Tim Ower (Sax) – Life on the road…9th November 2016
Tim is a London based Saxophonist and a graduate of Leeds College of Music, he has gone on to perform and tour across the UK and internationally with a diverse range of award-winning artists and groups spanning a multitude of genres, from working with pop and commercial artists on the stadium circuit and festivals to performing with renowned techno DJ’s, Bollywood film composers and touring with original groups playing in rock venues and jazz clubs.
In this blog, Tim tells us a bit about what he’s been up to recently, specifically touring with the group WorldService Project, and touches on the ins and outs of traveling and working within the music industry from his perspective…
‘Touring with WorldService Project’
This September was the second tour of Asia for WorldService Project. In October 2015 we toured across China for two weeks and this September we toured China and Japan for three weeks to promote our third album, ‘For King & Country’ out on RareNoise records. The group formed back in 2009 and in 2010 were awarded the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award which helped us to initiate a collaborative tour with Norwegian band, Synkoke. Since then, we’ve toured Europe extensively, collaborating with over 10 European bands, performed at a number of major UK, European and International Jazz Festivals, represented the UK at the 12 Points Festival 2012 and toured on the 12 Points Plus 2013 scheme, we were shortlisted for the European Young Artists’ Jazz Award at Berghausen Jazz Festival 2014 and had a 6 week tour of the USA.
I can safely say that touring across Asia has been a completely new and humbling experience from any previous tour with the band. The vast majority of cities that we performed in had populations twice the size or more of London, the language is impenetrable, and it’s culturally very different from our western comforts. As ever with this band and the type of music we play (think Zappa crossed with Stravinsky, Meshuggah crossed with Weather Report, there’s a challenge), our concerts range from 1,000 plus audiences at festivals to 30 people in small music venues. This brings up a number of difficulties from dealing with entirely different sound environments and stages each night to constantly changing and contrasting backline equipment, sound engineers (we can’t afford to take our own yet!) and venue regulations.
The one factor however on both tours of Asia that never seems to vary, is the enthusiasm and dedication of the audience and people involved in helping the tour come together. There is a keenness and interest for new music that I’ve not seen to the same degree anywhere else before. The openness to something that hasn’t been heard yet is quite incredible, whether it’s a six year old jumping around in the front row or a sixty year old sitting quietly at the back. We play in a jazz clubs, rock venues and outdoor festivals; the response has always been an extremely positive one, with a wide demographic enjoying the shows.
Touring with WorldService Project over the years has been a huge learning curve and something that is constantly developing on all levels. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that we’ve tried to address and are constantly working on is how to always deliver the same show with the same energy, night after night. This can be incredibly difficult; the music is powerful, dynamically contrasting and challenging to play, and it takes a lot out of you to perform. It often gets harder to achieve this the longer that we’re away for, but we continue to strive to play our hardest and give our best to whoever has given their time to watch and (hopefully) enjoy our music.
We plan to go back to China and Japan for a third tour next year to build on our fanbase and we’re constantly grateful for the support from funding bodies such as the Arts Council for England and the British Council.
‘On the road’
From a personal point of view, being on the road for extended periods of time can be really hard work for a number of reasons. It’s been easy for me to assume that as I’m away and performing almost every day, my playing and practice will take care of its self. It doesn’t. I have to make time to do my own practice each day, warm up before the shows and work as hard as ever to still be creative on gigs without losing that element from one gig to the next. This is, for me, the biggest challenge of all. If I can get into a routine of arriving at a venue and finding a quiet place to practice, even if only for 20 minutes, this often does wonders, and helps me to be more creative each night.
As well as the challenges of personal practice and development on the road, I’ve found it makes a huge difference to have gear that I know will come out of the case, sound exactly how I want it to, and play consistently night after night. I’ve had my Cannonball Vintage Tenor for over a year now and I can honestly say it does consistently perform, time after time. Part of the reason for moving over from a vintage horn to a new horn was for reliability when I’m away and the low level of maintenance required. I’ve found that the Cannonball is not just more reliable but is a fantastic sounding horn from top to bottom that plays incredibly easily, has a big powerful tone and allows me to be as free and creative as I like. Assuming I’ve warmed up and done some practice beforehand…
Traveling daily (anywhere from a couple of hours to all day), playing very energetic shows and visiting new cities each night, takes its toll very quickly. I’ve learnt it’s important to try and get rest and adapt to be able to rest up whenever and wherever I can. I’ve also found it vital to have a good dynamic with the guys you’re touring with. Although it’s possible to have your own space, in my experience, you do only get a couple of hours on your own on certain days so I’ve found it’s really important to enjoy spending time as well as playing music with the guys you’re away with. When you work it out, touring life is usually about 5% of actual playing and 95% of everything else!
Since graduating from Leeds College of Music 8 years ago, I’ve been lucky enough to do a really diverse range of gigs and sessions, working with original groups, pop artists, commercial and independent labels, techno and house DJ’s, Motown shows to Bollywood film composers. For me, being as adaptable and open as possible to styles of music (and people) is something that I’ve found invaluable. More than this, it’s what I enjoy doing and it’s what keeps me striving to develop and create as a musician. I’ve found that living and playing in London also formed this opinion and outlook; it’s been a very long and steady progression to building a full time career in music for me and I’ve tried to take on and get involved with as much as possible. I’ve found it more important than ever to not only be able to play and progress on my instrument, but to develop skills in all other areas to do with composing, writing, arranging, teaching, web design, social media, video editing, recording software, organisation and communication to widen my skills and therefore work load. Over the years I’ve managed to obtain a basic working knowledge in all of these areas which I feel has given me the capacity to develop myself as a freelance musician.
***You can find out more about Tim at www.timowermusic.com and keep up with his travels on Instagram and Twitter. Tim endorses D’Addario Woodwinds and Cannonball Saxophones