Make It Happen

Time for another update!

I find myself part-way along a brand new journey. For a while now I have been trying to network and catch gigs which are not so much paid, but are gigs that I’m using as music therapy to get myself back out into the land of the living … Where the focus is my health and energy levels rather than attempting to make a self-employed living at this stage.

It started off slowly and of course as offers didn’t happen too quickly at first I lost a little faith and found myself at a small point of despair for a while. Since then though, I have received loads of trickling offers of little performances here and there, and the simple fact that I have managed to do each little gig so far has kept me motivated and enthusiastic to get out doing more. The wheels are finally turning.

I’ve got one 90 minute gig under my belt, despite not having the energy, and that in itself was a really big achievement. I know I can’t do that very often… It made me poorly and that’s fine now and again… But to do one of that size really pushes the energy boat out and is as rewarding as running a marathon to someone in my situation.

I’m finding that doing 45 minutes is about the optimal for me at the moment. When I finish I feel exhausted, and have to recover for a day or two, but it feels manageable. The result of a two 45 minute set meant a recovery of nearly 5 days. That’s not very conducive to getting better, really.

The scenario I find myself in is a strange one. Since September I have been self-injecting an immunosuppressant called Humira. The results of that have been levelling out, so that now my tummy is working better than it has for a year, and although not perfect, is at least in a position for me to cope alongside it running at about 80% well compared to 20% 2 years ago. The Humira has definitely made a difference there. The side-effects though, are that Humira tends to tire me out. When I inject it, I feel like a tranquilised rhinoceros. I last about an hour or two at best before being fast asleep. I sleep through all alarms and awake with a sore leg but feeling refreshed a good 12 hours later. I take it every 10 days and still feel a little dip on day 9 so may be taking it even more often once reviewed… but this does make sense… My immune system, the thing attacking my tummy, is a very strong one. Before being ill with Crohn’s I was actually very well *all* the time. Days off work were only ever toothache related before all this. The everyday tiredness is one of a few side-effects of the Humira in that since September I have felt a level of fatigue that is double what I was experiencing before taking it. Joint pain and back pain fluctuate so that some days I need to take Tramadol and others I don’t, but fatigue is the last symptom in the chain of Crohn’s… and it is a real shame that the drug I take has this effect as well, doubling up the fatigue level. I could be taking this for a very long time… and so as of right now, I really do not know when I will start to feel an improvement in my fatigue levels. Some good news, is that I’ve been found to be low in Vitamin D and Folic Acid… (my tummy just doesn’t pull the stuff from food like yours does) and thanks to our wonderful GP service I am not able to get these extra supplements until April 7th, which is a big deal, as a lack of these things has a direct result of “Knackereditis” as well. I’m hoping with these supplements that I should start to feel a new level of energy… and it is at that point when I will know I have a better chance to start thinking about making a living again. As things stand though the best description currently is this. I feel like a car battery. I plan to do a thing, wind myself up to start the engine, get there, do what I need to, but my battery runs out after the first few turns of the key. My engine slowly dies, exactly like a car engine that starts fine, and then tails off into an unhealthy cough before an almighty silence… Then I have to recharge my battery with carbs and sleep for a day or two, sometimes more before I can dream of turning the key again. That’s me in a nutshell at the moment.

The good news is I am in the half of the Venn Diagram that allows my stomach to function a little more normally, even though some things still cross over from time to time. It is the better of two evils… to have a slightly better tummy but to be more tired all of the time. Even better news though, is at least I am back in the game, and that is what it’s all about after all, regardless of which symptom is holding me back today.

The amount of opportunities that have arisen since my Facebook plea a while ago have truly been overwhelming now that some time has passed and more people are aware that I’m trying to get back out there. Even though most things are on a voluntary level, the reason I am taking them on if I can is to maintain this momentum of having things to work towards, look forward to, and to have gigging as a form of stamina building and musical therapy for me. You have to understand, that we’re not just talking about gigging here either. I’m talking about even getting out of my house to get to the shops. I have to use a trolley to lean on just to do my big shop and a guy of my build should be throwing trolleys around the aisles not resting on them.

Energy should never be taken for granted… I can tell you!

My yardstick is the walk into town from my house. On a better day I can do the walk slowly and get there without stopping, but I need to rest when I get there before doing what was planned. On bad days I get to around Westgate bridge and simply have to stop as my tummy feels like someone is stabbing me and my bum is so sore that I have to call a taxi to take me home rather than do what was planned. This changes by the day.

