Interview: Stoney Broke
Singer-songwriter Stoney Broke has built a reputation for being one of the hardest working musicians in Dumfries and Galloway.
Real name Jake Scott, he hails from Dumfries and now lives in Gretna. As Stoney Broke, he launched himself as a blues and soul inspired solo artist in 2015. Since then, he has played hundreds of gigs all over the UK.
We’ve known Jake since he launched Stoney Broke and have always enjoyed interviewing him live on air during various Small Town Sounds hosted radio shows. It has been a year since we last had a chat with him, so it seemed only right that we interview him for the website now to find out what he’s been up to, what he has planned, as well as his views on the D&G music scene, the wider music industry and also what his tips are for those who are new to playing live…
Small Town Sounds: Hello Jake, what have you been up to today?
Stoney Broke: Hi! I’ve recently got back from a few days away gigging as part of my mini tour, and now just resting and getting ready for my upcoming gigs (although battling a head cold!) and catching up on emails and PR.
STS: How long have you been playing as Stoney Broke?
SB: I think it was about 2008 I used it first, when I was dabbling with solo material at open mic nights in Melbourne. Then, in 2010, I did a couple of solo shows, and one as a duo, using the name. All of that was predominantly covers, or just as a loose alias in the early stages of trying to write and perform solo material. I started using it as my stage name when I returned to performing around 2015, and across social media etc. Fortunately it stuck, and it makes a great talking point. Although a girl at one of my shows was genuinely concerned that my parents had been too creative with my real name!
STS: We’ve mentioned that you’re a very busy man, and have been somewhat of a regular on the gig scene both locally and nationally. How many gigs do you tend to play on average per year?
SB: I think with gaps in the calendar year it has worked out around 60 – 70ish a year, but across a 365 day span I did around 100 (give or take ten). It’s getting harder to sustain constant shows without over saturating certain audiences, but then I’ll pick up 2/3/4 a week, and often a couple in a day, so then the numbers start to rise again.
I’ve developed a bit of a reputation for work rate now, and my live shows seem to be catching some attention (*crosses fingers*), so it naturally seems the route to go. I get a bit restless if I’m not planning, and playing, and the “tours” are slowly getting bigger and more logistically challenging.
STS: What has been the furthest away gig you have played?
SB: Australia is a clear winner with that, although I haven’t done any full solo shows there (yet…). UK wise it will be Dundee, or Scarborough, I think. It’s likely that distance will increase sooner than later, and tentative steps are being put in place for International, but nothing 100% confirmed.
STS: If you could choose 3 words to describe your live gigs, what would they be?
SB: Hmm…probably Energetic, Passionate, and (hopefully) Entertaining!
STS: Has there been a specific gig that you would describe as a highlight of your career so far?
SB: Each gig has it’s own merits, be it Festival, or Support, or Solo, and I’ve been pretty lucky with the shows I’ve been booked for. There have been a couple of career changing ones though, notably supporting Wille And The Bandits at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle, and also supporting The Red Hot Chilli Pipers at Easterbrook Hall. Both had a massive impact on the direction my career was going, in terms of audiences, people met through them, and the impact on future bookings. Had the Wille And The Bandits slot not happened, I quite possibly would not be in the position I am now.
STS: Traditionally, there used to be a strong focus on musicians trying to get the attention of record labels in the hope they will get signed. Do you think this is still the case, or has the focus shifted now?
SB: Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, and maybe don’t really know.
Part of me thinks not so much, but it’s possibly depending on style, direction, etc. Given the way social media is, and now distribution channels, you can literally run a project from your bedroom, record it, release on CD / Vinyl / Download, run a kickstarter, have tracks on Spotify, videos across YouTube, have hundreds/thousands of clicks/hits, and not even really need to be all that good!
For more serious independent acts I think part of it comes down to money and distribution. Having an investor takes away a lot of the logistics that have a glass ceiling, and as we saw with Drake’s last album, the clout of a record label can literally take over a platform like Spotify. It can be getting onto playlists, or having units on shelves.
