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Jim's acoustic, folk, roots and music blog

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Monday 27 Jul 2015

Gigs: Southside Sessions and Bearpit Brothers EP launch

Gigs with Jim B

I've got a couple of gigs coming up in the new few weeks; a solo gig as part of the Southside Sessions and a launch gig to for the new Bearpit Brothers EP.

I'll be playing at the Southside Sessions on 6th August:

Sweeney's On The Park
962 Pollokshaws Road,
G41 2ET

Entry is free and it starts at 8.30pm.
Also on the bill will be Kevin Campbell, Jodie Waite and Tom Snowball.

Bearpit Brothers EP Launch

Bearpit Brothers launch their second EP, 'Something Cruel' in the Glad Cafe on 22nd of August.

"Although heavily influenced by early 60s 'beat' sounds they are a 'thoroughly modern' group - with a literate, quirky approach. Think early Beatles having a fight with Richard Hawley. "

"exquisite guitar duelings with twang and reverb battling away." Blabber 'n' Smoke.

"A rare chance to see the hugely entertaining Bearpit Brothers perform live, simply not to be missed."

Support will be from the super talented singer songwriter Ryan Morcombe and poet Stephen Watt.

Tickets at Brown Paper Tickts or at the door on the night:

I hope to see you at one of these gigs or both. :-)


Saturday 17 Jan 2015

11 simple songwriting tips

1. Play lots of cover versions including lots of blues based songs. Learn the catalogue of songs from your favourite band. It's teaches you lots; tension and resolution, chords and chord structures, common chord patterns, common song structures.

Learning other peoples songs is learning the language and vocabulary of songwriting. You can learn songwriting structure from books - and that might help - but for me - and I suspect for you - playing songs as enjoyment is the best way.

"..most of our act were covers - we did millions of them.." Paul McCartney on the Jonathan Ross Show

2. Try to let your subconscious write the song: songwriting - certainly at the start of the process - is not a technical exercise; songs are not poetry written to a strict meter; not mathematics; not a puzzle that requires brain power to solve.

So don't think; just get out of the way; it wants to be written - catch it rather than writing it. It's not a logical process - it's a creative process; you already have all the tools you need.

"How does a person create a song? A lot of it is being open... to encounter and to... be in touch with the miraculous." Joni Mitchell

3. How do you come up with melodies? Hum tunes or make nonesense words while playing along with chords or find melodies on the notes of those chords.

'Can you hum?' was what Lionel Richie was told after asking the in-house songwriters how to write songs..

4. Write so often that it becomes a habit. Expect to write a huge amount of really crap songs. You will need to write those bad songs to get to the good ones. The more songs you write the quicker you will recognise the good and the bad. The more you write, the more you will write.

5. Inspiration produces a new song, craft is needed to finish it.

6. When you have an idea - write down absolutely everything related to it. It can really help if you are struggling to write the words for your song. This is also a great technique if you are writing collaboratively - it creates room for everyone to contribute their thoughts.

7. Recognise that most songs are made up of repeated blocks of chords. 2 chords repeated, 3 chords repeated, 4 chords repeated. If you stumble on a chord pattern you play those chords in different orders, different lengths.

8. Learn your instrument - play different styles, different instruments, different keys.

9. Review your song until it's right: get rid of cliche, get rid of verses that say the same thing. Get rid of words that don't sound good when you sing them. Listen to the how the song develops; does it stay interesting all the way through - does it develop dynamically?

10. Play your songs to people and in different environments. Overcome the fear of people not liking your songs; play them soon after you write them; you will get a sense of whether or not they are good. Record your songs and listen back with a critical ear - don't be afraid to throw away verses, change the order of verses, change the structure; experiment.

11. Ask yourself, Is there magic in this song I'm writing? A song is not words, a song is not music, a song is not just words and music.

Monday 8 Dec 2014

Christmas single by Jim Byrne: For we are born.. released on 10th Decemer

Christmas single: For we are born..

Photo: For we are born...I have a Christmas single coming out on the 10th of December; it's a rootsy/folk/pop based sound and features the backing vocals of the traditional folk singers The Linties. The song is a bit unusual (not Slade) but it's got that 'winter time' feel and I think it's a cracker. Morag, Iyaah and Stuart of the Linties and my brother Peter - provide backing vocals. The vocals were recorded at Newbattle Abbey (built in the 11th century) which in itself makes it quite special.

