We caught up with the superb brighton-based musician Vern Asbury for an in-depth interview following the release of his single ‘Something Inside’ in June 2020.
What is your songwriting process?
I usually start with a guitar, or sometimes a drumbeat. Over the years I’ve found many different ways of ‘skinning the cat’; obvious ones, like coming up with a melody or a lyric in the shower, or whatever – but more often than not it’s a guitar or a beat that inspires me to take me in a certain direction. From there, I tend to get the core idea, rough as guts, into Logic (recording program) and start to flesh the idea out. These days I try not to be too precious – if I get a good vibe off an idea quickly, then I usually persevere with fleshing it out. I find there’s not a lot of mileage in flogging a dead song, so to speak.
What message do you think your music conveys to your fans?
I’m not sure how the music gets interpreted really – I try to write some sort of story, either loosely autobiographical or a completely made-up story/setting in my head. I guess the music behind the lyrics lifts that to a different place – reframes it, either in a complementary way or in juxtaposition. I’d be really interested to know what vibe fans get from my music. I think I’m much more silly as a person than my music might suggest.
Who are your musical influences?
Influences wise, I have an ever-increasing, sprawling list really – right now I’ve been listening to a lot of pop – Post Malone and Lewis Capaldi more than anything else I reckon. Lewis wise, because I’ve been working on some stuff for him recently (I played the guitar on Before You Go). But outside of pop, all sorts of things – Kraftwerk, The Who, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Kate Bush, Pearl Jam, Beck, John Martyn. Oh, I reckon there’s not a lot of music that doesn’t inspire me one way or another.
Who are your non-musical influences?
Non-musical influences, I’d say would probably be from the world of Sport – I stan unhealthily hard for Ronnie O’Sullivan, being a massive snooker fan – Ian Wright is a big hero of mine, being a Gooner and also Arnie. Arnie is a massive hero – what a guy!
What’s the best gig that you have ever played?
The best gig I’ve ever played? That’s a tough one – I’ve played a lot of gigs! I think it’d probably be one where I used to have a regular slot at a pub in Brighton (where I live). When my mum was still alive, she was my biggest fan and would watch me play without fail. There have been a few gigs where I’ve played to one audience member – and that’d be my mum, Lynda, sat at ‘the front’ with her eyes and ears glued to me. In hindsight, those are the best gigs I’ve ever played, easily… yeah, one of those I reckon.
What is your funniest gig moment?
Again, there have been so many amusing ‘Tap-esque’ moments at gigs, but one that immediately springs to mind is playing a gig in Berlin with Friday Night Hero. Easyjet had smashed my guitar in half, and I found out about 6 hours before going on stage. During those 6 hours, I drowned my sorrows, through tears, and had luckily acquired a pink paisley Strat to step in and save the day. I had wrapped myself in fragile tape for my stage outfit, as some sort of ironic protest and before taking a guitar solo screamed into the mic ‘munch on this you c**ts!’ to a packed German crowd – and then duly jumped into the crowd while solo-ing behind my head. That was quite funny.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands/artists today?
Biggest obstacles for bands and artists would probably be over-saturation of online music – everyone competing to get heard – me included. I find that there’s always a gatekeeper – it’s not often that people will give you a leg up for nothing if they are in a position to do so, so it’s nice when that happens… out of pure generosity… I try to reciprocate that where possible – although, occasionally I get to be the gatekeeper and enjoy nothing more than treading downwards 😉
What advice would you give to other bands/artists starting out?
My advice to musicians and artists starting out would be to try and avoid being too precious. Not everyone’s going to like what you do, so accept that – and if you like it, then that really is all that matters. There will be some people that see your love for something, from a genuine place – and will buy into that. Trying to make something to please someone else is usually pretty see-through.
What are your hopes for the next two years?
My plans for the next two years are really to keep on writing. I want to move more into songwriting for other artists, as opposed to solely playing the guitar on their records (professionally, that is). I’m going to keep writing songs in this current vain (Something Inside) in view to hopefully someone digging them and inviting me to cowrite HINT HINT HINT. Writing music satisfies me more than anything musically. So, I don’t care if it’s me or someone else singing the songs. Oh, and of course there’s the small matter of earning a shit ton more money as a songwriter than you do as a session musician (lol) – I’ve got a family now, so writing songs to earn a crust and not having to get guitars smashed for you by airlines would be just dandy thank you very much.
FV Music Blog June 2020
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