In recent months I have been talking to a number of musicians about playing original music at gigs as opposed to cover versions. Before I go on, let me be clear that I love cover versions of great songs, BUT I love original songs even more, especially when I hear them for the first time. Last year at a festival a well known artist commented “I have to give them the occasional cover version as a reward for listening to my material”
I set up The Original Ukulele Songs Project (OUS) to bring together artists who were writing original music. My own band The Small Change Diaries only plays original songs and I increasingly believe that we need to write and perform songs that capture audience interest. Personally that’s part of the challenge and the craft in writing and performing. Its in my view not the easy option, but one that I feel is important. I have often commented that without original songs there would be no cover versions. I fully appreciate that in the ukulele world this is not a majority view and I totally respect that other folks may totally disagree!
So far The Small Change Diaries have recorded and released 17 original songs and this year we will be adding another ten to this total, when we release “Lullabies for Cynics” At The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival this May we will play an all original set and OUS are sponsoring a stage for original artists. The OUS project is totally separate to my band, although The Small Change Diaries are one of the OUS artists. Last year we played 3 main festivals in the UK and overseas and every song in each set was original material.
My personal belief (and others are welcome to disagree) is that the best artists push the boundaries and constantly seek to find what’s new and inspiring. This is not to say that covers of existing material can’t be inspiring or remakes of classic movies can’t be entertaining, but there’s no greater joy for me personally in creating something brand new. I’m lucky to work with some brilliant musicians and to know many folks who share this enthusiasm for original songs.