Local musician Dan Clews brings the magic of Carole King and James Taylor to Sevenoaks on 22 June
ONE of the highlights of Dan Clews’ musical career was when he performed a solo spot at the internationally famous Glastonbury Festival in 2013.
But this was not the first time Dan had been to Glastonbury. The 38-year-old musician, who lives in Noahs Ark near Kemsing, recalls: “Ten years before I performed there, a friend sneaked me in to the festival by carrying me in a suitcase!
“But in a twist of fate, I was recounting this story to someone connected with the organisation of the festival a few years later and he thought it so hilarious that he remembered my name and that led to me being booked to play there.”
Dan has since appeared singing and playing guitar at other famous venues such as The Albert Hall in London when he backed Level 42, and on Friday 22 June he will putting on one of his own shows – The Carole King and James Taylor Story – at The Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks.
Dan said: “I like to call it a ‘Showmentary’ as we tell the story of some of the world’s greatest artists through live music spliced with documentary footage. This particular show gives a detailed account of the lives of James Taylor and Carole King and takes the audience on the journey of how they achieved stardom.
So why did Dan choose James Taylor? “It was more he chose me,” explains Dan. “I sang one of his songs, ‘Something in the way she moves’, at my brother’s wedding and a lot of people commented that I sounded a lot like James Taylor – which was a surprise to me as I always thought I sounded like Paul Simon! As a result, I went into his back catalogue and found what is now some of my most favourite music.
“James Taylor and Carole King have collaborated on several songs and have toured together which meant she was an obvious ‘name’ to include in the show. Luckily, I know Phoebe Katis who performs Carole King songs and so teamed up with her. Phoebe is an incredible singer songwriter in her own right and an amazing piano player and musician.”
Dan describes his own influences as being somewhere in between Americana and Folk, but his first memories of listening to music are quite eclectic. He says: I can remember listening to the Beastie Boys in the late 80s and then hearing Cliff Richard sing with The Young Ones. Somehow the two mashed up to put me on the road I am on today.
“I first picked up a guitar when I was about 10 years old and then I had guitar lessons at Sevenoaks Prep School. The first song I ever learned was Apache by The Shadows. After school I went to college in London and then Liverpool to study music. Everything you hear about the Liverpool music scene is true. It is just amazing.
“Later I spent a little time in Sweden where I found myself in a psychedelic folk band but my time recording there somehow put me on the radar of the former Beatles producer George Martin.
“He heard some of the stuff I had produced and when I returned to the UK, he signed me as an individual artist to his label. There has been no overnight success though. George has helped to fund various small projects of mine – and still does – but this certainly has kept me moving in the right direction career and music wise.
“In reality you have to wear many hats to survive in the music industry. I am a singer and a musician, plus a songwriter, a teacher and a business owner. I have a company called ‘We Teach Music’ and there are about 10 of us who teach at local schools such as Sevenoaks Prep, Shoreham, Plaxtol and a few others.”
Dan likes performing in a group, but circumstances have led to him being better known as a solo artist. “And of course, one of the good things about being solo is that you walk away with all the money,” he says with a wry smile on his face.
“Although I am very lucky to have been asked to play in some big and famous venues, I have had some of my most magical nights performing at places like The Forum in Tunbridge Wells and The Stag Theatre in Sevenoaks where it is a lot more intimate.”
The upcoming show at The Stag only features the music of James Taylor and Carole King, but Dan has put together a series of his ‘Showmentaries’ featuring different genres of music through Night Owl (www.nightowlshows.com), one of his other companies These are the LA Series, which includes James Taylor, Carole King and Joni Mitchell; The Tennessee series, featuring music by Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, and the 007 – Voices of Bond series.
All these shows are being performed at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe between 3 – 25 August 2018 when Dan and his team of 14 performers and crew will be performing a gruelling seven shows a day for almost three weeks.
Before then Dan can be heard playing at the Thursday evening get togethers he organises called ‘Folking In The Strawberries’ at Stonepitts, a pick your own farm in Seal owned by his parents Martin and Jackie. Dan said: “This originally started a few years ago as just a get together involving a couple of guitarists and a few friends in field, playing some songs while enjoying a glass of wine as the sun was setting. We didn’t even need PA speakers then.
“It has now grown to the point where about 500 people turn up between 6-9pm every Thursday and there is food and drink from local restaurants and brewers on offer for visitors – not forgetting the best strawberries in the world. The entrance cost is £10 a car so if there are four of you it is only £2.50 each for three hours of entertainment.
“I still play every week myself and it is mainly local musicians, but they do come from all over. We have even flown in some international musicians to take part occasionally. It’s a real mixed bag from high profile performers to people you have never heard of – yet!
Dan’s father Martin plays guitar himself in a traditional folk band called the Kingston Mayor – because it features the former Mayor of Kingston. But Martin became a ‘star’ in his own right in 2014 when a film of him leading passengers in a sing song on a late-night train from London to Sevenoaks went viral.
Dan jokes: “The Youtube video of him singing on the train has been viewed and shared so many times that more people have heard him sing than me!”
To order tickets for the Carole King & James Taylor Story on Friday 22 June call the Stag Box Office on 01732 450175 or go to stagsevenoaks.co.uk/
There is a special offer whereby if you buy four tickets you get an extra one free.
Folking in the Strawberries 2018 dates are Thursdays: 21 & 28 June; 5, 12, 19 & July. The entertainment starts at 6pm but it is best to get there about half an hour earlier to find a ‘pitch’ in the field.