Despite all that I’m gigging again and loving every minute of it, because every gig is like soul food for my batteries! It’s hard, granted, but I honestly believe I will never complain about hard work ever again, thanks to being forced to have so much time off, and so to be able to sit here and write a blog about how amazing it is to be gigging again really is a huge deal to me.

The excitement of waking up and not knowing what emails are sat awaiting you is extraordinary. What opportunities sit in the inbox today I now wonder daily… Is it a gig? Is it a mentor meeting with a brew with an ace hard-working musician? Is it an offer of radio play from the album? Do I have a Paypal notification that means I have to set an alarm tomorrow to go and post out my spanking new album to someone lovely?

It’s utterly uplifting and is getting me through this limbo period more than I could have ever dreamed.

And so to the next announcement, which is a happy accident relating to all things networking and volunteering, that has really inspired me, thanks to that simple old tactic… of saying yes to everything. I am delighted to announce that I am now the new official CD Editor at Leeds Music! :D

Many who know me have recently seen a journey of sorts into the land of writing in one form or another, whether it is as a blog, a diary, a CD review or another long-winded soppy Facebook message that thanks a million people again for the third time. My fingers seem to be happy at a keyboard, and my mind adores running away with internal monologue, and so for me I think this is a perfect fit. In terms of my health it is actually a great distraction from the symptoms to be able to focus on writing for a while even though I feel uncomfortable. I am incredibly delighted to have such an opportunity, within a group of lovely and hard-working volunteers which means that I will have the chance to hear SO much local new music, and have the chance to objectify what I hear in such a way as to give the review reader an accurate feel for what to expect from a record. Putting it simply… This is bloody exciting!! It’s something I can take at my own pace with no finances or pressures to worry about, and is also something I try to do really well… Helping people, free of charge. :D

I guess the important thing is that at least now I am able to say yes to things, and even though I cannot hope to do everything I am saying yes to, at least I am getting out and about and creating a little momentum, which in turn is keeping my health in check to a fashion. It’s a case of hoping people understand that even though I’m attempting to get out more and do more things, that it doesn’t automatically mean I’m well as such… it just means I’m refusing to let this beat me, and attempting things anyway. It does get a bit weird when people ask me how I am, that I simply can’t say yes I’m OK… But I am now able to say… I’m getting there. For someone who has been struggling for over 2 years now with this stuff… That is a ginormous leap forward, and is liable to make me write blogs like this, that highlight my gratitude for the good things in my life.

I hope I am going on about it less and less, and also hope that people don’t get too sick and tired of hearing about stuff when I do feel the need to be honest… It’s quite tricky when half “How are you doing?” questions are intended to be short questions and you know it’s not going to be a short answer… So I am also grateful for people’s patience. It is very easy to forget that not everyone lives on my wall, and not everyone sees how I struggle when I do get home and my body shuts down… leaving a scenario that feels like I’m not sure how much of yesterday’s episode of neighbours I’m in need of re-running before today’s episode. Silly… but that about nails it.

So thank you. Thank you for being understanding, and for wanting me to take part in everything and for offering again and again knowing I likely have to say no… I’m saying yes more often now… so your patience has been worth it. Please do keep asking! ;)

It seems that my patience has been rewarded too. My second announcement is an absolute belter. I have been asked to support the wonderful Antonio Lulic and the fabulous Nizlopi at Unity Works in Wakefield on May 7th, voting day. You likely know who Nizlopi are… if you don’t they are a wonderful duo who have some serious kudos and an amazing underground following after they released a highly successful song into the charts a few years ago called The JCB song.

Most will be aware that I am very good friends with Antonio as it is and so having us three particular acts on the same bill really is a dream come true for me. I feel giddy beyond belief in all honesty, not only because I’m a little star-struck… which of course goes without saying… but I am just so overwhelmed that such a lovely set of guys have given me an opportunity like this. I feel completely humbled and am looking forward to putting on a professional show and getting my harmonica out to play alongside Antonio just like the old days. Gigging with friends is one of the most amazing feelings ever. I can’t wait! *If* you don’t know who Antonio Lulic is… then feel free to watch one of my finest chums being amazing on this handy video which was on the telly!

