THIS WEEK:DEBS McCOY
Debs McCoy is a new music artist based in Northumberland about 10 miles north west of Newcastle in the countryside.
A real talent is Debs,I first heard her fantastic piano work and found her music to be at once-soothing,peaceful,endearing & engaging & I just couldn’t stop listening to it.It calmed me & put me in a good frame of mind (*note from Johnno’s family-Johnno is mostly calm & very often in a good frame of mind,its just the strange voices in his head that we worry about,thank you-family over & out).
I enjoyed them so much that Debs very kindly recorded some piano pieces on the fly and gave them my name! As Deb’s puts it “Johnno Casson said he really enjoyed my piano sketches & requested a cd’s worth from me so I sat down this afternoon, hit record and began playing. The result are these 4 sketches (in order of being written) – they’re pretty rough as I literally sat and played with no rehearsing or reworking of any sketch – whatever came out is what is captured in each sketch – when it felt like each sketch came to an end I stopped the recording”.
Deb has in recent times become a member of the Freshnet team and we are very lucky to have her.She does tireless work in championing new music artists and moderating our dropbox with many a supportive word given to artists passing our way.We don’t feature her because she is on the team,oh no I am not that easy you know,we feature her because to my ears her music,her musicianship,her voice & her songs are beguiling,beautiful & bewitching.
So let me tell you a little more about Debs.She is a painter and photographer as well as a maker of music. She trained at The Kent Institute of Art & Design and Goldsmith’s, University of London. She has had 15 group and solo exhibitions in recent years including shows in London, Canada, Japan and San Francisco. Debs also exhibited at The Baltic Centre For Contemporary Arts, Newcastle, in ‘Learning to Love You More’ shown alongside Yoko Ono and Fluxus exhibitions in 2008. She has also been a sessional lecturer on Fine Art degree programmes.
Debs music is acoustic and moves between folk pop/rock, blues, indie and instrumental styles. Debs is a multi-instrumentalist playing guitar, piano and harmonica. She has played in bands and at festivals with her brother Jay McCoy and Carl Stafford from KT Tunstall’s former band Elia Drew and has played weekly live sessions and festivals with Sean Harrington from Pillbox & Mishaped Pearls in London. Her recent music focusses mainly on her solo work.
Debs has played live in session for the BBC and received multiple plays on radio stations across the world.
Debs was a virtual recluse for almost 3 years due to crippling anxiety and agoraphobia brought on by an employment tribunal against her former employer. These struggles propelled her back into making music.
I had the pleasure of meeting Debs face-to-face recently at Proud Camden as part of an all day live music day we were both performing at for Ralph’s Life CD launch for the Rethink Mental Health charity (via The Fine Line Project).
And you know what,she is not only a great performer (performing on the day with the wonderful Ali Warren) but she is a lovely person too.It feels me with joy when you get to know someone online and think-yeah they are good people and then meet them in person and realise they are just like you thought they were-no sides,no ego,no difference from their open,friendly & caring online persona-Debs is real good people.
In fact 99% of all people I have met online have been lovely people,as I mentioned on Twitter t’other day-there are shed loads of good people out there in the world-reach out :).
Her new album ‘Silent The Corner’ is out now and keep an eye out for forthcoming live dates.
Whether you bump into it on your musical travels,search it out online or in person,please take a moment to pause and savour the wonderful music of a special lady called Debs McCoy
1. What are you up to at the moment?
I’ve had some pretty serious health issues so I’m slowly getting that back on track. I spend most of my time writing music, taking photos and film and making fires (indoors…..controlled ones!) I love fires and have lots of them in my little cottage in Northumberland. I have a bit of an obsession with wood so I’m often out collecting or sorting out my wood shed. The wood shed is always super tidy and organised and my house is always a tip!
2. Favourite childhood memory?
Family caravan holidays when I was little playing cards on the fold down table with it chucking down with rain outside. I loved the sound of the rain on the roof of the caravan and loved watching it against the windows. I really loved the smell of the caravan too and the awning…it was probably mildew or something but its a smell that instantly triggers very fond memories.
Brian Keenan. When I was in the thick of a particularly desperate time in my life a couple of years ago I read Brian Keenan’s ‘An Evil Cradling’ twice cover to cover within a few days. It gave me lots of strength and a hearty kick up the backside when I considered what he’d endured for many years in the most inhumane circumstances; held in captivity, not knowing if he was going to die from one day to the next, tortured and starved. Yet he found the ability to retain his sense of humour through the ordeal which in itself probably saved his life.
