Entertainment Music

Friday 21 September 2018

‘Always read the small print’ – musician Alan Marshall warns young artists not to make the same mistake he did

Alan Marshall
Alan Marshall
Alan Marshall
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Alan Marshall came to music relatively late in life. He was 26 when he decided, in 2000, to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter, but a bad decision regarding a management contract meant he was restricted from releasing original material for almost a decade.

Originally from Scotland, Alan has been living in Dublin since 2005.  He wrote his first song ‘Keep Fighting’ in 2000 and played in cover bands before he was asked to audition for The Complete Stone Roses, a tribute band to the Mancunian legends.

They enjoyed great success, touring Ireland and the UK, playing all the big festivals including Wittness and Oxegen in Ireland. 

However, when Alan, and some of his fellow musicians, decided to leave to form another tribute band, issues arose with their former manager and the resulting court case trundled on for eight years.

“With my contract it said that any new material I produced, whether on my own or collectively, the manager laid claim to.  Not just what we produced with the band, but everything,” Alan tells Independent.ie

“It was an oversight on my part in particular.  At the time [I signed the contract] I was quite happy to be given the offer to do it and thought, ‘Jesus, this is cool!’  I’d only been in the band a couple of years and this was a chance of our first series tour.  I was just buzzing.”

Alan Marshall performing on stage
Alan Marshall performing on stage

However, Alan did not fully understand exactly what he was signing.

“Always read the small print – that’s the one piece of advice I’d give any young artist.  If you’re talking contracts, get someone in the profession to look over it.  If you’re offered something like that anybody would jump at it because of the excitement and enthusiasm, but always take time to read the small print.”

Alan admits he felt bitter and regretful at the time about how his career had effectively stalled, but even though he did not release any new material he continued writing.  However, the court action was eventually withdrawn leaving Alan free to reignite his career.

In 2012 he independently released his warmly received debut Suilven Heights, a mix of pop, rock, funk and soul.  He co-produced it – singing, playing guitar, percussion and string arrangements.

“I suppose it was more of an artistic release on my part, trying to prove a point that I could do it,” says Alan.  “When you’re working in a tribute band, musicians often get tagged with not being legitimate or in some way a 'spoofer'.”

The following year Alan worked with Dublin musician Mark O’Sullivan on his album under his moniker ‘Goatboy’.   They were friends and Mark asked Alan to play bass and gig with the band, although he said he stayed “longer than I intended” because he enjoyed what Mark was doing although he was itching to get back to his own material.

Two years ago he started working with Damien Kellegher, a guitarist from Inchicore.  They hit it off and decided to put together a line-up of musicians to play Suilven Heights live and played several “really great” gigs in Dublin.

However, Damien tragically passed away at the age of just 41 shortly afterwards.

“This was a huge blow to me,” says Alan, who credits Damien with helping him to finally find his groove and Irish folk leanings by introducing him to the work of The Dubliners, Planxty, Luke Kelly and Frank Harte. 

“I felt I had found my calling, at last.”

Last year he wrote his second album A Beautiful Brawl, a contemporary take on Irish/Scottish folk music, which launched in May at the Sugar Club, and features musicians of the caliber of Cait O’Riordan (formerly of The Pogues) and Cyril O’Donoghue.

“They tell me these songs are strong songs.  I do feel like I’m creating the strongest work of my career now,” says Alan, adding with a laugh, “It took me a bloody long time!  Although Seasick Steve got his first record deal at 58 I think!”

Speaking of record deals, Alan is understandably wary of signing a contract given his past experience.

“As long as the music keeps selling there’s no real need to have a record label,” he says of releasing material independently.

“I love to make music and it would be nice to have someone backing you as it gets hard financially so if somebody was to take a punt I’d consider it.

“But I’m too long in the tooth to be changing my image or changing my creative process or style of music or writing. 

“I see new bands emerging in Dublin all the time and they’re pretty restricted.  Their hands are tied.  When you look at a lot of music now a lot of it is pretty bland and beige and that reflects how companies treat their artists.  They expect artists to behave. 

“There’s no edginess.  Gone are the days of rock n roll stars.  I think Liam Gallagher was probably the last.  There’s nobody with an edge now.  If there are, record companies and management tend to steer clear.”

See alanmarshall.ie for more info and upcoming gigs.

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