And there we have it. A little update with some positives to look forward to, and a big dollop of thank you very much. :D

Happy Easter folks! xx

Ryan Mitchell-Smith


The Director’s Cut

So I’ve just gone over 12,000 overall views on my YouTube channel!! Blimey! Therefore I wanted to say a huge thank you!

Thanks so much for putting up with my ridiculous amounts of videos and silly requests to always watch and share them. You do put up with a load from me you lot, but if it’s any consolation, it really does make me smile and gives me a warm sense of getting somewhere, despite knowing full well that they are *only* videos. They are more than that to me.

My videos are an expression of myself, of how I feel. They are the result of an idea. Always an idea. A sentence that remains unsaid until it is seen by whoever ends up seeing it. I get a huge release of endorphins when someone pops online and says “hey, I saw that video you did!” or when someone has liked or shared my video without me even knowing… It’s like winning at bingo or something! I guess it’s similar to that feeling that you *might* be on the telly because Local News are filming down your street, I mean, *who* might see it!? I’ll call it the “Hi Mum!” factor. That is genuinely how I feel whenever I’m in a photo or a video. I can never believe I’m in it!

I’ve always been the same. I get excited. You should see me open Christmas presents! As a man who gets just as excited after his 50th video as he did over his first ever video, maybe you can begin to understand why it means so much to me when someone shares something little old me did, or when someone is thoughtful enough to put a comment to say that they appreciate something I did. It makes me feel a million dollars.

I’ve never been one for taking compliments well, and for me the hit of satisfaction has never come from showing-off or having some kind of ego, although I know full well that many would assume or think as such. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, all musicians are a type of show-off in one form or another, as we have to show-off to be able to perform at all. If we didn’t, we would merely stay in our bedrooms and never share music with anyone else.

As musicians we learn to show-off in a rather unique way.

We ‘take the hit’ for having to show-off so that the point of getting the song ‘sung’ can actually happen. That way even the most timid of people can end up biting the bullet and finally get the courage it takes to actually show someone something that they do, because they realise that sometimes you have to do something for an idea, for an expression, which is bigger than the desire for attention. The desire is to get the song out at all costs, because once the idea is sewn it *needs* to happen or else a soul rendering sense of in-completion transpires and we can’t be having that can we? Nothing can ever stop that initial idea from becoming a real thing. It’s about objectifying your thoughts and feelings, DESPITE the attention it might get you. It’s about the journey.

I don’t do what I do to be better than anyone else at it. Whatever lands in my in-tray, I try to do a better job of it than the version of me who attempted it the last time. If I haven’t tried it before, then I try to set a benchmark for myself that seems appropriate, but the priority always, is that the *task* gets done as well as it can get done.

I’m just not competitive in the normal way. If I am in competition with someone who is not myself, then in my opinion it is not a competition, it is simply more than one person doing a task at the same time. Even positive competition isn’t really competition to me, it is just a different sort of “linear teamwork” in my experience, and is pretty much the only “competition” that does exist in my everyday life. If someone completes a task more satisfactorily than someone else then I’m genuinely delighted, because the *task* or objective was mutually advanced because of it. I’m a believer in the sum of the parts making a better whole as a way of life. It is Ant culture I suppose.

Ants don’t point at losers.

I think an Ant might deliberately compete to get the heaviest leaf back to the hill, but the Ant is only bothered really that the leaf makes it back at all. It doesn’t matter which Ant achieved it. It only matters to the Ant that it got the leaf there, not that it beat the other Ant to do so.

I can often see myself as an Ant. It doesn’t matter that it is Ryan Mitchell-Smith who has sung a song or played a thing. It only matters to me, that the song was played at all, or that the thing was attempted in the first place, because to me, all that matters is that I get the things out of my head that are in there. That is my *task*.

Making things exist that used to be in my head.

Because that is my focus I never feel the need to have a pat on the back for anything really. I’m not doing any of this for a well done. I’m doing it for a “I’m glad that idea you had is now a thing”. The idea being the point and task, whilst the person behind it a conduit and nothing more.

“Hey, nice solo!”

