Barfly in 2010, and 7 years later, BAM, I’m headlining. You can’t deny that progress *insert sarcastic emoji here*. Opening the night will be London based duo ‘Croft and Cotes’. I got an email a few months off these asking to support. When I opened the music link they sent, I loved it. It was for their latest single ‘Why I’m Here’, it’s folky pop little number. I love it. Can’t wait to see what these guys bring to the table live. 

Second on the night will be my good friend Tom Dibb. I met Tom a few years when I moved to London as he was a resident tea drinker and shower taker at the house I moved into. A few years ago, Tom decided that the conventional way of living was not for him and decided to live in his VW Camper Van. He’s a regular on the VW festival circuit around the UK. O yeah, one minor little thing he did as well…HE DROVE TO AUSTRALIA!!! Tom has literally just got back from his trip to Australia. He drove down (through as many roads as he could) to Australia and played to any one and everyone along the way. He’s an inspiration and a lovely fella. He’s got a new album out soon, check out his latest single here. 

 

29th October, Leeds, Verve 

The final night of this tour takes place in the Verve. This is the fourth time I’ve played here and I love it. Its booked through Mick at Double Denim Live, who is one of the good guys. It’s a tiny little venue in the city centre and is always a great atmosphere in there. Tickets are nearly sold out for this one as well. Supports for this night are Arms and Hearts (see above) and Iona Lane. 

I put a post out a week ago asking for local supports in Leeds and was recommended Iona. She’s studying in the university I went to, but a far more interesting course. I was sent her latest EP, ‘Pockets’ and I loved it! I’m very excited to see Iona on this night, I’ll definitely learn a thing or two. 

There you have it, all my supports for the tour in October. I can’t wait! Head over to my ‘Shows’ page to get your tickets now! I’ll see you there.

The Band 

I realise it’s been a while since I blogged. I should’ve blogged about my album, or the tour I did in July. I probably should’ve even blogged the final part of my European Journey, I will get round to that though, Germany was incredible. However, for now, this is a blog about a very big thing to do with my upcoming dates in October. After years of playing solo, I’ve decided to do a few gigs with a band again. When I lived in Wrexham, I put a band together and we played together for a couple of years, this band was called The Peacemakers. Since I moved to London, I’ve been doing things solo, as it costs a lot to bring a band down from Wrexham. Until now…I have got together a few uber talented friends and we’ll be doing a couple of shows together in October. 

People have been saying for a while that I should get a band, mainly because I always record as a band, so I suppose people are used to hearing these big arrangements. As much as I’ve tried to recreate and rearrange the tracks for just my self and a guitar (and a few other toys), getting a band together is a completely different ball game. Let me introduce you to the members of the band: 

Drums: Tom Shepherd 

Tom is the drummer out of my function band, In Session. He joined the band at a similar time to me and we got on like a house on fire ever since. Tom is one of those musicians, who have a ridiculously good musical ear. Working as musical director on Cruises for years means that he can bring that extra sparkle to the band when it comes to arranging. Not only that, he is a great drummer and ridiculously versatile. Tom also plays in a band called ‘Bond Street’ who do like 50’s style arrangements of modern songs. Check them out here. He also played in ‘For Apollo’ with Nick. 

Bond Street

 

In Session

Bass Guitar: Nick Kent 

What can I say about Nick Kent? I’ve known Nick for around 6 years now. We’ve lived together for just over 3 years. He is one of the people that forced me to move down to London. When I first moved to London, he was the one person to motivated me the most to go out and get work. This was because I spent most of my days on the sofa being hungover and watching rubbish TV. He’s always been there for me to lend a helping when I need it. During my ONTAW project, he borrowed me his really nice bass guitar almost every week. He also filmed a few of the videos, and featured in a couple….most notably ‘Blank Page’. 

Blank Page

Nick studied Bass guitar at degree level, during which time he joined a band called ‘TAT” and toured the world as a blue haired punk with a mohican and neck muscles of a greek god. During his spell with TAT, he’s opened for acts such as Alice Cooper, NOFX, The Used, Me First and the Gimme Gimme’s, Bad Religion as well as doing a few Warped Tours. Since then, he’s been dabbling in bits and bobs, like playing Bass for the American Idiot UK theatre tour and most notably playing for Dave Giles, which he often describes as his proudest moment as a musician.* 

Tat

As well as that, he’s an awesome photographer and most of pictures you see of me were taken by him. He is mastermind between the swiss roll picture, which he describes as ‘A Modern Day Mona Lisa’. He also directed/filmed/edited the music video for ‘Comfortable’. 

