The Reluctant Achiever
Keep On Going - A Story of Motivation, Ambition and Perseverance
Updated: Dec 16, 2022
The Reluctant Achiever interviews UK Singer-Songwriter, Andy Crowe
Being a Reluctant Achiever, I’m always looking for ways to stay motivated and keep going. One of the biggest challenges I have is getting discouraged or distracted and
not finishing what I started. A while back I found ‘The Slight Edge’, a book by US businessman Jeff Olson. It’s a short book with one simple principle…
Take small consistent steps towards what you want, and you’ll get there.
Sounds easy right?
Well, that’s because it is. But of course, it’s also easy not to. That’s the catch. You have to keep going. If you can do that, the compound effect of your small actions will eventually get you to where you want to be.
I’ve become fascinated by The Slight Edge. Examples of a principle working in practice make the most compelling evidence. And, being part of the local music community, I decided to talk to local singer-songwriter, Andy Crowe, about his journey from wannabe musician to the launch of his first album.
Regardless of musical taste, I’m sure most would agree there’s no such thing as an ordinary album. Every collection of songs is a labour of love in itself.
But debut album, Andy Crowe & the Eisen Family, marks the culmination of a process of learning, songwriting and self-discovery that’s taken 16 years. Andy, who’s based in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, has wanted to record an album since he can remember.
“I learnt to play the guitar in my early 20’s. That’s quite late compared to some of the talents on the open mic scene now. You watch some kids and think wow, and they’ve been playing since they were 10.”
Andy was drawn to music from a young age. But when he asked his parents to buy him a guitar the plea fell on deaf ears. He jokingly tells me: “I love that my family supports my music, they’re amazing. But in truth, if my parents had bought me a guitar when I asked for one, I’d have 3 albums out by now”.
When he did finally get his hands on a guitar, Andy and 3 mates formed a band straight away. The band spent all their spare time practising in a garage. They knew they wanted to write and play their own songs from the beginning.
Andy, who now can’t remember how many songs he’s written, tells me:
“I’ve always been more confident playing my own stuff. If you do a bad cover, someone might say “they murdered that”, but if it’s your own song it’s more like “well, that was interesting”.”
The 4 friends hit upon a winning formula from the beginning:
“Our songs were simple and catchy. We couldn’t play or sing that well, we were still learning, but the songs were good. We were young and a bit cocky, we knew we were onto something. That gave us confidence.”
The band, Swift Flasby, spent all their spare time together, rehearsing and playing gigs.
“We wanted to be an old-style rock n roll band. We had a great half-hour set and played it as mad as we could. We were over in Birmingham a lot then, support slots were easy to get. We played to hundreds of people we didn’t know before we even dared to play to our home crowd.”
But the band quickly became popular with their home crowd and gained a local following. They recorded their first single ‘Keep On’ at Abbot Beyne school and started to put together the material for an album. Sadly, the band split soon after and the album never saw the light of day.
That was the point that Andy started writing songs on his own. He wrote two songs, Hot Princess and Walking Man (a song dedicated to his grandad) back in 2010. But then got involved with a second band, Exile84. Again he wrote new songs with the band, but recording an album continued to elude him. He decided to quit the band and concentrate on a solo acoustic project.
Andy approached his friend Dan Gallagher for help. They recorded an EP, but an acoustic album was not to be:
“At Dan’s house we did some acoustic demos, and he just said, “this isn’t an acoustic album, you need a band”, and I thought “I’ve just left a band” [laughs]. Anyway, Dan [Gallagher] jumps on the bass guitar, Dan Baker [from Riding the Low and Star from Ivy] takes lead guitar and slide guitar, and we get Huw Griffiths on drums. And we start rocking together. Just like that. And it works. It feels natural. Easy.”
In early 2020, the impromptu band, soon to become known as the Eisen Family, does a few gigs together. They continue working on the album and everything looks great.
Left to right - Leah Wlcx, Huw Griffiths, Dave Middlemiss, Dan Baker, Dan Gallagher, Andy Crowe, Dorothy Ella.
But then disaster strikes.