Cheers! I wasn’t playing it so you’d say that to me afterwards, just so you know. I played it because it’s what seemed right to me to play for the benefit of the song, but if you happened to be moved enough to want to say so to me then brilliant! People should be praised when they do something well… I just don’t always know what else to do with that when people say it to *me*, because I only did what the song told me to do, really. I’m an Ant. I will always automatically try my best for the good of the bigger picture, not for the good of my ego. If I am ever lucky enough to get a pat on the back for trying my best, then brilliant, that is something different and something that at least I can say thank you for and appreciate properly.

You’ve probably noticed, that I *love* praising people… a lot… and I do it, when they have done their bestest. I do that to encourage everyone else to get what is inside their heads and turn it into real things as much as possible too.

Life’s too short not to be creative, right?

So I continue, and will do so for the rest of time… making things that used to be in my head into things that are not in my head anymore and are real.

So what happens when you hit like? What happens when you share something? What happens when you tell someone else about an idea or a moment that has been captured or written about in some way?

What happens is we get a tick in our heart. A smiley face in our life exercise book if you will, that affirms to us that the idea was understood, the idea was made real, and that the idea actually happened at all.

It makes us feel real.

So thank you.

Thank you for sharing the videos and music and ideas that I’ve been involved with.

Thank you for making me feel real.

You’re all absolutely brilliant. ;)

Ryan xx

The Ruby Macintosh Retrospective

Taken by Roy Hampson (c) 2013

Only in fictional tales would you expect these two things to collide. Firstly, Ruby Macintosh and her epic debut album launch, which at midnight turned into the 16th anniversary of my father’s passing away. This is not fiction though. It is a wonderful weekend and a celebration of all that is good.

When I found out nearly a year ago that Ruby’s album launch was to be on the evening of the 19th October 2013, I gulped a big gulp and said, “yeah.. sure!”.

Ruby has been a busy lady. For nearly 18 months by my reckoning she has tirelessly gigged and busked her new material and expanded her fan base and generated funds for this rather wonderful and unique venture. Even on Ruby explaining her album intentions to me, I began to feel the magic, and so signed up for a voluntary sleigh ride into the world of #TEAMRUBY.

This team of people turned out everything from sandwiches to mixes of a track to nipping into the post office to grab a book of stamps to get the artwork off to the publishers on time.  Anything from chucking a £1 coin in a guitar case to hoisting up the stars in the rafters of the stage… Team Ruby was being built over time and all within it had the one single goal in mind… It was time to get this girl where she deserves to be. On that stage, and successful in whichever way she chooses to manifest success. Why? Have you heard her sing yet? Just… wow. The fact that this lady happens to be one of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet simply adds to the passion of all who wish her to do well.

It’s not for me to regale every dotted i or crossed t. All I did was try to act like Polyfilla  and turn my hand to whatever Ruby needed at that time. Aside from my poorly time off, it really was one of the most fabulous projects I’ve ever had the pleasure or opportunity to work on.

The day of the launch arrived and in all honesty, I was worried. I had not felt great in the days leading up to the gig and even though technically I was only playing a few songs, I *knew* one of those was going to knock me physically off my feet.

Lady Killer.

On this occasion it was possibly going to be a Ryan Killer if I wasn’t careful. I knew I had to approach the day with as little anxiety as possible, and with as much stored energy as possible, so that when Lady Killer came around, I knew I could go for it regardless of how I felt, and know that I could recover for however long afterwards. This was Ruby’s moment, and I wasn’t about to welch on what turned out to be one of the best nights of my life.

I arrived at the theatre in time for rehearsals and watched a very organised yet busy Ruby prancing around in a onesie, with rollers in her hair, yet managing to stick to her time schedule for the day to allow everything to go without a single hitch whatsoever.

Rehearsals went fabulously well, and the stage and lights began to take shape around the ever-increasing atmosphere of this wonderful 1930s building. The electricity of anticipation throughout the day managed to remove any real nerves and leave only pretty butterflies.

Break time and home to get sorted out and changed. At this point I double check that Marion and Stuart are OK and they in fact have already made it to Wakefield Nando’s… To my rather envious tummy this was bad news, but I grabbed some white bread sandwiches and let them soak up the worst of the nerves. I hope I could hold out for this. Thanks to a slick day, my symptoms were minimal by the time the doors opened and as the lights cooked the glorious looking stage I began to relax into Ruby’s night.

