I started Great Music Stories in 2015. Having come back to guitar-based and rock music after a long break, I was struck by how little seemed to have changed. The same old bands were being played on radio and appearing in magazines. The only thing that had changed was that we had all got a bit older.
As I had a look around, I stumbled across some new bands and it quickly became clear that there was pretty vibrant underground scene. I started to dig a little deeper and one-by-one discovered a crop of exciting young bands, many starved of airtime or mainstream media exposure. What’s more, starting out in a music and media landscape that was emphatically changing raised challenges for young bands. The path forward was not obvious and many had a struggle making music financially viable. The weird counter-point between mainstream media either ignoring rock or focusing on the old stuff – at the very time when there was a rich a vibrant groundswell of new and technically impressive young bands – made me want to do something useful. And to do something that put the new bands front and centre.
For me, the missing jigsaw piece was the stories. It would take time and some investment to do something useful, so I set up Great Music Stories, an independent audio interview series that would grow over time and which could partner with various events and media.
Having met a number of bands, my interest in following their stories grew. Not the usual album or tour promo stuff but the real stories behind the bands. Every band has one. And every band story is different. This is how Great Music Stories started, an interest in bringing out the personalities, the characters behind the music and to present their stories that, hopefully, would help their music to be better understood or more deeply appreciated. When it comes down to it, music is about people – and their stories: the highs, the lows, the dreams, the successes – and the mistakes.
With the Great Music Stories brand and site established I then had a dabble on radio, something I’d not done since my 20s, and I started a weekly rock show on a small volunteer community station, another platform through which I decided to air some of my Great Music Stories interviews. The fit was quirky and a bit odd given most of my listeners were outside the FM catchment and tuning in from all parts of the country. That said my show earned critical acclaim and gave the station a weekly peak in listenership. By 2020 I decided it was time to move on from local radio and to give the Great Music Stories interviews a proper home. GMS radio was born during lockdown and quickly the new internet radio platform gave the interviewed bands access to a much bigger audience on a platform that was about and for the rising genre.
The first six months of flying solo has been the most fulfilling period in my Great Music Stories journey. As lockdown started, I put together a lunchtime series of speech-only hour specials, giving artists the platform to talk about events as they happened and share a common bond with fans on air. It was a daily lunchtime series, the thing so many rock stations and broadcasters hadn’t seemed to have registered was that it wasn’t about drive time any people. People needed something to lift the daytime hours so we rolled at midday every day. Beyond this, the work-rate of band hour specials accelerated, more than 180 new interview hours populated a new weekend radio schedule over the summer months. And the crown of this period were two weekend radio festivals, one in June and the Modern Rock Wellbeing Festival in August – pulling down the media silos as a truly international audience tuned into enjoy live music from 104 bands over a weekend in what proved to be one of the (surprise) music success stories of the summer.
Five calendar years on – I have conducted more than 750 band interview hours under the Great Music Stories brand – plus more than 2,000 interview shorts. Together this is, perhaps, the biggest original interview archive on the new generation of rock and blues bands. A selection of around 20% the archive is made available on this site for listen again and most weekends a run of choice features reairs via the radio platform. Many artists have said how much they enjoy doing interviews with Great Music Stories, to many the approach is different. I hope I have captured some of those moments on this site.
I do rotate the content on this site, and take time to look at the interviews that are most popular – which, in turn, guides planning on which bands I go back to next or which ones get fast-tracked for a repeat interview.
On this site I also write one album review a month. I’m not really interested in reviewing everything, nor do I think it’s my place to criticise material I don’t personally like or ‘get.’ Critics and reviewers can be a pain – and a statue has never been erected in memory of them! My approach is to pick one album a month that, objectively, I think is special and to write about it – and do something useful. Once an album is chosen, we usually support our picks with further Great Music Stories interviews.
On Friday’s, I still air my weekly radio show on my own platform, and I can service third parties with a weekly Great Music Stories show. The Friday 5-10pm show has become ‘a thing’ and we’ve earned significant track record for starting real momentum on dozens of acts that have been picked up and blossomed elsewhere.
The show supports young bands in a different way to many bigger outlets, we tend to take a chance on new bands and sustain support over time. My show has been shortlisted for three consecutive years at national radio awards, shortlisted against national radio shows, and many artists have become firm friends and enjoy the way we do interviews that bit differently.
In other capacities, Great Music Stories has also been involved in supporting music festival stages for young bands, produced exclusive audio content for a number of events and we have supported a number of crowdfunding campaigns.
At the outset, the plan was to do a run of 20 band features. Nothing more than that. Five years on, I am still finding new acts to collaborate with. Anyone that says rock & roll is dead is in cloud cuckoo land and the factual scale of the scene makes a nonsense of such subjective comments. It’s the depth and breadth of this new generation of guitar music that makes it so interesting. It’s been there for sometime. It has not been manufactured, no one owns it and no one controls it – but it’s something everyone should be part of, and to engage with on their own terms. Do explore the bands on this site and if you like any of the band stories, do go and check out their music, buy a few albums and start your own journey with a new generation of British guitar music.
Anyone interested in being featured on Great Music Stories or working together, do get in touch via the contact page of this site.
The main social media platform for news on forthcoming interviews is Twitter. Follow my page @GuyB_rockshow for all the latest news. I also do occasional posts on the Great Music Stories Facebook page on key features.