Comfortable

Electric Guitar: Jac Roberts 

I’ve known Jac the longest out of anyone in the band as he is a fellow Wrexham lad. I first met Jac circa 2006/2007 I reckon? The first band that I sang in, needed a guitarist and he was one of few people that replied to the advert. He joined the band, which was called ‘The Rigbys’ and it was one of the most fun musical ventures I’ve ever had. We were together a few years and played some awesome gigs, some of which included supporting The Subways and Nine Black Alps. 

The Rigbys

After The Rigbys, Jac went on to play guitar for various projects while studying at Cheltenham. Jac had a fair level of success with his band ‘Deaf Club’ who played some pretty big shows including Koko in Camden and also SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. 

So, there’s my band. I’m so excited to play these shows with these guys and play the songs louder than ever. I’ll be playing Manchester on 8th October and London on 15th October with the band. Here’s where you can get tickets: 

Manchester: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/410372 

London: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/danny-gruff-the-camden-assembly-tickets/7502255?pl=camdenassembly 

Hope to see you there! 

Danny

European Tour Blog Pt.3  

Let’s pick up where I left off on the last blog. Dave and I woke up in the aforementioned ‘Lovely House’ in Milan and decided to make our way to Pisa. In my life, I had learned two things about Pisa. 1. They have a tower that is falling over and 2. It kind of sounds a little bit like Pizza. I love Pizza and can’t resist a trip to a landmark so off we went. The town itself was gorgeous, walking around Pisa was where my love for Italy started to take hold. We visited the leaning tower and it was as expected…leaning. Throughout the trip, I planned to get Naomi a snow globe from each place we visited. It’s a thing we started a while back and I like it. My Nan has a collection of bells, which people have bought her from their travels. I felt the snow globe thing was a tradition like that. Finding a snow globe was not an issue at all, in fact, you could buy pretty much anything with a wonky tower in it or on it. The tower was beautiful, however, the buildings around it were also stunning and I felt sorry for them. The leaning tower was a little bit like Gary Barlow (chiselled, handsome, great singer……I’m losing the metaphor), and the buildings around it were like Howard Donald and Jason Orange (under appreciated).

 

Top: Gary Barlow
Bottom: Jason Orange


That wasn’t where the beauty ended, we walked into the town, where we surrounded ourselves with stunning architecture and quaint shops. Next on the list to do was get a pizza. Dave’s girlfriend, Faye, did some research for us and we found a place where we could order a Pizza that was a metre long. It turns out, that is somewhat of a novelty. When Dave and I received our pizza, the onlookers were baffled and I can only assume to be impressed. We made light work of that and marched off to H and M to buy clothes for the wedding the day after. I know what you’re thinking….”Danny, you’re in Italy and you still shop at H and M”. Yes, yes I do. Other clothes shops scare me and I knows what I like. The building was an old bank and it was stunning. Marble floors, stone pillars and majestic artwork. Coincidentally, the only other shoppers we spoke to in there were British. They were probably in the same boat as us. After that, we visited a Gelato shop and I had a Gelato and an espresso. The lady who owned the place put Olive Oil on my Gelato, which solidified my theory that Italians put Olive Oil on everything…..except she was originally from Northampton. 

Impressive

After that, we headed up to Volterra, where we would be playing a wedding the day after for the future Mr and Mrs Brown. They invited us to the Villa for drinks and food the night before. It was a great opportunity to meet the guests and to soak up more of Tuscany’s beauty. We had a few drinks, ate some pizza, tried to make the wedding guests laugh and took part in a quiz. I was on a quiz team with the groom’s mother and the bride’s mother, so I was on my best behaviour. Saying that, I still managed to slip in a ‘That’s what she said’ joke before we left them to sleep before the big day. It’s the little victories. 

H and M's finest

We woke up on the day of the wedding and the weather was stunning. We didn’t have to be at the villa until 2pm so we headed off into Volterra town. Considering it was in the middle of the mountain, I wasn’t expecting much. I couldn’t be more wrong. It was equally as beautiful, if not more beautiful, than Pisa. The views from the suburbs of the town were stunning and again, the architecture was amazing. We took a walk around and got ourselves a local cuisine of Pasta and Bruschetta. It was at this point where Dave and I coined the phrase, ‘Take Me Home’. We would look over the Tuscany hills and say ‘Take Me Home’. We would take a bite of the best Pasta available to man kind and say, ‘Take Me Home’….you get the gist. After some food, we headed to the Villa to set up and get ready to play.