It was so well put together. As a member of the audience I stood at the back, and watched my best friend take the lower stage and sing her heart out, wearing her heart on her sleeve and making jokes that endeared her all the more to the 120 strong audience now gathered at beautiful tables like some audience with Victoria Wood. This was better. Victoria Wood can’t sing like Ruby.

The first set was a superlative arrangement of carefully chosen covers which as time progressed added guest friend musicians who were featured on the album. It was done in such a way as to separate the two sets visually and actually used the first half to promote the other side of what Ruby does day in and day out… She makes music for a living. This was a chance for her audience to see just how much she has developed as a performer and how she now interacts with great quality musicians. There were no fillers here. This was a show-piece introduction to the main event, and it was executed perfectly.

The audience were divine. These were an eclectic mix of friends and family and members of #TEAMRUBY, along with long time followers and fans who Ruby has picked up along her hard-working journey. Every person there was attentive and there to see Ruby, and to listen to her. We could hear her as clear as a bell. The sound guys. Well bloody done!

Carl Barber, Ross Moore and Seb Williams all clubbed together and created a fantastic sound and ambience in what potentially might have been a tricky room to manage sound in. The height of the hall meant the room had a 2 second reverb, and with bright floors this normally would cause problem frequencies, but I digress… The chaps had their mojo boots on and did a sterling job with a mammoth amount of effort.  Well done doesn’t quite cut it. Fucking awesome is closer. :D

Then there was the team from the theatre, John, Paul, Paul and the awesome guy who did the lighting and smoke machines. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stage look so tasty to be honest! Slick team of people who you would hardly know had even been there. True professionals who I hope to work with again one day. Top job!!

And the list of #TEAMRUBY helpers on the night continues, with Suzanne Denton-Barber sorting the door and Elspeth Macintosh firing food every which way she could, and Chris Sharp on CD Sales and T-shirts, and Joss Barber helping on the stalls and then Elliot and Tom and Alex whizzing around like video ninjas putting together the footage with camera friends Allan and Ron shooting from the side-lines grabbing some amazing shots of the night. Talented people all working together. It really was a well-oiled machine and the resulting atmosphere made for what I can only describe as a perfect night.

Visit the following links for a look at some awesome photos taken by two extremely talented young men on the night: (May only work if you are logged in or friends on Facebook…)

Allan McKenzie:
(FB Link)

Roy Hampson:
(FB link)

The musicians involved on the night were *mostly* on the album with the addition of a couple of other wonderful musicians who were unable to make it on the night.

In no particular order:

Rob Taylor on Drums and funky things…

Rob Skeet on Sax and sexy grooves…

Cat Thompson on Trombone and playful piano…

James Beecham on Flugal and tantalizing Trumpet…

Thomas Maddison on Upright Double boomtastic Bass… (and track 2 & 8 on the album)

Ryan Mitchell-Smith on Ukulele, Electric Guitar and “filthy” harmonica…

Ross Moore on keys and sexy fingers…

Becy Howley, Eyve Denton-Barber and Alice Wilby  on beautiful Backing vocals…

Ruby Macintosh on singy bits and awesome acoustic guitar… ;)

Ant Thompson on Trumpet and phenomenal Flugal (On the album)

Nick Wells on Double badass Bass (On the album)

All in all – a veritable and multi-talented selection of awesome musicians. (Excluding me, I went along for the ride and had my own Shackleton for if things got “a bit much”… ;)

Everyone performing at the gig was having a blinder. Everyone not only nailed their parts, but delivered them with the same amount of style that was oozing from the ever-appreciating audience. Something special was going on.

The second set saw the curtains drawn back and “Ruby” appears on the back of the stage in huge red glittery writing. Stars dangle from the ceiling in hues of yellow and orange and blue. The stage plumes smoke which catches the purple, pink and blue lights and Rob Taylor walks out alone to the drum kit. It happened to be my drum kit… Boy he made it sing! Thomas Maddison joins the stage after a few cheeky bars from Rob. Ross mooches out into the side of the stage and starts jabbing chords and I take my turn to waltz my way to Bessie the Bassman and hit a few licks. The brass section walk out and weave across the stage… The tension building as the parts synchronise. The backing singers strut their stuff and hit their pitch perfect lines… It’s time.

Ruby takes the stage. What a warm and wonderful welcome!!??! The audience go mad for our heroine as she owns a walk to the microphone, grabs her guitar, and wallops into Hey There Cutie.

