#MY MUSIC STORY – DMS FOUNDER: ELROY ‘SPOONFACE’ POWELL – PART 4
#mymusicstory #creativeminds #growwithus
We have been collecting music stories from industry veterans, aspiring young musicians and entrepreneurs to bring together inspirational advice.
We all love stories and you don’t need to be famous or a millionaire to feel you have a valid one.
It’s only fair I share fragments of my own experiences and will be doing so with peers from the industry via the DMS website to help others make informed decisions about their own journey.
Part 4: Surviving the Decline.
“More S girls!” my choreographer would snap! I was lead, chauffeur driven, to Pineapple studios for performance prep. Amazingly graceful, athletic, powerful yet elegant woman greeted me as I entered my first rehearsal. The closest I came to choreography before then was Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do forms. This was different!
“More S Girls…Oh I need a fag!” – How do so many fantastic singers and dancers smoke so much? The fun in the room made it easy to take the steps onboard and I stayed mates with some of the girls for years later.
I was never interested in ‘fame’ but recognised it came with the game and enjoyed the perks. I didn’t drink or smoke. That was never really my thing, having grown up around it put me off big time, but trust me I had fun! There was a period of time I felt like I could do or say anything and get away with it, but slowly things started to change.
The day after performing on Top of the Pops I went to Argos to buy a kettle. I remember a little Chinese lady pause, stare at me for ages then blurt out with a confused tone “I saw you last night. What are you doing? You shouldn’t be here!”
The humble start I had to life meant that none of the hype phased me. The challenge was dealing with the demand on your time, your emotions and of course, your money.
Yes it’s true, fake friends miraculously appear and then disappear even quicker when you seem to no longer be of any use to them. I had people claiming to be my manager approaching labels on my behalf without my consent, producers cutting deals for collaborations we hadn’t even done yet and all sorts.
Not everyone that gives you a hard time is your enemy. Sometimes the truth hurts but it’s mostly good for you. Thankfully I had long time friends and real family that would offer words of wisdom at the right time to bring me back in line. My mother has been a diamond!
I remember doing some promo for an event near Southbank somewhere and a lady looking after me, I think her name was Sue, was just the most supportive, helpful, caring person I’d come across from the label. Waiting for my driver to take me home, she helped me find the biggest bouquet of flowers ever to take with me. The look on my mums face was priceless and bought home to me the truth of what really matters. It is so important to cherish the relationships we build and maintain with people that love us unconditionally. They will last beyond the fame and no amount of money can buy them.
When the song – You See The Trouble With Me – hit, I actually didn’t have any money for ages. The label advanced me some cash so I could get clothing for the intense promo schedule, but I had to wait a while before I got paid from Pa’s.
When money came, it really came, but when it went, it went! This taught me to always put a bit away for tax and a rainy day. I’m not a financial specialist but If you can tuck away 25% of everything you earn that’s going to be useful. 10-15% isn’t gonna hurt either.
When the ‘power balance’ shifted in many of my relationships through the attention I got, some around me had ego issues and so did I at times. I learned to treat people how I liked to be treated, but that doesn’t mean take any crap. Communicate, get on the same page and if things don’t work, let go and move on. It’s ok.
After Black Legend, it felt like everyone wanted me to do Barry White covers for the rest of my life. It was the hardest thing to convince people otherwise and I got a lot of flack for it. People didn’t believe I really did the vocal for years and wouldn’t sign some of the other music I experimented with. Politics would arise and I couldn’t get support at mainstream Radio or TV for releases. This meant retailers wouldn’t take orders and therefore no chance of a chart position.
I decided to let go of worrying about what others thought. I had to do what was right for me. As long as I was truly happy with the music I made, that’s all that mattered. That’s when the fun began again. I featured on remixes for Pink, Craig David, Kelis, collaborated with Ragga Twins, Omar, Janet Kay, Colonel Red, Seiji, Freq Nasty, Deekline and Wizard, Ill Logic and Raf, High Contrast and all sorts. I performed at clubs all over Europe, Festival Hall, Jazz Cafe, Exit festival, Glastonbury and loved the live scene in Rotterdam.
I spent a chunk of my life sat in studios watching people produce and asked the most annoying questions picking up tips. Especially with Jerry, his brother Adrian Meehan (Wendy House which moved from Fulham to Hammersmith) and a talented Swedish producer Anders Kallmark (who worked loads with artists from Kylie Minogue to UK Garage label Middle Row Records that sprang forth Dj Luck, Mc Neat and more).
Several other musical turning points have to be mentioned.
One, discovering the Broken Beat scene that lead to the ‘UK funky / funky house’ scene and a greater appreciation for Afrobeat in the UK mainstream.
Two, meeting Phil Craig one of the most talented musicians and all round special human beings I know. I would turn up with bags of food and spend weekends sleeping on his floor and writing.
Three, I made most of my first solo album with super talented guitarist Adrian Curtis. I’ll never forget these moments.
I became a sponge learning how to be better creatively and also about the business. I had no choice. I had to manage, release music, promote, write letters, make artwork, have meetings, check agreements, post vinyl, write press releases, register with performing rights organisations and confirm show bookings all by myself. I was working so hard at times I forgot to look after my health. Eating properly, working out and taking time out are essential. It took me a while to respect that. The burn out is painful and when you’re self-employed, you don’t get sick pay.
At times I had no money. I remember a moment when my credit was so maxed out I couldn’t get a phone contract even though I was spending two sometimes three times as much per month on pay as you go. I had to get a day job working at a college and I hated the bureaucracy. The majority of the students had such a great energy and willingness to learn. Some went on to be great musicians and are active now in the industry but the college at the time did little to connect what they taught with the real world. My ideas kept falling on deaf ears.
When things don’t seem to go your way, it’s not always so bad. In my case it lead me to do my own thing. Times were rough for a while but I had seen worst days so I could still smile. Ultimately, I had a burning desire to do it my way and it was paying off.
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