My Lovely friend, Simon Shelton Barnes, passed away yesterday. I’m heartbroken.
Simon was a tall, handsome and dapper soul, a man who had been to theatre school from the age of ten, and was in a ballet company in America at 16 before returning to England and doing the West End. Simon was a great actor, choreographer and made millions of kids world wide happy as Tinkywinky in the Teletubbies. We worked closely for years at Ebony and Ivory, teaching my clients how to get over nerves on stage and become confident whilst performing. We also worked on loads of choreography and photo shoots. He was a multi-talented and funny man. We laughed and had fun working on many projects together, including BGT and X factor.
My heart and love goes out to Emma, Lydia, Henry and baby Finlay, at this sad time, I loved you Simon you were indeed one of a kind.
Ajit and the rest of the colleagues at Ebony & Ivory send their condolences, as Simon was a popular man and very loved by all, especially my students who had the pleasure of working with him. He was my very special friend.
I recently meet a charming, clever, fit man who I’m happy to say is now my client; his name is Professor Charles H. Knowles.
Charles has a country band called The Wild East. It’s a trio comprising of your man on vocals and guitar, Andy Biggs on piano and Frank Cooke on lap steel guitar. These guys have recently returned from a Nashville trip armed with great new songs and they’re going into the studio to record, so I have been getting Mr. Knowles ready to rock for the studio and live gigs.
I love working with this man, he is funny, intelligent and totally dedicated to everything he does.
When Charles leaves the studio he heads back to his prestige job which is amazingly impressive. His title is Professor Charles H Knowles PhD FRCS & Hon Cons. Colorectal Surgeon Bart’s Health NHS Trust. He lectures all over the world as he is renowned for his skills as a bowel surgeon.
Just recently, one week in his life comprised of back-to-back work all week, followed by (at the end of his mad schedule), live surgery to an international audience of 60 other surgeons. Well good grief, that impressed the hell out of me!
On the 3rd of June Professor Knowles went home to eat and catch up on a well-deserved rest. He switched on the telly and began to watch the horror on London Bridge unfolding due to the atrocious terrorist attack. The attack left many people hurt and killed after being run over by three attackers in a white van. Then attackers then proceeded to jump out of the now smashed vehicle, wielding large knives and savagely stabbing as many people as they could before the police shot and killed them.
Charles jumped out of his chair and went straight back to The Royal London Hospital, to see if he could help with some of the many victims hurt by this terrible and senseless attack. That night Prof. Knowles operated on two of the victims and was still there at 4.30am fighting to save precious lives.
He is indeed my new hero, and I’m honoured to be working with this talented man, go Dr Rock.
My Mate, Brandon Friesen, was born in Minneapolis and is an American Grammy Award nominated and multi-Juno Award winning Record Producer/Audio engineer/Mixer/Song writer and Television producer.
His current companies include record label Blue Cadillac Music, with partner Billy Ray Cyrus, Arbor Television, and C12 records (distributed through EMI Music Canada). Brandon recently worked with Dionne Warwick recording a Billy Ray song at Jamie Fox’s home studio.
Brandon’s career has spanned many years. In 2006 he was honored for a second time, as engineer of the year at the WCMA Awards.
As a producer, mixing engineer and audio engineer, Brandon has worked with the likes of Randy Staub (Metallica, Nickelback) and Power 97 Sessions which include acoustic performances by Nickelback, Sum 41, Everlast, Seether, Staind, Fingers Eleven, Three Days Grace. He’s also been working with The Calling and is involved as writer and co-producer with the Kooks whose current release is taking the world by storm. Their first single Be Who You Are, is climbing the charts like greased lightning.
I recently sang on a few tracks with The Kooky Boys (as I like to call them), especially their new single which is a smash hit. I’m very very proud to be part of it especially as the boys have been my clients for the longest time. Seeing them working with Brandon is extremely exciting.
I had the great pleasure of meeting and working with Brandon through my manager Erika Lee, who talked Brandon into letting me co-produce vocals for a project they were involved in, and that was the beginning of our wonderful relationship, which has led to us collaborating on various projects together, both here and the USA.
