2016 Whalie Awards Nominations

I am very, very lucky to be part of an incredible music scene here in South East New England

[some have suggested New London, CT is the Live Music Capital of New England – and who am I to disagree]

The Whalie Awards celebrate the breadth and depth of talent across our corner of the universe and I’ve am honoured and humbled to have been nominated across the past few years, including winning the Americana Record Of The Year for 2014 with Sparse.

While winning may be nice, I know of no musician here for whom the making of music is in pursuit of awards, and the same is true for me. Every year, the Whalies serve to remind me of how lucky I am to make music, and to share that music in collaboration with so many others. For this reason, you won’t see or hear me shouting that you need to go and vote for me or mine in the people’s choice awards. If it helps, you should know that I don’t vote for myself in the awards!

For those keeping track, though, I (or we) have been nominated for the following awards this year:

People’s Choice

Critics Choice

Voting for People’s Choice ends tomorrow (6th June) and ceremony is next Saturday, 11th June – immediately following that, Anne Castellano & The Smoke, are playing at 33 Golden Street, just down the street from the awards – so I guess we get the after-party!

On loops and direction

The beauty of accepting that my music has limited commercial viability

[I am  blessed to have a small group of followers who enjoy and support what I do, and they have my love]

is that it removes nearly all my self-imposed constraints.

My online-only release last year, Writer’s Flow – Music For Writing, is a great example, recorded and released in short order, and trying to be nothing more than it is: music for writing.

Start to finish, it was an enjoyable piece of art and craft – a large part of which was that it wasn’t song-based. I’ve always made instrumental sketches, and have many demos of non-vocal tracks, but because of that notion of commercial viability, I’d always limited myself to the expectation that I was a

[lyrics included]

songwriter, who would perform, record and release records of songs. With lyrics.

As I let this go, I can feel a


instrumental record emerging. A couple with words, but mostly instrumental.

In practice, things like this are emerging:

Literally, the first thing I played after pulling an old flanger out of the cupboard and adding it to my practice board. And, while it’s a rough take on my Ditto Looper, it’s not a million miles from what will end up on the record.

For any of us, giving up a long-cherished hope/aspiration, is a tough road, yet the acceptance can lead to just doing what you enjoy doing – music is such a gift, and these instrumental ideas/motifs are always just beneath my surface – diving into the pool is proving sweet relief.


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Is there anybody out there?

The reality for most independent musicians is that each record is a commercial still-birth by any reasonable measure; people just don’t prioritize the purchase of music

[I don’t know that they ever did at the local level]

and perversely that seems even more the case with people we love and who love us – while I often give people free copies of stuff, very few of the people I know have ever purchased one of my books or records

[those that have are a blessing for sure – and have my love]

I gave away any and all expectations as to commercial success when I released Grope, and have maintained that stance with Writer’s Flow and Turquoise Cyan Sapphire. I feel better for having done so, and find I’m better able to enjoy the music I’ve released without the internal dialogue of commercial judgement.

Does that mean I’m immune to self-doubt? No way. The sense that

no-one’s listening

is ever-present, as it has been since I first started telling stories. And that voice can be very, VERY loud sometimes.

Right now though, I’m in a good space – lots of projects on the move – more beginning to emerge from the deep well of my subconscious. And I am lucky to have a day job that keeps food on the table.

I am a commitment to produce and promote great music.

Yet I have friends who are putting their heart and soul into producing GREAT music

[and, yes, #IBuyMusic]

who are suffering greatly from the manifest apathy of their audience, both known and unknown. I wish there were some way for me to change this, but aside from sharing their music and urging others’ to buy, I don’t know what else I can do to move the reality we all face.

I’m not someone who does well with intractable problems – and I wrestle with this one every day – any and all ideas welcome 🙂


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About a song: Rough Diamonds from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

I woke up today to a request to share some of the background to Rough Diamonds, track 7 from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire. So, here goes…

Rough Diamonds was originally written and recorded in about 1998, and started off with that main picked guitar riff

[for those playing along at home, it’s my ES-335 fitted with Seymour Duncan P-Rails playing that part throughout the TCS version]

once again, the riff is a function of my broken hands, so lots of drone strings – though it’s possible now to play it with the barre, it loses a whole lot of that certain something.

