Bunch Of Fives – Sam Slatcher | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Chaos & Solitude is a debut solo album released today by Durham based singer-songwriter Sam Slatcher and available via his Bandcamp page. Written as a personal and political reflection about changes in British society. The release was brought forward with the COVID-19 outbreak and the current situation has given the title a whole new complexion.

On 5 June at 8pm, Sam will be performing an online concert with classical pianist Margaret Fingerhut and Syrian viola player Raghad Haddad to raise funds for the national charity City of Sanctuary that supports towns and cities to be welcoming places for those seeking refuge from war. To find out more visit: www.facebook.com/CityofSanctuary  

Here, Sam tells us about his top five musical lessons learnt in lockdown…

1. Livestream Let down! 
The first lesson I learnt – the hard way – was how not to livestream. It was Monday 16th March and with an inevitable lockdown looming, I knocked together a poster for an ‘album preview’ for a fortnight’s time. With a Facebook event created, invites sent out, it only then dawned on me the task ahead. I faffed around with various microphones and tech devices every day for the whole two weeks. 8pm came, a virtual audience appeared, and I was live still messing about with the technology, with the foolish naivety of trying to livestream on YouTube and Facebook simultaneously on crap Wi-Fi! Lesson learnt. There have, however, been some absolutely brilliant examples of successful living room gigs, including Folk on Foot’s ‘Front Room Festival’, with a second lined up for May 25th with folk artists such as Kate Rusby, Richard Thompson and Kathryn Tickell on the bill. 

2. Creativity and restriction go hand-in-hand 
While it has been a financially strained time for a lot of musicians, with cancelled gigs and income from teaching gone, artists are best placed to know how to respond creatively in hard times. From balcony concerts to street singalongs, to nation-wide online choir gatherings, musicians are helping us all make sense of these strange times: often allowing us to feel feelings of loss and grief, and at other times helping us take our mind of the constant bombardment of distressing news. Musicians have thrown a good dose of creativity at COVID and it’s this imaginative impulse that gives me hope the arts will survive these challenging times.  

3. #BrokenRecord
One of the injustices the lockdown has exposed for musicians is the dire support streaming services offer. The average stream on Spotify results in £0.0028 in the pocket of the artist (Amazon and YouTube are even worse) leaving streaming not an option for the vast majority of musicians who will never earn a living wage from Spotify. In response, the #BrokenRecord campaign has been launched by Tom Gray off of Gomez, with backing from KT Tunstall, Boy George and others to lobby politicians, streaming platforms and the wider public for the urgent changes needed to support musicians while we socially distance. 

4. Creative collaborations 
Musicians who seem to be thriving are those working together. One of my favourite examples is multi-instrumentalist Ciaran Algar who from as early as the first week of lockdown began ‘Ciaran’s Corona Collaborations’, where Ciaran performs violin alongside different artists he’s worked with, captured in really slick montage videos that appear daily in my newsfeed. Ciaran has just released ‘Day 51’ which features a collaboration with former MP Ed Balls on drums! Ciaran, if you’re reading, there’s a violin part waiting for ‘Can’t Move the Mountain Today😉 

5. Musician Solidarity
There’s been an overwhelming sense of solidarity between musicians which has been highlighted so brilliantly in the example of #MusicianSupportPledge livestream gigs that have been doing the rounds on social media. 50% of the donations raised from one gig gets passed on to the next artist who passes on 50% of what they earn to the next and so on. It’s a great example of the equality that exists between musicians, performing with the gratitude for the previous musician and support for the next! And the perfect excuse not to slack at the microphone, since – to use a saying of late – “no one is safe until we’re all safe”!

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