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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Happy return to Gothenburg

I'm coming to play in Gothenburg again. And this fact makes me very happy.

I'm going to be gigging HERE on Friday 24th October from 20.00hrs and I'm going to be HERE on Saturday 25th October from 21.00hrs.

We'll be four on stage - me and three Swedes. Guitars, voices, basses, percussions, songs, choruses, stories, love, loss, anger, despair, optimism and a smile.

Come! You know I'd like to see you.


Friday, 27 June 2014

The Looking For... tour ends at Lütt Matten

Now, here's a thing: a singer might want to become part of the fabric of a venue, yes? Well, I have. At Lütt Matten the proprietor, Rainer, decorates his ceiling with the posters of (I like to think his most impressive) former artists. And I'm there! Part of the fabric...

Anyway, Lütt Matten is a rabbit that gets killed and eaten by a fox and a crow as told in a folk story-song in the Platt Deutsch dialect. (Stick with this blog, you'll never want for small talk on a first date.)

Only a short drive from the previous night's gig, we turned up to this fine Musikantenkneipe (Musician's pub) run by friendly host Rainer Martens in quiet mood knowing this was the end of our short tour. Truth to tell, I was tiring. Five gigs in five days with the driving that goes with it is heavy going. I needed beer.

Rainer was not to spend the evening with us as he had to visit his girlfriend near Hamburg as she was poorly (hope she's better, R!) but Beata was on the bar and she looked after us royally - you always know it's going to go well when the host(ess) takes the trouble to find out about you and then gives you the big build-up. Ellen and Bert were our best fans (Ellen likes the Irish and has a shamrock tattoo to prove it & Bert bought us a whiskey by way of encouragement). We played well, the audience stayed for the full evening - including another impromptu acoustic post-gig session - and a good time was had by all.

Ian, seeing that his big cousin was waning after a full-on six days, dug in to help give the evening some extra zip. Now that's what you need from your side man - good on you cuz. This is a partnership that is finding its way.

Great hosts, great bar, great evening.

Now, we just have 12 hours to drive tomorrow...

Monday, 23 June 2014

Cafe Instinkt: More than your normal gig

Cafe Instinkt: the coffee bar in Die Klinik Nordfriesland
Our penultimate gig on the Looking For... tour was in a less than usual venue - a bar in an oncology after-care rehabilitation hospital. My second visit. Ian's first.

Perhaps it's that Thomas (our host) and his audience have a different perspective, but the vibe here has a calm welcome that makes it special. It's somehow relaxing to be in this place and that gives it a pleasant shift in mood from the hurly-burly of most of our other venues.

I had prepared two sets before we set off; one for the bar-gigs and one for the concerts. Some of the more delicate material won't stand up to the demands of an audience that hasn't necessarily arrived specifically to sit quietly and listen. However, my cuz and I decided that we'd settled in to the bar-gig set rather comfortably and decided to stay with it with just a couple of tweaks to include some of my solo material and to tailor the running-time to Thomas's requirements.

The quality of the sound in the room was very crisp and it made the performing experience, to my ear at least, quite a pleasure. I always enjoy a bright room in which I can clearly hear what I'm playing and after an intro by the host we played our best gig of the trip so far to our largest audience. Ian was on top form, settling in to his less accustomed role of accompanist, but also beginning to relish the brief spot in which he features his own material. He was great. And he managed to accommodate a couple of my occasional musical trips off-piste - always a pre-requisite aptitude in any of my musical partners.

I thought I performed well, too - apart from a couple of lapses in memory the possibility of which always seems to lurk in the background when I sing. Hey, ho. But Naked was strong, the solo songs went down well and Jeffrey and Robert and I - that oldest of reliables - garnered a very powerful response.

And we sold some CDs, and we made some money, and Thomas puts his performers up in a luxurious thatched-cottage-style hotel, and we're staying here for two days, and we're going to walk the beach and chill for the day before our next and final gig nearby at Lütt Matten ...

