Jonathan Trew is a journalist, blogger and co-founder of Glasgow Music City Tours, which launched in 2015. The guided walking tours explore the city’s most notable music venues and are proving very popular with music fans, tourists and locals all keen to learn about the past and present of Glasgow’s flourishing music scene.
1. What inspired you to start Glasgow Music City Tours?
Glasgow has long been known as a fantastic place to make music and catch amazing gigs. Bands love playing here because the audiences are so enthusiastic and the city has a great range of venues which all have a unique atmosphere. In 2008, that musical heritage was recognised when
Glasgow was named UNESCO City of Music. It was the first city in the UK to receive that title. Along with co-founders, Fiona Shepherd and Alison Stroak, we wanted to celebrate that reputation and tell the stories of both Glasgow’s music venues and the performers who have played them.
2. You offer two different tours ‘Merchant City Music Past & Present’ and ‘Glasgow’s Music Mile’, can you tell us a bit about them?
The Merchant City Music – Past and Present tour runs every Friday afternoon and we talk about venues like the Barrowlands and Britannia Panopticon, Britain’s oldest surviving music hall. The Music Mile tour runs every Saturday afternoon and goes from Glasgow Royal Concert Hall to King Tut’s where guests can get on stage and take selfies.
Both tours cover different venues and different artists. What they have in common is they are based on anecdotes and stories about the performers and also the experiences of audience members who were at those gigs. The great thing about the tours is that guests bring their own memories and, if they have really good stories, we happily incorporate them into the tours. You don’t need to be a music buff to enjoy the tours but, at the same time, if you are really into your music we are pretty sure that you will discover something new.
3. Is there any aspect of your tours that you enjoy the most?
The best thing about the tours is when the stories remind guests of gigs they went to and performers they saw. They want to share those memories and we get to learn about concerts and performances that we might not have heard about otherwise. It is also fun if we have parents come out with their children. Mum or Dad will often say ‘I was at that gig’ and their kids look stunned at the idea of their parents bouncing around to David Bowie or the Manic Street Preachers.
We launched the business last year by doing a series of tours with the Merchant City Festival and we will be doing that again this year. Our Merchant City Festival tours are shorter than our Merchant City Music – Past and Present Tours and there are differences in terms of some of the venues covered and the stories we tell. For example, we can take people into the Old Fruitmarket during the Merchant City Festival.
On the evening of Friday 5th August, we are putting on a panel talk event in the City Halls. Called Cover Stories, it looks at the changing art of the album sleeve in the era of downloads. On the panel are Manda Rin of Bis; the journalist and broadcaster Nicola Meighan; graphic designer and album cover designer Niall Smillie and Francis Macdonald, label boss, band manager and, among other roles, drummer with Teenage Fanclub. The talk will be chaired by the designer and design lecturer Neil McGuire.
The panel will discuss whether record sleeve design still matters and will choose their favourite and least favourite covers. There are a lot of terrible album covers to choose from.
5. What does the future hold for Glasgow Music City Tours?
We are a young company and we are still discovering what works for us and what doesn’t. We ran a series of very popular folk/trad tours with Celtic Connections and jazz themed tours with Glasgow Jazz Festival earlier this year. We want to build on that and would like to explore more ways in which we can work with Glasgow’s other established cultural festivals.
We have started doing bespoke tours for private groups, larger tour operators and the conference market and those are all areas in which we aim to do more. Finally, there is an appetite for tours which focus on specific bands. For example, we have developed a West End tour for people who want to see how Glasgow influenced Belle and Sebastian. That is another avenue to investigate.
And just for fun…
I’ve enjoyed fantastic gigs in many of Glasgow’s venues but the ones in the Barrowlands glow brightest in memory.
7. You can attend any gig in history, which one do you choose and why?
Tough question and I’ll have a different answer by this time next week. Right now, I would go back to see PJ Harvey play Barrowlands in 1995. She was promoting her album To Bring You My Love and she put on a mesmerising show. I would rather relive that then catch more newsworthy gigs like Dylan at Manchester Free Trade Hall or iconic periods like Blondie at CBGBs.
8. Who is your favourite music artist?
That’s another one that changes on a weekly basis but, at the moment, I’m listening to a lot of Mungo’s Hi Fi, the Glasgow dub sound system crew. My teenage AC/DC habit is pretty hard to shake off.
9. What song do you sing in the shower?
Happy When It Rains by The Jesus and Mary Chain. Obviously.
10. Pick a song title for the story of your life…
Monday morning often feels like Blood, Sweat and Murder by Scott H Biram. By the time Friday rolls around, Luckiest Man Alive by The Finn Brothers seems more appropriate.