The “Half Live” experiment

Half Live Album Cover
Half Live is available from here now

I love playing live music, there’s electricity in the room and the connection between performer and audience is something I love to explore. For years I’ve wanted to record an album that captured the essence of a live show. To deliver that electricity as best I could, while still presenting something that makes sense when played (for instance) in the car. My idea was to set up a gig where I was entirely unplugged, surround myself with an audience, and mic the whole thing up to capture the gig. In March 2014, I finally got around to actually attempting this ludicrous feat!

I set myself up with two gigs, one at The Lamb in Devizes, one at the Village Pump in Trowbridge, two venues with which I have a strong affinity. The Lamb has been the scene of some of my favourite solo audience/performer episodes, and the Village Pump has music singing from the walls (literally, there are loads of instruments hanging on the walls that can only add to the ambience!).

Of course my utopian idea of turning up and recording a purely unplugged gig proved a step too far, and I had to alter a few things to make the idea practical, but I still played the two shows exactly as if they were a standard concert. I “messed up” a couple of times, but that’s what makes a live show so special, the little differences in each one. I loved playing both of those concerts, and had amazing audiences that brought out what I hope was the best in me.

When I listened back to the recordings I was struck by how quietly respectful the audience at the Village Pump had been, and found that the recordings sounded more like the base of a studio album, except that the performances of the songs themselves had the energy you can only get when you are playing to other people. That’s when the “Half Live” idea struck. What if I took these recordings, and added studio trickery to them? Nothing that would dramatically change them, just a little percussion, some bass, a few backing vocals here and there, enough to enhance the songs without suffocating them.

I still wanted to give people a purely live recording as well, so the second CD contains the recording from the Lamb “as is”, and the impromtu performance of “The News Is: The World Sucks” (which wasn’t initially intended to be part of the album, and which you can hear below) remains my favourite recording of that song!

Over all I’m really pleased with the result, and consider the experiment a success. 2016 will see the release of my next album, which will test me even further (more of which in future blogs!), but for now, I’ll continue to tour “Half Live” in the hopes that even more people can enjoy it.

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