‘Handbags and Gladrags’ – Stereophonics Keyboardist Tony Kirkham

6 March, 2015

BIMM Manchester’s Jimmy Docherty hosted a masterclass with keyboard player and touring member of the Welsh rock band Stereophonics, Tony Kirkham.

Amongst other topics, the talk covered the many varied aspects of Tony’s career to date as a touring/session musician to some entertaining stories about being at Ed Sheeran’s BRITS after-party with Orlando Bloom.

Kirkham, who originally started out as a songwriter, says he wasn’t always such as success in the music business – his first record bombed and he admits his biggest mistake was taking his foot off the pedal as soon as he was signed! In hindsight he advises: “Never sign anything without a lawyer” – Tony says he once got screwed out of a considerable amount of money by the BBC in the early days when he knew nothing about music publishing and law.

But through hard work and grasping his opportunities he ended up not only becoming part of a band who has released 5 consecutive No 1 albums, but also supporting well-respected artists including the Stones, Bowie, U2, Oasis, Bon Jovi and The Who!

His musical journey started with writing in the LA songwriting scene along with Carol King’s daughter and Bob Dylan’s bassist  ‘Write as much as possible,” he advised the audience, “it’s like practicing an instrument.”

Tony was fortunate to find an ally in the industry who became the head of a publishing company and signed him straight away. Following this he had the experience of writing with Manchester legend Ian Brown, when he went solo.

The next step on his career path was to join the Stereophonics – when the word got out that the band needed a keyboard player for their second album, Tony, who knew their manager, borrowed £5,000 from his brother to buy a keyboard for an audition.  Interestingly, he hadn’t really considered himself a keyboard player at the time – It’s no wonder the that he advised the student’s to “ Try to get comfortable with multiple instruments.”

Another chance situation for Kirkham led to the Stereophonics having a hit with a remake/version of the old Rod Stewart classic ‘Handbags and Gladrags’ – while jamming the tune one day the group recorded it as a demo for a laugh. Their label saw potential in this and decided to release it  – and the rest is history!

Overall, the masterclass was great for not just Stereophonics fans, but also provided useful advice for anyone who was thinking about becoming a session musician, too. BIMM Manchester students came away with positive comments: One BIMM Manchester student , Nicola Tuffy effused that it had been an

“Inspiring story how he started from the bottom, and great to hear some songwriting advice!” And another, Aaron Ledley, added that it had been “Great insight into various songwriting methods and nice of him to tell us his keyboard rundown.”

And to finish on some vital advice from Tony: “Practice to a metronome; if you can’t play in time you won’t get the job!”

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