The next 9 songs for me were a blur, including the encore. I remember everything, especially what I felt performing with such a great group of people, and I remember every caught eye, every look and every smile as each piece took its place on the sound stage proudly lifting Ruby up for her to shine and show us the best performance I’ve ever seen from her. She was absolutely amazing. Oh yes. Lady Killer. I remember walking forward as rehearsed, closing my eyes and taking a deep breathe. Thanks to the help I had in the day I managed to keep it together long enough to get what was in my head across to Ruby and the audience. It was an utter thrill. Seeing the pictures of it afterwards still make me feel tingly.

I therefore had my own little team to thank too. Cat Thompson, looked after me and made sure I was at the theatre on time and chauffeured me and my equipment around aplenty. Chris and Seb deserve huge thanks too for helping to lug all my gear about so I kept my energies for the show! Again, huge thanks you three. I like mike doubling as an NHS network service! Bless you! Thanks also to Ruby for the organisation of the fabulous Shackleton!! I did need that sit down! With Lloyd assisting on confidence boosting and the arrival of some of my oldest friends… Add to that the wonderful generosity of my step-dad Rod Young, lending me his 1978 Gibson 335 and I had it made! Thanks so much Rod!

The show finished with a bang, and the response at the end really was fantastic! I’ve not felt that much love in a room for years, I certainly felt appreciated and therefore I can’t imagine how Ruby must have been feeling. A whirlwind evening with an after show party to get to! We can’t get there just yet though… Ruby is *still* signing CD after CD after CD… Tonight really was everything it was supposed to be. A show-stopper. Bloody brilliant!

We pack down our things for a quick getaway during the morning pack-up and say our goodbyes.

On to The Hop!

We arrive in dribs and drabs but slowly begin to fill the courtyard and before long it is full of familiar and friendly faces in every direction. Despite a small case of being absolutely and totally and utterly exhausted, I deemed it appropriate to get in the mood and enjoy my first night out in a good while, and I would be damned if I was going to miss this opportunity to enjoy myself with all of my closest friends around me. Some had come from Derby and even as far as a place called “Lahndan”. It was an epic night of celebration and feel good factor. Apart from anything, I particularly enjoyed wearing my new suit. It’s all about braces and long purple socks ;)

We spend a few hours catching up and chattering the night away and many friends are made and many networks spread amongst the members of #TEAMRUBY who now adorned The Hop. Eventually, someone makes the declaration of “PIE!!” and we head inevitably to “The Pie Shop”, as much as anything, to enlighten our well-travelled guests as well as to line my tummy now it was free of butterflies once and for all. By ‘eck I am glad that Harmonica solo went al right!

I sit and eat pie and ask Cat the time. “2:17am”.

I pay my respects internally as the clock ticks past 2:20am and I observe my dad’s anniversary of passing away. I reflect there, in the relative madness of the pie shop, that I *knew* he was there on stage with me, and gave me the extra boost I needed to pull off the solo I had in my head. I thank him for what he passed on to me and for sharing the evening with me and my amazing friends. Then I eat another chip.

The time couldn’t have been marked in any better way. This was a gig that inspired me and made me use music to achieve a personal victory of simply “managing to do the gig” without feeling like a bag of smashed crabs. Yes I suffered the next day, and the next few days after that, but I won’t remember that bit at all. I’ll simply remember Ruby, walking out onto the stage, and performing the gig of her life. I was honoured to be a part of it.

I get home after delivering our guests to their temporary and well post-it noted accommodation and grab some well-earned zeds. My word. It did take some time for my head to stop replaying everything in slow motion for days afterwards!

I made sure I enjoyed the following day. Cat helped me pack my things and I got everything home OK and even managed a quick and spritely Starbucks with our esteemed and bloody brilliant guests and saw them on their travels safely.

I did my best to recover after that but by 6pm I was sat in a squeaky chair in a radio station in Halifax, about to be all emotional with my first ever Radio interview with Simon Frost for YUBS on Phoenix FM. I’m not sure I could’ve coped had Cat not been there for moral support. I was nervous and gabbled at a ridiculous pace but I tried hard not to be too hard on myself. It’s been a long time since I played in public. The show really was a right laugh and meeting Simon was a fantastic experience. I managed to not make any blatant mistakes with my own songs and ended up not hating myself by the time I set off back home. I’ll add the link to be able to listen again when it becomes available.

