22 July 2016

matthew shepherd

It's a muggy and cloudy Friday afternoon in London, light rain is in the air. The evening commute has started, and office workers make their way towards bars and pubs or sweaty trains, the weekend is about to begin. I on the other hand are headed into town, to meet up with singer / songwriter Matthew Shepherd, to discuss his new EP, The Sea. We meet at Kings Cross station, and fighting our way through the crowds, we retreat into a nearby pub, liquid refreshment required before sitting down to chat amongst the commuting throng. Matthew is smartly dressed; blue suited, perhaps not your everyday look for a burgeoning singer of the folk tradition. That though is because he has to split his time between working, performing, writing and recording. This is grassroots music, an artist who has to juggle his day job with his passion. X-factor and instant fame this is certainly not. 


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Courtesy of Matthew and Emma Shepherd
The Early Years
After pleasantries we settle down to talk music. It's immediately clear how approachable and affable he is. He makes you feel at ease and you can tell he is passionate about his craft. He enjoys the grind, the process of putting everything together, and he's only 21! He talks about the process, he writes, he advertises, he tours. All the time juggling work life and other commitments. A day doesn't go by without him picking up his guitar, even 30 minutes is better than nothing. He got his first guitar aged 14, £40 from Argos. He's toured with his school choir to Italy and played in a jazz band. His musical roots formed.  He's also had vocal training, knows when and where to breath whilst singing. His gratitude to the school and these early years of practice in the bedroom and pub gigging are clearly visible, they have motivated him to decide that being a musician is his goal. 

We discuss the writing process. It is all about being alone. Locking the door to outside distractions or sitting in coffee shops jotting down lyrics. He likes good coffee. The results of these endeavours so far are an album, (Top of the Tree - released in 2015) and the new EP - The Sea. The album hit the top 100 on iTunes, he puts himself down when saying this, but that's no mean feat and is to be congratulated. Remember this is all done without the backing of a  record label. 


The Sea EP
We move onto his latest release, The Sea. Striped back songs, that take you on a personal journey. He suggests this is more his direction and style than the album. Lyrics such as 'Is she still lost' and 'I don't know where you are', give some indication of the personal content. Youth finding their feet in an ever changing world. Each song is a little like a fluffy white cloud on a summers day. Individual and pretty. We ask Matthew about where he gets his inspiration, The Corrs and Kate Rusby are mentioned. Lyrics from everyday situations, oh and coffee shops! And these songs certainly hark to these influences. There are six songs in total and the cover (see above) has been beautifully illustrated by his sister, Emma. Keeping it in the family. He's currently on a UK tour promoting the EP. With a date at Ronnie Scotts Jazz club coming soon. Clearly an important milestone in his career. He then heads to the Isle of Wight for three dates, and with other possible gigs coming before Christmas. Certainly busy times ahead. He talks about the live process, being up close and personal is where he prefers to be. The buzz and enjoyment this brings. 


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The Future
As with any creative talent, the thoughts move onto the future. It seems Matthew is already planning ahead. Although a break is almost certainly scheduled as well. He's started to use a tenner guitar, and he's keen to have a cello on his next record, (cello players over to you!) Clearly there is a lot more to come from this talented individual and what direction his music takes will be interesting to see. Made all the more impressive by the fact he is doing this all independently. From future gigs to the next project, Matthew is not going to sit still. 

Heading to the Sea
We talk for probably far longer than we both originally thought, but he is an engaging presence. We discuss Brexit (good writing material?) Happy to discuss everything thrown at him. It may have been a muggy Friday evening but on the journey home I felt a certain renewed hope. The English music scene stretches far beyond the manufactured pop of today, and it seems is in a healthy state. Young musicians, working to the bone, deserve success. They should be championed, celebrated. Matthew is one of those, and his work deserves, no requires your time. We depart with a firm hand shake, wishing Matthew well on his career. Who knows we might just be seeing him on the big stages around the world in future years? 
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If you would like to find out more about Matthew's work and touring schedule then please click on the link http://www.matthewshepherdmusic.com/. You can also purchase The Sea EP from iTunes by clicking on the following link https://itun.es/gb/2Or2cb

If you are an upcoming musician or group and would like to be featured then please drop us an email (see my contact details for more). 
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15 July 2016

a little guide to vienna

'Grand', 'opulent,' 'expensive,' all words that could describe the Austrian capital Vienna (Wien). Sketches recently had the opportunity to explore this wonderful city, with something of a whistle stop tour. Whether you are an art lover, a fan of classical music, a culture vulture or just a wandering tourist, this city will give you plenty to keep you occupiedAnd quite likely burn a hole in your pocket. So Sketches gives you its Little Guide to Vienna.

