END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

Without doubt, one of the most talented Scottish singer-songwriters around today is End Of Neil. I’ve been following End Of Neil’s career for the past couple of years. Since I last touched base with him, a lot has happened to End Of Neil.

Neil Stewart, the man behind End Of Neil has moved to Edinburgh in an attempt to lift his profile. That seems to be working. He’s been playing higher profile venues, and has recently released his debut album Only Surfers Know. Since then, End Of Neil’s star has been in the ascendancy. Word seems to be spreading about Scotland’s best kept musical secret, End Of Neil. However, still there are people yet to discover End Of Neil. For them, I’ll tell you about End Of Neil’s career so far.

It was in 2008 that Neil Stewart adopted his End Of Neil alias. Since then, End Of Neil has been one of the hard working, prolific and talented artists in Scotland. He’s spent the last six years honing his style. It’s been time well spent.

I first came across End Of Neil a couple of years ago. When I first heard his music, I knew that here was a talented artist and decided to write about him. After all, End Of Neil’s music deserves to be heard by a much wider audience. So, I got in touch with End Of Neil.

This is what I always do with new artists. So, I asked Neil to tell me a bit about himself. I wanted to know not just about End Of Neil’s music, but Neil Stewart, and his life. What I was trying to do, was build a picture, so that I can tell his story. Often, the information I’m given, varies. It various in quality, quantity and substance. End Of Neil’s was different. It was a refreshing first.

Unlike many new musicians I come across, End Of Neil is modest, unassuming and ego free musicians. That’s really refreshing. It seems, he prefers to let his music do the talking.  End Of Neil is a hugely talented singer-songwriter. He’s also one of the most modest men in music. I discovered that when I first came across him. 

Unlike other artists, Neil provided a short, ego-free CV. Straight away, I liked Neil Stewart. Here, was a really talented, singer-songwriter, who despite his obvious talent, remained humble and modest. He helps other bands, is supportive of his local music scene and is “part a strong community of songwriters.” Neil Stewart, I realised is an anomaly in modern music, an ego-free musician. 

Based in Stirling, Scotland, End Of Neil is the alter-ego of Neil Stewart. End Of Neil was founded in 2008, and since then, has been honing their unique sound. Best described as a combination of acoustic and folk, it’s won over audiences throughout Scotland, and more recently, much further afield.

Most of End Of Neil’s music is written by Neil Stewart. He’s just the latest in a new generation of Scottish singer-songwriters. Neil’s been influenced by John Martyn, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley and Neil Young. It’s not just folk music that influences End Of Neil. Not at all. Neil says anyone “with a guitar and sense of feeling” influences him. Interestingly, this includes Nirvana. These influences are reflected in End Of Neil’s music, which has been honed through constantly touring.

After founding End Of Neil, Neil played mostly Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. His idea was, to refine his music through playing live. This is the old-fashioned way. Through playing live, an artist refines his sound and songs. Having played mostly in Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh, End Of Neil started playing further afield and opening for some big names.

No longer was End Of Neil playing much further afield. Audiences at concerts and festivals were won over by End Of Neil. So too, were The Vaselines, Ken Stringfellow and Rachel Sermanni, who End Of Neil supported. This summer, End Of Neil will be supporting Simon Townsend, the brother of Who guitarist, Pete Townsend. Whilst constantly touring, End Of Neil is one of the most prolific artists I’ve come across.

It was back in September 2012, that End Of Neil’s recording career began. Escape At The Zoo and 62 were the debut tracks from an undoubtably talented artist. Best described as joyous and celebrating being young and free, Escape At The Zoo features intelligent lyrics, thought provoking lyrics, about whether human instinct can be repressed by work and social pressures and norms. 62 is an atmospheric song, one that paints pictures in your mind, while Neil’s voice is needy and emotive. Just a month after End Of Neil’s debut single, came his first E.P.

September was released by End Of Neil in October 2012. This was End Of Neil’s debut E.P. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Both Escape At The Zoo and 62 featured on September. The other three tracks were of a similar quality. End Of Neil brought Forget The Afternoon, Save My Soul and Knights In Armour to life. Neil’s lyrics are a cut above what we’ve come to expect from modern singer-songwriters. Just like the seventies singer-songwriters who’ve influenced End Of Neil, Neil delivers his songs with passion and emotion. He’s like a master storyteller, his songs painting pictures, asking question, probing and provoking your emotions. For a debut E.P. September was the perfect way to begin End Of Neil’s recording career. Just seven months later, came the followup, My Games.