To mark the occasion in true fashion I had my dad’s traditional favourite Chinese meal (altered slightly for tummy reasons of course!) and settled for a night of listening to his old songs and smiling to myself with happy memories. I couldn’t have wished for a better weekend.

So how do you get to hear any of this? Well I will update this blog entry with links to stuffs that come from the evening as they come in, but first of all here’s the Album links:

‘Ruby Macintosh’ on iTunes
Ruby Macintosh

‘Ruby Macintosh’ CD link

Ruby Macintosh CD

Album Sampler: YouTube

For gig information and all things Ruby:

Extras definitely worth checking out:

Lovely video taken by Stuart Woodhead:

Ruby Macintosh & Ryan Mitchell-Smith – Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker Cover) YouTube

1st half video from the awesome Elliot Frost and the video ninjas! YouTube

2nd half video from the amazing Elliot Frost & the video ninjas! YouTube

I wanted to post this as a memory to myself really, so that I can look back in years to come and find all the links in one handy spot and the like. I do like this blogging thing. I’m hoping anyone else who did make the night hold their own dear account of events and can relate and look back on this in the same way as me. If you didn’t make it, I hope then that this serves as a small hint of the evening that you sadly missed. All is not lost… There will be more videos forthcoming.

Well done Ruby Macintosh… You’re an absolute star.

The Butterfly Effect

Back in August 2013 I was visited by a rather unusual guest. I say guest, as he had taken residence in my house. He was a Butterfly, who I named Paul for silly reasons, and this is Paul’s very true story.

I met Paul in an unusual circumstance to say the least. I called him Paul, as being a butterfly, he already had a similar surname to my harmonica idol, Paul Butterfield. I told you it was silly. It made perfect sense to me to call him Paul. :)

Being the summer it was warm. I’d been out in the back garden attempting to stretch my legs whilst the weather had been nice and had come inside to get changed and grab a shower. The jogging bottoms I wore on the 7th August were tossed carelessly onto my chair which sits next to my dressing table in my bedroom. Ridiculously, those joggers stayed there for nearly a month, as I *forgot* I’d decanted them there. When I picked them up 3 weeks later I noticed a dark wedge shaped *thing* clinging on for dear life at the bottom of my joggers. A Red Admiral Butterfly. It was a lucky spot, they were on the way to the washing machine, and rightly so.

I carefully put the joggers on the floor and gathered Paul Butterfly carefully into my hands and took him downstairs. I waltzed delicately into the back garden and took him to the end of the path and gently let him go.

He stayed where he was.

I walked back inside with him on my hand and picked up my camera and got some lovely shots of him, which you can see by following the link at the end of this story.

He took his time but finally took flight and fluttered onto my kitchen window frame. He stayed there for a few hours, grabbing some rays and recharging his batteries. Eventually I checked and he’d flown the nest. It made me smile for one, but the simple fact was, he’d been hibernating or some such thing in my bedroom for ages now! He must be shattered and starving!

So August turns into September and I believe the story is over. It is not.

On Sept 14th I wake up and find, to my amazement, just under my large poster of Stevie Ray Vaughan which adorns the wall above my bed, sits a dark wedge. I gasp, and surely assume this cannot be the same butterfly, now merely one meter away from where I first met him. It can’t be Paul? Can it?!?

I go and get a glass rather bewildered and safely imprison him temporarily for his own good. I again walk the miraculous creature downstairs and into the back garden. I let him go and again he takes his time. Red Admirals look the same. 2 Red Admirals having a kip in my boudoir is a little weird.

So that’s it. Isn’t it?


28th September. My 36th birthday. I wake up. One dark wedge, sat just *above* my Stevie Ray Vaughan poster. Another Red Admiral. I burst out laughing. I look across to the photo of my dad on the opposite wall and chuckle even more.


I’m not a religious chap, I just feel my dad’s spirit sometimes, normally when I set a gobiron (harmonica to non-yorkshire folks) to my lips and close my eyes to play. I felt my dad’s spirit alright. Not necessarily in Paul, or butterfly number three, if indeed that’s who it was, but the simple fact is, that I got a happy birthday from my dad, however I look at it.

I again gathered him up and took him outside, and once more he stuck around, and carefully fluttered away into the morning. A sunny morning.

