I first meet Jay Diggins in the beer garden of the Ring O Bells pub in Lancaster in April 2013. That evening, the Plastic Dolls Presents night lined up Jay along with Greenheart who double as his band when he goes out live. I had been given the heads up at a previous gig by Nick Lakin from the Guardian that Jay runs his own studio, and everything is analogue. I saddle up to hail this keeper of secrets with trepidation; you never know what you’re going to get when you walk into the forest, especially when you’re the one who wants in the gingerbread house. After chatting for a few minutes I got the feeling that my, perhaps, childish whimsy was plastered all over my doe-eyed face and right then the Gatekeeper turned into my new hero for the evening and invites me to come and have a look at the Wyre Bank Studio! Graciously accepting I took that as my cue to get out of there before I talked myself into a rescinding. The beer is excellent in the ‘Bells.
We meet again over the summer at a festival where we play back to back on the line up and then we arrange a date for Blackheart Afterglow to go along and record at his place in Scorton, just south of Lancaster. The studio is mega, perfectly weighted in time and place, housing some of the rarest instruments Europe has ever built along with desks, processors, and drum kits that once belonged to A list rock and roll legends. It’s like Willy Wonka traded his fizzy lifting drinks and the chocolate river for a bottle of Jack and a hot tub: if it’s not in there you probably don’t need it.
It’s here that Jay has been working on his album Searching after being given a nudge from his old friend and music mentor John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, KT Tunstall). Jay spent a couple of years with John learning stage craft and recording techniques which paid off when JD was accepted on to the the world’s first Popular Music Sound Recording course at Salford University. Over 200 times oversubscribed, the course was tutored by record producer Bill Leader. Not a bad start…Searching was released this September and indeed features John Parish on a couple of tracks, which were recorded at his ToyBox Studio. On the back of these recordings Jay was offered a slot on The Voice but turned it down, we need not explain why, we’re all adults here.
So,what is next? The tour has just finished but Jay is out and about over the coming months at the Lancaster Music Festival (Dalton Rooms Venue, Saturday 12 Oct), there is a trip to New York USA to Webster Hall in January 2014. Did I mention the Jools Holland booking?
I’m not one for reviewing music because I think its like offering GCSE grading to works of art, so instead I was going to sign off with some something that would outline the transposition in the way the public and those with stars in their eyes perceive how to get ahead in music. But then I thought you either know and can or you don’t and can’t. Jay can and does.
Philip James Turner will be performing at The Lancaster Music Festival at The Bobbin ‘Stage’ Saturday at 4.30pm.