Buy 'For we are born..' on CDBaby from the 10th December.

Also available from my Bandcamp page - For we are born...

Tuesday 14 Jan 2014

Solo Gig at The Roxy, Bearpit Brothers EP available now

Solo Gig: Roxi, 25th January
I'm playing on the 25th of this month as 'special guest' of Martin Stephenson and Scott MacDonald in the Roxy, Great Western Road, Glasgow. It all kicks off at 8pm.

I can't wait to strap my guitar on and play some finger-pickin' acoustic music again. It's all go - for some new songs, some old songs and maybe even the odd cover song.

Also on the bill The Optimystics. With this line-up it's a guaranteed night of great entertainment.

Bearpit Brothers
ExBearpit Brothers Music EPciting times for Bearpit Brothers; gigs, radio interviews and great reviews. :-)

The EP launch night at the Glad Cafe was fantastic; a great mix of poetry (Aidan MacEoin), prose (Elaine Reid) and music. The music of course came from the Bearpit Brothers; we played the songs from the CD plus a couple of new songs and when the crowd called for more - we played an old Dexter Slim and the Pickups song (Facial Scar) as an encore.

We also launched the Bearpit Brothers first video for the song Burden of your cross - produced and directed by Sticklebacks

Bearpit Brothers, Burden of your cross video

It’s a brilliant EP - you really need to get yourself a copy.

It is now available online at iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, Bearpit Brothers website and more or less everywhere online that sell top quality music.

Also available in the Independent Record stores ‘Love Music’, 34 Dundas St, Glasgow and Big Sparra Vinyl 29, Burns statue square Ayr.

The EP has had lots of great reviews including:

"Burden Of Your Cross swings as a gospel influenced lyric is garlanded with some exquisite guitar duelings with twang and reverb battling away, a wonderful song." Blabber 'n' Smoke - A Glasgow view of Americana

"the cd is epic btw!" Corrina Cola

"So meet The Bearpit Brothers and their new 4-track EP – timeless and magic-full!" Oldies Music Blog

'exquisitely-crafted debut EP. Four compelling and original songs, showcase understated vocal and shimmering instrumental skills, to break new ground -- while neatly homaging past musical masters. - Colin MacDonald of Folkal Point, Folkal Point, Celtic Music Radio.

Go buy it: iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby, Bearpit Brothers website.

New solo album in the works
It’s not all been Bearpit Brothers though as I’m still recording new songs for my next solo CD. I’m not sure when it will be out but I feel confident that it will be this year. :-)

All the best,

Tuesday 20 Aug 2013

Gig on Thursday evening Cotton Candy Music Club at The Dram, Woodlands Road, Glasgow

I'm playing a gig on Thursday (22nd August) at The Cotton Candy Music Club, in The Dram on Woodlands Road, Glasgow.

I'll be on the bill with Mark Copeland, Diane Jardine and Safetynett Flett. Big talents - I'm already a fan. More info.

Bearpit Brothers get ready to bite

I've been a bit quiet on the gig front for a while but I'm still busy making music; primarily working with Robert and Lawrence on the soon to be released Bearpit Brothers EP.

Here's a date for your diary; we will be launching The Bearpit Bothers EP on November 23rd at the Glad Cafe in the South Side of Glasgow. We're awfy bleedin' exicted about it. - and we're not planning a conventional gig; so if we manage to pull it off - it should be something a bit different to come along to.

About that gig

Hope to see you on Thursday if you can make it.

All the best, Jim

Sunday 10 Feb 2013

Collaboration, Songwriting and Remixing

Lots of interesting projects going on at the moment; collaborations with people more talented than myself, new songs getting written and old songs getting remixed (free downloads at foot of this page).

* I'm working with Robert Ruthven and Lawrence Alexander on our 'Bearpit Brothers' project. It's been slow but we are getting there. Two songs are more or less finished, another is being recorded right now and there is yet another that Robert is working on an arrangement for. Every one of them sounds great to me. I think you'll really love them. If you can imagine a mix of 1950's Rock n Roll, and Roy Orbison 60's Pop you'll not be that far away.

