Insure4Music sat down with Gwen Taylor, lead vocalist of alternative pop group Gwen and the Good Thing, to talk through the band’s inspiring journey and meteoric rise over the last couple of years.
Taylor and fellow band member Chris Norrish formed Gwen and the Good Thing in 2014. Since then the band has gone from strength to strength, releasing a debut EP, performing at Glastonbury and being played on BBC Radio 1.
Here is Gwen’s interview in full…
Can you give us an overview of how the band started, how many members you have and what genre(s) of music you play?
The band started a couple of years ago as a songwriting collaboration between me and Chris, who plays bass and trumpet. We both played in other bands, wrote our own music and lived in different countries when we started the group, but we found that the songs coming out of this collaboration were really exciting!
We’ve known each other a long time. Weirdly, we were in the same playgroup together as toddlers, but only found out by watching a home video of some nativity play filmed by my Dad! We’re now a couple and live together, so we’re the cliché songwriting partnership!
We wanted to ‘gig’ the songs we were writing, so we set up a bigger band comprised of people we knew from college and university – we were basically a group of mates. There are six of us now, but we’ve had quite a fluctuating line-up over the years – some people have had babies and started PhDs so there’s not much you can do about that!
But even the current line-up are mostly school friends of Chris’ and the drummer I met at university, so we’ve got that really close-knit vibe as a band and we’re lucky to know so many talented musicians. We’ve got trumpet, trombone, clarinet and synth players, different vocalists, so there’s lots going on instrumentally. The music could best be described as alternative pop with a brass element, along the same lines as Florence and the Machine.
You’ve had some incredible success recently. Can you put into words how the last couple of years have been for you as a band?
It’s been a complete whirlwind. We’ve been totally blown away by the support we’ve had. Our debut EP, which got us a foot in the door at the BBC, was funded entirely by a Kickstarter campaign. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve the sound quality we did without the donations we received.
From the BBC listening to our EP, we got put forward for Glastonbury which, again, without the Kickstarter campaign, wouldn’t have been possible. We never expected to have that level of success in such a short amount of time and we’re still trying to get our heads around it.
Being backed by BBC Introducing was amazing – it’s been a huge springboard for us and such a great leveller. We don’t have label support, financial backing or relatives who work for a record company. We’re just a bunch of people from Milton Keynes trying to make waves in the music industry!
The system is more egalitarian than you might think and we’re a great case study for other bands trying to make a name for themselves. As long as you have the raw talent and the work ethic, you can get somewhere.
Check out Gwen and the Good Thing’s performance on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury 2016:
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, is there anything else in the pipeline? Any new material or gigs?
We’re in the process of recording some tracks as part of a new EP. We’ve been experimenting with different styles following on from our Glastonbury experience and we’ve taken time to write a whole new set of songs. We don’t have a set date yet but one or two of these tracks should hopefully be out before the end of the year.
In terms of live shows, we’re playing at the Tribal Hearts Festival in Towcester on August 12, The Church House in Sheffield on August 18 and Oxjam Music Festival in Camden in October. We have some other festivals in the pipeline and are just awaiting confirmation for them. More details will be up on our website once we’re able to announce them.
Obviously you’ve got quite an impressive repertoire of live gigs under your belt now. What gives you the biggest buzz about playing live?
Playing to a crowd is what it’s all about for us – that’s where the magic happens. When you’re in the studio recording for hours on end, it can become quite a dull and drawn out process. What we love most as a band is sharing our music with as many people as possible and connecting with the audience, because I feel it’s not something you can replicate in any other part of life.
The variety and unpredictability of playing live is good, too. Sometimes we’ll play a song to a particular crowd and it might not go down well, but then – in a different venue, the reaction to that same song is incredible. The reactions often make the songs and bring them to life.
I also love the way the different band members interact together on stage. They’ll try and make each other laugh when they know someone’s got a big part coming up – it’s all part of the camaraderie!
These days, with people becoming YouTube and Spotify sensations, there’s a lot less of an emphasis on live shows, but the importance of playing live should never be lost on musical artists. It’s how you make new fans and get in front of people who might not necessarily bother to try and discover your music.
By the same token, is there anything you dislike about playing live or anything you’d advise other bands to watch out for?
It’s always important to be prepared – make sure you know the venue and have a good relationship with the organiser or promoter. Be honest, get everything out in the open when you’re booking gigs and don’t commit to anything that could come back to sting you. Facebook message boards are great ways for unsigned bands to find out which promoters are the good guys and which ones are likely to rip you off!
Gig days can be especially long for unsigned bands when you’re hauling your gear around and doing your own soundchecks, so eat, drink and sleep when you can! Having the right amount of fluids is obviously important if you’re a vocalist.
In terms of accidents, have you ever been at the centre of any accidents while playing live or know anyone who has?
We’re quite lucky in that respect. The worst thing that’s happened to us is we’ve had some equipment stolen before, but thankfully it was covered. But I’ve seen what’s happened to other groups, where they’ve lent equipment to other people which has been badly damaged, or situations where people have got injured, and they’ve not had specialist music insurance. It’s a horrible situation to be in and that’s why we took out cover with Insure4Music. We wouldn’t go anywhere without it.
As Insure4Music customers, you’re protected should the unthinkable happen. What reasons did you have for taking out specialist music insurance with us?
We’d had interactions with The Unsigned Guide through being featured on one of their ‘spotlight’ articles and they pointed us to Insure4Music. When we did a bit more digging, the reviews were great, so we just went from there, really.
We took out Public Liability insurance because without it, we wouldn’t have been able to perform live at Glastonbury, as providing proof of insurance was one of the conditions of performing there. It really opened our eyes how many venues won’t let you play without Public Liability.
Even if we weren’t playing Glastonbury, it’s essential to have specialist music insurance so that you’re prepared for anything. It’s not worth taking the risk when it’s your equipment and ultimately your livelihood that’s at stake. It also covers you for a range of scenarios and settings – we recently played at a barn that was a wedding venue, so you never know when you’re going to need it!
What would you say to other bands that are either unsure or sceptical about getting specialist music insurance?
If you’re gigging regularly or have ambitions to do so in future, getting this kind of insurance is a must. Nobody in their right mind would drive a car without insurance, so I don’t know why you wouldn’t insure expensive musical equipment? It’s a no-brainer for any band.
Just finally, how have you found Insure4Music’s service?
It’s been great! Obviously we’ve had a few line-up changes so we’ve had to add new band members to our policy, but the adjustments have been very simple to make and the staff have been very helpful. I’d definitely recommend you.
As Gwen said, if you’re playing live, you absolutely need proof of Public Liability insurance, otherwise most venues won’t allow you to perform.
Insure4Music offer specialist Public Liability insurance, as well as equipment cover for theft, loss and accidental damage. We also provide Personal Accident insurance in case anyone hurts themselves performing. For tailor-made specialist music insurance from just £20 a year, get your instant quote online today!