‘Something old, something new, something borrowed…’ is how Tim Eveleigh describes his new EP ‘In Kilnsea’ which is digitally released on 9 June. More on the inspirations behind the music later. When Tim got in touch with us, we hadn’t actually realised he was a musician, as we knew Tim’s name best as head honcho at Croydon Comedy Festival, and had indeed seen him compère many a stand-up comedy night.
After chatting to Tim we now know he has many many strings to his bow (although I don’t know if archery is one of them) from music and comedy, to computing, economics, politics and more. I have concluded that he must never sleep. Read on…
Croydonist: First of all, Croydon native or convert and what area do you call home?
Tim: I grew up in Addiscombe, either side of Morland Road. Then I was in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for 9 years, initially at University. Afterwards I moved back to Croydon via a year in Crystal Palace. The furthest I’ve lived away from Addiscombe since then was a couple of years in West Croydon.
Croydonist: How would you describe your genre of music?
Tim: I’m a middle-class middle-aged cis-gendered heterosexual male acoustic singer-songwriter, which means that I play moany songs about girls for half an hour at a time, but my main instrument is really the piano – it’s just not as portable as a guitar.
I also write quartets: I write them as String Quartets but, as my friend Sam Gee has very practically shown, they can be played on other instruments as well so now I just call them Quartets. I have created videos for two of the quartets that Sam has recorded.
I have run acoustic music events under the banner of Freedom of Expression since 2006 (at The Green Dragon, Christ Church in Gipsy Hill, The Perseverance in Marylebone, The Oval Tavern, The Bedford in Balham, Wandle Park Bandstand, Lesnes Abbey Woods in Bexley, The Royal Standard, Urban Xchange Bar and The Green Room in Sheffield). It probably says a lot about my skills as an (award-winning, let’s not forget) promoter that you haven’t heard of these. There is a Spotify playlist with songs by many of the people who have performed at Freedom of Expression events on the website.
I run Get Out More promotions (currently known as Stay In More promotions) as an umbrella organisation for the music (Freedom of Expression) and comedy (Croydon Comedy Festival) events. For a year or so Get Out More also produced the What’s On in Croydon event listings service which involved posting monthly listings posters on tram stops, fortnightly flyers in venues, and constantly updated website listings.
My day job for the past 22 years has been running a small business that does useful things with computers called EIS Ltd
Some other things you didn’t know about me:
– I was a Green Party candidate in the local elections (twice, fact fans!)
– Darth Vader was my babysitter
– I’m partially responsible for some countries receiving debt relief in sub-Saharan Africa
– I’m an amateur economist.
Croydonist: Your EP, In Kilnsea, is inspired by a holiday in the Yorkshire hamlet back in 2018. Can you tell us a bit about the themes of the music?
Tim: I travelled to Kilnsea in October 2018 via tram, 3 trains (Croydon-London-Doncaster-Hull), 2 buses (Hull-Withernsea-Easington), a short walk and finally a lift in the supermarket delivery van that was taking the food I’d ordered to the self-catering accommodation at Westmere Farm. Then I stayed there for ten days. As you can tell, since accidentally starting a comedy festival in 2005 I’ve become resigned to the conclusion that my life is impersonating a sitcom of itself.
Spurn Point, which is just south of Kilnsea, is a nature reserve on a peninsula and the entire area has a fascinating military history (among other things) that I strongly recommend reading about. I like the idea of holidays on islands and at the edge of things – I first saw Spurn Point in the distance while inserting myself into a family day out from Sheffield in Skegness – and once I’d seen it from a distance I looked it up on a map to find out where it was.
16 months after visiting Kilnsea I wrote a song which is ostensibly about missing someone who you couldn’t be with (even if you weren’t on holiday on your own in the first place) and as I wrote them the words of the song became geographically specific to this extraordinary place.
I realised I’d taken useful photos and video while I was there (I think I might be some kind of psychic promoter) so I used those on the CD cover (designed by Gavin Kinch from TheTownThatLoveBuilt), to create the video and to make posters, postcards and badges that reference the words of the song. A sound sample taken from the video (of wind in the reeds) is in the recording of the song (twice, fact fans!)
My friend Rachel Denton, who is a hermit, talked about how she saw the themes of the song during an interview with BBC World’s Heart and Soul programme (and they also played excerpts from the song) so you can hear another view of what the themes are during that episode.
The EP has one new song, one old song and one song by someone else. So that’s something old, something new, something borrowed…
Croydonist: How did you become a musician?
Tim: I started piano lessons from a young age and eventually scaled the giddy heights of Grade 8. I was taught violin at primary school and later played viola at secondary school both individually and in the school orchestra. I have Grade 6 in Music Theory somewhere and I studied music at A-level and University level.
I’ve been writing songs since I was 10 after listening to bands and thinking “that’s what I want to do”. My older brother (who is a hero: trust me, he has a medal to prove it) very generously restrung his first guitar as a left-handed guitar when he got his second one and from that point on I was off.
I was in two bands at school: rather worryingly evidence of this still exists. When I got to 30 I thought “I should have a proper go at this” and with help from (in particular) Ben Cosh at The Three Stags in Kennington and many people at The Stage Door in Waterloo I gradually put together a solid collection of songs. After playing these for a few years I scrapped them all and started again and I’ve written enough songs to record a couple of albums, so I’m doing that.
