Lamplight Up My Life
I’m not trying to over-analyse, I’m just asking the questions which charming Ryan, serious-looking Ashley and handsome Jason do not mind answering. Boring? Not at all, if you hear the real story.
Every successful story has its humble beginnings and The Lamplights formation as a group is no exception. In August 2009, at a local market, Ashley Perrow and Ryan Gittoes met and played some songs as a duo and three months later their first EP was recorded and released. Before that first release, they met at Palm Beach where Ashley was playing solo guitar. Ryan liked Ashley’s playing very much and so he introduced himself as a singer. The first song they played together was “Hallelujah” by Leonardo Cohen and at the end of the song they were booked for a gig by a local café owner.
“We felt great connection playing music together, sharing an inherent understanding of where the songs were heading and the real creation of music on the spot. This connection right from the beginning was amazing. Later when Jason came along, we met him at Wintermoon festival in Mackay; it was like a puzzle coming together, revealing completion of a life song because everything just clicked. When Jason came along, he was such a talented, intuitive player that he was able to read what has happening with the dynamics of a song and add in his own dynamic.”
Sounds like a humble beginning? Not so fast, not from my point of view. I believe the humble beginnings of The Lamplights started years and years ago and to prove my point I am giving you three little stories of people inspired to play music.
“I had always loved listening to music when I was a kid. I had guitar lessons for a little while and loved it but my teacher moved on and I didn’t find a new teacher I connected with. I was adopted as a newborn baby, and at 23, I met my birth mother and her family. All of them were very musical and loved having family jams. I picked up the guitar, realising that I could play the songs I loved to listen to and have rarely been without a guitar since. Music is in me. It’s my sanctuary where I can go if I’m finding life a challenge. My whole social life is based on sharing music. It is integral to my happy existence.”
“Music and in particular singing has always been a part of my life, and coming from a big family, I was always made to sing at family get together. I have 5 brothers and a sister and learning to be able to sing in front of them was the best preparation for becoming a performer. I did not come from a particularly musical family but when I was about 8, my dad brought home an old keyboard; he knew one song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Despite all the fighting over whose turn it was [on the keyboard], I learnt the song really quickly and the next week I was getting keyboard lessons. When I got to high school, I grabbed an acoustic guitar and taught myself to play.”
“I came from a non-musical family but my Dad owned a black Gibson style electric guitar that he knew a couple of chords on. My first experience with music was learning to play “Smoke on the Water” using my left thumb over the top of the fret board to which my Dad replied: ‘you will never be a guitar player!’ Some years later I started taking guitar lessons to fit in with my musical friends in high school and shortly after I heard players like Tommy Emmanuel that inspired me to really delve deep into music and guitar playing.”
Their inspiration for music didn’t change through the years. The humble beginning brought them together not by an accident but by finding a real connection through self-discovery. They did not just click; they bonded together through their own understanding, love and comprehension of music. In accordance with The Lamplights’ beginning as a group, their subsequent life stories make a lot of sense but readers are of course welcome to their own interpretation.
However, from a beginning to a real success story is a long road to walk, or should I say to perform? To become ‘the real deal’ in world recognised music circle is the mission for every newly formed group or band. If you think they only think of money and fame – think again. The best musicians think only of music because it is what makes them go out on stage and perform for us, attend countless rehearsals, spend hours and hours perfecting their voice or instrument and give whatever energy is required to create their songs. The music making and writing process is the best topic you can ever discuss with any dedicated musician. They can talk about it forever. This is the biggest part of their everyday lives with every group having their own unique approach to how their feelings find expression through music. Just read what they have to say.
“Firstly a good song needs to be born, not written. As a musician you are aware of those fleeting moments of inspiration that may lead to a line, then sometimes a melody. We have not written two songs in the same way so there is no set structure that works, it is as though the music just finds its way out. One thing that does happen is Ashley will fine tune the songs, being a teacher he is very grammatically aware and has an eye and ear for detail. I on the other hand can be more spontaneous and literally let the lyrics fall from my mouth, some I remember, some I don’t.
We often start with a melody or chord – and a feeling. It could be based on an event that brought about that feeling but initially the music is an expression of the feeling. Without that feeling there is no reason to explore the sound further, because why spend time on something you don’t care about?”
“In the process of creating song, we all contribute. Until now, lyrically it has been Ryan and I but as the band matures we are all finding our role in the song writing process which is so important to us, because our songs are a reflection of who we are….as The Lamplights and our songs reflect that. Jason McGregor is the best musician I know and he has brought the level of ‘musicianship’ up to another level, which has had a profound affect not only on the existing songs but also what we are now able to express musically. He has his own inspiration.”
“One of my inspirations is Stevie Wonder. He is a huge inspiration because of his amazing longevity and ability to create so many honest songs that connected with several generations of people. Another one is Tommy Emmanuel whose work ethic and determination always inspire me to work harder. That he can be in his fifties and playing three hundred shows a year and keeping the energy and enthusiasm and honesty in all those shows is a benchmark I want myself and The Lamplights to be able to live up to as our opportunities continue to arise.”
