‘Life is definitely good’: winner of independent song competition debuts first ever single

Photography: Jennifer Berry

I remember meeting up with Jon Buckett for a coffee last year – I think it was late August. He had an idea he wanted to spin by me to see if The Ocelot would like to get involved. And here we are.

Confirming that The Ocelot would be more than happy to support his new venture, in October last year Jon – a music producer, and owner of Earthworm Recording Studio – launched a brand-new song competition, For the Song.

His intentions were simple: unearth a genuinely brilliant, new and original song and give it the treatment it deserves. After submission the songs are judged – without knowing the name of the band or artist – by a panel of industry experts. Last year the panel included Jon Buckett, Gaz Brookfield, Lee Alder and Marland Music Management.

In 2019 the competition has come full circle. In January Paul Lappin, 48, found out his song – the first song he ever wrote and didn’t think too much of – won the competition. From then until July Paul, Jon Buckett, Lee Alder, Andy Maggs and Lee Moulding hit Earthworm Recording Studio based in Swindon. Last month Paul released his first ever single Life Was Good debuting it live in France – where he currently resides as an artist – and his hometown, Swindon. The experience, he says, has been both incredible and exhausting. I had a chat with Paul and Jon to find out how the first run of For the Song went.

In conversation with Paul Lappin

Artist, singer-songwriter and winner of For the Song 2019.

Photography by Jennifer Berry

How does it feel to have won For the Song?

I only entered to get some professional, independent feedback on my songs. Well I certainly got that! It’s been quite the journey that’s for sure; the live gigs, the interviews, the BBC radio session… It was weird at first, to go from writing songs on my own to being the front man in a band, but after a couple of rehearsals it felt surprisingly comfortable. It’s been a fascinating, exhausting, and exciting experience and I’m hoping that there’s much more to come.

What’s it been like working with Jon and co at Earthworm?

I couldn’t have asked for a better working relationship. The real surprise was how quickly Jon made me feel comfortable in the studio. It can be quite the intimidating experience, walking in for the first time to record vocals. But Jon and the team were very down to earth, happy to give advice and support throughout the whole experience. Another huge thing for me was finally having a band to collaborate with – Lee Alder, Andy Maggs, Lee Moulding and Jon himself. We all just hit it off right from the start. All my songs, especially Life Was Good, were written specifically with a band in mind, they were never intended to be performed on my own. So to perform them live, surrounded by such incredible musicians, is properly special.

I hear there’s now an album on the table!

Ha! Yeah, I did happen to mention to Jon one day that I had three albums worth of material sitting on my hard drive. It’s not all good mind you, but apparently there was enough there to warrant recording an album. We’re tracking the last of the guitar parts over the next few days with Lee Alder. Again, I’m so lucky to be working with such talented and respected musicians who seem genuinely enthusiastic about my music. I’m really chuffed with the way the album’s sounding and I can’t wait for people to hear it. The fellas all seem keen to do more live shows next year to promote it, so fingers crossed we can make that happen.

Are you heading back to France, or staying in town? 

We have a bit more recording to do on the album so I’m hanging around for another couple of weeks, and then I’m off back to my quiet corner in the French countryside to continue with my art. I’m an artist in my spare time and I’d like to do more sketching in the coming months, see if I can sell more of my drawings at the local market. If I can make enough money to keep me in wine and cheese for a while, then I’ll be happy.

Would you recommend others to enter For the Song?

Absolutely, without question. The ‘For The Song’ project was created for people like me – someone who writes songs in their spare time, is considering doing something with them, maybe wants to get them recorded professionally but finds the whole studio environment, and the music industry in general, intimidating. For me personally, simply entering the competition gave me a confidence boost. Winning it took things to a whole new level.

In conversation with Jon Bucket

Music producer and owner of Earthworm Recording Studio, founder of For the Song.

Photography: Jennifer Berry

For the Song stemmed from a genuine and really lovely idea. Now, there has been a winner. Has it matched your expectations?

With respect to the most important aim, of finding a really worthy winner, without question I’m very pleased that Paul entered his song.  The idea was always to find someone with a very pure intention behind their songs, writing for their own pleasure, without any contrived intention of writing for one chart or another, or for a specific audience; it’s those honest, instinctive intentions behind songwriting that often result in the songs that personally interest me the most.  So I’m really happy we got the process well focussed enough to generate a strong pool of entries and to find what we were hoping for. Genuine thanks are due to The Ocelot and Link Magazine for their great coverage of the competition, simply put, without them Paul and many of the other very worthy entrants would never have known about the competition.

The team of fellow travellers who’ve helped on this journey have exceeded my expectations.  There’s been amazing voluntary effort put in by everyone involved to pull the whole thing together.  We’re truly blessed in the area to have a committed and talented musicians and ecosystem of media professionals supporting new & independent music.

I think I know the answer, but any regrets on picking this winner? 

The trip to the South of France to meet Pauls wonderful friends and play a show at a Vineyard in the beautiful surroundings of the Langedoc region in the height of summer was truly horrible (laughs).  In all honesty, we got very lucky, he’s a genuinely good human and it has been great fun and very productive working him.

How would you compare For the Song with other music competitions? 

I don’t know if there are other similar ones out there, but what I would say is that it’s a genuine collaboration at grass roots level.  It’s not complicated by intentions to find a ‘whole package’, whatever that means, or concerned with record sales. It’s simply to lend a useful hand, tailored to the individual, writing partnership or band.  The song is the catalyst or seed, and we use our expertise and resources to create a productive environment, and see what we can grow together. Depending on previous experience of the winner, what’s gained from the sharing of the process and knowledge of how to approach recording, production, performance, or media activities could be the most valuable aspect to them.

Do we know when entries will be open for the next competition?

Yes indeed.  We will open entries again late summer 2020.  That feels about the right cadence for all the supporters involved to schedule their time, and also for us to give plenty of time for writers to enter and spread the word as much as possible.