I’ve sat in on some of Brandon’s sessions and watched this tower of power work his magic with my artists. He’s great at making them laugh and feel at ease and getting vocals out of them that they did not think were possible. Brandon also excels at working on artists’ writing skills with his talented team. I’ve seen him drive singers to perfection right through the night. With his calm, cool and charming manner, he gets performers to work til they’re on their knees, but delivering more than they ever thought possible. Despite being driven to their limits, the artists are always amazed with the end product.
Brandon’s commitment to his productions doesn’t end there, he mixes and masters the completed tracks sprinkling them with Friesen music fairy dust.
Brandon is a wicked guitarist and clever musician with an extraordinary passion for his work, so of course the tracks themselves are always amazing, exciting, fresh, new and totally rock. Kinda reminds me of sitting in and working on a Mutt Lange production. The sheer dedication and perseverance to deliver a magnificent end product is a marvel to behold. They are both rare breeds indeed.
I’ve just returned back from this rock star’s home in La La Land, where I was treated to the holiday of a lifetime. I met some of Bollywood’s finest actors, producers, film makers promoters and models. But most especially Arko Pravo Mukherjee, a film maker and singer/songwriter, who’ll be coming to London after finishing recording with Brandon to work on pre-production at my performance academy for his pending tour dates.
Brandon and I, worked and played hard, laughed till our sides hurt, ate for Africa had meetings about my pending book which he’s helping me to publish. I even swam with Strawberry, his Red Slider turtle from Missouri, she has now moved into the swimming pool, I wanted to move in with her.
I adore and admire this wonderful man and can’t wait for the next time I see him again. We’ll be continuing to work on our exciting new projects which are scheduled for this year, and, of course, we’ll be having more fun.
Thank you for being who you are baby, so much respect.
Strawberry is a Red Slider River Turtle from Missouri, she’s a girl.
Born: June 9, 1972
Died: March 6, 2003
Once upon a time there was a beautiful young woman who wrote lyrics that could tear at your soul, sing her heart out and charm the birds out of the trees. She had the spirit of a warrior and possessed a will and determination that I had never witnessed before. This inspiring, talented beauty became my client and a very close friend to me. I loved her dearly. Her name was Alice
The Late David Einthoven, one of Robbie Williams’ managers, put me in contact with Alice. She had met him through a friend and he was trying to help her with her career. In turn he asked me to give her some vocal tuition and help with her breath control. Alice suffered from cystic fibrosis (CF), a
terrible affliction she had from birth. When I met her she was waiting for a heart, lung and liver transplant tat she hoped would save her life.
Cystic Fibrosis affects the lungs and digestive system. It’s life threatening and sadly, only half the people with CF don’t live to the age we would all love to reach. Alice had a life expectancy of ten years when she was born, but lived till she was 30 years old, an extraordinary feat.
In meeting Alice for the first time down at my dance studio, I never suspected how ill she was. She was confident and smiley and had a wicked sense of humor. We hit it off immediately. She was going to take the world by storm. Alice had problems with her breathing and from the coughing she
endured daily had nodes on her vocal chords. It would have been an impossible situation for almost any singer but it was never going to hold her back. Alice played piano and flute and did most of her writing round her piano.
She had to take more medication than the Lord has sheep. The list was endless, and I won’t even attempt to go there. She often had to stand still so she could breathe, something most of us just take for granted. A big part of her life was devoted to taking seemingly endless amount of drugs just to keep her going. Yet you never heard her complain it was something she had to do
and she just got on with it.
In the earlier part of our journey together, Alice went to a nightclub in Paris where she danced away merrily until suddenly she lost her balance. She became a bit unsteady if she was on her feet for too long. Inevitably she went flying into the DJ’s booth and both her and the resident DJ – plus his equipment – crashed to the floor in a heap. Alice was flushed with embarrassment and then she just started laughing, which was typical of her. Everyone laughed so much, what a character she was.
She had a quirky little walk due to her condition but hid it so well. When she was younger she was set on being a model and had to often endure walking up stairs for meetings with different agencies. She would have to leave very early so she could rest whilst climbing the stairs inch by inch to
ensure she wasn’t breathless when she arrived. To prevent people noticing her gait Alice came up with various ruses. She would bandage her leg and limp in, explaining that she had twisted her ankle. She did whatever she could to keep them from noticing anything unusual about her.
