2018 has been an amazing year for me. A fresh start. A chance to make a ton of new friends in the music scene. So many doors have opened for me this year.
It's hardly surprising that I am majorly excited for 2019. As well as plans to release my debut album and do my first official solo tour, I also have an album with ZIO to finish and will be supporting Marillion, amongst other things.
Relaunching with Moonlit Love
On the 5th January I started the new year by surprising you all with my first ever solo release; Moonlit Love (the B-Side to the upcoming single release, I Need a Change). The song was my pop-ballad take on the Beethoven piano classic, Moonlight Sonata.
The response to this was HUGE, with the lyric video gathering almost 2,000 views in the first week alone!
Burning Car Goes Viral
Then, on the 9th January, completely unrelated to my music, I also happened to witness a car burst into flames at a petrol station. Making it to safety, I decided to film the event, as you do...
The unexpected result of this was that I ended up with a viral video on Facebook, gathering nearly 80 thousand views, almost 600 shares, and even making the news.
To my surprise, I was then contacted by the BBC... More about that later!
Meet the Band
The band and I started rehearsals for my launch show. All my players are incredible, by the way!
The line up included:
Moray Macdonald - Keyboards and Trumpet
Oliver Day - Guitar
Josh Judd (now Josh Green) - Drums and BVs
Dan Battison - Bass
Launch Show, Launch Snow
The 2nd March was the big day when I was due to launch my debut single I Need a Change. The launch event taking place at The Picturedrome in my hometown of Northampton had been building up for months, and ticket sales were great. It looked like we might even have a sellout!
However, luck was not on my side that day, with the UK being hit by the worst snowstorm in years.
This, unfortunately, meant that less than half of the people who had bought tickets were actually able to make it. People were planning to come from all over the UK, with some even travelling from mainland Europe. One guy even made it from Japan!
So many of the roads were closed or unsafe to drive on. Some people even made it as far as their hotels but still couldn't get to the venue because no taxis or public transport services were running.
But, knowing how much people had invested in getting to the event, I decided not to cancel. We went ahead anyway and had a great show.
In the aftermath, I decided to announce a second (but different) show at the same venue to compensate anyone who had tickets but didn't make it. This would be an Acoustic Showcase, taking place in May; something I wanted to do to show my commitment to my fans.
On March 16th, John Holden released the album Capture Light; an album featuring me, Max Read, Oliver Day, Peter Jones, Oliver Wakeman, Billy Sherwood, Gary O’Toole, Jean Pageau, Emily Dolan Davies, and Marc Atkinson. Not that I'm trying to namedrop or anything.
This was a nice surprise for anyone who loves their prog music, bringing together some great names for some great music.
Northampton to Milan
On the 23rd of March I was in Milan with my now new friend Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) to perform as guest vocalists at Z-Fest.
There, the 11 piece band Hostsonaten would be performing their album The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Part 1 with me and Heather fronting it.
The show was splendid, and I was delighted to hit notes I'd never hit before for this performance. It's somewhere on YouTube!
I was also invited to open the festival with my first ever acoustic set. I was so nervous, I think I nearly shat myself, but it seemed to go down well.
What Was Going On Here?
After a few months of hectically preparing for my launch and other exciting things, April was a bit of quiet month.
Basically, it was my birthday, I moved house, I practised like a maniac for the acoustic showcase and spent a lot of time getting drunk with my friends. Standard.
Oh, but I did have one gig as the guest of honour for an Open Mic at the famous Bull pub in Stony Stratford (famous for its rivalry with The Cock pub opposite, coining the phrase "Cock and Bull" - true story). That was on the 12th April.
Close Calls: On Camera
Behind the scenes, the BBC had decided to come and interview me for the daytime TV show, Close Calls: On Camera.
Hilariously, I seemed to be hitting the mainstream, not for my music, but for a chance event, filming a viral video of a burning car as mentioned previously.
