Blog: Man
& the Echo

Gaz Roberts from the Warrington band says he knows hard work – and making music ain’t it

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It’s awards season and the high profile “artists” of the day are lining up, hoping to have their heads patted and rosettes pinned to their collars. The winners are invariably the “artists“ who have produced a product that combines a kind of pretentious and vapid worthiness with profitability, and they are duly rewarded with an ornament of some kind and a few moments to address their adoring public. Invariably they will use this opportunity to cloyingly pay tribute to their beaten competitors, who smile and shrug through gritted teeth, and to advise us, the slack-mouthed public, that anything is possible and that hard work can pay off. They then involuntarily gesture towards their trophy, as if to offer proof. Some of them even cry real tears for being given prizes for their “art,” so they must either genuinely think that their success is down to hard work of some sort, or they are sinister psychopaths who can weep on cue. I’m more comfortable thinking it’s the latter.

Because the truth is this – making music, recording, playing gigs isn’t hard work. It’s nothing like it. It can be tiring, frustrating and difficult, but it’s also fulfilling, rewarding and lots of fun. For a band like us, it’s what we do on holiday.

People who know the weekday version of me, the one who does banal paperwork and sends lots of emails, say I must be exhausted from living these two disparate lives. Although it’s true to a certain extent that finishing your working day and then spending four hours rehearsing, or driving across the country to play a gig can be physically tiring, it also has a rejuvenating effect.

There’s a section in Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists where Frank Owen, the book’s protagonist, is temporarily relieved of his humdrum decorating duties and asked to paint a mural. For a brief time he finds himself actually enjoying his work so that it doesn’t feel like work at all. He has the freedom to think and express himself and, although he isn’t paid what he is worth, the effect on his self-esteem, his happiness and even his physical health is transformative.

I’d love nothing more than to pack in the day job and make my sole living from music but I’m not envious of the award-chasing artists who have to check in their integrity and thank credit cards in order to do so, or the connected trust fund kids of the loafing class who have the time and privilege to really make it work. We get to do things our way, and the fact that people come to our gigs and buy our records so that we can afford to make more never ceases to delight and astound me. When a stranger told me recently that they habitually listen to our album when they walk their dog, I felt like making an acceptance speech.

We’re currently on our first UK headline tour and as I write I am in the back of a van en route to Glasgow. Last night we played to a sold-out Deaf Institute in Manchester, and I would not trade the feeling of stepping out on that stage for any of the prizes that get doled out at the top of the food chain. At the foot of the ladder, where songs don’t pay the bills so something else has to, there’s a blessed sense of perspective. When sold-out gigs, radio plays and recording sessions aren’t the full-time norm, you realise how fortunate you are to get to experience it at all. We know hard work well, and this ain’t it.

Man and the Echo play Buyers Club, Liverpool, 8 March

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