Gavin Davenport has been singing, playing and writing folk music professionally for over 10 years. He has been a member of a number of bands and now performs mainly as a solo artist and with his own band. He has toured in Belgium, Holland, Austria, Germany and Canada as well as throughout the British isles. We were lucky enough to chat to Gavin and get the lowdown on the songwriting process for all those Reading Activists out there who are interested in pursuing a similar career.
What does a day in the life of a singer-songwriter look like?
In a typical day, I wake up around 8 and first jobs of the day are getting coffee then checking emails and seeing what has come in. Some of my gigs come about by me writing to event organizers and asking for dates, others come from them inquiring for availability and others through an agent.
To get all that to work I have to have an online shared diary that my agent can see, and they work on a percentage of my income. So I normally spend a couple of hours before breakfast reconciling all the maths, look what is coming in, and what needs to go out. There are also CD sales to be dealt with and these come in online as well, so a small amount of each day involves packing things into padded envelopes ready for posting.
Mid morning I usually grab a bite to eat and spend a couple of hours playing music for fun, or doing some instrumental practice - this is the bit of the day where I work out and write new material usually.
Early afternoon, I will start getting things ready for a gig - this means checking guitar strings are changed, batteries in pedals, all the leads in my gig bag, that I have a clean set of gig clothes packed and that I know where I'm going. I like to spend a bit of time exploring the towns I play in, so I usually head off to a show pretty early in the afternoon so I'm relaxed by the time the event happens. I enjoy driving or travelling and seeing all the parts of the country that you wouldn't otherwise get to see.
I usually grab a coffee or something before the show and write a set list. The show itself is great but usually only lasts an hour and a half, quite a small part of the day - I enjoy talking to my audience and sharing music with them. After the gig there's time to talk to the people who have come to the show, and usually to sell a few CDs.
Days are pretty long and it's normally after midnight by the time I get home, often later, and sometimes the distances mean staying in a hotel or at someone's house.
What advice would you give to any aspiring young people who want to write their own music?
Buy a notebook and carry it everywhere - you never know when you will get an idea, and it is too easy to forget your best stuff. And also when you open it up and see the thing you forgot you already wrote is a great help to being creative.
Read lots, and different kinds of things and genres - reading is key to having a good vocabulary and having lots of different ways to articulate your ideas.
When did you decide you wanted to write music and how did you set about pursuing this goal?
I suppose it happened by accident, I started off playing other people's music or traditional music and gradually started to write until it became one of the key things I was known for.
Who inspires you and why?
All kinds of people - the stories of real life people are a big inspiration in my writing and I also like to read all kinds of stuff - lots of novels, but also biographies and ideas, and I listen to a huge range of different music. I think as a writer of any kind you have to be really open to external influences and that can come from anywhere. I do a lot of driving so I'm often listening to stories, plays, drama and documentaries on the radio and they all give me ideas.
What are your favourite and least favourite things about the job?
I love the travelling but I also get homesick, so it is a mix of both at the same time.
Days are very long, but it is amazing to travel round the country visiting new places.
Check out our the other interviews in our Day in the Life series such as our interview with an Eastenders script writer, a poet and a radio playwright.
Is there a creative words-based career that you would like to know more about? Get in touch to let us know and we'll see if we can find someone to interview and tell you more.
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