Since January 2015, I have produced and presented an audio celebration of music, bringing together benchmark interviews and an exciting radio show format that has won a loyal following across the UK and abroad. Great Music Stories (GMS) has chronicled artist stories over time through the highs and lows, tackled the big issues head-on and I’ve gone into bat for hundreds of grassroots bands often struggling for airtime. A recognised trend-setter for calling things early, GMS has a proven track-record in moving the dial for a generation of rising artists. Three former bands of the year went on to get signed and hit the mainstream charts.
The interview format has a distinct personality and many listeners have referred to the rockshow as their favourite show on radio. The marriage of interview original approach and radio show format has garnered industry recognition – with seven nominations for national audio/radio awards. During the lockdown era, my show gained two nominations in successive years as best music presenter, a volunteer project from ‘the rock caravan’ standing in the company of the biggest names in the industry.
Whilst GMS started out as a multi-genre project, within a year the cause focused on championing a new generation of grassroots rock and blues artists – ‘modern rock’ was the phrase we coined. To this day, the format is portable and has bandwidth. We have also followed the stories of classic artists and dipped into other genres. GMS can work across any genre as it’s ultimately about the meaningful stories behind music, the creative process – and its contribution to culture and society at large.
A compelling interview series
Since 2015, GMS has earned a reputation for stand-out interviews. The signature format is the a 60-minute hour special with an artist, although we also do thematic seasons on topics that involve short, quick-fire interviews with a group of artists. For around 200 artists, we have told their story over time, speaking to each at key points through the year. After 7 years, more than 1,200 interview hour specials and 3,850 shorts have been recorded, presenting a benchmark archive of artist stories – as they happened – over time, and through some key events in history.
Birth of a different kind of rockshow
Working in parallel with the interviews, I started a rock show in 2015 to give a platform for a new generation of rock bands that my interviews were beginning to focus on. At the time there were very few radio outlets for this music and the show quickly gained a reputation for leading the charge on dozens of new bands. The show format attracted a loyal weekly audience for whom 5pm on Fridays became fixed calendar event. During the show I didn’t just play new music, we made the discovery of artists exciting and many gained long runs – and the show became well known for live listener engagement, which reminded us of the value of radio over podcasts. A lot of the music we invested in was picked up by others. We helped to create a ripple at the start, for a scene that has since gained significant momentum.
The lockdown years
In February, had decided to take a break from local radio after a 5-year run – and weeks later Covid struck. With millions of people in lockdown it was a time for the enriching warmth of audio, so I set up a radio station from a knackered caravan that I parked at the end of my garden. Monty Python but seriously passionate in equal measure, it proved to be a golden age for GMS, the freedom to create an editorial style that broke with convention, was brave over safe and original in format. From the spirit of invention we ran interview seasons that tackled the big issues – such as ‘the working musician during lockdown,’ mental health, ‘the road to recovery’ after lockdown, DEI and ‘women of rock.’ We also organised there weekend festivals on radio – with the ‘modern rock wellbeing festival’ proving to be one of the grassroots highlights of the lockdown era. An intensive run that seamlessly married radio with the ongoing interview series, the ‘rock caravan’ era gave hundreds of artists a lifeline in the non-gig age and helped thousands of people get through a succession of lockdowns and home isolation. The listeners powered it and we recognised them as the stars of the show by giving them their own series.
As Neil Mach commented in his 2020 article: “Guy doesn’t just spin tracks – his commitment to really get behind bands and give them concerted attention over time is an important factor in helping to get bands noticed. Here the interplay of an engaging radio show with in-depth feature hour interviews combine well to give music fans the chance to really get under the skin of a band or artist.”
With Covid restrictions falling away, in February 2022 I decided to take a break. Part of the healing and recovery process after such a strange time in history requires a moment to stop, to refresh and to reappraise. I am using time this spring to think about what next for the radio show, I am starting work on the Great Music Stories book and am working on new ideas of audio interview series that resonate with a new post-Covid era. But the interviews continue. It’s a time for new ideas and there will be a new chapter. The Great Music Stories continue…
363 Friday radio shows
Over 200 days of Covid
More than 1,000 first plays
1,245 interview hour specials
3,801 interview shorts
48 Bands of the month and 65 albums of the month
7 bands of the year – 3 subsequently signed by Earache Records
7 seasons of the New Horizons series with 420 bands
5 online festivals with more than 388 live sets
5 sponsored festival stages
7 listener T shirt runs
2 editions of ‘Modern Rock’
Shortlisted for 7 national radio awards
and 180 lockdown rock kitchen episodes