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Travelling Troubadour

As a performing singer-songwriter, I am always looking for new challenges, whether they involve experimenting with fresh sounds, working with people I’ve recently met, or trying to reach a wider audience. There aren’t too many opportunities that I pass up. Some might say that I am shameless. On a recent trip to England, I thought I might see if I could get a gig of some sorts. And why not?

Despite having had received a little radio airplay in the USA, and having managed to sell a few David Robinson CDs to discerning music fans in England and Scotland, I’d never actually performed live outside of South Australia. The furthest away from Adelaide’s GPO that I’d managed to play was down in Victor Harbor, and once over on Kangaroo Island. I don’t think that really counts as overseas… Musing on this, I thought it would be a good thing if I could perform while I was in England, thereby doubling the number of countries in which I have appeared on stage.

the venue
the venue

Through a contact I’d made on a previous visit to the Old Dart, I did some gentle investigation into whether I could find a venue that would be happy to host me, at a time and a place that coincided with my travels around the country. I was focusing on playing somewhere in Derbyshire, as that was where I was going to be spending most of my time.

I came across the Derby Singers and Songwriters Club (DSSC) which, like SCALA, holds a regular performance venue for local and original music. Although I am not strictly a local, I thought I might have a chance as I was actually born in Derby.

After a little more research, I saw that one of their monthly performance evenings happened to be planned for Thursday July 22nd, two days after I was scheduled to arrive in Derby. I quickly got onto the DSSC head honcho via email and, after a rapid exchange of messages, it appeared that I’d more than likely be able to play a few songs as an opener to their evening. All I had to do was borrow a guitar!

Lynn and I flew over to the other side of the world, escaping the Adelaide winter, hoping for blue skies and decent beer. We spent a week roaring around the north-east of England, seeing family and friends, before finally arriving in Derby. It was then time to turn my thoughts towards playing and singing…

on stage in Derby
on stage in Derby - not my piece of paper!

On the day in question, we caught the bus into Derby (we were actually staying in Belper, a beautiful little town, about 12 kilometres up the road). We found the venue, The Big Blue Coffee Company, and went in. We were early; such was my desire to get everything sorted. Two of our Derby-based friends turned up and I ordered some drinks. I waited, quite patiently, for Ian Gardler, the man behind the DSSC, to arrive.

Ian is another one of those people who has put himself out for the benefit of others’ music. He runs the DSSC, manages the web presences, and looks after the releases of CDs. And probably does a whole lot more besides. He is a performer and songwriter himself, which probably helps him build his relationships with the acts performing at the venue. We chatted about SCALA, about the DSSC, and about the similarities between the two organisations. He was helpful in terms of getting me sorted out, and very friendly with it.

Members of the duo Willowstree, one of the other acts scheduled for the night, arrived and Ian asked them on my behalf if I could use a guitar. One of the band members, Marc, was only too happy to lend me his Ovation Applause. Ever the pro, I had my own picks and my trusty harmonica, so it appeared that I was set!

I tuned up in proper rock and roll fashion, standing in a corridor outside the Gents, nodding furtively at the passers-by. When my time came, I took the stage, introduced myself, and got straight on with it. I played my short set to a small but genuinely interested (sound familiar?) audience. I got to showcase my newest song, and play a few other favourites. The Ovation’s rounded back presented a challenge – it constantly felt like the guitar was trying to escape my grasp. I guess there’s a knack to keeping them close. As usual with gigs, and even more so with this small set, the time flew by. I felt good, and would have liked longer, but I was happy just to get the opportunity.

I was very lucky that someone had bought an acoustic guitar, otherwise my performing plans would have been scuppered. I was able to return the favour later in the evening when Marc needed to borrow a pick during his set. Generous to the last, I let him keep it.

We hung around to listen to the other performers, Willowstree and Vanessa Vale, both of which were accomplished and enjoyable. I bought a copy of the DSSC’s CD from Ian, and gave him a copy of SCALA News. I wished him well and then we disappeared into the night.

A few weeks later, back in Adelaide, I put the CD on and was very impressed with the quality. I’ve had it on high rotation since.

So, there is the story of my first international tour. I can’t wait to do it again.

© Copyright David Robinson, 2010

Not to be reproduced without the permission of the author