Interview by Steve Dean
Photo by Simon Bamford
Michael Esgate a.k.a. Truth Be Known has released a CD, ‘The Birds and the Booze EP’ on the Big Music label - recently reviewed by Stephen Harvey (DJ Fresh). Big Music of Crewe is businessman and music-lover Elliot Brown and musician and producer Jay Jay Estridge. Stoke Sounds went along for a chat...
- So how did Big Music come about?
ELLIOT: Essentially day-to-day we’re an advertising agency and a record label is something I’ve always wanted to get into and start up really. I’m the business side of it and Jason is the music man.
JJ: I’ve done a lot of session stuff and played in various bands. I play keyboards, drums and bass. I’ve been teaching in schools and doing workshops. Music has been my whole life really. I got married and having a family means I need a bit more stability than with just gigging; where you don’t really know when your next lot of money’s coming in. So I’ve honed it down and I now have a studio at home.
ELLIOT: Jason is an unbelievable musician, just put an instrument in front of him and he’ll blow you away with it.
- Do you intend to specialise in hip hop or are you looking to promote any other kind of music?
ELLIOT: The reason we started with hip hop is because it is music I’ve always been interested in ever since school really. With other music there is a lot of competition all around the country, whereas with hip hop I don’t think there’s that much competition when it comes to a Northern artist. Down South you’ve got artists breaking through like Dizzee Rascal, and Ironik has had a record in the charts for around eight weeks or something. When it comes to Northern rappers, they are all underground. I think there’s definitely a market because people have been listening to American hip hop music for twenty years and are now leaning towards English rap, which is all London-based, which, if you’re from up North, can be a little difficult to relate to. Certainly for me anyway, and also a lot of people I’ve spoken to about it.
JJ: To be realistic, you can touch on different aspects of all different styles of music, but if you concentrate on one and learn all about that, then you can branch off from there. It’s nice to have a focal point. Me personally, outside of here, I’ll write country and western, r ’n’ b, gospel, almost anything. I love all sorts of music, but for this particular project I’ll focus on hip hop.
ELLIOT: This is the first step to see if we can be a success in the music business. I think we’ve got all the ingredients; Jason is an expert musically and I’ve been in business since I left school. The advertising side of the business is growing quite quickly and I now employ staff to handle the day-to-day running of things while I can spend more time on creative projects like this one. What we do with advertising is fantastic, but music is something I’ve always been passionate about.
- How are you promoting Truth Be Known right now?
ELLIOT: We’ve been on a Radio Stoke live session with DJ Fresh and we’ve also been advertising on the internet; but the main thing we want to do with Truth Be Known is get him some live performances in the local area. We’re always looking at new ways to promote him and the CD is available on iTunes and Amazon. Another thing we’re looking at is more airplay. Another promotional factor is a video and we’re working on that with a view to getting it on urban music stations and get some interest that way.
JJ: I think the best way to go about promoting it will be revealed as we go along. There is no cocksure way to promote anything really.
ELLIOT: There is no guaranteed way to success; just keep plugging away and get his name out there. If people look for him on the internet, they will find him. We have a pretty strong presence on there.
JJ: As an artist, I know well that the more gigging you do, the better you become at it. Performing hasn’t been a top priority on our list because we wanted to get the CD recorded first. We want his image to be as true as possible to how he really is. He has done some stage stuff, but that has mainly been theatre. When you are just one person on a stage, it can be pretty daunting and we want to build him up in that area.
ELLIOT: For this type of music, there isn’t really that many places to play, so when you do play a gig, you want to put as spot-on a performance as possible. Also the music is mainly on backing tracks, so at a live gig the pressure is that much more on a solo entertainer.
- Are you in a position to pay your artists anything?
ELLIOT: It’s all based on royalties really. There aren’t any £100,000 advances. We are prepared to spend the time, talent and money getting him where he wants to go. We’ve got guys working on the video even as we speak. As for the CD, Jason put it all together and composed and played all the music and finally mastered it.
- Sounds like you’ve got a lot to offer an aspiring artist. Are you open to other artists sending you demos for possible inclusion on the Big Music label?
ELLIOT: Ideally, I’d like to say ‘yes’, as you’re never going to find fantastic talent unless you are listening to demos, but as this is quite early days, we are looking to put all of our attention into this one project for the time being. Truth Be Known has enough words written for about 40 tracks, so we’ve enough to be getting on with at the moment. We are committed at the moment to getting him more exposure, more radio and TV work. We’ll do all we can to get him out there.
When it’s all said and done it seems to me that Truth be Known would have been hard-pressed to find better support than this pretty much anywhere. With this sort of commitment, Big Music and Michael Esgate are halfway there already. Stoke Sounds wishes them every future success.