Palette, nurturing home for bruised singer-songwriters

The enigmatic, charismatic, supertastic Hansi Scholz

How Hans-Peter Scholz ended up running the finest music bar in Europe for 30 years (it's official, see the celebratory poster behind the bar) in a fishing village in the outback of Schleswig-Holstein is anyone's guess. He should be in a wrong-side-of-the-tracks drinking den in N'Orleans or a 1950's London hipster coffee bar.

That he is where he is, doing what he does, is a balm to the heart of any genuine performer who happens his way. Ask Ian, whose singer's soul was saved (see last post) by a fantastic night in Kappeln, playing to an audience who came to listen and appreciate - on account of how that's what you do when you go to Palette 'cause it's Hansi's place.

And we played great, and we sold CDs, and we made money, and we ate post-gig matjes filet - like you do at Hansi's.

The contract between singer and bar-owner never feels so clear and honourable as it does at this welcoming music bar. Hansi knows what his commitment to the artist is and it's therefor easy to respect your side of the deal.

And it all works. It's great. It's lovely.

On to St Peter-Ording!

Some you win...

The world's smallest stage

OK, Eamonn* was up front, and gigging in a sports bar in Germany on the day that nation played Ghana in the World Cup was not the best idea ever, but we were in Berlin on the Friday and Kappeln on the Sunday and Hamburg was sort of mid-way and I didn't want a blank night...

I think we won some kind of prize for fitting onto the smallest stage in Christendom, thus reinforcing our admiration for our Bose PA - couldn't have done it otherwise.

Anyhoo, the audience was not so interested in the angsty ramblings of an Irish-Anglo singer-songwriter and his cousin when they had drinking and football to contend with. Also, the twelve-hour-long celebration of a young Colombian lady's 21st birthday that we tagged on to the end of was louder than us and, probably, of more interest to any non-football obsessed bar-goer than we were.

Germany drew - which was probably better than the result we achieved. But we stuck to our task and subsequently managed to find a tapas bar that stayed open beyond 1.00 a.m. that served good cold collations and red wine, so the evening was not a complete failure.

So, goodbye to Paddy's bar and on to Kappeln and the ever-charismatic host of Pallete, Hans-Peter.

* Genial bar-owner and host who said it might not be a good idea

Saturday, 21 June 2014

The Looking For... Tour: Germany June 2014

The Setlist

We kicked off The Looking For... Tour (north Germany, June '14) in my favourite hotel in my favourite city: Die Fabrik & Berlin (see earlier entries).

Accompanied by m'cuz, Ian McFarlane (who has done a sterling job, thrown in at the deep end, as percussionist, harmony singer and second guitarist, playing 30 songs he didn't know a week ago), I played two 10-song sets either side of a World Cup match (such are the pragmatics of the life of a not-so-famous-singer-songwriter).

Martina and Andi and Liverpool Ian - the core of my Berlin fan-club - all turned out, bringing friends along to provide a friendly audience which bolstered the usual group of hotel guests and lovely staff members to create a warm and welcoming ambiance for the itinerant musos.

We drove overnight from Calais, arrived at 11.00, breakfasted, slept then rehearsed, set up, slept again then performed.

The new Bose system sounded great, the performers remembered their stuff, Ian played a great one in his own mini-set-within-a-set, and it was all good. France hammered Switzerland, we played an even better slightly alcohol-tinged post-match-second-set and all was even better.

Great to see everyone here again. Ian has already decided we're coming back next year, so, apparently, we'll be seeing them again soon!

Thanks Die Fabrik, thanks Berlin - and I hope all you enjoy the new CDs you bought (Solo and Looking For...).

On to Hamburg on Midsummer's day!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Gigs: Germany, June '14

I'm playing five gigs in Germany soon: Berlin, Hamburg, Kappeln, St Peter-Ording and Garding (20th-24th). Apart from Paddy's Bar in Hamburg they're all places I've played before. I've not been doing enough live work and I'm keen to go and get in front of real people. Will they like it as much as me? Let's find out!

