Backstage with Geoff Widdowson
Geoff Widdowson is a music support technician at the University of the West of England’s (UWE) Centre for Music, imparting his years of experience and expertise from touring with the likes of Wu Tang Clan and The Proclaimers onto the next generation of musicians.
Geoff records and plays with a number of bands including Treetop Flyers, Unkle Bob and Danny and the Champions of the World. To hear Geoff’s tales from the road, his advice to up-and-coming musicians, and which new artists are catching his eye, keep on reading.
Was there a particular artist or band who inspired you to get into live performing?
I think the Beatles were probably the first band that I remember being truly amazed by as a child and thinking I would love to be involved. My mum also played the piano, so she has a lot to answer for, especially letting us see Blur and Oasis on the West Coast of Scotland where I grew up in the 90’s - that was pretty inspiring!
You’ve performed with some iconic artists, from Wu Tang Clan, The Proclaimers and Skatalites. Was there ever a time you felt starstruck and who made you feel that way?
I feel really lucky to have shared stages in support of some great artists over the years, and I really love touring and music, but I also think people are people the world over. I always try to find common ground with good folk, from engineers and artists to cleaners and cooks. I do remember thinking “it would be great if I could jump on the bus and hang out more with you” a few times with people backstage after a gig though I don’t know if I ever really felt starstruck as such. That said doing pre-production in a studio in NYC, Lou Reed came in and it was a moment I paused and stumbled as I do love the Velvet Underground.
Lou Reed in Greenwich Village, 1982. Photo credit: Waring Abbott/Getty Images.
An unfortunate combination of COVID and Brexit has meant that international touring has become much more challenging. Do you have any plans to get back on the road? Or like many other musicians, is that no longer a viable option for you
I would love to get back on the road more and I am hoping to do some more gigs and festivals this year with Treetop Flyers, Unkle Bob and Matt Owens amongst others. It really is great fun spending time out and about being involved with music but I’m finding it a tricky balance at the moment, and freelance work is not easy at the best of times! It was hard before the pandemic for grassroots venues and artists and now it has gotten even harder – I think this needs to be recognised more. I am incredibly lucky as I don’t depend fully on gigs currently, but I am happy to pay my bills and put food on the table month to month while always thankful for good health (and of course the NHS)!
Geoff performing with the Treetop Flyers. Photo Credit: Sam Ford Photography.
What do you enjoy most about working with up-and-coming performers at UWE Centre for Music?
It’s so great seeing folk that have never played a gig or made a recording do that as to me it is still the most amazing and special thing in the world. This is especially true when what they create is great! One of our recent alumni G U Y produced a great track and video with our help and I really look forward to watching him develop as an artist.
What advice do you have for young performers hoping to create a career in live music? Were you ever given any similar advice which helped you?
I would say know your worth. The music industry is full of folk trying to make money and the least they can do is pay you for your time, so don’t be afraid to say no. I remember being told you have to value your work otherwise no one else will. I also think the internet and almost a “throw-away” streaming music culture that was born out of the Noughties has a lot to answer for.
First gig, last gig, favourite gig?
First ever gig was Blur in my childhood hometown of Dunoon on their Seaside Tour in 1995. Last gig I went to was playing with Treetop Flyers for the ‘Old Habits’ album launch in December 2021. Favourite gig, and I should probably say one of many, was Bruce Springsteen at Hard Rock Calling in 2013… or possibly Oasis at Loch Lomond in 1996. Although the Stones have always been great but I’ve yet to see Adele or Taylor and I would love to see them.
Can you name a song that can instantly boost your mood?
All You Need Is Love by The Beatles always makes me smile – I have been a fan since I was a kid.
Which artist/band/performer would you like to see perform at YTL Arena Bristol and why?
It would be great to see Biffy Clyro play amongst others as I have been a fan since knowing Simon and the boys in the early days when they played King Tut's Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow to 30 or so people in 1998/99. They are really sound blokes and what a journey they have been on - I love them!
And finally, can you share an all-time favourite song we can add it to our YTL Arena Backstage Pass playlist?
You may not thank me for this but I love Chameleon by Herbie Hancock. It is still one of my top ten – the album Headhunters is also great – but I love the way the themes develop and the tune is epic as well as the recording and musicianship!