Bitesize Episode 22 - The Journey of a British Musician

Charlie Baxter

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By Charlie Baxter

Bitesize Episodes (17-32)

What's this episode about?

Learn British English in this episode with Charlie, your host, where he interviews a best friend from school who is on track to becoming a successful artist in the music industry. Charlie asks his friend about his journey as an artist to give you a better understanding of how the British music industry works and how musicians "make it" in today's world.


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Al Wreaves from fika

Al Wreaves is a musician, producer and artist based in South London. With a background as a session musician and private music teacher, he now spends most of his time working on his own original music project “fika” which is a pop/r&b songwriting & production duo.
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Transcript of Bitesize Ep 22 Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to the British English podcast with your host, Charlie Baxter, we have a bitesize episode today and this one is coming off the back of a previous one I did with my school friend, who is now a musician and music producer. We discussed a bunch of music related things like how influential The Beatles are on British people nowadays, why we all learn an instrument called the recorder at school, and why on Earth Brits end up singing with an American accent. So if you want to go and listen to that episode before continuing with this one, then that is Bonus Episode 12 British Music with Al from fika But what we didn't have time for was his journey. You know from what was he a a nobody, a stupid nobody to a a somewhat of a success, a mediocre somebody. You know, he's not going to get Christmas number one this year, but he is pulling in over 300000 listens a month on Spotify. So he's achieved quite a feat already and we managed to record a conversation about his journey from being a stupid nobody at school with me up until this point now, which is good because, you know, when he is getting into the top 10 in the UK, then he probably won't have time for for us on here.

So we've caught him early on before the rest of the world cottons on to his beautiful music. And I liked getting this conversation for you as I think it will help you understand how a modern day British person can make it in the music industry in the UK. There are obviously many other ways like, you know, those talent shows on TV like X Factor or just busking on the side of a road until a talent agent spots you because he's a Belieber. But I'd say Al's route to getting signed by a record label is the more respected and, well, typical way of doing it. So let's get into Al's journey as a musician and how fika, his band, came about.

Talking of fika, let's hear your journey. I actually went to quite a few pub gigs of yours and saw you in some weddings, I think performing with

That was with Natalie in my I had a little duo called Alchemy Duo that used to play at weddings and parties and stuff. Yeah, that's fun. So I don't actually do that anymore. We kind of stopped this year. But we did that for five or six years, which was great. And then, yeah, and then I started this new project with my mate Sam. We went to uni together. We actually went to that college together that you talked about earlier, the ACM Academy of Contemporary Music.

Ahh I was wondering how you met?

Yeah, we met in the last month of- So we went there- We both went there for a year. We did a diploma course in like performance for a year and we met in the last month, became quite good mates and then completely coincidentally realised that we were both going to Southampton Uni to the same uni to do music. So then we both went there and then we actually didn't do any music together at uni. We just yeah, dunno partied a lot and did nothing together at all. And then it was about five years after uni, we started writing music together. It was a complete failure the first time, which was funny. It didn't work at all. It was terrible. We gave it another year or two. We came back. We started again and it was the complete opposite. It was amazing.

And why was it a failure?

Umm I'm not-, I don't know I think maybe it wasn't the right time. Sam had had some pretty crap situations going on in his life. His brother had an accident and maybe he wasn't in the right headspace, but I don't know. It was odd. We were still really good friends at the time, but it just didn't work out for some reason. And then we tried again a year or two later, and it worked out really well.

This episode comes with a free worksheet over on the website, the British English podcast. So grab that and you can listen along whilst using it.

And then since then, we spent the first year or two just writing loads of songs and music and ideas without- there wasn't really a plan we didn't plan to try and necessarily do it full time or take over the world with our music, we just did it for a bit of fun. Realised that we work pretty well together. Then we were like, let's start releasing some of this music. So we started releasing some of it, and we had this aim to kind of try and release as much music as possible because we had so much that we'd written, we thought, why not release us all? And then we started on the journey of finishing it and learning about, like mixing the song and mastering it and releasing it on Spotify. And and we've been doing that for the last couple of years and building everything since, really. And yes, it's been really exciting. We're going to start doing live shows next year. We've got loads of collaborations with other artists now. We're producing and writing for different artists now. I love it.

Can I ask a naive question? How do you do a live performance, considering a lot of it is like produced? Is that how I would say it?

Yeah. So so there's like a combination on a lot of our songs with organic instruments, i.e. real instruments like guitar, bass, piano, etc. And then there's a mixture of kind of electronic sounds, electronic drums on on some of the on quite a lot of the tracks, not all of them and some other, yeah, some other sounds which you would, which you wouldn't just create from an instrument. But I mean, most of our stuff would translate across very similarly with live instruments and then for anything else that we need. You can you can programme into the set or have it playing in the background or if we need.

Right. Okay, so you take away the instrumental parts of the song and then you play them live.

Yeah, yeah. Like, ninety nine percent of what you're hearing on the tracks can be done live. They'll just be some effect which you can't like. You'd replace the programmed or electronic drums with a drummer playing them in real life.

And are you going to get your own drummer?

Yeah, we're in the process of starting to build a band at the moment.

Get a session musician.

