Somerset's Songs from the Shed - Sarah Ford finds out why musicians are flocking to a garden shed

PUBLISHED: 11:58 26 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:18 20 February 2013

Visiting musicians share this unique venue with the family chickens!

Visiting musicians share this unique venue with the family chickens!

Sarah Ford finds out why musicians are flocking to a garden shed near the seaside resort of Clevedon - to play songs from the shed.

Sarah Ford finds out why musicians are flocking to a garden shed near the seaside resort of Clevedon - to play songs from the shed.

Let's be honest, we know that men love their sheds and are content to while away the hours at the woodwork bench, mixing up the home brew, or tinkering with the toy train set. When Jon Earl moved to the countryside just outside Clevedon, he had grand plans for his garden shed, deciding it would provide the ideal location for a Cheese and Cider Society no less. But while his friends were salivating at the thought of meeting up over the odd glass, someone suggested they ask along a musician to provide entertainment. And before long the cheese and cider were shelved and replaced by something completely different.
Jon Earl began recording the musicians who came along to perform and now his 8ft by 10ft wooden shed has become the star in an unusual website specialising in online handmade acoustic video sessions.

Since its launch this summer, has quickly gained a reputation as a quirky, fun way for bands to get a 'live' performance online. The shed is attracting acts from all genres and recently hosted The Water Tower Bucket Boys from Portland, Oregon who followed their performance in the shed with a live session on Mark Lamarr's Radio 2 show.

Eager to take a look for myself, I met Jon in his garden, which is also home to the family's chickens and a cat with no tail called Ricoh. Inside the shed the shelves are lined with all manner of bits and pieces - everything from old tools and cameras to books and Jubilee celebration mugs. The building has a rustic and relaxed atmosphere and it's easy to see the appeal.

When the Water Tower Bucket Boys turned up after two weeks of touring, they were happy to have found a sanctuary away from their hectic schedule on the road. "The dcor is very authentic and makes you feel at home," Kenny Feinstein from the band tells me. "It was a blast, we drank some cider, ate some sandwiches and really just had a great time kickin' it. We don't have that sort of venue in the US; Jon is onto something really unique here."

Jon, who says he plays the guitar 'very badly' himself, has always loved listening to music. "I go to a lot of festivals, open mic and acoustic nights and there are so many good artists out there and all they crave is a bit of exposure. I give them a card and a surprising amount do contact me.
"We've had people here who have just recorded their first songs to ones that are quite established artists. But the shed is totally acoustic so we have to be sure it suits them. Most people who come in here are surprised to see no sophisticated recording equipment, just a hand-held digital camera. But they like that because all they've got to do is set up and play and they can be in and out in 15 minutes. Or some stay for a couple of hours."

Jon, who runs That Copy Shop in Clevedon, says his wife, Laura, was a little dubious about the venture at first. "She told me I could do it as long as it did not involve lots of people traipsing round the house. I think she's just got over the recent visit from the Gasworks Choir when 26 people popped in for tea!"

The couple have a 16-year-old son called Joe and a daughter Georgia, aged 11, who is a keen musician, playing the piano and fiddle. Laura has warmed to the idea and now enjoys seeing different musicians in her home, including one of her favourite bands, Dragonsfly from Cheddar.

Others who have performed in the shed include Dorset-based Lou Brown (who is now a firm favourite of Radio 2's Johnnie Walker), Roscoe from Wookey Hole and Fiddle Me Ree, a three-piece band who play in Jon's local, The Royal Oak.

Up and coming Nailsea singer-songwriter Lenny Savage pops by during my visit. Fresh from a recording session for Children in Need at Abbey Road studios, Lenny describes the shed as 'wicked' before going on to give me an impromptu performance to demonstrate the shed's great acoustics. As Lenny plays and sings, Jon shows me the small Canon video camera which he uses to record the sessions for the website.

Search the web and you will find something similar happening in a lift, another in a black cab and an online music show featuring acts on balconies around the world. But as far as Jon knows, there are no other sessions from a shed!

Jon, who is now fully booked with artists until the end of November, is delighted that something which began as a hobby has taken off, although he admits that his friends are a little disappointed about the loss of the Cheese and Cider Society.

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