Top: Take Me Home
Bottom: Take Me Home


We had two slots to play, one at the ceremony where they would say their vows and one at night. This left us with approximately 6 hours off. We played ‘Here Comes The Sun’ and ‘I’m Yours’ at the ceremony, and from that we knew that the day would be great. The guests were all super friendly and welcoming. The weather was stunning and the surroundings were perfect. Because of this, we decided to play a few songs in the background while they were having afternoon drinks, instead of us sitting in a room trying to make conversation with each other. Dave played 45 minutes on his own and then I was to play 45 minutes on my own. By the time I was playing, I think that their Prosecco had kicked in and the guests were ready to hit me with ridiculous requests. I opened up with ‘Tribute’ by Tenacious D. After this, someone requested ‘Sorry’s not good enough’ by McFly, which of course I knew. This lead me to perform a full history of McFly. I’m still not sure why. The day carried on in the same vain and Mr and Mrs Brown said to us, ‘help yourself to anything’, which meant ‘FREE BAR’ to me. I haven’t been drinking alcohol lately because of worries about my voice, however, ‘I was on my holidays’. Dave and I ended up playing 3 and a half hours straight at night. They never stopped dancing once, it was so much fun. Definitely one of the highlights of my wedding singer life. If you are reading this and you were at that wedding, thanks so much. Everyone there made the day incredible. Most of all, thanks to Sam and Charlie. 


Top: Take Me Home
Bottom: At the wedding (photo by RobWestPhotography.com Lovely guy)

As we got into bed around 2am, Dave said we were to be up 6:30am to drive to Munich. I knew a hangover was coming, but it was worth it. Part 4 of the European Tour Diary coming soon! 

As a side note, Album pre order should be up next week. Tickets for the tour are still flying. Get yours now!

European Tour Blog Pt.2 

Before I start this blog, I do want to point out something that’s kind of been on my brain. One of the reasons I’m doing these blogs is because it will help me remember these experiences when I look back in the future. It’s hard to know how far you’ve come, without looking where you’ve been. Hopefully I’ll look back at these blogs in my mansion in Chiswick in 10 years time and laugh about the time that I thought I was going to get killed by an owl in 2017. Read on to know more. 

We left off the last blog when I was in a forest in France. We were in Osenbach, surrounded by this awesome scenery. I drank a little bit of red wine and started writing a song. The song itself was called ‘Skin and Bones’, don’t know if it will ever be heard by any one else but it was nice to be writing again. I’ve started getting really inspired on this trip. Using your brain is hungry work so we asked the camp site owner where we could grab some food and maybe a bite to eat. He told us of a Restaurant in the next town along, which was 3km away. I couldn’t drive, because of the wine and I thought Dave deserved a drink so we walked. The weather was OK but it was getting colder an the sun was starting to go down. We walked down a big hill through a forest like area, and we still had only travelled 1km. It was at this point, we realised how far away it was. 2km later, hungry, thirsty, tired, we arrived…..and it was shut. Raphael (camp site owner) has sold us down the river! We couldn’t believe it. At this point, the sun had gone down and the weather had took a turn. The beautiful forest like area was now pitch black and silent. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen horror films that start like that. We survived and went back to the camp site and ate cereal bars. It was around about 3am, when I realised sleeping in a camp in April was a bad idea. I ended up sharing a duvet with Dave for fear of death from the cold. 

The next morning, hungry and cold, we headed to Switzerland, Bern to be precise. Here, we would meet up with our friends Anni and Nathalie, who collectively make a wonderful duo called Van Bloom. This was for our 3rd gig of the tour in a place called The Piazza Bar. We first went to a place to grab some food, and apparently this place is lawless. It was a little but surreal, but to its credit, the Graffiti was amazing and the food was a delight. The food was pricey but I suppose they can get away with daylight robbery. They also had implemented a system, which I believe should be brought to the UK. They had a centre, where drug addicts can go to legally get drugs for their fix, and take them in a clean and safe environment with professionals surrounding and assisting them. I asked a few people about this to get their opinion and they said it certainly helped lowering the crime rate. I liked that. We took a little stroll and headed to the venue for the gig. 

