This has been an incredibly busy year – when isn’t it!
At the start of the year, I was extremely fortunate to secure sponsorship from the Arts Council IOM! This led directly to my benefitting from some very exciting opportunities in music as well as being able to take time out from all other obligations to concentrate on my song-writing and musical technique. To this end, I have been focussing on my acoustic set and working hard on developing my own sound. I’ve played quite a few live acoustic shows this year, on the Island (with my guitarist Nell), in the UK and beyond and it’s been really well received! I feel that I’ve definitely improved overall and developed my own style now so I’m really looking forward to getting out there more!
All the determination in evolving my acoustic sound resulted in the recording and filming of my show in one of the coolest bars back home on the Isle of Man. The recording was released as a CD and DVD and it’s called ‘Mae Challis Live at Bath and Bottle’ and I think it represents my sound perfectly! I’m so proud of this album, it was an opportunity to be completely me and it showcases all the hard work I put in leading up to the evening of the recording. Performing live is my absolute favourite part of being a singer, songwriter and musician so for me, this is perfect! I hope you enjoy listening to the recording as much as I did performing it!
In early Spring I spent an incredible long weekend in a picturesque town in Wales called Abergavenny! It was a place I’d have loved to explore but I was there for a very special meeting, it was the hometown of award winning producer Steve ‘Bushy’ Bush! He has produced so many amazing and successful releases, including Ocean Colour Scene, Corinne Bailey Rae and also one of my all time favourite releases ‘Performance and Cocktails’ by Stereophonics which has sold over 2.5 million albums! And here I was specially invited to spend a weekend in his own private studio! It really was a memorable time in the studio with ‘Bushy’ putting his own twist on some of my songs!
I enjoyed another amazing experience when I was personally invited to play a set at the TT Music Village by the festival organisers! As it was an impromptu invite I didn’t have time to make arrangements to rehearse my band so I played a solo acoustic set and it was fabulous! The sun was shining, the sound out front and on stage was perfect and whilst I love playing with my band, it really was something else to have such a big stage all to myself! Having said that, the organisers have promised me a prime slot with my band at the TT Festival next year! Can’t wait!!
I then made the first of two trips to the beautiful island of Malta! The first trip was to record a duet of my song ‘Is It Strange’ with Maltese singer Joe Roscoe. It was truly magical to have an established vocalist and song-writer recording one of my songs and to work in a completely different environment with new production ideas and techniques in a foreign Country. Something I never thought I’d achieve! The song went on to be aired many times on Maltese radio stations as well as back home in on Manx radio stations. Before I had to fly home I managed to squeeze in an impromptu acoustic set supporting Joe’s band Red Electric in a very funky waterside bar which led to me being invited back on………..
……..my second Maltese trip! To open for Joe and Red Electric at a sold out St Augusta Auditorium with Joe Roscoe and Red Electric! It was a real ‘In & Out’ trip, catching the red eye flight from the Island to Manchester on Saturday morning (alarm set for 5am!) then transferring to a connecting flight to Malta where we arrived at just after midday. We then caught a taxi to the venue in the town of Rabat, for a soundcheck before travelling back to the capital city Valletta to check in to our hotel and have a late lunch on ‘The Steps’! After a quick freshen up at the hotel it was time to head to the venue! My show time was 8pm and it was a blast! Fabulous sound on stage and in the auditorium and a really appreciative and responsive audience who called for an encore, which of course they got! I met so many new ‘fans/friends’ after the show which is always one of my favourite parts of live performances! After Joe and Red Electric had played their fantastic set, we all went onto the after show party where we celebrated the evening until the early hours. An alarm call for 6am Sunday morning meant we could grab breakfast before heading to the airport for the midday flight back to the UK and a connecting flight to the Isle of Man! Travel from the Island to 2 different Countries and back, a sellout gig, a party, all done and dusted in 36 hours! Phew!
n November I travelled to London to meet A&R maestro Nick (surname withheld for legal reasons) and the team at Metropolis Studios in Chiswick. Meeting them all was definitely a thrill but also really nerve racking as this was a meeting that was over 4 years in the waiting! I had come to Nick’s notice long before I recorded the ‘Crazy’ single and he’d been watching and listening to my development and progress with interest.
It wasn’t until he heard my ‘Live at Bath and Bottle’ CD/DVD that he’d asked to meet me in person, so it was great to put a face to a name. We met in Studio 1 at Metropolis, the same studio that Queen recorded the album ‘Innuendo’ and the video for the song ‘Headlong’. In the live room was the actual Fazioli piano that Freddie Mercury used on the album. I was thrilled when I was invited to play it! And Nick and the team hadn’t realised I could play so that seemed to impress them!
I finished the year playing a trio of gigs between Christmas and New Year with Chicago based Manx singer, songwriter and guitarist Davy Knowles in Port St Mary, Davy’s hometown. It was my first experience of playing 3 consecutive shows and gave me an insight of what a proper tour might be like! Amazing! It was a thrill to meet and watch Davy and his band and I got to sing a duet with him, Bryan Adams and Tina Turner’s ‘It’s Only Love’ all 3 nights! My band and I played an all original set, no covers, which again made the gigs seem part of a real tour. I’ll never forget the experience and the buzz those gigs gave me.
Love Mae xxx