From Experience, Part 5 by Pete Falloon
Hello again and a belated Happy New Year! Welcome to part five of “From Experience” series -the idea of these posts is to share what I have learned in making an album of my own and I hope it makes for fun reading. If you missed them, check out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of my “From Experience” series that covered what motivated me to make an album of my own, recording the album, the post-production side of making the Reed In The River LP, plus artwork, manufacturing, and digital distribution. In this post, I will cover PR and promotion, live shows, reviews and radio play.
In terms of promotion, I had already begun to scope out PR agencies to help with plugging the LP to magazines and press, and radio, that were relevant to the genre of my music. I struck up a good rapport with Paddy Forwood for the press side of things, and he recommended using Seb Reynolds at Pindrop Promotion for Online and radio work. Between the three of us, we worked up a press release, biography and story behind the album and songs that would be sent to the relevant folks with the CD and/or digital release. Paddy’s main focus for the press was the album as a whole, while with Seb, we plotted to release two tracks ahead of the album release, one as audio (Reasons) and one with a video (Reed In The River), before also promoting the LP itself.
The CDs and initial digital side of the release needed to be ready several months ahead of the release date for the album (25 November 2016), and I also needed to get a set of promotional photos done. For the photos, I hooked up with a friend of mine from pre-natal classes, Phil “Blue” Mills, who had taken a lovely set of family shots for us recently. We decided to focus the photos on the reed and river side of things (predictable, huh..?), and headed to the River Otter (Devon, UK) very early one autumn morning to shoot as the sun came up. I’ve got very fond memories of that morning - it was absolutely blissful with warm, sunny weather and just the odd cloud in the sky - and there was a lot of messing about by the river and singing with my acoustic guitar to an audience of one (other than the Canada geese and other wildlife!). As I mentioned earlier, since we were releasing the title track mainly as a video, I also needed to find a filmmaker to work with and hooked up with Ross Gill from local outfit Fresh Ground Films. Together, we also went to the River Otter, which has huge swaying reeds on its banks, also recorded some lovely scenes for the video in our local church, St John In The Wilderness, Exmouth which is an ancient stone building with a beautiful luminous light through the windows at the right time of day.
At the River Otter early morning with the Canada Geese! (Phil Mills Photography)
So, with all this set, I sent a bunch of CDs to Paddy and another to Seb, and Seb had some special white label promo CDs made up for the lead track Reasons - and out it all went into the unknown. I must admit, this was quite a difficult time in the project for me - while my goal was to make an album that I was happy with, it brings another dimension to things to then send it into the world of professional music critics to ask their opinion.
Around the same time we were working up the promotional campaign, I started planning the live shows for the album release. I was also heavily exploring the local live music scene, and visiting open mic nights, and folk and acoustic nights to start to get my face known and begin to air the songs live - as I’d been so focused on the recording and production side of the album until then, I had spent very little time getting out performing. I discussed ideas for the launch shows with the core of the recording band to start with - my brother Matt (bass) and drummer Paul Everest. We decided to hold three launch shows as we were spread around the country and had strong links in three areas, Exeter (in the South West), London, and Tunbridge Wells (our home town, in the South East).
We also decided to coax another musician into the mix for the live shows. The album has a fairly acoustic feel, with quite a few songs having mandolin lines added, and I was planning to play an electric guitar live as we found it worked best with the band from the pre-recording rehearsals. So we were delighted when Mischa Bray, a fine mandolin and violin player with the renowned British band The Orange Circus agreed to join us, It was a considerable amount of work to scope out potential venues that would get on board with the idea, had availability at the right time, and matching that up with the bands availability. There were also many “blind alleys”! But in the end, three venues came through, the Sussex Arms in Tunbridge Wells (an offshoot of the famed Forum venue), the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter, and the Slaughtered Lamb in London. With dates and venues set, there was then work to do on printing up fliers, and promoting the gigs on social media and with posters and word of mouth. Of course, we also had to rehearse!
