Ian Prowse is a Merseyside songwriter and frontman from Amsterdam and Pele, he cuts a cult figure with music fans and is widely respected amongst his musical peers. With hits such as the John Peel favourite ‘Does This Train Stop on Merseyside’ and the mighty singalong ‘Fireworks’ track. His 2019 album ‘Here I Lie’ was released to widespread critical acclaim.
A long time admirer was Elvis Costello. Elvis had handpicked Ian as his sole support for his 13 date UK tour. The dates were proving a huge success for Elvis and Ian alike, sell out dates at major venues around the UK ensured Ian was seeing record sales of merchandise and his new album.
Friday 13th however, was to prove to be the date when Ian’s train stopped in London. As Ian and his band left the stage triumphant at The Apollo in London the UK population was already aware that something significant was happening to the country as a whole.
Hours later Elvis spoke with Ian and confirmed that the tour was to be halted immediately rather than awaiting the official Government guidelines (which would be announced days later) surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. The previous nights show was to be final one, leaving fans in Oxford, Cardiff and Birmingham disappointed but understanding of the situation.
“Things were changing minutes by minute never mind day by day, the government advice was muddled and indecisive, everything was closing in on us all. Elvis took the situation into his own hands to look after us all. Obviously we all understood, it was surreal, dislocating & incredible disappointing but entirely understandable.” Ian explains.
The crisis is a major impact on all our lives but what do you do as an independent musician who’s income depends on live dates, gig sales as well as rehearsal and studio time? A stop sign was planted in the road for hundreds of UK musicians, but out of adversity comes great creativity.
Ian explains how his musical and financial world were turned on it’s head…
“First there is panic, we were doing a bomb on merchandise at the Elvis shows so that stopped on the spot, then a 16 date acoustic tour had to be postponed. The private shows I do for fans and songwriting masterclasses at the Universities all went too, plus my legendary Monday Club at The Cavern. Real life came a zooming round the corner at breakneck speed.”
The man dubbed The Scouse Springsteen has a remarkable ability to judge a room when he is playing live. A man who can tailor a playlist to get a crowd onside within three songs. Ian knew what he needed to do in the short term and what his fanbase needed…turns out he needed it to. Over to Ian…
“First thing was to keep talking about the brand new album, much of which takes place on line anyway, then to stream a home concert playing people favourite songs for the LP. The response was phenomenal, people needed music, they need informal friendly chat, they need to communicate. We did it again same time, same place exactly a week later and got an even better response. That’s when I realised I needed it too.
“So it’s going to be every Friday at 8.30 during the Lockdown. I spend the whole week preparing songs that will work, talk that is deeply inclusive, chat that is irreverent and human. All of it is predicated on a love for the NHS.”
As we possibly look at weeks of lockdown, what doe the immediate future hold for Ian?
“In amongst that the bunch of new songs for the next album, which were about 2 months away from being ready to send to the producer, have been brought forward. A risky business as he may see them as too underdeveloped to make it. They weren’t, he loved them, phew. Full creative steam ahead then from here on in. Sanity hopefully preserved.” Ian concludes.
Heartache, Injustice and the maddening wonder of this life has been the driving force behind the story of Ian Prowse’s career as a musician, singer and song writer. If you could boil the last 30 years and eight official albums down to one word it would have to be… conviction.
The absence of a big hit single means Ian isn’t necessarily in the hearts of the masses, but his songmanship has kept him firmly in the minds of songwriters like Elvis Costello, Christy Moore, Baz Warne (from the Stranglers), Miles Hunt (from The Wonder Stuff) and Damian Dempsey.
The people who have welcomed Ian Prowse into their own stories have become fierce devotees of his music. Whether it be from his first band Pele, Amsterdam or as himself. As Ian himself says “Pele, Amsterdam, me, it’s all the same thing, they’re all a vessel for my songs”.
“I hit the opening A minor chord of Funeral Pyre by The Jam at my very first gig in 1982, there began my musical journey, I’ve been hitting every chord through hundreds of shows with the same passion ever since.”
Here’s some of his best recordings so far, it’s a story of one man’s music. And we’re sure he’s not done yet.