I spoke to her almost every day and as our friendship grew I started to realize what she went through on a daily basis and how ill she really was. We had become very close mates so my day was not complete if I hadn’t heard her voice to know she was okay. Some days she was very tired. She may
have had a nasty turn during the night or a massive bleed, which resulted in a trip to the hospital again but she just pushed on with her steely determination.
I remember taking her to a restaurant one stunning summer’s day and we sat outside basking in the glorious sunshine before we ordered our food. When the waitress came over Alice said, “Glass of wine please, love, and an ashtray.” I looked at her and said “You can’t have either of those, sweetie”
and she answered “Trust me, let me just be normal for a few hours, okay?” So the waitress brought wine for us both and Alice asked me for a cigarette. I gave it to her knowing I was never going to give her a light.
She proceeded to chat away lifting the glass and pretending to drink the wine, then smoking the unlit cigarette and flicking the make-believe ash into the ashtray. I just carried on doing the same and sipping her wine as well as mine so the glass was not always full when the waitress came round to top us up. We had the best time and I loved her even more by the end of our day. Oh, and I had to leave my car at the restaurant and get us both a cab home as I was totally drunk by the end of our afternoon out together.
Her family and friends were always supportive and there for her especially her brother, Luke, who was her rock during her life and her suffering. He adored her. Luke is an amazing artist and has painted many pictures of Alice for his gallery. He captured her with such accuracy that I was
astounded. I am the proud owner of a painting Luke did of her entitled ‘L is for Lyricism’. It forms part of a collection he painted – an alphabetical series of pictures that begins ‘A is for Alice’ celebrating her life, character and achievements.
This collection was sold at auction after Alice’s friends launched a fund in her memory, the Alice Martineau Appeal in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. I went to the auction with Daniel Glatman, Blue’s first manager. He presented the painting to me at the end of the day as a gift from the boys, who could not attend due to work commitments. It is something I will treasure always. Thank you, Luke. Looking up at my picture I can almost feel Alice in the room.
Alice loved cats as I do and most especially ET, the extra-terrestrial character from the above named, a film brought out in 1982, is an award winning American science fiction film, directed by the one and only Steven Spielberg, who brings any fantasy film to life and leaves you spellbound when its over . She’d say she and E.T. had a lot in common, especially the shape of their fingers with the bulgy bit at the end making it easier to point to their destiny.
My boys from Blue were peaking at the time. The world was their oyster and Alice was a huge fan. She was so excited when I told her I worked with them, so I organized a meet with the group. Duncan, Lee, Simon and Anthony arrived at my recording studio and surprised her with a huge bouquet of flowers and many hugs and kisses. Later a flushed and happy Alice was invited to Wembley to watch one of their concerts.
By then she was in a wheelchair most of the time but rocked it out with everyone at the concert in her specially allocated wheelchair area. The boys made a big thing about her being there. They all met her before the show and made such a fuss of her, which we captured on camera. Then Duncan announced on stage that there was a very special person in the house that night. He told their audience to go and buy her new record. Then the house lights went up and he introduced her. She was utterly stunned – especially when 12,000 people shouted out her name and cheered her on, making her day complete and letting her feel like the star she was fast becoming.
On June 15, 2002 Alice arrived on her manager’s doorstep with a copy of an article in The Daily Telegraph. It was her life story, which she had written herself and called ‘Living for tomorrow’. It was a very detailed story of her struggle with CF. He immediately asked Alice if they should have another go at trying to get her a record deal. They had tried before but inevitably most interested parties were put off by the fact that Alice had problems with her health. This however never fazed her she jumped at another chance. She was determined to get her music heard no matter what.
Jo Charrington and Nick Raphael from Sony Music, received a demo with some of Alice’s tracks and were both blown away by her songs and haunting voice. They all met and it was decided that they would sign her to the label.