The autumn of 2016 turned out to be a difficult time for our family, with our father being rushed into hospital and eventually diagnosed with lymphoma, a blood cancer. This really shook things up and I did then wonder if it still made sense to carry on with the launch gigs. As it happened at the time, Dad did very well with his treatment and we have very fond memories of him coming to the Kent album launch gig, which also turned out to be a lovely wider family reunion. As well as rehearsing for that gig in a lovely local studio, we coined a support slot with The Blockheads at the Forum in Tunbridge Wells, which was actually our first band gig and an amazing experience playing the new tunes to a packed out venue! Before we had news of Dad’s condition, I had also got involved with Green Light Unplugged, a fantastic Devon based initiative to promote new original acoustic artists and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. In fact my first Green Light Gig was just days after the diagnosis, which gave my journey with that project a much more personal meaning.
Live at Vinyl Revolution Record Store with brother Matt (Laura Chesson Photography)
The launch gigs were a real joy to play, with some fond memories including singing and impromptu Happy Birthday in London, blowing the power in Tunbridge Wells (actually a dodgy dimmer switch!), and a real joy to play the last leg, the Exeter gig and interact with the audience! Live gigs, solo, as a duo with my mate Matt Palmer, and with the band became a major part of my life promoting the album - between September 2016 and December 2017 I played a total of 35 gigs - everything from tiny fully unplugged folk clubs and libraries, record stores, cafes, pubs, big music venues like the Exeter Phoenix, and festivals too, with many shows around Devon but stretching as far north as Leeds! Green Light Unplugged provided quite a few opportunities for live shows, and they recorded videos of our performances which were judged by an industry panel. So I was delighted to be a finalist which meant recording a new version of Canada In The Fall at South Devon College, which would feature on the fundraising CD, and playing at a finale gig to launch the CD, hosted by James Santer from BBC Introducing. The historic heart of Exeter was stricken with a terrible fire which virtually consumed the Royal Clarence Hotel and it was a real pleasure to play at a benefit gig in aid of those affected by the fire, which also got me on local BBC TV!
The band live at the Exeter Barnfield Launch Gig (Photo - Rowan While)
Ticket from the Exeter launch gig!
On BBC local TV at the Exeter Historic Fire Gig
Radio sessions - BBC Introducing, Phonic FM, Riviera FM, Bay FM and BBC Devon.
Live work was supported too by live radio sessions - ten in total across four stations including BBC Devon, Phonic FM, Bay FM, and Riviera FM. In terms of the wider promotion to radio and press, that went really well too, and far better than I could have hoped for. The album was picked up both by magazines and blogs, and by a wide range of traditional FM and online radio stations across the globe. Here’s just a sample of some of the kindest comments:
"Really beautiful" - Chris Hawkins, BBC Radio 6
"Beautiful vocals, haunting, heartfelt lyrics and just exceptionally constructed songs...WOW; a fantastic album" - BBC Introducing In Devon.
"Beautiful folk pop" - Folk Radio UK
"absolutely stunning" - Charlie Ashcroft, Amazing Radio.
"Serious folk-pop hit potential" - Americana UK.
"Lovely"..."Delicate and appealing folk-pop" - R2 Magazine
"A musical delight from start to finish..delightful..beautiful..superb..sublime..poetic" - Fatea Magazine
National airplay for Lay Down In The Morning Light thanks to Chris Hawkins at BBC Radio 6; Nominated for Best Folk/Acoustic Act In Radio Wigwam Online Radio Awards; Devon Life magazine calls Reed In The River “the soundtrack of the South West”!
So, overall, the response way exceeded what I could have dreamed for - national radio play thanks to Chris Hawkins at BBC Radio 6 (for Lay Down In The Morning Light) and incredibly positive reviews in nationally respected magazines and blogs. On top of that, I was delighted to be nominated for the Radio Wigwam Online Radio Awards in the Folk/Acoustic category - a huge honour. To go back to what I’d aimed to achieve in the first blog piece I wrote for Setlist Indie Music, I had definitely made a record that I was be proud of, and also managed to get reviews and radio play nationally. In fact the only failure was not completing it all by May 2015, but I think it was worth missing that self-imposed deadline!
Well, that is a great note to end this blog piece on and I hope you have enjoyed reading. We are nearly at the end of this series. Next time round I would like to share with you my reflections on what I have learned on this epic journey - what worked, and what didn’t, and hopefully in the spirit of my late father, who once told me “life is all about helping other people” - try to give something back to help you with your own journeys. And, I will ponder about what this all might mean for me and music in the future!
Until then, you can also check out you can check out my interview on the blog, and parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 of my video premiere series from the album launch show, which also talk about the background behind each song.
Thanks for reading!