It was a lovely little bar, just around the corner from the centre. The only people that we knew in Bern were Van Bloom and without them, we probably would’ve played to an empty room. They brought loads of their friends along who all made us feel at home. I started off by learning a bit of Swiss. I could blag my way through a 10 second conversation, which is better than being silent I suppose. We weren’t getting paid for the gig, we were doing a ‘here’s a hat, put money in it if you liked us’ job. Since we done the ‘Pay What You Want’ tour in October, our attitudes towards paid gigs has somewhat changed. Van Bloom went on first and were great. Here’s a tip for the future for musicians…don’t have a support act who are better than you and bring all the crowd. It didn’t half make me nervous, they were great and it’s a massive shame they don’t play together more often. 

The thing with Van Bloom, was that they had the lingo on their side. They could speak Swiss, Dave and I however, not so much. So before Dave started, I suppose we were both a little nervous of how it would translate. Some of our songs are a little wordy, so we tried to tailor it. Luckily, the crowd were awesome and welcomed us both with loving arms. I even managed to get a swiss sing along for the new song, ‘We Got This’. Afterwards, we drank with the locals until closing time. At closing time, the bar staff insisted that we all had a shot with them and eat the remaining pastries that they sold, not a problem. 

After we left the bar, we were treated to a walk around the town with some of the locals who were at the gig. It was beautiful. We were shown a statue of a man eating a baby, which apparently used folklore to make kids behave when they were younger. There was Einstein’s house. The city hall was beautiful. We then found a late night and had a couple of beers and returned home. The next morning, we got up earlyish to explore the city in the light. It was just as beautiful, if not more. It was one of those places (like Luxembourg), that everywhere you turned there was a new beautiful sight to see. I had a lovely coffee from a place called Adrianos. It was at this point that I realised that Europeans tend not to do coffee the same way that we do. Apparently, they were quite offended when I ordered an Americano.

I’ve tried to open my eyes a little bit since this. O yeah, just one more little thing…BERN HAVE BEARS!!! There are bears living by the river. That was incredible and so were the views. Thanks to everyone who made Switzerland such a special time for us. Anni, Nathalie, Susi, Cloe, Dave and anyone else we met along the way. 

I realise this blog is already long. But, I had to finish off day 6 before I bid you farewell. We went to Milan. On the way, we crossed the Alps and some of the most beautiful scenery in which I have ever seen. I couldn't believe that we were driving through this for free! It turns out, it wasn't free. We needed a sticker for our car for 40 euro....we didn't know this. And because we didn't know this, we were fined 200 euro by the Swiss police. That was a bit of a downer for the day, and we needed perking up by the time we got to Milan. That didn't happen.


We stayed in the ironically named ‘Lovely House’, which was in the Bronx. Luckily, i’d seen 8 Mile the week before, so I knew how to do deal with this situation. We went for some disappointing food, which was not what I become to know if Italy. The Cathedral was pretty lovely though, I’ll give it that. The next morning, we woke up at went to Pisa. But that’s for the next blog. 

Also, as a side note. 4 tickets left for Birmingham on the tour in July, let’s get it sold out by the time I return!

 

European Tour Blog Pt.1  

Hello from the middle of a mountain in a place called Osenbach. But more on that later. It’s day 4 of my European tour with Dave and I thought I’d do a quick update. 

On Friday, I headed to Hasselt, Belgium, with my girlfriend for the first date of the tour. I’d played Hasselt before in November so I had an idea of what to expect but I wanted to explore a bit more. Naomi and I checked into our hotel for the evening just outside the centre of town. We also checked into our first reality of what I could only assume was European culture. The hotel room was inclusive of our bathroom, as in the toilet was right behind where we lay our heads that night. Luckily, the whole thing was kind of hilarious. The gig itself has it’s problems as well. One song in, the mixing desk blew. I then got it working, and it blew again. It eventually decided that it was bored of breaking and just worked for the rest of the night thankfully. The gig was great fun, and the town is really pretty. I hadn’t done much exploring when I was there in November so it was nice to have a bit of a wander. Also…Shanti Beans is a great little coffee shop run by a guy called Sven. I had a coffee called ‘Rwanda’, was pretty delicious. 