Released in April 2013, My Games was End Of Neil’s sophomore E.P. It featured six new tracks from End Of Neil. My Games was a coming of age for End Of Neil. It was his best release so far. The songs were cinematic, evocative and emotive. My Games was another glimpse into the world of End Of Neil. During the six songs, End Of Neil, the troubled troubadour, introduced us to a compelling cast of characters. Their lives unfolded during the six songs. Like mini kitchen sink dramas full of betrayal, heartache, love lost and love found. Most importantly, My Games built on September, which had been the starting point for his recording career. The songs are even better, tighter and slicker. Six months later, Less was End Of Neil’s third E.P.

Less was released in October 2013 and featured another six new songs.  Again, we were introduced to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled. All of the characters are intriguing. Just like on My Game, Less saw End Of Neil introduce us to a diverse cast of characters. Many of them are complicated. Some of them are troubled, some heartbroken and some frustrated or angry. All of them are intriguing. In many ways, that makes it a very Scottish collection of songs. After all, we Scots are complicated, troubled and intriguing. We certainly have stories to tell and always have. It’s in our D.N.A. So has 

End Of Neil. He’s a storyteller, poet and songwriter. His lyrics paint pictures and his characters come to life. That’s been the case on each of his E.P.s and is the case on the wonderfully named Gas Station Coffee. It featured six songs which were written and produced by End Of Neil.

For fans of End Of Neil, Christmas has come early in the shape of Gas Station Coffee. The six songs were variously heartfelt, hook-laden, emotive, joyous,poignant and melancholy. Tinged with anger, disappointment, heartbreak, hope, humour and pathos. Then there’s the stomping Heavy World and the needy, heartfelt and hopeful paean, Years In The Wilderness. Quite simply, this was  a delicious, aromatic blend of Americana, country, folk and rock. One cup isn’t enough. No. Far from it. It was a truly irresistible drink, best tasted often. Indeed, from Dry Land right through to Deception, Gas Station Coffee oozes quality. Gas Station Coffee whetted your appetite for End Of Neil’s first E.P of 2014, Headspinnin.’

This was a case of End Of Neil picking up where he left off on Headspinnin.’ It  was released as 2014 dawned. Featuring three tracks and marked a welcome return of End Of Neil the storyteller. Headspinnin’ was a tantalising taste of how End Of Neil’s music was progressing. However, it was just leading up to End Of Neil’s debut album Only Surfers Know.

Ever since the advent of the CD, artists seem to feel compelled to fill the eighty minutes. Not End Of Neil. He’s old school. Just like myself, he remembers the days of vinyl. Back then, the length of an album was restricted. It couldn’t be a sprawling album. Instead, an album featured eight to ten tracks. This meant you heard an artist’s best work. End Of Neil realises this. So, his debut album Only Surfers Know features just seven tracks. Only Surfers Know allows you to hear End Of Neil at his very best. You’ll realise that when I tell you about Only Surfers Know.

Opening Only Surfers Know is All The Way. Shakers give way to the rhythm section and punchy horns. A sultry saxophone solo gives way to Neil’s joyous vocal. He literally skips his way through the track. It has a joyful, feel good sound. Especially when layers of harmonies accompany him. They’re replaced by a swirling saxophone. As for Neil, he’s like the Pied Piper. He spreads hooks and happiness, meaning you follow in his wake.

Picked Up By The Ship has a spacious, understated arrangement. Bursts of R&B tinged horns sit above the piano, rhythm section and Neil’s trusty guitar. His vocal paints pictures as he sings about “things that land in the night.” The lyrics are cerebral, cinematic and slightly surreal. There’s an element of mystery. Having said that, can imagine the scenes unfolding before your eyes. That’s down to End Of Neil, storyteller par excellence. 

Hearing Voices bursts into life. A wistful, mellow horn joins with the rhythm section and guitar. They set the scene for Neil’s vocal. Straight away, he’s painting pictures. As he does, his vocal is full of sadness and frustration. Especially, when Neil sings: “he never loved you really…he laughs at you.” He’s saddened she can’t see through him, wants her to forget him. Neil makes the lyrics seem very real. They’re akin to a kitchen sink drama. What makes this wistful opus all the better, is the horn that dips in and out, highlighting the sadness and melancholy.

