Alan John Richardson is a man on a mission. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist pours his heart, soul, and experiences into his music – and the result is raw, authentic melodies.
Creativity Undefined spoke with Alan about his upcoming projects, his musical journey, and providing a supportive platform for song writers in the region.
What inspired you to pick up your first guitar?
Watching Top of the Pops on TV as a child, I was taken to pick one at the store for my 11th birthday, the one I chose had a red dragon shooting blue fire on it, some kind of white Stratocaster shape by Yamaha. I recognised years later that this was an unrealized passion of my Dad’s
Have you considered exploring other instruments?
I try drums every so often; rhythm is important for writers, currently studying Ukulele and looking to take Oud lessons in the near future.
Looking back, what was your greatest achievement and your greatest challenge? Why?
Music is always its own reward, making numerous recordings/releases and playing tours/shows doesn’t really yield as much contentment as the process for me; writing a song that really captures a moment or tells a powerful story that a listener can connect with is the biggest achievement. Perhaps when someone has this response to your music and they take time to share this, that’s really humbling and also validating.
Collaboration is a duality, in this way you can make music more powerful than on your own however lining up all of these creative visions, communicating effectively, holding space for all who are contributing; this can be a real challenge.
Is there anything that you would’ve done differently or wished had happened differently? What? Why?
Yes, of course, I’m a human being busy being human…Music wise things I would have liked to change I now know, there was a reason for them happening, those events had a purpose which has presented itself later down the line and this has taught me to let go and trust in the process. It’s ok to wish things were different but also to understand why they’re not; that kind of responsibility yields power.
Tell us more about the project that you’ll be releasing this summer. Was it challenging to create music and shoot the videos while also dealing with pandemic life?
In Gilded Chambers is purely my own song-writing, the first time in a long time that I haven’t had a co-writer or band format to shape the works and it’s coming from that space of sincerity, like the folk-esque sound of natural/acoustic instruments with that story-telling element.
I’ve cause for concern that we’re losing that, that deep connection to a narrative set in sound, that can simultaneously occupy your heart and imagination, you know when the hairs stand up! Too much Tiky Toky and instant gratification and writing just to make ‘content’ we’re on the precipice of throwing meaningful art into the abyss. This project is a custodian of a very small section of all I hold dear in respect of communication, storytelling, meaning and emotion.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Has that changed since the pandemic hit last year? Why?
Literature, story-telling, psychology, philosophy, mythology.
This pandemic and the initial quarantine is what brought the playing and writing back to my attention. After years of playing in bands, for artists and writing in London I’d took a break upon arrival in the Emirates and may have even retired from it, but staying in isolation was a reconnection to the form and the instrument.
Who would you jump at the chance to collaborate with, if given the chance? Why?
Good question, the nature of this project is to narrow my own focus and find that truly honest statement that only I can make so I’d be looking for a supportive environment and those that can create this. Regionally am a huge fan of the band Noon and think we could create something special if the opportunity arose, they’re so progressive with their Eastern tonality and expansive melodic forms but like underpinned with some really hard rhythm breaks and progressive grooves, electronica…you can tell, they’re open and want to create…check them out!
And ok…if Harry Styles wants something for his next album then yeah, I’d be into it.
The pandemic’s had a lasting impact on everyone. What was the biggest adjustment that you’ve had to do?
I live alone and so when we were in lockdown I had to work hard to keep a positive and rational mind frame going, it was an adjustment but, as for many of us, the lessons that have came with this challenge were important ones. Remembering myself and to maintain that relationship, to not lose my own voice to distraction, this is a powerful realization and as I mentioned it is where the writing of this material began and that passion reignited so in some ways I have gratitude for the experience.
Do you think that you’ll maintain any changes once things return to normal? If yes, what and why? If no, why?
Well certainly as I just mentioned designated time for myself, to chill, to take activities, to be and to be ‘present’– I’ll ensure this happens on the regular now.
What shifts have you observed from creatives, especially those in the musical field? Will these last beyond the pandemic? Why?
Musicians create for social groups; audiences, and the most powerful version of this is in person, seeing all of the creative ways that music makers continued to engage with listeners and share their works virtually was very innovative. After a couple of weeks it had become so intense, I actually had scheduling clashes of whose live stream I wanted to watch. This is going to remain with us now and become the most common form of consumption, it was happening prior to the pandemic, but it has served as a catalyst, speeding up the process. Live music provided the revenue for the industry after songs/works moved into the digital realm, now live performance is going the same way there’s a lot to figure out. Spotify announcing virtual concert tickets for sale! This industry is always responding, constantly changing, and not always for the better but sometimes out of necessity. This area of digital music and its future will need figuring out, grass roots music and the scenes they eschewed really are on the ropes at this moment in time.
We’re intrigued by the song-writing platform that you’re developing. Can you tell us more about it: what inspired it, how’s your experience been so far, and what do you hope to achieve once it’s done?
Yes, in partnership with my good friend Janelle and his home studio (studio 34), we’re looking to develop a platform that offers the duality of on-line, pod-cast type content as the promotion for an actual live event in the song-writer’s style popular in Nashville. We’re speaking to venues and artists/acts now…it’s all in the planning stages and we have had some real positive responses so it’s a likely coming soon, we’re getting excited to showcase this! We aim to be a regular live event hosting in different sites across several Emirates offering a quality night of music, we want audiences to get the story behind the song, to hear the inspiration that writer was working from as well as the performance. We feel that the UAE is ready to start looking at Music as part of culture that has value beyond just entertainment and want to hold this space for original music makers in the region.
What advice would you share with anyone starting out that you wished someone had told you?
Ah wow; keep it real, manage your expectations, control your emotions, learn to let go and find your flow.
How can people support indies, especially those in the UAE, based on your experience?
Independent artists and acts need spaces and places to share their creations, somewhere to learn and gain experience as a grass roots art movement, a scene if you will. There’s some good channels/sites/places trying to offer something – melodica, thomsun, lazy Friday session for Home concerts, numerous open mics, so I’d say get along and be just as attentive and supportive as when someone inevitably drops Zombie! Show appreciation, it can really help maintain the motivation and remember a great deal of the music and songs you enjoy today came from bands/acts/writers who started out like this so act accordingly.
How do you balance your personal life and creative pursuits?
As a songwriter my personal life runs through the narrative of the music I make from the experiences I have actually had to observations I make of the world around me. It’s all intrinsically intertwined so I guess that’s not really balanced as much as catharsis; writing songs helps me process how I feel and to communicate this.
What’s a goal that you hope to achieve, personally and professionally, in the next five years?
I’d like the platform we’re developing to be established and playing a role in the hub of spaces that music makers can access to share and promote their own original songs. This would satisfy on both a personal and professional level, with a subject like music you have to give back to it – it doesn’t work if you just take from it; the revenue, the adulation, this only inflates the ego and isn’t accessing how powerful a medium it is.