Next up, Charleroi. After we checked out of our hotel is Hasselt, we headed for some lunch and by coincidence, bumped into Dave and his better half.  We had some lunch together and then off we went to our respective gigs. Whilst we were on the train to Brussels, to get our connection to Charleroi, I got a text off my best friend asking if we were in Brussels. 

It turns out they were and right by the station. We got off the train and had a pint with them…and then another. Before I knew it, I was supping long island iced tea and totally forgot I had a gig that night in another city. Naomi and I ran for the train and ended up perching ourselves in 1st class (we didn’t know we had done this until we got off…cheeeers). The gig itself was a lot of fun, and the first time I’ve played tipsy for some time. There was a guy called Sergio there, who bar staff described as a ‘one man party’. He looked a bit like a Belgian Aaron Crascall, I wanted him to be at every gig I ever had from here on in. 


Day 3 was when I met Dave in Charleroi to start making our way out of Belgium, and into France. Dave told me that Luxembourg wasn’t too far away and wasn’t that much of a detour.
At this point, every where I was going was quite literally foreign to me and I had no idea what to expect. I’d been to Belgium before, but never anywhere else on this trip. We drove into Luxembourg thinking ‘this place isn’t that great’, until we got parked up. Everywhere we looked was a beautiful view. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, truly beautiful. As we were walking around, we walked passed a house, where 2 American children had set up a stall on their front door. They were selling homemade Lemonade and Cookies. It turns out that they were raising money for children who need heart surgery at a young age. They had another brother, who the Dad described as an American Banksy, just drawing pictures and handing them out randomly. The place felt so homely, it was lovely. Just as we were leaving, I stopped into a Souvenir shop to get Naomi a present. The guy behind the counter asked me if I was from ‘Brexit’? I apologised, and assured him that I still liked him. I’m pretty sure he short changed me. 

Later that night, we were staying at a place called Metz. We knew that eventually, we needed to end up near Switzerland and Metz seemed to be on the way. We struck Gold again. We turned up at this beautiful picturesque town just before sundown.We took a walk around and discovered some beautiful architecture and scenery. Most beautiful of all was the sight of a local entrepreneur (drug dealer), recovering his goods (drugs) from a  bush. I found that particularly romantic.

That leads us to now…in a forest in Osenbach. Next stop, Switzerland for our 3rd gig in Bern. I’m enjoying this far too much, I wonder how long it will last! 



Also, as a side note….tickets for the tour are still selling well. 8 left for Birmingham and 14 left for Leeds! Get involved quickly! 

www.dannygruff.com/shows

Coffee Beans 

Recently, I’ve started taking up drinking coffee again. I had to stop for some time because apparently it’s dreadful for your voice. I think I read far too much into what is good and what is bad for your voice. I’ve given up chocolate and take aways (mainly pizza) for lent for that reason….but they are good for the soul and I can’t wait for Easter Sunday to come around. 

Anyway, my coffee fascination started a few years ago when I was in a studio in Ireland with my band JKLMNO. They had a coffee machine in the studio or as we called it, ‘The Fresh Pot Machine’. On the way over, we watched that video of Dave Grohl just shouting ‘FREEESSSSHHHH POTTTTSSSSS’ in the studio. Lo and behold, every half an hour, you would hear a beckoning from the kitchen of the studio of ‘FREEESSSSHHHHH POTTTTTTTTSSS’, that’s when you knew someone had made a coffee. For that Christmas, I got a coffee machine for my house. Between that, and my friend Lorna working at Starbucks and giving me ton of free coffee beans, the obsession had begun. It’s kind of like when my obsession with Whiskey started. I like to think the coffee one is healthier, but I don’t think it is…saying that, the two go hand in hand beautifully. 

So for this blog, I’m just going to direct you in the way of a few of my favourite coffee places that if you’re in the area, you should check out. Number 1 is where I’m currently writing this blog: 

The Coffee Traveller (http://www.thecoffeetraveller.com/)

This coffee shop is located by the river in Kew, just off Kew Bridge.I discovered this place on twitter and thought I’d check it out one day. It’s nice and quaint and the staff are really friendly. The first time that I came in here, I got to play with a dog whilst doing some other work. That was nice, great coffee too. I’m yet to discover more about what beans they use and such like, but that will come in time. 

