I gratefully accepted the invite to watch Ian Huddleston and the Endcliffe Orchestra perform via a public rehearsal at the lovely Church of the Holy Trinity at Millhouses, Sheffield. We interviewed Ian after a memorable performance, which featured Ian singing and playing his guitar along with a drummer brought along for the occasion, accompanied by a 50+ piece orchestra. One notable visual was Ian, being about 6’6” tall, dwarfing the conductor even though the latter was standing on a box.
A1930’s built structure, the church acoustics were excellent and a major feature is the wonderful looking organ, which is sadly not used tonight. The performance started with Ian and the orchestra playing three numbers followed by another two with Ian and drummer sat out. Ian’s songs were Say What You Want, then He Said, She Said and finally Chips, which is a working title, Ian confides “it was initially called Chip On His Shoulder about chav’s and scummy people like that.”
Despite Ian looking a tad nervous the set goes very well, almost breathtaking at times, and that after just 3 hours rehearsal (which as you will hear later is quite a big commitment for Ian). He is much more relaxed having a chat on a dwarf wall in the corner of the car park immediately afterwards.
Without dwelling too long on Ian’s previous incarnation as frontman in the amazing rock band Viva High Rollers, it was a bit of a shock when they wound things up. Many people thought there was much more to come but Ian disagrees “I think it had run its course, I’d moved on, I was 27 and I wanted to do something different, then my girlfriend, now my wife, became pregnant and we wanted to start a family. The band was a good laugh and though we had some bad experiences with management we have some really good memories” he laughs knowingly “we had some REALLY good times I’m telling you.”
When he left the Viva’s he kept tinkering on guitar and writing songs so how did the new laid back style come about? The big man explains “I wrote a lot of the songs in Viva High Rollers but we didn’t really write enough. I liked to be able to go home, with the pressure off and just write songs I liked, for myself. I wrote Amelie for my daughter, it was much more of a personal thing, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. In your early 20’s it’s all about getting signed but I’m not bothered about that now.”
Ian recorded his first ep as a solo act, recruiting ex Viva’s members Channy to produce it and Woody to play drums. The release was very well received, by critics and fans alike, but Ian confesses he was still trying to find the sound he wanted.
A second session was then recorded, this time at the Jade drop in centre at Kiveton Park with Sam Olroyd, which was another big step forward. The band he assembled was in his words, a ‘mish mash’ of musicians, but the result is an excellent set of songs with some strings adding more depth.
He then invited some of the musicians to join his live band, which is undoubtedly a very fluid affair with a semi permanent bass player, a few drummers involved, lead guitarists etc. Ian’s method of recruitment, due to time constraints of family life and a full time job, involves send the musicians an MP3 and saying “can you learn that by the gig on Friday” which triggers a hearty laugh as he adds “it seems to work for me, once in a while we rehearse if it’s a bigger gig but I don’t religiously practice.”
His songs seem to have very personal lyrics he admits “they are, I’m really settled and content with my life, with my wife and kids and base it on that. I’ve done all my angst, though I still have my moments” then adds with a more serious tone “but I think I’ve found myself now.”
The orchestral link up came some 6 months before when Ian had an idea in his head of the sound he wanted “after listening to the likes of Love and Spiritualised I’ve been putting a bit of that in my recordings using midi strings.” From that came the idea to work with an orchestra so Ian scouted about then sent an email to conductor Martin Lightowler who was happy to get involved after hearing some tracks.
Martin, who did the arrangement for tonight’s concert, has his own version of events which he shares with the audience tonight “Ian asked if he could work with the strings part of the orchestra, after hearing his work I said no, but you can work with the whole orchestra.” Quite a compliment and the start of a relationship that will culminate in a full concert on 16th October at Victoria Hall in Sheffield city centre.
The future, musically, is not something Ian is overly concerned about as he adds contentedly “I’ll see what comes and play it by ear. I want to spend a lot of time with the kids but if anything comes of this that would be great. It would be good to get the concert recorded but we shall see.”
So a contented man with no driving ambition, but Ian Huddleston does have undoubted talent. He’s a very amiable, charismatic guy and having found the sound he’s been looking for, his is a name that we’ll hear much more of in the coming year.