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Outside the Parliament building
The Circle Walk
From our base, the elegant Hilton Vienna Plaza the main attractions of the city can be easily discovered by foot. In fact with a little planning you can do a circular walk that will cover pretty much all the bases. It will take you about 3/4 hours, depending on how long you want to stay, explore each location on route. From the University district to the Museum Quarter, The Palace and Opera House to the Cathedral, you can see it all within a few short hours of walking. Great exercise everyone. You can also hire bikes (more of that later). So if your time is short, like ours was, then this is the perfect way to get a flavour of the city. 


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Street scene - Vienna 
Museum Quarter
The museum quarter is a large complex of interlinking museums.  There is such a vast range of choice, from modern and contemporary art to classical culture, this is a place to lose yourself for a few hours. The museums aren't free but if your budget allows you could quite easily spend the day hoping between the different museums, popping out for a coffee in one of the cafes that occupy the courtyards. Again here with a little pre-planning you could chose which museum 'rocks your boat'. There are so many to choose from. There were some free exhibits, one in which unbeknown to me was actually open yet! Well I had a quick look and made my 'Sorry I'm a tourist' excuses! 

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Wall artwork in the Museum Quarter 

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Museum Quarter 
Bike Hire
The best way to see the city, and any other city in the world for that matter, is undoubtedly to hire one of the city bikes. For a 1€ registration fee, and with the first hour (of any ride) free its well worth the expense. Vienna is a cycle friendly city (take note London!) Green cycle ways circle the central business district and can easily be covered in an hour. So see all the sites (although briefly) for free! As with all these city bikes, they are hard work, but Vienna isn't too hilly so riding is ok. 

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"Grab your bike!"
The Palace / Cathedral / Opera House
These are really the top attractions to visit. Hoards of tourist throng each of these areas and here's a tip. If you don't like being pestered, then avoid the 'Mozart' dressed concert sellers. You'll get bombarded. I'm sure they are great concerts but being pestered every 5 meters is not what I want when exploring. The Cathedral offers you a little rest-bite from the crowds (once inside) and if you're happy to climb the 300 odd steps then the views from the top are superb. Be warned its a spiral, narrow staircase but the rewards far outweigh the pain! Wandering around the Palace complex was a nice way to get a flavour of the grandeur this city offers. Outside its gates the park is a perfect place to chill. Highly recommended after lots of walking! From there you can see the Museum Quarter and the Parliament building. 

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Vienna Cathedral

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View from the atop the Cathedral
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Part of the Palace complex - Vienna
Graffiti 
Close to the centre is the Danube canal (the river itself is a little further out of town). A place to walk along, get away from the tourists and take a moment to reflect. Unlike most city centre rivers, we were greeted by vast amounts of graffiti lining the banks' walls. I like graffiti, when done well, it adds colour and vibrancy to an area.  Along this canal it was a little hit and miss, actually detracting us from venturing further. A scattering of cafes line the pathways, so if you do fancy a stroll then by all means go for it. I biked along the path the following morning and did find some tranquil spots which were graffiti free. 

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Along the canal - graffiti 
Tea for Two
Everyone needs a rest now and then. All that wandering and wanderlusting. Close to the Opera building you'll find  The pull of attractive, Gerstner K.& K. Hofzuckerb√§ckerei. Cakes and chocolates were enough to persuade us to give it a go. If you take the spiral staircase you'll come to a grand (slightly overdone) room, resplendent with piano. As a stop off it comes highly recommended. The cakes were delicious.

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Tea and Cakes at Gerstner 

A Little Guide to Vienna
Our time in Vienna was short - around 36 hrs, but that didn't stop us from gaining a real perspective of this fascinating city. As a weekend break Vienna is perfect. Yes it is a little expensive, but with some planning you can enjoy the city without spending a fortune. Delight in the culture and food and wonder at the buildings. 

In light of recent events its worth remembering that we must continue to travel, so please be safe and if going to Vienna, enjoy. It's a fabulous city. 







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28 June 2016

pre-vacation checklist

At Home 
You are about to head off on your summer vacation. Sun, sand and the sea awaits. Oh and perhaps some Sangria! The excitement of the holiday is perfectly clear to all you decide to tell via the various social media channels. Perhaps best not to do that unless you want the world to know you're away! You've also bought the new outfits, shoes and accessories, and hopefully you've also followed our little guide to safer travel, (click on the link for more) A little guide to safe travel. So you're ready to go, but before the big departure its worth remembering you need to make sure your home is safe too. 

Sketches has collaborated with Simplisafe, who provide wireless security systems to keep the house safe whilst you're having fun abroad. (If you'd like to learn more about these systems or the company, then click on the red links.) Simplisafe have kindly allowed me to attach their pre-vacation checklist in this post. By following their advice you'll be able to head for that airport feeling more than secure and ready for that important holiday. 

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Infograph courtesy of SimpliSafe 

Keeping Safe 
Once again its not rocket science, but its such an important part of the whole holiday process, so I hope you've found this post useful? Keeping safe is paramount when travelling and keeping the house secure is just as vital. Its the little things like the pre-vacation checklist and the advice I gave in our previous post that can give you peace of mind. So enjoy your travels and stay safe. 
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