“We have a much bigger sound now. I often find myself looking around and thinking – is all that noise coming from the three or four of us? Wow! We are also much more in touch with the song writing process and seeing a song through to a completed, listenable product. I think that The Lamplights stand for assisting audiences to feel good about themselves, to know that they have power over their lives (whether they know it or not) and that they can always change what they are doing rather than feeling stuck. This is an important message we try to convey in our songs. I think the underlying message will mostly continue to be about personal discovery, spiritual growth and respect for others as this reflects our values.”
“The underlying philosophy of our songs is this…If you were given an opportunity to stand in front of a group of people and give a speech about anything, what would it be? This fills us with a sense of responsibility to convey a message, to emotionally connect, to positively affect others through our music. I truly believe songs have a purpose in this world and are not just made so that you can get it on radio and make money, if it can positively impact one person’s life, then it has done its job, even if it’s the person who has written the song. One thing that is evident in this band is the feeling of evolution, becoming, and fulfillment. As our journey continues and we have more experiences, our musical expression of what is happening around us will continue.
The biggest affect on our music today is the ‘pulse’ which is alive in this band. There is a journey unfolding before our eyes and there are so many people who are contributing to it, our local support has been amazing. We feel blessed to have that support and to be sharing this time with good friends who also happen to be superb musicians.”
“I wanted to add that there has been a greater awareness between the four of us and I am talking about JJ Harris, our percussionist, who plays with us sometimes. As players, we are all able to go into a song at any gave time. We’ve developed a connection that helps the whole band follow seamlessly when someone goes off on a musical tangent somewhere. Your friends come with you on the journey!”
See that is exactly what I mean, they can talk and talk about music without taken a breath but if you ask them a simple question: “What do you enjoy doing the most when you are not performing or working on your music?” The answers are very short.
“I enjoy hanging out with my family, slacklining (means balancing on a piece of webbing stretched between two points) and just hanging out at home.”
“Hanging with family and friends and sleeping!”
“Spending time with my family; travelling to new places; surfing; slacklining and listening to music.”
I am sure that I have finally made my case on what makes this group the real deal. Summed up in their attitude to music, respect for others and responsibility to positively affect people through music. Now I can move on and satisfy my own curiosity. I had learned several very interesting facts about The Lamplights’ instruments: “Ashley plays a ‘Weissenborn style’ acoustic lap steel guitar made by David Churchill of Ballarat, Victoria Australia. The guitar was designed by one of the world’s best slide players, Jeff Lang, and is one of only 7 in the world. It is truly one of the best acoustic slide guitars in the world. Ashley features on David Churchill’s website. Jason plays Maton guitars, solely because they have a wonderful amplified sound through the P.A. and they’re built to withstand the thrashing that they get being played night after night.”
I had learned about The Lamplights major influences: “Ben Harper, Live, Sublime, Bright Eyes, Smashing Pumpkins, Rob Thomas, Kelly Joe Phelps, Tommy Emmanuel, Michael Fix, Harry Manx, Sam Cooke, John Mayer, John Martyn, Eric Bibb, singer-songwriter and guitarist Keb Mo, internationally recognised blues musician Taj Mahal and Van Morrison.”
I had learned that Jay Jay Harris (percussionist) has toured the world 15 times playing with Divinyls, an Australian rock band formed in Sydney in 1980, as well as other great Australian bands.
However, as I said in the beginning – I am not trying to over-analyse. I am just asking questions, and I only had a few left:
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous?
“The most important thing I can suggest is to get clear about your intention. Remember why it is that you play music, if it’s to impress other people then you’ve probably got something to be nervous about. If it is to share part of who you are through music, and then it doesn’t matter if it’s for 2 or 2000 people, your intention is the same.” Ashley had added: “Focus on the music-making.”
What are your dreams and goals?
“To be able to play music all around the world and make enough to support our families and to take them with us. Are you happy now? (To Ashley). It is the only time you can be happy. Ashley responding: “You bet”.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?
“All of our families have been so supportive and our audience have been amazing. We would not be where we are if it wasn’t for them. The Palm Beach Markets is where we get to connect to our community and we thank them so much for their support. Anyone that wishes to make a financial contribution will be getting our personal thank you….ha-ha-ha-ha”
How can fans to-be gain access to your music?
“The best way to experience The Lamplights is live, but following that, we have a self titled album available through our website, on CD Baby and iTunes, Facebook and Myspace.”
Name of every one in your group and what instruments they are playing?
Ashley Perrow – Acoustic Guitar, Acoustic Slide Guitar
Jason McGregor – Acoustic Guitar – Electric Guitar – vocals
Ryan Gittoes – Vocals – Acoustic Guitar
J.J. Harris – Percussion
Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
“Sample songs are on www.TheLamplights.com.”
Every great story has a humble beginning, which continues to grow and develop into “the real deal”. Just a few days ago, their album launch in Coolangatta achieved real success. I was a witness. If you missed my article “I was invited… A Moment in the lamplight” - click on the title to brief yourself right away. What ever the future brings to all of us, we can only reflect back on our past, but at the present moment, if you need a real lightening up of your life – listen to The Lamplights soulful songs and you will feel warmer and happier. That I can guarantee!