I struck a deal with them whereby they would film me in the studio doing some music to create a bit of background. I'm not sure if it did much to expand my fan-base, but I wasn't going to say no to the exposure!
The show aired on Friday 25th May (Series 6, Episode 5), and although it's no longer on the iPlayer, you'll probably find it somewhere on YouTube if you look hard enough.
As promised, on Sunday 27th May I put on a matinee show, performing a bunch of acoustic tracks for the people who couldn't make it to my launch show in March.
It was a really special day, with guest performers Nikitas Kissonas (Methexis - we did an album called Suiciety together, check it out), Oliver Day (from my band, and also in the Yes tribute, Fragile), John Holden (see album Capture Light), and my good mates Pete and Dunk (Duncan McLaughlan plays guitar on my studio recordings, by the way).
Each of these guests performed a solo support set, before joining me on the stage later to duet. The whole gig overran by about an hour, with about 4 hours of music being performed in total!
Northampton Music Festival
On 17th June I was back in Northampton to perform on the main-stage at the towns biggest music event of the year.
They had asked me to do one of my acoustic sets, which I was starting to get a bit more comfortable with by this point. Little did I realised I'd be the only acoustic act on the market square, sandwiched between big brass bands.
Anyway, it was different, and people loved it. So I was happy.
Supporting Franck Carducci
French superstar Franck Carducci invited me to support him on his UK tour in July.
We did London, Southampton and Leicester together, and it was definitely the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
For months I'd been teasing you all about a secret project I'd been working on behind the scenes and on 20th August the grand unveiling took place at Crescendo Festival, the biggest Prog Rock event in France!
I took to the stage, alongside the incredible Hayley Griffiths, completely unannounced, joining ZIO for their set.
The crowd went wild, and all of our social media went into meltdown. Hayley had headlined the festival with Karnataka the previous year, and I had done the same four years ago with The Enid. So a lot of this audience seemed familiar with us and knew who we were.
Generally Faffing Around
The month of September was largely spent finishing my next single, preparing it for release the following month.
I launched pre-sales for the new EP, What is the World Coming To on 28th September, also uploading the video for the acoustic version of I Need a Change on the same day.
As well as that, my band and I plunged ourselves back into rehearsals, preparing for our London residency at Simon Drake's House of Magic in November.
Oh, and Nic Willes (also ex-Enid) also joined my band, taking over from Dan on Bass!
The debut single from ZIO was released into the world on Sunday 21st October. With it, we performed a launch show at the Half Moon in Putney, London.
Unfortunately, the technical gremlins were out. Making my big entrance to the stage with a bellowed "HELLO LONDON", drama was lost a little, with my radio mic being mysteriously switched off.
I was brought a traditional mic, complete with lead, and was able to complete the set. Not being used to wires these days, I may have tripped myself up a couple of times... Haha!
What is the World Coming To
Less than a week later, I released my first EP, What is the World Coming To.
As well as the upbeat title track, this record also included my take on Purcell's "Music for a While", plus 5 bonus acoustic tracks of previously released material.
The acoustic version of "I Need a Change" earned me my place supporting Marillion in 2019, with the promo video gaining their interest!
The 9th and 10th November were my first chance in years to put on extraordinary shows that pushed the boundaries and allowed me the opportunity to do something visually ambitious.
Simon Drake's House of Magic was the perfect venue for me to insert some illusionary magnificence into my show, which I couldn't resist adapting into a concept piece about my journey with mental health.
In the show, I descended from the ceiling, sang with a severed head, levitated, and even vanished. It was all very dramatic.
Supporting Heather Findlay Trio
This month, on the 16th December, Heather and I teamed up again for her band show at the Norwich Waterfront.
As well as supporting her with an acoustic set, I also joined her on stage to duet on her song Shrinking Violet.
For the first time ever, I was unlucky enough to come down with laryngitis just hours before the event, but I never let these things stop me. The show must go on, eh!?
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Thanks again for a smashing year, and see you for more fun in 2019.
Very best wishes,
That Joe Payne