 

Rhythm and Brews (https://www.facebook.com/Rhythm-Brews-832301163531851/)

Another London one this, just by the field in Chiswick. I remember a few months ago, I was in the car with my girlfriend and I started saying how I’ve had a brilliant idea for a coffee shop and it is called ‘Rhythm and Brews’. Turns out, it’s a place that already existed and it’s a million times better than I could’ve thought up in my head. You walk in and there and there are original prints by the photographer Robert Ellis. He was one of the world’s leading photographer in the music business when quite frankly, music was better. There are pictures of John Lennon, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Stevie Wonder, amongst many more. The coffee is absolutely delightful and so is the food. Again, staff are great. Also, down the stairs, they have chalk board walls where you write your favourite song down. I have yet to see one of my songs there…hint hint. O yeah, and they play Vinyls, and have a massive selection there. They let me pose for a few photos there the other week when Nick Kent was taking photos of me. 

Taken by Nick Kent Photography


King Street Coffee (https://www.facebook.com/kingstreetcoffeecompany/)

This is a Wrexham one. It was a company set up by two brothers, Phil and Andy Gallanders. I’ve known these two for years. I used to play in bands with Phil and Andy used to run music nights, which I played at. Weirdly, Phil and I played a year 6 prom once and covered a high school musical song. Not my finest hour. They used to work in a big chain of coffee shops and I remember Phil saying years ago that he’d love to have his own coffee shop. It was definitely worth the wait, them boys knows their coffee. 

I was in there yesterday and I expressed an interest in making coffee. They went above and beyond to show me alternative ways of making coffee. It opened my eyes no end, and I massively appreciated them taking the time out to do that. We did an espresso tasting and made a coffee using a V60. 

These guys use a Liverpool based company for their beans called ‘Neighbourhood’. Not only is it great coffee, they use great puns in their coffee types. Such as ‘I Can’t Get No Caffeination’, ‘Grind Control to Major Tom’ and my personal favourite, ‘Espresso Yourself’. 

Seriously, if you’re in Wrexham, check these guys out. They’re located in the Wrexham Bus Station. In a time when Wrexham is getting a lot of bad press, these guys seem to be pushing for a better view of Wrexham. 

This is just something I wanted to get out there. I love independent coffee shops, and they’re definitely worth supporting. One day, I do plan to have my own but I’ve still got a lot to learn. 

Me with the King Street Coffee lot!

Anyways, other news. The tour in July is selling ridiculously well. Nottingham and Manchester has already sold out. Leeds, Birmingham and London are not far behind. Newcastle and Glasgow are selling steady but I never expected them to sell out. I never expected any to sell out to be fair. I’m truly overwhelmed, so thanks very much. 

The album will be out soon. Mid May seems to be the target. The artwork is nearly done, the mixing is nearly done and all the other stuff surrounding it is nearly finished. There will be different packages available for the album. One package includes the lyrics to a song called ‘Coffee Beans’, handwritten onto a sheet of coffee paper (made from recycled Coffee Cup Paper). 

One more thing, I head out around Europe with Dave Giles on Friday. We’re still looking for dates in Amsterdam and Germany. If you know of any promoters or anything, send them my way.

Honey and Lemon 

The start to 2017 has been a strange one to say the least. It started with me just getting over an illness, which was nice. Then my car broke down, which cost me more than I cared for. I then took on every gig possible to raise funds to fix the car. During this time, I got ill again. I went to a Doctor and he told me to stop, I said no and proceeded to record my debut album.  I got back from finishing the majority of my album and had a few gigs booked with the wedding band I’m in. A lot of people in the wedding band industry don’t care about their job, it’s a way to pay rent and they go through the motions. As with everything I do, I want to do the best job I can possibly do, and I wasn’t able to.

All credit to the band(In Session), they humoured me and lifted my spirits at a time when I was really reconsidering my career options. My voice still wasn’t getting better despite any amount of honey and lemon I was drinking, steaming I was doing or social events that I was not attending. I went to see a vocal coach for the first time in my life. She told me that I might have vocal nodules, which basically means I would have to have some form of operation which puts me out of action for a few months. 

Steaming before an In Session gig

So at this point, I was feeling pretty low and didn’t know what to do. But it was all good, because I was on my way to Disneyland with my girlfriend. That was great, and I’m sure the screaming I was doing on the rides was definitely helping my voice. When I got back, I knew I had a small stint of a tour coming up with Bry.