“We’d been working on the album, it was virtually finished, we needed to go back in and re-track. And we were going to get the girls in [Dorothy Ella and Leah Wlcx]. Dave had joined the band too [Dave Middlemiss, former member of Swift Flasby & Exile ‘84]. We’d been put on the bill of Y Not Festival and some other local festivals. Two singles had been released and we’d been getting attention from radio stations, including BBC Radio Derby. We were riding a bit of a wave.”
The day before Andy and the band were due to record a live performance, England went into lockdown.
“Everything just stopped. I was used to performing live all the time. I’d done it for years. But the venues all closed down. Music-wise it was a dark time. At some points, I felt that there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed to me there was no point.”
Many musicians ventured out into the online space with live streams, but it didn’t appeal to Andy.
“I just couldn’t get my head around it. I did a couple of Doghouse Live sessions, Paul Kirkley persuaded me. He’s always been a good friend and a great supporter of the music I’ve put out. But that was it, I didn’t want to do anymore. I hung up the guitars, didn’t write at all. I just rode my bike. Channelled myself into something I could do”.
Not only did he stop playing, but for the first time in 16 years, Andy stopped songwriting too:
“Most songwriters seem to write from a dark point of view. Adele is the perfect example. They need a negative mindset to write about something meaningful. I’m on the flip side of that. I can write sad songs, but I need to be in a good place to write them. That’s why I had no interest, I knew whatever I did would be no good.”
Luckily, towards the end of lockdown, the Derbyshire Arts Council asked Andy to write a song for a folk songbook about local villages. The song, Willington Waltz, was written on a sunny day and took no time at all. It was the nudge Andy needed to pull him out of his songwriting blackspot. Starting to write again prompted him to get back in touch with the rest of the band to finish the album.
When I ask Andy what inspires him, he thinks for a minute:
“This might sound cheesy, but everyone else on the scene inspires me. When I see and hear people doing great things, I think I can do great things. It pushes me to do more.”
“For example, we saw Riding the Low a week before the album launch. I wasn’t nervous about our gig, but it’d been 2 years since we’d played live as a band. It’s fair to say I was a bit apprehensive, hoping things wouldn’t go wrong. But after I saw the guys play I was literally buzzing. They had a load of new songs and sounded great. I couldn’t wait to get on stage.”
“I’m inspired by the people I see at open mics too. I hear them pushing the boundaries and I want to go home and start writing new stuff. It’s not just the music either. Things like the community project, Circularity, really inspire me too. It makes me want to do more”
Being inspired by those around him is something that features heavily on the album too.
Andy’s songs are peppered with hidden references to those who have influenced him and helped him along the way. 6 tracks on the album contain the titles of old Swift Flasby songs. And the reason…
“If it wasn’t for the previous bands I would never have gotten to where I am now. No doubt about it."
When he wrote Walking Man, Andy added a reference to ‘Where You Belong’, an old Swift Flasby song about his nan. That way the song became about both his grandparents.
The last song on the album, ‘For Those Who Never Knew’, is a song of two halves. The first part talks about the emotions of making the album and how Andy got to this point. The second is dedicated to everyone that helped him get here. It finishes with the line ‘for those who never knew’ which links the last song on the album to the first song and is a reference to his grandparents, sadly no longer with us.
Despite the COVID setback, Andy has been pushing towards his goal for more years than he cares to think about.
But in November 2021 he finally got there, and he couldn’t be happier. When he received the first batch of CD’s he said:
“Well after 16 years, 3 bands, 12 guitars, 7 hats and 144 pairs of shoes I am finally holding a physical copy of a completed album.”
You might think that Andy would take a break now, but no, he’s already started work on the next set of songs:
“I don’t want to wait as long next time. I think I’ll release some singles to keep the momentum going, and then eventually an album will appear. I want to do some live stuff and get round to recording some acoustic stuff too. Keep writing, keep recording.”
Keep on going.
Stream the album or order a CD via the links below:
Andy Crowe & The Eisen Family - Facebook link
Andy Crowe & The Eisen Family - Instagram
Andy Crowe & The Eisen Family - Spotify
Andy Crowe & The Eisen Family - Apple Music
With much love and encouragement,
The Reluctant Achiever
Images courtesy of Andy Crowe & The Eisen Family, Exile84 and Swift Flasby
The Reluctant Achiever is written by professional copywriter Wendy Ann Jones.
You can find out more about Wendy by visiting her website: wendyannjones.com or her LinkedIn profile.