This Friday sees the return of Cocktails, Dining and Live Music at Mitton Hall. Three dates, three acts throughout September and October. The first artist is David John Jaggs, who forms part of the well known local band ‘The Ragamuffins’. The Ragamuffins are an infectious indie-pop six-piece with swirling organs, irrepressible soulful brass, chiming guitar, driving bass and pounding drums.
As David drank The Ginger Snap a whisky based cocktail, it was 11 am in the morning at this point and fair play to David he’s not a whisky drinker, but he drank it being a good sport, we had a catch up about gigs, a busy summer and much more in the bar at Mitton Hall.
Easy now! I’m David John Jaggs, I write music and play the piano, guitar, keyboards, but mainly I’m a singer I guess. I front a wonderful little band called The Ragamuffins who play soulful, brass-infused indie pop music but when I’m not with the band and playing on my own I tend to play a blend of the songs I’ve written myself, some of the songs I’ve grown up listening to and fallen in love with, and then some frankly ridiculous covers songs because, well, I always like a challenge.
I got bitten by the music bug pretty late in the day comparatively, so I’d be lying if I said it was always part of a master plan or my lifelong ambition – I’d had piano lessons since I was about 8 with a brilliant teacher, Mark, but it took until I was 16/17 before thinking I wanted to make music at all, and even then, I had no notion of making a living from singing or playing music at all. I ultimately made the jump when I’d been working in a succession of civil service jobs that just weren’t particularly inspiring, but it was a combination of finally discovering bands like Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Decemberists, The Shins and more that had such lush, beautiful soundscapes in their music, after time spent seeing my friends in various bands, that just gave me the belief that I could do that I guess.
To write? Genuinely any and everything, from overhearing (or in some cases mishearing) a snippet of conversation to spotting a colourful character while having a cup of tea or coffee out somewhere and extrapolating the lines of their life into song form. I’ve always got a pen and notebook or sound recorder app on my phone ready to record a quirky lyric or melody or potential song title because you never know when you’ll come across the next idea to occupy your imagination for the next month. I love the idea a number of wonderful songsmiths sign up to where there are all the great unwritten songs in the world floating around in the ether like shoals of invisible fish and while it helps to have a guitar or piano to act as your fishing rod or trawling net, you don’t necessarily need them to catch one.
The first time we played at the Academy in Liverpool was an eye-opener for me, there were people we didn’t know at the time (who’ve since become some of our biggest supporters and firm friends) singing along to every word of songs I’d penned which just felt surreal, as if creations of mine were getting a life of their own. The first time we played at Beatherder Festival was a bit of a shock too – in my naivety I had no idea how big this festival that is just right there on our East Lancastrian doorsteps had become, so to head up there on a Friday night, look at the main stage and think “crumbs, we’re playing on there tomorrow afternoon!” was a bit mad.
Coming back after we’d had almost a two-year hiatus as the band though, seeing all the faces that came out to support our first proper record, “Irony Curtain” at our launch party was a bit overwhelming, and then there’s a slew of the gigs abroad that have been unforgettable too. It can be easy to get blasé about being a musician, but when you’re hundreds of miles from home, and there are people heartily singing songs that in many cases you wrote in a little room somewhere in Lancashire, often in a language other than their own, that’s pretty special.
Like I said, it can become easy to rest on your laurels when you play music but even when you’ve played a relatively “bad” gig (I’ll hold my hands up and say that recently I was booked to do a show the day after the England vs Sweden game, when the entire nation had a collective hangover, and you could count the audience there on the one hand!) you sometime need to reflect on how lucky you are to play music for your job and that’s often, for me, the biggest motivator.
I think one of the most entrancing, and to a point, addictive things are just how music brings people together. Without wanting to sound too pretentious, there’s a lot of division and contrary opinion in society at present, yet when you’re watching people that you know believe totally contrasting things we are embracing and singing songs together and having a great time, it’s hard not to get caught up in that?
I do love my football, whether it’s playing myself or keeping an eye on my beloved Liverpool. I wrote a chapter for a book about the average match-day experience that was put together by journalists from The Times and The Guardian, and I suppose I’ve become one of those types of football geeks who read books on Italian Calcio in the 1990’s. Getting our music played at Anfield is the closest thing I’ll get to “playing” there I suppose as contrary to what I tell myself, I’m not that good a player.
I’ve been encouraged to get into wildlife photography a bit more by my wife, Catherine, as she’s sick of me moaning about aches and pains and knocks from being kicked up in the air for days after when I do play football so needed a less intensive hobby, although clambering around cliff edges to get a better shot of peregrine falcons isn’t exactly low risk I guess! I’ve always been interested in wildlife, and with all the late night travelling to and from shows I forever see owls, badgers, deer and foxes and the like and so I thought I should start trying to chronicle these sightings a little.
Most of the positives are mainly self-evident and euphoric, but I still get a massive buzz when I hear our stuff being played on the radio, it’s more of that idea of communal listening. Knowing there are people in cars. On trains. in living rooms listening to your music across the void of space and time is pretty mind-blowing when you think of it and I’m especially appreciative of all the people who’ve made and continue to make this possible for me!
I was trying to think whether I’ve completed the full set! I should get a special badge of honour if I have I think! The Shireburn Arms will always hold a very special place in my heart really as it’s where we had our wedding breakfast, and the Waddington Arms and Mitton Hall have lovely little cosy places to play in more intimate environments with roaring fires in the middle of winter, but, and I mean this sincerely, it’s hard to pick one out as a favourite. I’ve had great times both playing and as a guest in all of them down the years. Holmes Mill as part of the Clitheroe Food Festival the other year was a bucketload of fun; it was so busy we could hardly fit into the place, but considering it was only a mid-afternoon show, people were having a great time! Then, and I suppose this wasn’t a gig at all, but my friends Mary and Jason got married at Eaves Hall a couple of years ago amidst a late-winter snowstorm, and we were all gathered around the piano singing songs together, it was pretty beautiful really.
Join us this Friday from 7.00pm, to see David John Jaggs live at Mitton Hall. All cocktails served between 7.15pm and 8.15pm come with complimentary canapes. To book, please call – 01254 826544.
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