Nick said, “People will say, ‘She is ill so you should sign her’ and others will think she is being exploited’. It was a hard decision to make: damned if you do, damned if you don’t, but they went ahead regardless as they believed in her songs and her ability as a new and fresh sounding artist.
The signing was completed in 2002 and things started to move immediately. Most of the writing had already been done as Alice had been writing steadily for a few years. Sony released her debut album called ‘Daydreams’ her first single was a wicked track called ‘If I fall’. Alice’s second single was to be ‘The Right Time’ and the release date was set for the February 10, 2003. Sadly, due to her deteriorating health, it never happened.
Many different producers worked on the Daydream tracks. One of the last songs recorded was ‘Breathe Tonight’. Jo Charrington called me and asked if I would go to the studio to be with Alice and help her get through the song. As she was really battling to get the vocal completed I went immediately. At that stage of her life she was accompanied by a nurse and was constantly on her nebulizers and oxygen whilst battling through her vocals line by line.
I was in awe of her tenacity but was also terribly conflicted with concerns about her health. Although she was exhausted Alice just would not give in. Her lyrics would contain large gaps to enable her to catch her breath in between lines. Finally her polished pop CD, enhanced by incredibly
touching lyrics, great melodies and Alice’s hauntingly beautiful voice, was complete. Through Sony she also filmed a fabulous video of her new single and received loads of radio play. She was so on her way to where she wanted to be.
Alice wanted to do some live gigs with a band so we started rehearsing at my studio. She had a lot of talented friends who wanted to work with her. After a good few sessions with the band (including my goddaughter Amy Richards and myself singing backing vocals) we were ready to rock. Alice was worried about not being able to stand through the gig so it was decided she would sit on a high chair. We had a great set of her material ready.
On the morning of her first big show she was on steroids. Still she did her sell-out gig at the 606 Club. Some time earlier David Einthoven had set up a meeting between Alice and Robbie Williams. She adored Robbie and was so excited about meeting him. He surprised her by turning up at the venue
and after the show gave her a standing ovation along with the rest of her audience; she had knocked everyone out with her performance. When Rob asked her to do some writing with him it made her day complete. She was beaming with pride. The writing session with Rob would never happen but it
was great for her to be asked and the moment was captured on camera during the night’s footage.
Alice and her friends documented much of her life through her music. At my studio, whilst rehearsing with her live band for the gig, when the boys came down to first meet her, at Wembley with them and on another day when they recorded with her, plus her live gig itself when Robbie Williams graced us
with his presence. This footage enabled Sony to put together a story about her, which was taken up by the BBC and became an award-winning documentary. Alice had the pleasure of watching it with a specially selected audience before she died. I sat next to her all the way through, trying to keep
it together while she just sat quietly and smiled throughout. It was another very emotional day with her nearest and dearest. The BBC documentary, called The Nine Lives of Alice Martineau, was broadcast after she died.
Alice never went far from home as she was on a waiting list for her life-saving triple transplant. Even if she was lucky enough to have all three organs donated in one go she would have an 80 per cent chance of surviving this terrifying operation. Alice explained in her documentary that there is never enough donors for this sort of transplant as people don’t like thinking about death too much so consequently don’t do enough to help this situation. I wish I could help someone someday but no one would want my damaged heart now. However there are people who could help to keep someone like Alice alive.
Since Alice had been a baby she had looked into the abyss and dealt with it everyday of her life. She was coming to the BBC on March 6, 2003 – Red Nose Day – to spend the day with Blue and myself. We were all going to have a laugh on this special day but then I received a call from her Mom to
say she would not be coming… as she had died at home that morning. Our beautiful Alice had lost her fight for life. She was just 30 years old. I fell to bits, as did the boys when I told them. Our eyes were as red as the silly noses we were wearing. It was a very tough day to get through. The
content of the programme was full of fun and laughter but my heart was broken. I’m not sure how I made it to the end. The sense of loss was almost unbearable but as the saying goes the show must go on.
‘Inside of you’ was a song written about Al, the love of Alice’s life. Her lyrics are so special. I cried when she explained that if she were no longer here she would like to think she was living through him. She wanted people to feel emotion when she sang and this song does just that.