I'm being accompanied by Ian McFarlane (cousin and singer-songwriter in his own right), so there'll be a new flavour to the proceedings.

The bulk of the material will be from the two new albums (both recorded this year - I've been busy): Solo and Looking For... .

For more info see gigs at

Got to go, more perparation to do!


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Fans' Gig '14

Another Simon Hopper Fans' Gig, a staple of - and the unofficial start to - my gigging year took place last Saturday.

I enjoyed it. The audience seemed to. The 'crowd' was characterised by quality rather than quantity but those who came out to see and listen to some real live music were all stalwarts of the event and the atmosphere was warm and conducive to a good night's story-telling-by-song.

Thanks to Paule Zeyner and Norma Huss, fifty percent of Clarsach, who travelled from (near) Stuttgart to play the support set (with a little help from yours truly and Leigh). Mostly Scottish traditional material it was lovely on the ear and beautifully played.

Leigh and I played the second set (with a little help from Paule and Norma) which included a trio of songs from my new CD Solo, and a smattering of songs from the back catalogue.

Seven years in, the event is settling into a happy milestone in the calendar. To all you regulars who came; it was good to see you again. It's a sign of something when the audience is able to prompt the singer when he forgets his own lyrics. Thanks.

Thursday, 13 February 2014



My new collection of songs, Solo, will be released at my annual Fans' Gig in just over a week's time on 22nd February.

It's a compilation of songs the type of which - contemplative, often slight, often short, usually played with minimal accompaniment - there usually isn't much room for on a 'band' album. They are songs written over many years, some going back as far as 15, the most recent coming into being as recently as summer 2013.

For a variety of reasons, including cost but also to reach for a greater intimacy, I decided to record these at home on my own. This made the project more 'Solo' than any other I've done. (An exemplar of this approach for me is Bert Jansch's Rosemary Lane.) Just one other musician appears, Fran Freer on cello who played for us What's A Boy To Do? that I recorded with Leigh in 2005.

I had to buy new mics and pre-amps and finally work out how to properly user my 8-track hard-drive as well. I was reminded of how difficult it can be to record when you're the only arbiter. I tried to concentrate on immediacy and presence. I hope I got somewhere close. Andy Le Vien from RMS Studios mixed, mastered and tweaked the final recordings and, as ever, made the outcome as good as it could be.

Although I didn't set out to achieve it, the presence of my recently departed parents is evident and some of the subtle effects that the departure of parents has on us, I think.

The tracks are:
This Empty House, Fireworks, Orange Room, This Hotel, Rope Ladder, Why Don't You Write?, Barbara and John, Eight Things, A Shirt, The Compass, No. 5 Reds, Joke, Portrait.

(I think there's a threat of Solo being made album of the week on Celtic Music Radio - in any case, you'll hear selections from it on Alan Burke's Wednesday evening show - check it out.)

Monday, 27 January 2014

Touring in Germany June '14

Another quiet period is about to end with six gigs coming after another bout of gig-booking to prove my intent.

There's the Fans' Gig '14 on 22nd Feb at the usual venue in Bromley. Come, it's good for the soul.

Then I'm going to Germany again. I'll be traveling two-up with a new gigging partner (more of whom later) and revisiting four venues and one new one - all as below.

Gigs in northern Germnay (all June '14):
BERLIN: Fri 2Oth; Die Fabrik Bar
HAMBURG: Sat 21st; Paddy's Bar
KAPPELN: Sun 22nd; Palette
SANKT PETER-ORDING: Mon 23rd; Cafe Instinkt
GARDING: Tue 24th; Luett Matten (see pics)

And soon, I'll tell you about my visit to the Celtic Connections Festival, recording for the splendid Alan Burke on Celtic Music Radio, and my two new CDs (I've been quiet but not idle).