* I recently had a fun day out recording at the magnificent Newbattle Abbey (build in the 11th century) with the Scottish Folk band, The Linties. Morag, Iyaah and Stuart did backing vocals on a new song of mine. The nicest most generous people you could meet; and great singers too. :-) Check them out at

* I've also been learning some new recording techniques and finding out how to make more 'avant-garde' music with classical composer Cluny Strachan. Cluny teaches composition at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland as well as composing music for film and television. A smart and talented man.  

A New Song: Promise That We'll Meet Again

I've written a new song called, Promise That We'll Meet Again. I wrote it as a gift to the Linties for helping me out; though reading the lyrics it's clearly connected to my mother, who passed away just before Christmas. We miss her - and always will.

Lyrics for Promise That We'll Meet Again:

Take these broken beads from my hand
Take this golden thread
Carry them with your wherever you go
and promise that we'll meet again

Spirals and spires and chapels of stone
Brothers and sisters our own
the choir is singing for those who have gone
they sing
promise that we'll meet again
promise that we'll meet again.

hold in your hand the stones and the  earth
try to follow the tracer of love now gone
talk of a silence that's deep in our heart
Peter and Rose Christina and John

So take these poems I've written for you
take these lessons learned
And we'll walk down the old road where the blackberries grow
and we'll promise that we'll meet again
and we'll promise that we'll meet again
yes we'll promise that we'll meet again

You can listen to the song here:

Songs to download

I've worked on a couple of new mixes of some songs from previous album. Feel free to download them.

Both 'Black Sky Blues' and 'Every Day Is Sunshine (I can relate to a man who's a sinner)' are available to download from my Reverbnation page:

You will need to register to download them.

Speak soon,

Sunday 6 Jan 2013

Dad - I'm, four (I mean we are all four) Rose, John, Stephen, Anne, Peter

A poem written for my dads 75th birthday:

Dad - I'm, four (I mean we are all four) Rose, John, Stephen, Anne, Peter

And I know what dad's are for
A knee to be bounced on
A shoulder to be up high on 

Or sometimes - a shoulder to scream and cry on

Dad I'm four (I mean we are all four) 
And you are like the biggest tree in the forrest
Solid, rooted, always dependable
With strong branches that cover and protect

So I feel protected.

Dad I'm four (I mean we are all four) 
And Dad, I want your attention - 
I am rapt - I follow you, entranced
I always want to be in your gang.

And you give me your attention and I am in your gang -  so I'm nothing but happy.

Dad I'm four (I mean we are all four) 
And you are a magician - and you can fix and make anything
A seat for the bogey, a paper hat from a newspaper
A rabbit with your hands, a tissue for a snobbery nose

And I'm always breaking something - and you always fixing it.

Dad I'm four (I mean we are all four) 
And you make me smile when I'm sad
like when I've been told to stop eating the the coal from the bunker
And Dad, how come when you comfort me

you can sang better than Elvis or Nat King Cole:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Tuesday 13 Nov 2012

New Song: Sugarhill Road

A song written for Chris Paul Del Balso - thanks for your hospitality. :-)

Wednesday 8 Aug 2012

Sweeter Than A Rose

Friday 27 Apr 2012

The Innocent selling well and a getting fantastic response

"Congratulations Jim on a wonderful album The Innocent - having a wee listen now and am very touched by your sincerity throughout the album, Loving all the songs but really like Sand in our Shoes (loving your guitar playing too Jim) The more I play it, the more I'm enjoying it Jim, well done again for this musical masterpiece." Bernie Devlin

I continue to be knocked out by the feedback I've been getting to my new album. Thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy and got in touch. :-)

Weblog archive

Gigs: Southside Sessions and Bearpit Brothers EP launch: Monday 27 Jul 2015

11 simple songwriting tips: Saturday 17 Jan 2015

Christmas single by Jim Byrne: For we are born.. released on 10th Decemer: Monday 8 Dec 2014

Solo Gig at The Roxy, Bearpit Brothers EP available now: Tuesday 14 Jan 2014

Gig on Thursday evening Cotton Candy Music Club at The Dram, Woodlands Road, Glasgow: Tuesday 20 Aug 2013

Collaboration, Songwriting and Remixing: Sunday 10 Feb 2013

Dad - I'm, four (I mean we are all four) Rose, John, Stephen, Anne, Peter: Sunday 6 Jan 2013