A few years ago I also realised that I’d almost exclusively performed my own songs either solo or in my own bands so I bought some other instruments in an attempt to force myself to play music with, and for, other people. Since then I’ve played cajon with local singer-songwriter Stephen McGourty, with Marcus Reeves, Junk Time Party (once, but it counts – right?) and Bellowhead (once, during a session in a pub, but it counts, right?). I play harmonium in Superman Revenge Squad and bass in The Tethers.
Croydonist: How do you go about writing new music?
Tim: I have various methods for writing songs but the most frequent is mucking around with guitar chords and sequences once a week after playgroup – where I play ‘Wheels on the bus’ (and other similar songs) to 0-3 year olds. I try not to be impatient with myself because some songs can take years to finish and others can be written within days or weeks, as ‘In Kilnsea’ was.
When I think of words or phrases that I think are useful I write them into notes in my phone and I review them regularly to keep them in my mind. I started doing this after reading that Ross from Blue Rose Code did it (new album imminent – pop pickers!). In the past I used to edit my words more ruthlessly – I only wrote them down if I could remember them the next day – but I realised that I was losing too many good lyrics while doing this.
If there’s one thing that happens almost every time I write a song it’s that I tend to write the music first, then the tune and then the words.
For the Quartets: I start with one musical idea and then follow it around by writing a few bars nearly every day (or deleting what I wrote the day before) until it’s finished. As with songs, I try not to get impatient with myself because it takes a varied amount of time to finish each one.
Croydonist: Do you usually perform your music alone or with other musicians?
Tim: I have done both depending on the circumstances and the requirements of the promoter. If I play solo it’s usually me with a guitar. With a band it can be any combination of Joe on bass, Maria on backing vocals, and Dan on cajon.
As far as the Quartets go I had the amazing privilege of attending a String Quartet rehearsal of some of them and then Sam surprised me with his Saxophone versions. As yet there have been no public physical performances.
Croydonist: Do you find many similarities between the world of music and the world of comedy?
Tim: Yes, absolutely. My contention is that all work can be done from the same basic building blocks. I think I can decide in advance what my principles are and then put procedures in place to try and achieve them. Once things are up and running I think I need to be open to change and I need to adapt when something doesn’t meet my requirements. I write about this at WOYO (Working On Your Own).
Croydonist: Where do you usually go in Croydon for inspiration or what in Croydon inspires you?
Tim: I would say that people and our behaviour (and in particular, me and my behaviour) are the most inspiring topics when I’m writing songs. I like parks and green spaces (particularly Ashburton Park, Ashburton Playing Fields, Brickfields Meadow, Heavers Meadow, Lloyd Park, Coombe Gardens, Addington Hills and Wandle Park).
People may know that I spent time promoting comedy at The Spreadeagle when there was a theatre upstairs in the function room and I’ve enjoyed going to The Front Room to see various events including shows by Jenny Lockyer and comedy organised by Matthew Crosby of Pappy’s.
Get Out More promotions latest event listings services: ‘Publicity Machine‘ has been helping to raise awareness of these and similar events. You can see one of the ways I was trying to achieve that in the twitter feed on the website.
I realise it isn’t ideal but in general I go to London to watch music and comedy.
Croydonist: Have you ever or would you consider writing music inspired by our borough?
Tim: Yes, I absolutely would, but due to the nature of how I write it hasn’t happened yet. Having said that – from my perspective – my whole life is included in every song that I write so I can see Croydon (and / or things related to it) in every song I’ve written.
Croydonist: Do you think lockdown has affected how you make music?
Tim: In terms of writing songs: I’m writing them at home instead of jamming with myself after playgroup. For recording: I’m not able to travel to the studio as I was doing for a couple of days a month to record with producer and performer Andy Thornton so we are looking at ways to do this remotely.
From a performance point of view – I’ve been playing at online open mics using Facebook Live in various groups. I’ve done 13 so far.
Croydonist: After the EP release, what’s next for you this year?
Tim: I’m going to continue to write songs and quartets. I’m in the process of recording more songs and I hope to release them in the near future. I’m commissioning videos to go with the quartets and I have an online idea involving composers submitting music for performers to play, and engineers to mix, that I hope will mean that composers can hear their music performed for an affordable amount while performers and engineers can be paid for their work.
In terms of comedy: I did my first five minute spot at an open mic event in London earlier this year (after previously mostly compering and doing a couple of spots for Science Showoff) so my intention is to do more of these if circumstances allow. I’ve been trying to post more of the things that I find funny online via social media and I was in the Zoom audience for Stu Goldsmith’s excellent Infinite Sofa show a couple of weeks ago: Stu is showing what is possible in the current circumstances and I enjoyed having a couple of chances to chat during the show.
I have a project that will reduce household debt and I’ve been discussing this with people over the past year. I’m hoping to continue that and I’d like to reinstate Publicity Machine for the promotion of off- and online events soon.
I’m writing this while the protests about the killing of George Floyd continue and I’d like to encourage people to support (and if you can afford it: donate to) Black Lives Matter.
Thanks to Tim for chatting with us. Listen to (and watch) ‘In Kilnsea’ below and find out more on his website here.
All images courtesy of Tim Eveleigh. Final photo by Jack Fleming.
Posted by Julia