You’re letting me live inside of you
You’re letting me live as someone new
Believe in me ‘cause I believe that somewhere there is an angel
Watching over your life
Sometimes there is a silence
Somewhere a face in the light
Know the places where I am
No those faces are me
No I’m watching over you
Do you feel it too?
Alice always wanted to be forever young, another of her song titles, she will
always be forever young to me as she did achieve the almost impossible
during her short life. I’ll never forget my amazing and wonderful Alice. She
remains my heroine. The Alice Martineu Appeal
In aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust
I teach some fabulous new artists and love to watch them grow. The incredible voice of Ella Henderson who flew into the charts at number 1 with her first single Ghost followed by her debut album Day Dreams; Becky Hill my young rock chick who hit the charts at number 1 with her mighty vocals on overdrive by Gecko.
Now and again an act comes along and knocks me out with a new project that’s totally fresh and exciting. Life of Dillon have done just this for me and I predict they are going smash it, with their fresh new sound wave. With their music they capture the essence of being free spirits and enjoying life to the full. Their lyrics and melodies are fresh, joyous, clever, carefree, fun and totally original. Life Of Dillon reminds me of spring bursting out at its best and blasting out its first rays of sunshine making me feel warm all over.
In one of their songs the boys offer up a bit of wisdom that sums up the band’s philosophy in one line:
If your dreams don’t scare you, they ain’t big enough.
It’s a killer lyric, I so wish I’d written it.
As soon as I met Stevie we got on like a house on fire! Kindred spirits. Everything I loved about writing, she shares the same passion for, and I knew from that moment she would be in my life forever. She’s done so much for me in terms of helping me find my voice, which I’m eternally grateful for. I’d go to the ends of the earth for this wonderful human being!
Stevie is an incredible vocal coach, and has been there for us since before we could afford to pay her any money. I’ll never forget that. I used to use you tube to find vocal exercises, which did help, but they cannot compare to the one on one time you get with a professional.
I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Australian born Seann who came over to the UK last year to compete on The X Factor. He made a major impact with his mighty voice, stunningly good looks and his flair for fashion leaves you gob smacked.
I have fallen in love with this gorgeous creature and I know he is gonna take this country by storm!
He is just about to embark on 2016 British tour with The X Factor gang and I know he is very excited, I can’t wait to see the show in March, I know he is gonna shine as he always does.
Go Seann sweetie, you are a born star, we all love you.
I was so sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s death last week.
I met Joe Cocker the rocker, in California in 1979, what a great bloke and the best rock singer ever. I have had the delight of singing with him on many occasions.
My lasting memory of him was in the 80’s when we, that is Chris Thompson, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Micky McDonald from the Doobie Brothers, Brian May, myself and many other fantastic artists did a song called Yes We Can under the name of United Artists for Nature.
Joe will be sorely missed by the music world and all who knew him.
Ella Henderson’s debut album, Chapter One, was released on 13 October 2014 and peaked at number 1 knocking Jessie J off the number 1 spot. Now that’s the way to do it!
Ella’s first single, Ghost went straight to number 1 and now her fantastic album has followed suit. I’m so proud of my girl. Well, it’s not surprising considering what an amazing singer she is. Well done sweetie, it’s a pleasure working with you as you challenge me with your range and ability, I like it.
I am proud to announce that my team Alan Bradshaw, Simon Cookson and myself created the music for this incredible footage of the Virgin Strive Challenge.
My friend Philip Artus and co. were the “Official Nutrition Partners” sponsoring their incredible energy “Bounce Ball bar”, a delicious protein Bomb high in antioxidant E.
Well done to Sam Branson, (Richard Branson’s wonderful son), Noah and the team for this amazing achievement which raised over 700k for the ‘Big Chance Foundation’.
We’re very proud to have been part of this and meet the gang at the Kensington Roof Gardens for a get together of celebrations and jubilations, along with Sam Branson, Noah Devereux, Karl Lokka, Jack Whitehall(Comedian), Jermain Jackman (winner of The Voice) who sang his heart out on the night. Also, to crown a perfect evening, the one and only charming Prince Harry came by. It was a wicked night and a wicked gig for me, thanx Philip.