What is this about?
I am the producer of Cleveland Watkiss’ The Great Jamaican Songbook – an album recording and UK tour in October (yes, live!!). This is a super exciting project, Cleveland is a great artist with bold ideas and an amazing voice (Best Male Jazz Singer in Britain - Evening Standard), and I'm so thrilled to be working with him helping to transform his artistic vision into a brilliant success.
The plan is to record the material in the legendary Abbey Road Studios (yes I hear you, why this particular studio - well, it gives our documentary recording the gravity it deserves, and think about it - how many black artists since the 60th have actually been able to go into that studio... #BlackLivesMatter) in August, and release the album and take this music on tour in October. With the backing of the amazing 'Band on the Wall' as promoter, this is the tour we've set up for Cleveland:
Here is what Cleveland says about the project
With both my parents being from Jamaica and arriving in the UK during the 50’s as part of the Windrush generation, ‘The Great Jamaican Songbook’ is a narrative I have been aiming for most of my career. With this undertaking, I’m returning to my roots with the intention to fully celebrate Jamaican music heritage to remind people of the richness and the interconnection of Caribbean music and lifestyle culture in the UK over the last 50/60 years.
The idea for this project has been lingering with me for many years, and finally came together in 2018. After a period of about 7months of song selection and rehearsals with a band all with a UK/Jamaican heritage, we made our sold-out debut at The Crypt in South London.
This music we play and sing is loved in the UK and brings people together across the generational divide like no other. After all my experimenting with genres, it is time to connect the dots and share my real joy and passion through natural symbiosis in the unique way that reggae/ dub/ roots music is simulated into so much of our society and culture.
My artistic dream is to take this music to audiences in the UK and abroad, and to document it through recording; I believe that these songs should be framed and respected in the way the cannon of the ‘Great American Songbook’ has been.
And now the finances...
I believe I'm a very good project manager/producer, I worked on big and small music projects over the last 15 years, from worldwide orchestra touring at IMG Artists, recording projects with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, to a super-fun big project with Blind Summit Theatre and the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl. I know about realistic budgets and how to turn ideas into success stories.
With The Great Jamaican Songbook we have sensible tour fees from the promoters and have also managed to secure support towards the touring costs from the Arts Council England. However, recording and touring with 9 musicians (studio hire, mixing, mastering, artwork, manufacturing, musician fees, accommodation, travel, backline, PR etc etc) is not cheap, and we still have a shortfall.
...and my crazy and totally committed idea
Now, I'm not only a good producer, I am a very passionate and ambitious producer who dares to think outside the box. The total amount of money we need to raise to make this recording and tour possible at the level and quality it deserves is £8,400. As my contribution, I aim to raise £3,000. For this, I commit to train and ultimately run a full marathon!! I have never ever run a marathon before, in fact, the very furthest I had ever run until this idea came up was 4 miles. I am giving myself 4 months to get in shape and ready to run the Dulux London Revolution Trail on 25 September https://www.letsdothis.com/gb/e/dulux-london-revolution-trails
Please please support me (and ultimately Cleveland / The Great Jamaican Songbook) – it is the craziest thing I could come up with, I don’t think there are many producers in this world being prepared to do such a huge effort for an artist/a project they have taken on. The ones amongst you who know me personally or who have worked with me in the past, will know that I give everything towards a goal I believe in and am passionate about.
On the main project page (Cleveland's own crowdfunder) are more details about ‘The Great Jamaican Songbook’, the musicians involved, a selection of tunes and some more video footage. Please browse around, drop Cleveland a line https://www.clevelandwatkiss.co.uk/contact, buy tickets for the shows here, and most of all please sponsor me on this marathon towards a marathon run for ‘The Great Jamaican Songbook’ recording and tour 2021.
Thank you for your support!!
And also a thank you to my friend and musician colleague Leon Bosch for believing in and supporting me: Leon has been running long distances (marathons and beyond) for years. When I called him to consult whether this idea of mine to run a marathon pretty much from almost none up to the 27miles in just over 4 months, he said “If someone can do it then it is you – it is crazy but doable”. Leon is overseeing my training plan and will be there for me in regards to any run-related matters. Thank you, Leon, I’ve done my first 10 hill-climbs this week…