Introducing: Andy Hobson
Where can we find you right now and what are you up to?
You’ll find me on the internet on Spotify, Youtube, Instagram and Soundcloud and as a carbon-based structure, or human if you will, in my house in London drinking tea. I’m currently working on my debut album. I’m also in the process of putting a band together. Oh, and I recently got my car wing mirror fixed. So I’m busy.
How do you write your songs?
I start with a melody idea that I play around with on my guitar until I have a basic song structure then I go into production in my little home studio. I work very quickly at the start so that my mind doesn’t get in the way. I throw everything in and then subtract from there. When I get to the end stage I usually have the urge to start all over again with a different production angle. The songs you hear currently on streaming services are essentially polished demos that I’ve recorded at home. They might take on other forms for my album. I’ve worked on and off in the music industry for over 20 years as a drummer/ producer. But singing and songwriting is a recent discovery that happened by accident during the covid lockdown in 2019. An instrumental track I was working on called for lyrics so I went with it and wrote my first song. Then more songs came along. I got some singing lessons to get my voice up to speed and then writing songs just took over. It was very strange as it felt like I didn’t have a choice in the matter. These melodies kept coming so I had to keep writing and recording. Not a bad problem to have. I fear getting creative block now. Music never fails to surprise me.
How did you start making music?
School recorder of course! The finest instrument there is until you realize it’s just for school times. But I was always good at learning songs by ear. I used to ignore the books and just play along to the radio. It really all started with a set of drums when I was 11. I played in bands with friends and got my first pub gig in a band, age 16. I got a guitar when I was 17 and started playing with little ideas using two tape cassette players to overdub. My simple doorway into multi-tracking. I have since discovered that Dave Growl started to do the same. I was self-taught on drums until the age of 21 when I went to a drumming school in London. My thought behind this was that I didn’t want to die not being the best drummer I could be so I got a loan and did a year of ..well just drumming all day, every day. I got a few gigs with function bands, and a cruise ship and did a few theatre auditions but never got those gigs as I wasn’t a great reader. I was always more excited about being in an original band anyway. After a couple of years of listening to endless band demo CDs, I found a band that I thought had something. But they were based in Northampton. So I quit my job (reading meters for Thames water) and moved to Northampton and slept on the guitarist's floor. As it happened this band already had label interest and within months were signed to Parlophone. They were called The Departure.
You toured the world, played huge venues and met some of your music heroes (Daniel Lanois, Slash, Peter Gabriel) but why did the rockstar dream fade away? Was there a particular reason for this?
It was a great experience and I have some fond memories and some not so fond ones. One highlight was being on tour with The Killers when they released Mr. Brightside. That was crazy! We were first to support but because the tour was sold out we always got a great crowd. It’s funny, it was so long ago (almost 20 years) that it feels like another life. But I still remember it very vividly. The band hadn’t been together very long before getting signed (6 months) and I think the pressure was too much for creativity and band relationships. The 1st album did ok but for the second one the record label got in a songwriter (Ed Buller) to help our struggling singer and I wasn’t happy about that. I and the other members were also left out of the creative process for that period. I lost motivation and distanced myself from the band and was eventually asked to leave after I didn’t turn up to an important label showcase. They finished the album without me but were dropped by the label. That’s the music business.
What do you think will be the future of music artists and creators in general?
It’s a tough landscape. Long gone are the days when you could write a few songs and get a big break. You have to be prepared to graft. You have to look at the whole thing as a business – if you’re a solo artist then you’re a tour manager, merch seller, roadie, driver, a marketing person and the rest. You have to wear many hats. I’ve noticed that for new artists like me there are plenty of folks who will happily take your money. You have to be smart with what you decide to invest in. I always look for long-term relationships in anything. I always question why they want to work with me. A bit of research goes a long way. I don’t think money can be made from streaming music unless you’re Taylor Swift. I think it has to come from live, merch, selling old gear on eBay and low-level shoplifting. On a serious note, I honestly don’t know how you make a meaningful living from this yet. I’m not great at the business side of things. I’m figuring it out. I love creating and playing live so I’ll find a way. I still believe that great songs will get you where you need to go. And being a nice person.
Tell us a bit about your guided meditations, ambient music, courses and live sessions.
I got into meditation during my time in The Departure. I attached myself to a local Buddhist Centre that would send me cassette tapes of teachings to listen to while I was on tour and it opened up a whole new world for me. Meditation continued to be a thread in my life after the band and it really helped when I suffered from depression. I decided that I’d love to teach meditation and started running little group mindfulness classes locally. I also started studying psychotherapy which led me to work in wellbeing in education. I managed a therapy service for kids in primary school in London for 5 years. That’s a long story for another time. Back to the meditations. I spend many an evening recording my meditations to give to people who attended my classes. I also started writing ambient music as I thought it brought another dynamic to the guidance. Writing ambient music was really my way into music production. And at that time I finally had enough money to buy a good enough computer to run music software. It’s a big deal! I put some of those recordings on a wonderful meditation app called Insight Timer and they got really popular. Later on, the app started offering audio courses so I wrote a few which also become really popular. One course took me over two years to write and record. I wrote music specifically for it and I don’t do things by halves. I have now over 5 million plays on the app and 100K followers which is amazing.
What do you feel sets you apart from other artists?
My punctuality. You’ll never be waiting around for me at soundcheck. That’s a promise. I think that what I write about has meaning, depth and authenticity. My songs are little stories about the trials and joys of being a human. If they touch your heart, smile at you, punch you in the gut or whisk you off into a cloud they’ve done their job. Because writing is such a new venture I’m still finding my sound. I don’t think I’ve landed on that quite yet but I’m getting there. I love producing and am very excited about where things are going. I will add, just too big myself up, that I play everything on my recordings. Apart from ‘Everything Can Change’ where you’ll hear my lovely friend Tom on drums. I taught myself to play violin a few years because strings are out of my budget. I’ve got pretty good just through the recording process where I have to do a million takes to get it right. Hardest instrument there is I think. What is the purpose of music in your opinion? For me, music is for the soul. It can lift your mood in a second or just validate how you feel. Music gives you a whole new world to live in. If your immediate surroundings aren’t particularly beautiful you can close your eyes and a song or piece of music will take you wherever you would like to go. I think creating or listening to music connects us to something that is greater than us. And of course, music unites us. It’s a way to express yourself in another language.
Would your 12-year-old self be happy for you and the choices you made so far?
Yes! My 12-year-old self would high-five me for always pushing myself to try new things and taking risks. He would also probably tell me to enjoy the ride a bit more. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Could you suggest a couple of good books for our readers?
Illusions by Richard Bach. A good story with a bit of wisdom woven in. Any Alan Partridge book.
Tell us about your latest or upcoming release.
My latest single, Waterfalls is a bittersweet tale of human destruction and hope. It’s out now in all the usual places. For a sneak peek of ‘in progress’ material go to my SoundCloud.
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