Of course you can lose some of the creative independence with it, which won’t suit some, but from the town we have seen the likes of Calvin Harris and now even ONR start to see the rewards of it. I think (love him or hate him) Gerry Cinnamon is a great example. He’s not got a massive label backing him, and he’s absolutely killing it! So it all comes back to product, desire, work-rate, and luck I guess.
STS: You’ve released an EP, do you have any plans to release another EP or possibly an album?
SB: Yeah, it has been in the pipeline for a while, to be honest. I was hoping to have a follow up already out and pushing it, but a combination of being busy and writing new (possibly better suited) material, it hasn’t materialised. I have a new track coming out in the next couple of months (look out for that!), and the track list for my debut album is about set, with rehearsals about to start. It will include band backing on most of the tracks and different instruments, but still fundamentally a solo album.
STS: What are your favourite gig venues as a) a musician and b) an audience member in Dumfries and Galloway?
SB: a) I’ve always had a lot of support from The Kinmount Hotel at Carrutherstown, and some really positive crowd feedback to my original material, and also some really good slots at The Coach and Horses in Dumfries. I’m looking forward to playing in the Studio at Theatre Royal (with Chasin’ The Train and The Dogz) as it could be an ideal venue for more specialised gigs going forward.
b) I think as an audience member the Coach, again, especially as it is so…confined, that if you get an act like The Dogz you are right in front of them, and it generates a great feeling of energy, and entertainment. It can also be very loud!
STS: Do you have any advice for anyone starting out as a musician? What qualities do you think they need to be able to get gigs and grow their following?
SB: Ooh, I could probably suggest A LOT for this one, but ultimately I’m still learning, and trying to work things out, so it never stops! I wish I had the formula, but here are some I use, and try and stick to:
• Work hard. Never stop giving 100% no matter what the venue, or show.
• Be respectful of acts, audiences, bookers, and stage crew. These relationships and opinions can go a long way.
• Be ambitious. If you have 30 mins of original tracks why not ask for that support slot, or festival slot? As long as you are polite, the booker may keep you in mind.
• Practise, be in tune, and learn to use your equipment to sound better.
• Don’t be afraid to “fail”. You will. You will have a bad gig, or song. No matter how hard you try. But it’s how you react and learn from it.
• Have faith in what you do. If you have 30 mins of original material you are really proud of, don’t swap to that tired old version of ‘Mustang Sally’ “to keep the crowd happy”. Your passion in your material will show through more.
• Enjoy everything that comes your way, and don’t get lost in jealousy and “what ifs”.
• Ask peers for advice, and be open to constructive criticisms. Just pay little attention to the drunk who “had auditions for The Stones” that talked through your set!
STS: You’ve played all over the UK – how do you think the Dumfries and Galloway music scene compares to other regions?
SB: I think there are a lot of positives starting to come from the music scene across the region, and it has certainly been growing of late. It’s great to see under 18’s open stages, stages at events like YouthBeatz hosting local talent, regular live music across the entire region (just about) which you don’t always see in other areas.
Arguably the only criticisms that could have been made were that at one point it seemed slightly insular, but with more acts looking to move beyond the region, more acts are also coming into the scene, ideas are being shared, and working together. The knock on effect is that the audiences will be more open minded. Rather than only leaving the house for one, or two, acts they’ll hopefully support more acts, and it will grow. I think we are still possibly lacking a devoted music venue, or rather one where bar chatter stops during songs, and TV’s are switched off. BUT, alot of credit goes to the venues for hosting live music as it is, week in, week out.
Compared to other regions Dumfries and Galloway has a lot to be proud of, and hopefully the live music scene will keep growing and be well supported, there are some terrific acts about.
STS: As a solo artist, does it sometimes get a bit lonely when you’re on the road?
SB: Yes, and no. I got used to spending time on my own while travelling, and you find it creates a certain type of madness (*Sings “Love Leads to Madness” by Nazareth) to be on tour on your own! Before, and just after a gig, I like the peace to get mentally prepared, have everything ready, and then to wind down. The worst bit is being sat in a car park, 1 or 2 in the morning, drinking coffee and eating a pasty and chocolate bar, with miles still to drive. That’s when a buddy would be good.
(Audience question) What rating would you give yourself out of 5 stars?
SB: Haha! Naturally it would have to be 3 out of 5 stars! (Thanks Chris!)