At Disneyland 

I’ve toured with Bry a couple of times, and he just keeps getting better and better. If you haven’t checked him, go to website here. Check out his debut album and fall in love with his Irish charm. I joined the tour in Birmingham, at a venue called Mama Roux’s. Lovely venue, the venue kind of looks like it should be outside but it’s inside. Then we played Cardiff (The Globe), Leicester (Academy), Norwich (Waterfront) and I left them after the show in Brighton (Komedia). I was playing to a 99% new audience, which was super exciting. I was professionally underprepared for the tour. I hadn’t even planned a warm up show to prepare, which is something I usually do. 2 days before the tour, I got asked if I wanted to support a band called The Wooden Sky in London. I jumped at the chance as it was a day before the Bry tour. That gig alone was enough for me to feel stupid for even thinking about reconsidering my career options. I love playing on stage, even when I’m not at my best. 

On stage in Leicester

There’s no feeling quite like getting on stage in a room full of people and trying to prove yourself. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way, sometimes it does, I think that’s part of the thrill. The audiences I played to over the past week have been nothing but a pleasure. It’s frustrating waiting for one of your favourite acts to come on, especially when a Welsh singer songwriter is shouting songs at you on a stage. So if you were at any one these gigs and you saw me, thanks for being nice to me, it means a lot. I’m sure I won’t be forgetting those gigs in a hurry. I want to send big love to Bry, Bry’s band (Gerry, Adam and Gary), Tessa Violet, Bry’s wife Candice and my girlfriend Naomi for helping me out and being lovely to me on this tour. 



So what’s next? This weekend, I go back to Leeds to finish my album. Then it goes to mastering, and then it will be ready to release. My plan is to release it by April/May. There’s going to be a few bundles available as well with some bonus material. There’s a new logo in the pipeline as well, which means there will be new T Shirts and such like. It’s all very exciting and I can’t wait to get music out there. I also have a tour booked for July. If you want to be the first to hear about it, sign up my mailing list now! 

You can also catch me supporting Ryan Hamilton in Cambridge on 2nd March. He's just released an album with his band 'The Traitors', check it out, it's awesome. 

Also…I have 4 hats left and around 25 wristbands left if any body wants to snap them up, head over to my site now. 

We Got This... 

It’s been a year to the day since I finished my One New Tune A Week challenge. For some reason, it feels like a lot longer, maybe was last year was busier than I remember? 

Anyways, I’m going to use this as an opportunity to not dwell on the past, but focus on the future (can the smell the cheese in that sentence?). I’m currently on day 10 of recording my, as yet untitled, debut album. I’m sat here still trying to pen some final lyrics to the songs. This is probably the main difference from recording the ONTAW stuff, to recording the album, I have a lot more time to focus on the lyrics. When I was doing ONTAW, I’d usually write and record the song in the space of 48 hours. This resulted in a lot of lyrics that I hate because they simply filled the gaps rather than serving a purpose. I also recorded demos for this album, so if I’m showing someone a demo and there’s a lyric or a melody that I cringe at, I know it needs to changed. Here are some lyrics that I’ve scrapped from the album already. 

‘You’ve gotta shake it off’ 

‘Are you falling in less than three?’ 

‘I don’t miss all her little ways, the way she BERATED all my mates’ 

Aren’t you glad I’ve had to rethink some of these? Granted, there are still a few lyrics and melodic ideas that are considered ‘cliche’ on the album, but sometimes they just need to be there. 

So what have we done so far? The morning of the recording, I finalised what tracks I wanted on the album. I wrote around 20-25 songs for the album. 10 of which are being used along with one track from the ONTAW collection. I planned on making it all brand new tracks, but this one track really fitted with the theme of the album so it seemed a shame not to put it on. I actually finished one of the demos on the morning of the recording, the vocal was done in a travel lodge and I was practically whispering into the microphone. I’ve since changed almost every single lyric, rendering that demo, pointless. 

I'm recording the album in a beautiful converted church in Leeds. It's called The Nave. It's stunning, and the sounds that come out here are incredible. The guy who is producing the album is a guy called Andy Hawkins. He’s worked with a bunch of different people but I particularly love the work that he did my buddies The Candle Thieves. I’ve always loved their blend of live band, electronics and qwerkiness. I felt like the songs that I was writing lent themselves to that style of production. It turns out they did and Andy is doing a boss job. He’s also played bass, drums, some guitars and some keys. He’s one of them people that can play everything….’pricks’ I believe they’re called. 



