On a walk around Chris’s childhood haunts in Oughtibridge, I did not expect to meet such musical characters including Paul Wellars drummer Ben Gordelier and Whitby Folk Festival organiser and all round folky Barry Minshall having a daily stroll. Chris showed me the village hall where he gigged, the bedroom window that hosted his first home studio and the school he attended and met some of his closest pals.
Chris has spent many years away from Sheffield working in Nashville as a sound engineer for producers such as T-Bone Burnett, Buddy Miller and Colin Linden and has now returned to Sheffield to help run Fox Den Studio in Kelham Island working with acts such as Before Breakfast, The Attic Movement and Tom Taylor Biggs.
Why is Sheffield such a special musical city?
You can’t tie it down to being known for just one thing. Yes there’s an obvious association with guitar music but we’ve had some hugely influential electronic music spawn from here and the folk scene is alive and well.
What did school and college give you before you moved to Leeds College of Music? Any specific individuals that made a difference?
At school I remember feeling totally free to pick up any instrument and give it a go. There was a big group of us who’d make bands and use the school music rooms to practice, often swapping instruments from song to song. There were the usual classical school band programs but there was always a place for us “guitar-music” people to express ourselves too. I remember playing in multiple Battle of the Bands and a 70s review at “The Deep End” (now a weatherspoons... RIP) all organized by school. Oh also they let me do my year 10 work experience at The Boardwalk (also now gone!) which is where I leant how to use a mixing desk from “Fester”, who still does sound at Greystones these days.
My time at Barnsley College was really amazing. Tim Speight taught most recording modules who was one of Pete Waterman’s engineers. He was still going down to London to engineer sessions in-between teaching us! We would literally hear songs on Radio One that our tutor had worked on. Having a tutor do what I dreamt of, at such a high level was so inspiring.
Did your community support your music making as a youngster?
Yes! With the exception of a few disgruntled neighbors after playing “gigs” out of friends garages...
Having a supportive community is so important; who’s going to be at your first gig if not your family and friends? I played many a night at the boardwalk or grapes knowing 100% of the audience personally ha!
Why is music education so important?
Well I’m sure I could write pages on this but two things immediately come to mind:
1- Collaboration. 100% of what I do now is collaborative and being in formal music education is such a good way to develop the skills needed to do it well.
2- Practice. I’m of the mindset that talent isn’t really worth much at all without hard work and practice. Being taught how to practice and encouraged to do so is priceless. It can be discouraging when you don’t pick something up right away but simple repetition is wildly powerful.
If you would like to support our music making in the city of Sheffield please have a look at our fundraising page:
The '100 Musical Walks' is a sponsored event.