New Song: Sugarhill Road: Tuesday 13 Nov 2012

Sweeter Than A Rose: Wednesday 8 Aug 2012

The Innocent selling well and a getting fantastic response: Friday 27 Apr 2012

Sand in our shoes featuring Peter Byrne on backing vocals: Saturday 14 Apr 2012

Review from Blair Millen at The Letter: Tuesday 6 Mar 2012

Fantastic launch party for new CD The Innocent: Saturday 3 Mar 2012

Oh look, The Innocent t-shirts have arrived: Tuesday 21 Feb 2012

My new CD, The Innocent - has arrived :-): Friday 17 Feb 2012

About the songs on the new album, The Innocent by Jim Byrne: Monday 13 Feb 2012

How is it possible to know what your best songs are?: Sunday 5 Feb 2012

New album, 'The Innocent' masters now complete: Thursday 12 Jan 2012

Bob Dylan autobiography review: Chronicles Volume One: Thursday 1 Dec 2011

I'm compiling a list of my favourite songs: Wednesday 9 Nov 2011

Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues: Monday 7 Nov 2011

Release an Indie Album/CD in the UK: compiling the complete to do list: Monday 31 Oct 2011

Tom Waits. Bad As Me album review by Jim Byrne: Tuesday 18 Oct 2011

Recording update: Friday 2 Sep 2011

Number 1 Uk Americana chart on Reverbnation: Sunday 14 Aug 2011

Giving Goose Bumps: Thursday 4 Aug 2011

Understanding the Basics of a Melody: Tuesday 2 Aug 2011

Finding your Melody: Monday 1 Aug 2011

A Checklist for Songwriters: Thursday 28 Jul 2011

Practice Makes Perfect: Tuesday 26 Jul 2011

Making Melody Magic: Friday 22 Jul 2011

Good songs don't need novel chord structures: Thursday 21 Jul 2011

Getting Some Perspective: Tuesday 19 Jul 2011

Placing Beats In a Bar: Tuesday 19 Jul 2011

Working on a songwriting beginners guide: Monday 18 Jul 2011

Working with Perfect Rhymes: Monday 18 Jul 2011

Getting the Basics of Rhyme Structure: Thursday 14 Jul 2011

Using Poetic Devices in Lyrics: Wednesday 13 Jul 2011

Using Alternate Picking: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Playing in Position: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Getting a Grip on Left-Hand Fingering: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Having Fun with Basic Major and Minor Chords: The "Oldies" Progression: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Paying Attention to The Sounds of Words Within a Lyric: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Starting With an Idea or Concept: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Starting With a Title: Friday 8 Jul 2011

Concept-Driven Lyrics: Wednesday 6 Jul 2011

Love Song Lyrics: Wednesday 6 Jul 2011

Writing a Great Lyric: Wednesday 6 Jul 2011

Tuning the Guitar to Itself: absolute beginners tips: Tuesday 5 Jul 2011

How to Play a Chord: absolute beginners tips: Tuesday 5 Jul 2011

You Don't Have to Read Music to Understand Guitar Notation: : absolute beginners tips: Tuesday 5 Jul 2011

Finding the inspiration zone: Monday 4 Jul 2011

Being Prepared When Inspiration Strikes: Monday 4 Jul 2011

Jim Byrne music adventures: can you help? Who's like me?: Friday 10 Jun 2011

10 facts you didn't know about the singer songwriter Jim Byrne: Thursday 12 May 2011

Who are my real influences?: Monday 28 Feb 2011

Some nice comments about 'Every Day is Sunshine': Tuesday 25 Jan 2011

Jim Byrne on Songwriting: Saturday 8 Jan 2011

My favourite albums and music from 2010: Thursday 6 Jan 2011

Every Day is Sunshine now on general release: Thursday 14 Oct 2010

About the songs on the CD, 'Every day is sunshine': Sunday 26 Sep 2010

Iona MacDonald: Thursday 23 Sep 2010

Adam Levy on songwriting: Friday 17 Sep 2010

A new songwriters website?: Wednesday 8 Sep 2010

The first album reviews are in for Every day is sunshine: Monday 6 Sep 2010

New CD launch party: Every day is sunshine: Thursday 19 Aug 2010

The road to the new CD: a musical rollercoaster: Thursday 22 Jul 2010

Chords for the song: We all need the days (When rain don't fall): Saturday 5 Jun 2010