Yes, exactly that. Yeah. So a couple of the guys we've got in mind to play with us who we're actually kind of friends with. Yeah, they're like session musicians who play with loads of different artists and yeah (that's the) plan. So exciting times.

Nice. Yeah, yeah. Very good. And your latest EP, which is what? What does that stand for EP?

I think it stands for extended play. I think there'll be there'll be like there'll be record or vinyl buffs or geeks who will correct me on this. But I think going back in time when records or physical vinyls that you play on vinyl players first came around, originally they were just really small and you could only fit like one song on. And then I think technology developed, they got a bit bigger. You could fit four or five songs on. I think I could be wrong, but I think that's the beginning of the phrase extended play. And now-

That makes sense. I feel like I've read that somewhere in Wikipedia once upon a time.

Yeah, and then and then the next one on was LP long play, I think, which was a longer version, up to like 10 or 12 tracks or something. So now that those phrases are coming and-

Sorry to talk over you a bit is a long play, an album.

Yeah, so so now, even if we're referring to music on Spotify online, the phrase is still kind of carry over from back in the day. So loosely speaking, an EP might be like three, four, five six songs, and then an album might be eight, nine, 10 or more.

So EP Mini Album

Yeah. So we've got an EP that we're just starting to release now. It's called Coffee and Clouds, and it's collaborative EP with the artist I mentioned earlier. Our friend called Bambi. Bambi's amazing, an amazing singer and songwriter we've been working with for a while, so this is like a joint joint EP with fika and Bambi.

Very cool, very cool. And and that EP is with a record label, isn't it?

Yeah. So we've just signed this EP to this record label in Brighton called True Thoughts. They're really cool. They're an independent label, have been around for like the last 20 years, and they sign all sorts of music. They just they just focus on good music, irrespective of genre. They have artists of all sorts of genres. So yeah, we've just signed this EP with the label, which is really exciting. So we're going to see how it goes. We just released the first track last week.

Yeah, very cool track. Very, really enjoyed that. It's 50 50. You get 50 percent of the royalties. The other 50 percent goes to the record label and they spend as much as they can on promoting it to all sorts of television, ads, radio, wherever they can try to get you featured and then you get 50 percent of that. Is that what a record label does?

Yeah, traditionally that's what they do. Yeah, so smaller, independent record labels don't have the same budget as massive major record labels like Universal or Sony. But yeah, that's the idea. So the idea that we signed to them, the reason we signed to them sorry is because they have access to other contacts in the music industry and radio and TV and film like you just said and also online for Spotify and people who work at Spotify who make playlists that we all listen to. This label, True Thoughts, have better access to all those people than we do. So, yeah, that's hence the hence the giving away of of 50 percent in in return for all of the stuff that they can offer.

Definitely. Yeah, it makes sense. Yeah. Amazing. Well, good luck to you sir.

Thank you very much mate.

I'm sure it will be a fantastic journey. And yeah, so guys, fika go and listen to them. That is spelt f.i.k.a That is f for Foxtrot I for India. K four kilo a for Alpha. A bit of the phonetic alphabet for you there. I always actually enjoy hearing people make this alphabet on the spot when they don't actually know it. I definitely don't know all of it, but I remember overhearing an ex of mine try to confirm the letter P and I think she panicked. And then she said Pizza P for pizza, which seemed a bit cute, but also a bit thick. No, I'm joking. Not bitter about that relationship. Joking. Joking. What would I have guessed? Probably something like Peter if I didn't know it was Papa. Papa? Yeah, Papa, it is Papa. Yeah, but yeah, pizza that made me chuckle. Actually, actually, I suppose that would be quite a fun way to do it, to always have to do the most immature, phonetic alphabet examples because they're often in quite formal phone calls like, you know, speaking to the government regarding your taxes. That would be good. They say, What is your tax reference code? And you go ahh it's two, seven, p for pizza, T for titties, four, three, c for cock.

But yeah, what am I going on about anyway? Go listen to fika. That is f for fanny. I for ice in your gin and tonic. K for killing you softly and A for a for a bloody good bit of music. Go and listen to it, fika. Yeah. Hope you enjoyed hearing the journey of a British musician there. Remember to get the free worksheet to help you understand some of the vocabulary from today. If you wanted the extended glossaries and transcripts of this conversation, then you'll want to check out the Premium podcast. And if you wanted a whole world of learning resources with me, then that would be the academy. All of that is over on the British English podcast dot com but that is all from me today. I've been your host, Charlie Baxter. Thank you very much for sticking around till the end. I hope you have a good week and I'll see you next time on the British English podcast.

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Podcast host: Charlie:
This will be quite a bit harder for you to understand, as there are a number of accents in the conversation, some poorly delivered at times, as you will notice.

Podcast host: Charlie:
But the aim is to give you a variety of dialects in one conversation and some dialogue to give you native expressions in context. So enter, if you will, to Charlie's pub and his imaginary world.

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Alright geezer, how's it going?

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Charlie is the host and creator of The British English Podcast & Academy. He has also been an active YouTube English Teacher since 2016 but after seeing how many of his students wanted a more structured, carefully designed way to study he decided to create The British English Podcast Academy.

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