The original demo featured Ruth on vocals, though at that stage in my song-writing journey I hadn’t quite twigged about changing key to suit voice and, as a result, Ruth

[who happens to be a trained opera singer – here she is on Pepperbox]

takes the main chorus up an octave  – and it does something very special to the song.

As a result, I seriously doubted my ability to perform Rough Diamonds to its potential – it doesn’t stretch my range, and I can’t really project it hard – and I put it in a time capsule: “songs I will never sing”.

Yet, that guitar riff kept coming back. And I couldn’t stop it.

As I headed into recording Sparse, I began to play with the song, trying different keys, tempos, treatments; all the time coming back to the original key, though the tempo changed. I ended up putting an acoustic treatment as a bonus track with the download of Sparse

[and you can definitely hear me reshaping the song]

While I love the original version of Rough Diamonds, I would dearly like to have a time machine to take my current tracking, mixing and mastering skills back to that younger me. All of my early demos are way too slow and, as a result, lumbering. No matter how good  Ruth’s performance was, the musical backdrop didn’t help!

So, when it came to producing the version that’s on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, I had a couple of references and a pretty clear idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Musically, the riff remains prominent, though here, with the toms, it takes on something of a Radiohead-feel. The original demo had a lot of guitars in lots of directions, and I kept that spirit alive here, doubling the bass during the link-chorus, putting some stabs here and there, and some angular rhythm guitar in the verses. This also has the benefit of pulling the song closer to the “nearly blues” spirit of Turquoise Cyan Sapphire.

In the main chorus, I took a different tack – adding horns to keep things fresh, and also to allow the picked riff to return clearly, as well as the prominent echo on the vocals

[which had been on Ruth’s original take]

The original demo had a beautiful, structured guitar solo by my former band-mate John Matthews, and I decided not to try recreating it myself; instead, I turned to my daughter Elise and together we wrote the simple but effective trumpet solo that’s on the final version.

Not much else to say about the music, aside from that the Sparse treatment

[work-in-progress as it was]

reassured me that I could sing the song, and that in doing so, less would be so much more.

Lyrically, Rough Diamonds is a song about survival; in this case, living through psychological manipulation and interpersonal politics. I know what and who it was written about, but that’s not important to anyone but me, myself and I.

What I hope the song offers is the hope/belief that, even when people seek to undermine us by persuading us to undermine ourselves

[in this case, in the guise of “trying to help”]

we can emerge stronger for the experience; as strong as diamond.

Even as I wrote the song, I knew there was a higher level of interpretation – at the societal/political level, Rough Diamonds was also a statement of hope/belief for those activists for change; in the lyrics, this is represented by the shift from “you/I” to “we”.

In essence, Rough Diamonds was the emergence of my offering to the world:

Keep going

I think this fundamental core is why the song still hits me so deeply; it’s among a handful of favourite songs I’ve written.

They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

Enough writing, have a listen, read the lyrics, let me know what you think!


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You are you and I am me
And we could break so easily
When they’re kicking us in shape
And we can stand and take
Their taunts and fears and crap complaints
They can’t stop us
It’s their weakness

You know what’s strange
I’m half-and-half
I forgotten how to laugh
At the same time
I feel 10 feet tall
6 feet wide
I have got a smile inside
They can’t stop us
We are rising

We could bend until we break
We could fall to our knees
Take all that we can take
We are stronger than we think
But when they get in your head
It’s tantamount to rape

They looked for blame and they found us
Though they cut and they run
They will find they have not won
They won’t believe what they have done
When you pull them from the earth
Rough diamonds
Catch the sun

See the sun and the moon
You’re catching them in your eyes

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent Tuckwood
Trumpet solo – Elise Tuckwood

Written, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

About a song: Just Love from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

Just Love is the sixth track on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, my record of “nearly blues”.

Though this record saw me revisiting some older material

[as I did on Grope]

there are several completely new songs written while tracking the record, and Just Love is one of them. It arrived while noodling on my Cole Clark Angel in my dining room, which is rapidly becoming a songwriting hub for me

[ley lines, I think]

the first couplet providing the entry point to what I knew wanted to be an innocent, simple song which might just as well have been written and recorded in the 1950s.

