'The Independent Music Show Magazine' February 2018 - Page 6

Rob Ellen ....... www.medicinemusic.co.uk

One email and two acts of kindness changes my life forever.


One email in June 2012 changed my life forever! (true story)

My my! I had been invited to WOMEX in Thessaloniki (Greece) that October, (the world’s biggest music conference) to talk on Independent Music and the pros of organizing a career in music independent of Labels and Management, by fire brand American musician Tori Sparks who lives in Spain. This radio show was recorded in Thessaloniki and broadcast on National Greek Radio and was syndicated live around Germany and Norwegian national radio networks as part of the European wide coverage of the conference, standing testament to my first real leap of faith.

This was the pivotal point and set me on this current trail I now follow and tend, with all of your help, as my way of life!

Tori was charged with putting the panel together, we had never met, she was however a member of The House Concert European Hub and she informed me I had taken a bit of time in response to some questions she had 2 years earlier, so she remembered and that and it was enough to prompt the invite. (a simple everyday kindness reciprocated that changed my life forever)

My first thought was to ask the Scottish Arts Council for a grant for flights expenses and hotels, however i fatefully decided that if i was gonna talk the talk on Independent minded music I should walk the walk and decided to try ask the Euro House Concert members for help and gigs to get me and one Hamish Roberts, to get us across the continent and back. Hamish was a brilliant local young musician who had never been much out of his own back yard, who at the time was in first year of his music degree, he is now Professor Roberts (true story)

Our annual Midsummer Medicine Show appeal gig was coming up at the Greenhouse In Dingwall Ross-shire Scotland my home town then and best home venue (community) I’ve ever been involved in. Traditionally I'd donate the money raised to charity, but this year I decided to ask folks to help me and Hamish get to Thessaloniki as we had nothing between us bar the will to go to get us there.

It went well, Donald Jack donated one of his Guitars (That was the start of The Slim Panatellas and a beautiful friendship) he got us invited to The first BSA Cigar Box Guitar Festival in France so we had a stepping stone, I set about getting gigs to get us there, if we could get there it surely would only be the small matter of traversing the rest of the continent, my now late mother, bless her, next door neighbour was giving up his then 25 year old camper van, which she bought for Brother Mark and I as a family resource (one I panned the ass out of).

A friend out of the blue threw £500 in the kitty, and reminded me of when I started this work 34 years ago he was a tearaway kid, who found himself homeless, a perfect fit for the work I was doing at the time. I gave him a room in my house, the use of my car and invited him to tour manage a summer full of weekend gigs all over the Highlands, a task he relished and was great at, he then got to college to become an engineer and now has his own business building oil refineries (True Story) and still lives in Nairn my home town.

Other folks got involved in all sorts of ways and set us on our way. Hamish got leave from college as long as he wrote up the whole thing, budgets and all into a report which would become the bulk his first year dissertation.

We set off with barely enough money to make the next gig Cigar Box Donald Jack and I had the beds for young Hamish we made a bed up in the well on the floor between us which soon was christened "The Fart Pit" (touring baptism by fart for Hamish) and we set sail in hope of the fair weather and the milk of human kindness and found it would soon become in fact a storm of cream. We met Mark Mulholland Des Horsfall Rick Shea Tim O'Connor and his Mum Steve Roberts and of course brother Mark Ellen along the way. we also did the late great Dave Cash Show on BBC Radio Kent and soon found ourselves in France with enough money to comfortably get to one of the best weekends of my life so far at Boissy-sans-Avoir for The BSA Cigarbox Guitar Festival making friends that will remain friends for ever.

Donald had to go home but Hamish and I struck out for Switzerland with the idea if we had enough money for petrol tunnel and ferry charges to get down through Italy, we would busk food and drink money and take the chance and go. As it turns out the Swiss people, house concerts and gigs were so very generously supported we indeed landed in Italy after traversing the alps following hundreds of hawks and eagles spiralling up to gain enough height to fly over them. We took the longer but beautiful road and pulled into Florence in a lighting storm at 3am, witnessed a film shoot and was regaled with stories and pride in the city by a wndrfly drunken reveller making his way home across the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore Square, from a bar that was still open and offered us a very welcome end of day beer. Hamish played banjo in sight of Ponte Vecchio and we woke up in Michelangelo square and had breakfast with that iconic city stretching below us bathed in autumn sunshine.

The stories the people the kindness and the music are too many to recount in full here, but the long and the short of it was our trusty old camper van did not miss a beat and we made it in time to do my thing for the conference, we were invited onto National Greek Radio to do a Medicine Show Health and Happiness Hour which was syndicated around Germany and Norwegian National Radio (listen here) https://www.mixcloud.com/robellen/this-was-a-the-climax-of-the-6-week-long-medicine-show-on-the-road-euro-tour-to-womex-2012 ) and Hamish lent his guitar to and made friends with Cerys Matthews (another true story, which involves drinking Welsh malt whiskey)

We took in WOMEX, from that I was invited to take part in Folk Alliance International in Toronto ( yet an another story that leads directly to the adventure i'm undertaking next month) I got ill but got better again living on a beach by the venue Tampa Red did his last gig and then we decided to head home.

We lived on deserted out of season beaches up The Italian Asiatic, Hamish played banjo in the rain on the canals of Venice and we got stranded up an Alp in the ice and snow trying to avoid the tunnel toll because we were so skint.

So why mention it? Well I'm about to do it all again this time from Calgary Canada to New Orleans USA :-) .

The great Medicine Show Radio Stateside Stravaig starts on February 6th. Follow it at The Medicine Show Radio Moose Mobile

I’m on tour on

The Great Medicine Show Stateside Stravaig