4. Villain? David Cameron
5. What/who makes you laugh?
Conversations with my nieces and nephews/friends young children. I love the spontaneity of children and their ability to flit from one thing to the next covering lots of topics of conversation in a nano second. I had some friends come round on Monday with their 2 young kids. The eldest is around 3.5 years old. He marched boldly up my path (not knowing who I was as he’d last seen me when v.young) I said ‘hello’….he beamed then said ‘have you got any toys?’ I smiled and said ‘well, I’ve got a small piano in there, you can playwith that if you like?’ With that he pushed passed me at the door and like a rocket was into the lounge. He then got me plugging in the piano into my amp….within 10 seconds he’d already spied something else….‘what’s that?’ pointing at a jar of marbles….I said ‘they’re marbles’……‘can I play with them?’ I got him the jar of marbles and in seconds they were all over the floor. He then turned round and saw my guitars stacked up….’what are they?’ And the same pattern repeated for the 2 hours they were here…he moved from the guitars to a capo, to plectrums, to a plant pot heater, to Christmas decorations, to a battery, to old telephones……and then his young daughter burst out crying and he started getting niggly. My friends looked at me and said ‘I think its time we should probably go!’ It was a whirlwind but a lovely whirlwind. I’m still finding marbles around my lounge days later!
My older brother always cracks me up too. He has a fantastic sense of humour and will always send me funny emails and texts about things that have tickled him.
6. Describe what you do?
I used to work as an Art Psychotherapist in the NHS but I don’t do that anymore. Now I spend my time creating a variety of music from acoustic stuff to cinematic soundscapes. I sing, play guitar, piano, harmonica, trumpet (badly!), and whatever other instruments or objects I can get interesting sounds out of. I also take still and moving images. I have a bit of an obsession with guitars. I find it v.hard not to buy them when I see them, even ones in charity shops and I always have to pick them up and play them. I had 9 guitars up until a month ago but now have 6. I had to sell my 3 best guitars so I could pay bills and buy food.
7. Who’s hair would you like to have for just one day?
8. Best musical experience to date?
Well it’s kind of a negative experience but it was v.funny and its the memory that sticks with me the most. Around 15 years ago I played at a festival in Hackney with my brother and 2 of his friends. They were all exceptional musicians and had travelled down from Lincolnshire to play.
It was a huge stage with maybe 400 or so people sat on the grass. It was the first gig I’d ever played and I was utterly terrified. We didn’t end up playing till much later in the day so I ended up drinking lots of red wine…like two bottles worth. I was absolutely trollied! By the time we got on stage I thought I sounded like Joni Mitchell although in reality I had my capo on the wrong fret for the first song. My guitar was out of tune. My vocals were horrific and also very out of tune. It was an absolute car crash. I also don’t know if it was the sound guys idea of a joke but it turned out that the only mic and guitar that was producing sound was mine. So all the lovely and very accomplished sounds from my brother and his mates fell completely silent.
I’m not sure we got past the 1st song before my brother stopped the charade. I staggered off stage and they continued playing and joined another band in playing some tunes. Not really a proud moment but since then I have a rule of never drinking before playing a gig!
9. What artist inspires you?
The first person who springs to mind is Melody Gardot – probably because of her personal trauma which led her into creating music which ultimately helped her recovery from a horrific hit and run accident. She was left for dead by the side of the road and was hospitalised for a year with serious head and spinal injuries. Any visual or sound based artist or indeed non creative person that has the ability to find the strength and motivation to create art or find some other means of reconnecting with their awful personal experience and to have the courage to share that with others is always deeply inspiring to me. Its no surprise many artists have had troubled histories from Billy Holliday to Kurt Cobain to visual artists like Frida Khalo. Personally I get great strength and inspiration from any individual, whoever they are who have faced real suffering and have come out the other side.
10. What does Fresh On The Net mean to you?
In brief it’s a fantastic online resource to hear some truly wonderful new music from under the radar musicians and of course a great chance and opportunity to receive feedback from like minded folk about my own music.
And……the not so brief! From an initial upload and introduction to Fresh On The Net I began making weekly visits to the Listening Post to listen and to vote on the new tracks that had been uploaded. At a time in my life when even leaving the house to go and buy a pint of milk would fill me with the fear of something catastrophic happening to me, the Listening Post became a constant and a bit of a lifeline.
Having the routine and a kind of job, albeit a loose, Joe Public arrangement, gave me a sense of purpose as well as a chance to re-connect with the outside world when I’d previously been living like a hermit, not only struggling to leave the house but also not answering my phone nor being unable to invite people in due to crippling anxiety and panic. Having conversations with like minded musicians online began to re-build my self esteem that had been shattered by the awful life events that I had gone through.
After a short while I received an email from Tom asking if I might be up for joining him and the rest of the Fresh On The Net team in moderating tracks and making contributions to the site. Naturally I was delighted and was very pleased to become part of the team. It’s a real privilege to go through the 160 or so tracks in the Drop Box every week and really exciting when something really grabs me and literally stops me in my tracks.