Musically, I let myself completely explore classic rock-and-roll textures – most notably in the slapback echo of the rhythm guitars. Though I didn’t consciously bring it in on recording, I hear something of Buddy Holly‘s rhythm playing in the song. On the other hand, the solo is my heavily modified Gibson Les Paul in its out-of-phase setting, and a definite nod to Peter Green.

Several songs on TCS see me exploring my lower vocal range – I’m not as comfortable in baritone as I am in tenor – but I think it works here

[otherwise I wouldn’t have had it one the record!]

and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by reactions to my playing it live.

Lyrically? Well, it’s love, just love, just love.

So, there you have it: Just Love.

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Let your knees shake
Let your heart break
Let it break

Let your blood flow
When it wants to
Let it flow

Let yourself go
Down the wormhole
Down you go

Yes, you’ll know
When it hits you
When it hits

It’s love
Just love
Just love

All it takes is one step then the next
To the beat of the rhythm in your chest

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent TuckwoodWritten, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.

All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

About a song: She Says She’s from Turquoise Cyan Sapphire

The chords and melody for She Says She’s arrived at the about the same time as its sister track on Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, 50 Reasons. They both share a typical minor blues opening progression but then veer away from the traditional form

[to spice things up for myself and the listener]

I’d tried both chord sequences out at Common Ground Open Mic, so had a feel for the tempo and swing that each needed. As it turned out, She Says She’s was pretty much a first take pass when it came to recording.

It is, you’ll note, a cyclic song, looping the chord sequence over and again, save a for a small respite in the middle 8 breakdown.

In the guitar parts, there’s a nod to The Edge of U2; in the solo, a little dash of both Peter Green and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Those who have heard an early demo for my song Open And Here will also recognize a very healthy dose of pure Vince T, though – particularly in the chorused guitar that starts with the singing, and the dark rhythm part that kicks in on the final chorus.

Lyrically, I’m not going to say much, save for the fact that as a father of two daughters, who are both growing up independently-minded and with the encouragement to stand in their own space

[much like their beautiful, strong mother]

I am growing increasingly appalled at attitudes to women here in the US

[though I know it’s not a phenomenon limited to this country only]

and the lyrics originally started with me scat singing

She says she’s going down

and from there, it pretty quickly became a concept song: the seed of the abuse done to one woman, is the same seed of societal abuse of all women, is the same seed of human abuse of our mother, this beautiful, fragile planet. And despite each of these short-sighted, vicious relationships

… through it all, she says she wants to heal him…

I give you She Says She’s.

Love – peace – trust

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She says she’s going down
Says that she can take no more
She says she sees the writing
When she’s face down on the floor
She says that when he hurts her
It’s not just his fists that hit
She says she’s feeling lonely
She says she’s getting used to it

She says he’s got his rules
She says he tells her right from wrong
She says he demands quiet
She says she’s silencing her song

She turns away before the tears can fall
She looks away then I hear her whisper
That through it all

She says she wants to heal him
She says she wants to heal him
She thinks that she can heal him
Well I’m not sure

She says she’s going down
Says she’s nothing left to give
She says he’ll keep on taking
She says this rape it knows no end

She turns away before the tears can fall
She walks away back to him
And i’m not sure

From Turquoise Cyan Sapphire, released 28 July 2015
Instruments, voice – Vincent TuckwoodWritten, performed, mixed and mastered by Vincent Tuckwood at Monkey68 studios, CT, USA.

All rights reserved, Vincent Tuckwood – 2015.

Turquoise Cyan Sapphire released

Well, the sharper-eyed amongst you will have noticed, but here’s the official statement: Turquoise Cyan Sapphire was formally released yesterday

[digitally, with CD’s on their way mid- to late-August]

I’d love it if you listen to the record, though as someone who regularly lives up to the hash-tag #IBuyMusic, I would ask you to consider buying a copy

[I respect artists enough to not expect their effort and care for nothing]

Either way, hope you enjoy Turquoise Cyan Sapphire.

Buy Turquoise Cyan Sapphire


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