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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Unsigned Welsh rockers Fireroad get taken to the Bahamas by Lynyrd Skynyrd

Yes, yes, yes. They're not folk: I know. But you may like this because it casts a powerful light on the prickly question of how hard bands have to work these days in order to get lucky, if you know what I mean. I thought I'd heard it all when I interviewed Keston Cobblers Club, but these guys take the proverbial welsh cake.

Fireroad (inset), an unsigned band from the Cynon valley, have been invited to support US southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd (main picture) on a cruise around the Bahamas this November. I know: sounds awful, doesn't it? You may know Lynyrd Skynyrd from Sweet Home Alabama...

Or maybe Free Bird...

The Jacksonville band has been through lots of incarnations since the original line-up was involved in a plane crash in 1977, killing three members  – a third of the band – and seriously injuring the rest. But the Lynyrd Skynyrd juggernaut rolls on. Fireroad, on the other hand, are a relatively new thing.

"We've been going for about two years," Richard Jones, their singer, told me. "And we do everything ourselves. I do graphic design and promotional work. It's pretty much me sitting at home 15 to 18 hours a day contacting people on the internet and by phone."

So how did you land the Lynyrd Skynyrd gig? It says a piece in Wales Online that you went on a "charm offensive". How charming do you have to be exactly to get invited to the Bahamas by a legendary rock band?

"I actually went on the cruise to Miami last year with our manager – who had taken another band there in 2012 – to see how things were. It's relatively cheap if you're American, I think: a cabin for the four days is about $750. But if you're from elsewhere obviously there are flights to the US to consider as well. He managed to get us on the short list of eight support acts for this year but said there was only any point us being on there if we built up a fan base in the US.

"So it turned out that it was the passengers on the cruise who would have the final say about who the support were and when I started looking around on the net there was a Facebook group for the cruise with around 2,000 people in it.

"I joined the group and spent about four months contacting these people individually. I'd send them an introduction explaining that we're from Wales but that we grew up with American music and would they be willing to have a listen to our stuff? And then there would be video and Soundcloud links. We're just four boys from the valleys: it seemed like the thing to do.

"Then when the voting happened it turned out it had worked."


"It's my idea of heaven on a boat," he added, sounding properly excited. "The music starts at about midday every day and goes on until the small hours."

So here's the hardworking Fireroad, who a completely brilliant live, according to my cousin Helen, whose seen them several times and knows a thing or two about rock.

The company that puts on these cruises – which are worth knowing about in their own right – is called Sixthman and other artists on their roster include Richard Thompson, Steve Earl, The Civil Wars, Emmylou Harris, John Mayer, Loudon Wainwright III and The Indigo Girls, who I absolutely love... all of whom need support bands.

Better than a fist full of dramamine any day.

* If you like reading about hard-working bands you may also enjoy this about Keston Cobblers Club.

* If you'd like to receive posts from this blog directly into your Facebook newsfeed, you could *like* its Facebook page and then use the drop-down menu to indicate that it's one of your "interests". This will enhance the possibility that you'll get them. You could also follow me on Twitter at @emma1hartley

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