Chords for the song The handles broken on my cup: Saturday 5 Jun 2010

London gigs and CD news: Sunday 30 May 2010

Looking forward to opening for Benny Gallagher in London on Friday 21st May: Tuesday 18 May 2010

Acoustic guitar pickers corner: beginners tips: Tuesday 11 May 2010

On these dark nights now available as a digital download: Tuesday 6 Apr 2010

Ditch the PA system and play better: Tuesday 23 Mar 2010

A couple of music career low-lights: Monday 1 Feb 2010

California calling: Wednesday 20 Jan 2010

Meeting in the physical world still tops: Wednesday 20 Jan 2010

The songwriters' dilemma?: Wednesday 6 Jan 2010

Featured in the Clydebank Post: Thursday 10 Dec 2009

Interviewed by Helen St Helen: Monday 23 Nov 2009

Playing in France, Leith Folk club and making a movie: Thursday 8 Oct 2009

You say your music is Americana Jim but what does that actually mean?: Wednesday 12 Aug 2009

Trip to London town for gigs and a wee break: Wednesday 15 Jul 2009

Dispatched to Dorris Island, West End Festival and future fun: Monday 15 Jun 2009

I'm featured artist on Friday 29 May 2009

Reflecting on Otis Gibbs, The Moonshiners and Hans Theessink: Thursday 21 May 2009

A song written to play at the Butterfly Ball - to raise fund for a memorial garden: Sunday 17 May 2009

On Celtic Music Radio live at Oran Mor: Tuesday 5 May 2009

Learning to record at home: Friday 1 May 2009

On these dark nights album reviewed by 'The Letter': Wednesday 8 Apr 2009

New songs uploaded: You always look for the good in me: Monday 23 Mar 2009

On these dark nights reviewed on Spiral Earth website: Monday 9 Feb 2009

Jinty M'Guinty's, Radio play and hello to Marti Pellow: Monday 2 Feb 2009

Songwriting and radio interview: Monday 2 Feb 2009

Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Open Stage gig and CD review: Thursday 29 Jan 2009

Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Open Stage - and Borders Bookshop: Saturday 24 Jan 2009

Hand injuries, blues stomping and in awe of Kris Drever: Saturday 17 Jan 2009

A songwriters blog: Sunday 11 Jan 2009

CD review and lots of gigs: Friday 9 Jan 2009

Sold first CD on CDBaby: Wednesday 31 Dec 2008

Ireland, Cafe gig and Martin Stephenson: Wednesday 24 Dec 2008

CD launch night: Saturday 13 Dec 2008

Radio sessions, getting lost and CDs arrive: Thursday 4 Dec 2008

Liquid Ship weirdness and CD designs: Monday 24 Nov 2008

Learning about how to release a CD: Thursday 13 Nov 2008

Recording and CD launch: Monday 10 Nov 2008

Partick Folk Club: Saturday 1 Nov 2008

Who do I sound like?: Friday 31 Oct 2008

Perthshire Amber Festival adventures: Monday 27 Oct 2008

Famous in Holland: Thursday 23 Oct 2008

Featured in folk and acoustic roots magazine Tuesday 21 Oct 2008

Songwriting blog archive

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What the critics said about 'Every day is sunshine' by Jim Byrne.

  • "a heady and exotic mix. " Q Magazine.
  • "..full of cinematic turns of phrase, dressed up in alluring melodies delivered by some of the most respected players on the modern-day Celtic Folk scene." UNCUT
  • Album of the week on Celtic Music Radio
  • Added to 'God's Jukebox' on Radio Two Mark Lamarr show
  • "A beautifully produced collection of Americana" The Daily Record. Four Stars
  • "Great record... a complete, compelling listen. ", Adam Levy (Songwriter/artist, guitarist with Nora Jones)
  • "ten beautiful, atmospheric songs..", Folk, Blues and beyond
  • "a fresh, original album", Eilidh Patterson (singer songwriter, vocalist with Beth Nielsen Chapman)
  • Sounding like Johnny Cash never left Folsom prison...meditations on life that'll soon sound like old friends. Spiral Earth

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