I haven’t picked up my walking stick since. :)

Wakefield’s Weakness: It’s Biggest Strength

In response to @nichihodgson and her recent rather scathing account of Wakefield found here:

Now then.

Wakefield is a thriving, wonderfully rich and beautiful City. It isn’t as big or bolshie as Leeds, and it doesn’t have a fancy train station… more like two mediocre ones barely joined together really. Wakefield just has a decent sized road running through the middle of it… which has turned into a drinking walkway for Saturday night drinking enthusiasts of which a small number generally cause a scene of some note, but that in comparison to many Cities, the “vibe” here is safe and only mildly loutish on the main “strip” that is Westgate. That’s it. That’s the only bad thing about Wakefield. It’s a bit rowdy on Westgate on a weekend. Well I’ll be struck down with a stick of rhubarb if that’s enough to keep me from living in and loving this fabulous City.

You see there’s an enormous majority of people here that know something you don’t.  The weakness is the strength. Everyone who lives in Wakefield knows about the Westgate run, and can pick and choose whether to join in or not. I’ve done it myself many times many moons ago and it is a great laugh on the whole. Because we all know where the potential trouble might be (of which there is barely any of real note), we all know where not to be. Ergo we all go to the fabulous places that can be found in and around Wakefield, in a scenic route of “little walks” you can achieve a beautiful night out with enriched company of friends and strangers alike and spend time with some of the friendliest and down to earth people with open minds that there is.  The pubs and bars and restaurants in Wakefield are dotted with gems a-plenty, which are frequented by Wakefield’s biggest attraction. It’s people. If you know where to go in Wakefield (and it is EASY to find out) then you can enjoy one of the best kept secrets in the north… Here’s a rhetoric to get you thinking…

Why do people like Kal Lavelle, Antonio Lulic, Ryan Keen, Jharda, Rosie Doonan, Jon Gomm, Gary Stewart, Skint & Demoralized, Howard Marks, The Cribs etc. to name a tiny few *keep* coming back here?? It sure ain’t for the money…

It brings me on to the other side of the social scene here… namely the music scene. (And before you start, yes there’s loads more here than just a music scene!!)

This place has a goldmine running through it… of talent, great venues, and the right outlook on what performing music is all about…

In Wakefield, there is no pay to play scheme, no horrible competitive atmosphere that reeks of falseness and egos, or horrible dingy venues that keep your shoes once you’ve paid a quid on the door for your free bottle of Castaway (‘Players’ closed down ages ago!).

There is however no short supply of gigs to get, gigs to go to, open-mics to visit and play at, theatre’s to see quality show’s at, galleries (yes, there’s more than one!). We even have a Sculpture Park that is actually beautiful to walk around and is not just a gimmick, a friendly and bustling city centre through the day with great coffee venues and places to people watch, with loads of *ace* shops when you know where to look and who to ask (it’s not hard this stuff). We even have beautiful places literally *everywhere* with a short drive from the city in *any* direction and I challenge anyone who disagrees with me there! The night life is the best time to experience Wakefield though, in my humble opinion… because it is then that the fabulous folk of Wakefield descend upon its many wonderful and friendly bars and restaurants…

Ever been to Harry’s Bar on a Wednesday night? Awesome night right there. Eaten at The Cowshed on Northgate on a Friday night? Stunning food, best service there is. Been to the Open-Mic Monday at The Hop? Loads of talent that’s not forced in your face. Excellent. Ever chilled out at Fernandes Bier Keller on a Sunday afternoon? Everyone should do that once in their life. It’s cosier than ‘Cheers’. Seen Dr Feelgood at the Cathedral? No? *shakes head* Georgie Fame at the Theatre? No? This is the tip of the Iceberg really… and yes, this is my own personal account of experiences… But.. This place is just *so* rich with people and life, that I’m proud of it, and I’ve barely got started, there is *millions* to do here.

It may not have a “Harvey Nich’s” and you might have had to get your FCUK top at TK Maxx, but for one, you’d have got it cheaper there any road, and for two, you can FCUK right off if you think this “City” *wags finger* is all about the recent regenerations and making it less “Dingy”… Wakefield is a smouldering candle of decency, generosity, creativity, and above all…

Lovely people and “Yorkshire-ness”.

Now where’s me Rhubarb Crumble?

Ryan Mitchell-Smith

Wakefield, Yorkshire.