Wolverhampton Unsigned musician Sleuth wants to conquer Civic Hall
It doesn't take much detective work to realise it's been a good start to 2019 for Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Sleuth.
Hot on the heels of his latest EP release Group Of Bears last month, he was chuffed to hear that legendary DJ Steve Lamacq had picked up on opening track Post-it-note Prophecies and given it some radio airtime on his BBC 6 Music show last week – 'a great response' according to the musician.
And the former Highfields School pupil and University of Wolverhampton student is just happy to see things moving in the right direction for his latest project following on from the EP's launch at the city centre's Stay Loose Records shop on Farmers Fold.
"This is my latest incarnation after playing various instruments in other bands previously either doing my own material or playing other’s original material," says Sleuth, AKA Chris Taylor-Ashcroft from Tettenhall. "I like recording, playing all of the instruments by myself, very reminiscent of some of my favourite influences Sir Paul McCartney and Elliott Smith.
"I did Inside Tracks a little while back on WCR [Wolverhampton Community Radio - 101.8FM], a Desert Island Discs-type affair. I got to play my favourite artists that display points in my life. I included the likes of The Beatles, Bowie, Dylan, The Charlatans, Elliott Smith, The Smiths and Conor Oberst."
And using those influences Sleuth put together his latest EP, with the title referring to his name being what you would call a Group Of Bears. And recording it took the concept of DIY music to the highest level.
"The EP was recorded by myself in my own studio playing all of the instruments – including drums, bass, guitars, pianos, synths," he adds. "I was also singing with some help from Becky Pickin and Andy Miles of local band Grande Valise. They are part of the live Sleuth band along with Carl Bayliss on drums. Live, Becky plays bass and sings backing vocals and Andy plays guitar and provides backing vocals.
"The EP was mixed by myself but mastered by Dan Hersch in LA who has mastered an unbelievable back catalogue including Morrissey and Eels – I am huge fans of both."
And as mentioned, he's been getting some pretty big responses to the release to make all the hard work and hours put in worthwhile.
"Group Of Bears has been receiving some extremely positive reviews including being played on Steve Lamacq Recommends, closing the show on BBC 6 Music, and being awarded EP of the month by [local music publication] Ryan’s Gig Guide."
And despite atrocious weather, Sleuth launched the EP with a rocking show at Stay Loose Records. And following that he had nothing but thanks for the store's founder and long-time Blast Off nightclub DJ, Ian Davies.
"Ian was extremely kind in letting us take over his shop," Sleuth adds. "We had a good turn-out and I think everyone enjoyed the stripped down acoustic set and a chance to get hold of the new EP on release day, as well as some merchandise. It turned out to be extremely intimate due to everyone cramming into the shop away from the wind and rain."
READ MORE: Sleuth, Group Of Bears - EP review
And so having conquered one musical venue in his home city, Sleuth has immediately set his sights on where he would like to entertain his fans in the future.
"My favourite venue would have to be Wolverhampton’s own Civic Hall where I cannot count how many times I have been to see gigs and often mused how great it would be to play there.
"I do always like playing Wolverhampton as it is my hometown and have been fortunate enough to play WolvesFest the past two years, which is a great festival, as well as play at the Arena Theatre's No Amps, No Chat, No Charge event, which is a great evening."
The list of names Sleuth has performed alongside is also impressive, including one Black Country boy who has tasted success atop the charts.
"I have done some great shows in my time before Sleuth and I’ve enjoyed playing with the likes of Stourbridge's The Wonder Stuff frontman Miles Hunt, Quasi, The Bluetones' Mark Morriss, The Coral, The Wombats, Simple Kid, and I've even played at Molineux during half-time.
"Playing The Cavern in Liverpool is also always great, and I have been able to play as Sleuth at The Cavern both front stage and main back stage, as well as the pub in the past two years. The acts to have graced the back stage are immense, including Sir Paul McCartney himself."
But as we have seen many times in The Ticket Unsigned over the past couple of years, it would be remiss for Sleuth to rest on his laurels and bask in what he has achieved so far. And he isn't doing that by any stretch of the imagination.
Looking ahead to 2019, the Sleuth diary is already starting to fill up.
"A music video is planned for Post-it-note Prophecies, for which filming will start mid-January," he adds. "There's likely to be some live shows towards spring-time and then some summer festivals."
And he is already looking to jump back into the recording studio to increase his back catalogue, adding: "Recording the next EP will start immediately.
"The question is, though, should I concentrate this year on recording two-to-three EPs or an album? Which would people prefer? This seems to be the debate currently."
To take part in that debate, Sleuth can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @sleuthsounds where he would love to hear fans' views. His current EPs can be purchased and downloaded via his Bandcamp page by typing his name into the search bar.
The Ticket Unsigned would also like to say a massive congratulations to five acts who previously graced this page who were last weekend named on the BBC Music Introducing West Midlands' Sound of 2019 list. Profiled on the radio show last week were Lions Of Dissent (November 2017), Kioko (July 2017), Violet (October 2017), METHODS (June 2018) and one of our first every featured artists – Sugarthief (March 2017). Here's to a big 2019 for all our featured artists.
By Leigh Sanders