I’m currently sat in the kitchen listening to Andy editing my vocals in the control room. Annoyingly, I’ve still not shaken off the illness that I had over Christmas so some of my vocals are quite laughable but Andy’s making sure the final vocals are putting my best foot forward. Slowly but surely, the songs are coming to life and I’m getting more and more excited about the final product as time goes on. I can’t wait to release it and start playing these songs live. There will be a new video, new tour and a bunch of other stuff that still need to be sorted but rest assured, it will be a fun year for me. I’m just hoping people enjoy it and join me on the next part of my career. 

I also want to send a massive shout out and thanks to the people who have housed and fed me this week. Pam-e-la and Michael let me sleep at theirs for 3 nights and I managed to cook a meal and set a fire alarm off. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated a kitchen more than after having McDonalds for two nights on the run. And the Jones’ are making sure I have roof over my head for the next two nights. Last night, we had a boss meal, drank some whiskey, chatted about all sorts of stories and ended the night playing Dave Giles, Ryan Hamilton and McFly songs. So much love for these people.

New Year Resolution 

It’s that time of the year when you hear the words ‘In January, I will…..’ followed by some life change that could easily be started in the next hour. I’m not judging people who do that, I’m the king of ‘my diet starts on Monday’, ‘I’m going to learn to cook’ and the old chestnut, ‘I will learn how to play Piano this year’. However, every year I do set my set some challenges and goals that I’d like to achieve by the end of the year. 

Since around 2012, every year, one of my many goals was to play a gig abroad. I did play in Spain in 2008 with my old band ‘JKLMNO’, but never as a solo act. The closest that I have got was singing Karaoke in Portugal at the beginning of 2014. It turns out, I can not claim that as an official gig. In 2016, I actually managed to achieve my goal in the form of two gigs in Belgium. I did write a whole blog about these gigs, but I’ll summarise in this one. I went to Belgium…I was exhausted so I slept a lot…I didn’t sing very well for the first gig, did better the second night…I did not learn the local lingo and I did not have a Belgian waffle. 

In 2015, I set myself the challenge of releasing a song every week. Somehow, I managed to get through that and quite enjoyed myself in the process. At the beginning of 2016, I said to the world that I would be releasing an album come September 2016….this has not happened. I thought that writing 12 good songs would be a lot easier than writing 52 others, I was wrong. I did start recording it however, and it is sounding like the best thing that I have thus far, which is exciting. I go back in January to finish it off, it then it gets mixed in February, and then mastered. So, it should be released in 2017. 

At the end of every year, along with the tax return, I do a gig count. With that comes its own New Years resolution, to increase the amount of gigs that I had done in the previous year. In my younger years, I was racking up maybe 30-50 gigs a year, this increased slowly over time. When I left University, I was doing around 150 gigs a year. At the time, I was thinking that that was enough and it would’ve been impossible to do more. The year after that, I did 200. The year after that, 230. The year after that I bagged around 247 gigs. At the start of 2016, I had 247 to beat and I’ve smashed it. I’ve done 275 so far, and end the year on 281. This does not come without its downsides. I am absolutely exhausted. I’m used to being tired, but it’s quite counter productive. I have not had time to write any songs, only bits and bobs of ideas. 

It turns out gigging constantly does not bode well with trying to write and record an album. I’ve only had the occasional day off here and there since the summer, and on my days off, I am completely written off. I pick up a guitar every now and then but my voice usually refuses to work. I think my vocal cords have developed a stubborn personality. ‘IT’S MY DAY OFF!! WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME WORK!’. I love gigging, it’s the best job in the world 99% of the time. The negatives of the job are obviously the unsociable hours and the increase in fast food into my body. You’d often finish a gig late at night and the only places open are fast food chains and you haven’t eaten since lunch. It’s not good for your health, but it is bloody good fun. 

So with all this in mind, I have a few New Years Resolutions and we will meet back here in 2017 at the same time and have my annual review: 

Finish the album and release it 
Do a headline tour promoting said album 
Learn Piano, or at least 2 full Bruce Springsteen songs 
At least sign up for the gym…thats step 1. That whole exercise thing is step 2. One step at a time. 
Try and not take so much on. Gigging’s fun, but so is having a clear voice for most of the year 
Book a flight to Nashville 
European tour