In today’s “In the Spotlight” I have the Huge honor not just to give you a Great Artist but also a truly wonderful person.
Thank you so much Steve McGrady for joining us today.
What is your first musical memory?
I can remember when I was about two or three years old, listening to 78 RPM records on my grandparents radiogram. So, for anyone who doesn’t know what they are, 78s were the technology that existed before vinyl records and the radiogram was a big piece of wooden furniture that usually contained a record player and radio and sounded very warm. I was obsessed with a record by a Glaswegian skiffle band called the Clyde Valley Stompers and it’s an traditional, I think, American folk tune or spiritual called Old Time Religion. As a humanist now I find that quite ironic! For me though, the most significant early musical memory was a couple of years after that when The Beatles burst onto the scene. It’s hard to convey just what an impact those early singles like “She Loves You” had, particularly on young impressionable people like me. Anyway, my world and, more importantly, the world of music would never be the same again after that.
When did you know that you wanted to make your own music?
I think that was about the same time, because I had a toy desk that I converted into a drum kit by writing my name on the front and hitting the lid with sticks. In my first year of school, I can remember going in wearing my plastic Beatle wig that turned my short back and sides into a much cooler look and I took my toy, plastic, Beatles “guitar”. I’m not sure what it was exactly, because it only had four strings. Maybe it was a ukulele, or possibly a toy version of a tenor guitar. I never really worried about that at the time because it had a picture of each of the four Beatles along with their autographs on the soundboard.
Where do you find your inspiration?
That’s a surprisingly difficult question. Some songs are based on experiences of course, although the finished version may not bear any resemblance to the events that inspired it. Lately, I have jotted down interesting words, phrases or ideas that come to mind when I’m out walking or sitting listening to music. At some point when I’m writing a song I’ll look through the list to see if anything resonates. I know a lot of people write the music first before adding lyrics and other, more experienced, writers say that very often the words and melody arrive together. Most of the time I draft a lyric first then add the music.
Do you prefer to record in a studio or play live?
I’m trying to play more live shows because I know I need to do that to connect with more people. I also find that the pressure of performing forces me to improve my guitar playing and singing which improves the quality of what I record, but I spend more time sitting in my home studio recording and mixing than I do on stage. I came back to music after not doing much for twenty years while I raised a family and built my (non-music) career. I returned to playing live about 5 or 6 years ago but I’ve been dabbling with home recording much longer. I used to record guitar and voice to cassette with a single mic. Then I bought an old reel to reel tape machine that I could do an overdub on. Then in the 90s I got a 4 track Tascam cassette based thing which I replaced in 1999 with a Roland 24 bit, 16 track digital workstation. At the same time I bought a couple of electric guitars to supplement my acoustic. These days I have two SSL control surfaces so that I can work in Logic Pro as if I was on a studio console.
How would you describe your music and your process before, during and now after the pandemic?
I started song writing and recording many years ago, when I was a teenager, but it’s only since the first lockdown in 2020 when I invested in an upgrade from GarageBand to Logic Pro that I have become serious about recording and releasing it. The appearance of on-line distributors and digital audio has opened up recorded music to a large community of unsigned musicians, so it’s inevitable in a way maybe? Anyway, before the pandemic I was happy to play a few cover songs at open mics and folk clubs either solo, in a duo or a four piece band. Lockdowns and the slow recovery of live performance finished that band but I continued song writing and in the last three years I have found other people on social media and through a group based here in the UK called Talent is Timeless that has led to collaborations in composition, arrangement, performance and production. Post pandemic, therefore I am in a very different situation. I now have a solo set of original songs that I play live, I also perform or record with local people in real life, and internationally, I collaborate on songwriting and recording.
What are you currently working on?
Too much probably! Being self-produced unsigned means I tend to do most things myself from writing, recording and releasing to marketing and social media. I’m always trying to work on improving each element be that playing guitar, singing, recording engineering, mixing etc.. In terms of new music, I released an album in November 2022 after a few preceding singles and an EP. I recorded and released an EP of three songs that included your lyrics of course. I’m now part way through recording songs for the next album and have another collaborative EP in the pipeline where I will set someone else’s lyrics to music. I’m co-writing a song with three other people (in England, Ireland and Spain respectively) through the Talent is Timeless group and I’m working with a local guitarist and producer on what will probably become my third album of original songs and, potentially, and album or EP of covers.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I’m not too ambitious. I know there are many unsigned artists and I’m a bit too, er, mature to make it big now, but I hope that as my song writing and production improve I will build a small but dedicated group of people who like what I do and look forward to new releases.
What is the one thing you would like to tell your fans?
I know we’re all busy and there’s a lot more music to listen to than we have time available so when I see the stats showing that people have listened to a stream or watched a video I am genuinely appreciative of every single one of you and wonder how you got to hear the song, where you listened to it and what you thought about it. Maybe the technology to enable those types of interactions will be here one day. I would love that.