Le Etoile sees the tempo drop and the drama increase. A deliberate piano, firmly strummed guitar and the rhythm section create the backdrop for Neil. His vocal is reassuring and tender as he sings “baby it’s all right to get a move on.” As the song progresses, Neil’s voice rises in power. It’s always heartfelt and reassuring. A blazing horn, cooing harmonies and sample provide the perfect backdrop for Neil as he delivers a tender, beautiful vocal. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Only Surfers Know.

Just a lone guitar opens Crossed The River In My Sleep. Before long, the band sweep in. The rhythm section and later keyboards accompany Neil and his guitar. His vocal is full of despair and hurt. He’s been hurt and lays bare his soul. Despite this, he’s giving her a second chance. “Maybe this time” Neil sings. The way he sings those words, it’s as if he doesn’t quite believe them. That’s maybe why when  his vocal drops out, a blistering saxophone solo fires a warning shot across his bows. It’s as if it’s warning Neil that this could end badly. The saxophone solo is akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt as it drifts in and out. After that, Neil plays the role of troubled troubadour to a tee on this tale of love and love gone wrong.

River Of Your Mind sees a return to End Of Neil’s more familiar sound. It’s just Neil and his trusty guitar. His vocal is pensive and thoughtful. Especially as memories come flooding back. He sings: “press escape or press rewind, down the River Of Your Mind.” Instantly, memories come flooding back. Listening to Neil, it’s obvious that not all of them are good. That’s why Neil’s singing: : “press escape or press rewind.” If only forgetting the bad times, hurt and pain were than easy.

Closing Only Surfers Know is Scream and Shout. Neil’s guitar sets the scene for his thoughtful vocal. He reflect, singing pop music stole my youth, pop music tells the truth, about the people you’re with.” Bursts of blistering guitar riffs and a Fender Rhodes provide contrasts. At the front sits Neil’s vocal and his guitar. Later, when he’s singing about music Neil delivers the lyrics: “when you Scream and Shout, you let all the demons out.” Neil delivers his lyrics with power, passion and emotion. Combined with some of his finest lyrics, which are akin to a homage to pop music, this is one of the best songs on Only Surfers Know. What a way to end End Of Neil’s debut album.

Only Surfers Know marks a slight change in style from End Of Neil. He introduces a a full band and horns. This works really well. It frames Neil’s vocals. The addition of the horns is a masterstroke. Sometimes, they reflect to emotion and passion in Neil’s vocal. They prove to be the finishing touch to a couple of songs. These songs show the different sides to End Of Neil. 

End Of Neil is variously joyous, lovelorn, heartbroken, reflective and pensive on Only Surfers Know. He delivers each song with feeling. His lyrics are cerebral and cinematic. The characters come to life before your eyes. They seem very real. That’s nothing new. On every release so far, End Of Neil has breathed life, emotion and meaning into his lyrics. However, Only Surfers Know is a coming of age from End Of Neil. 

Having served a six year musical apprenticeship, End Of Neil was more than ready to release his debut album. His apprenticeship was over End Of Neil released Headspinnin’ earlier this year. Now he’s ready to progress his career. So, End Of Neil has moved to Edinburgh and is playing larger venues. He’ll also start working on his sophomore album early next year. Hopefully, by then, End Of Neil will have been signed by a record company. After all, End Of Neil’s music is relevant and current.

In some ways, End Of Neil reminds me of King Creosote. They’re both hugely talented singer-songwriters. Both are the latest in a new generation of Scottish troubadours. King Creosote and End Of Neil are born storytellers whose raison d’être is to entertain. That’s apparent on End Of Neil’s debut album Only Surfers Know.

After six long years, End Of Neil has released his long awaited, and critically acclaimed debut album Only Surfers Know. At last, a much wider audience will be able to hear End Of Neil’s unique fusion of Americana, country, folk, rock and soul. It’s a powerful combination.

End Of Neil’s music is cerebral, intelligent, evocative, expressive, poetic and thoughtful. End Of Neil sings of hurt and heartbreak, love and loss, life and the meaning of it. Poignancy sits side-by-side with pathos. There’s a sense of melancholia, wistfulness and vulnerability in his voice. Other times irony, humour and guilt shine through. That’s apparent on Only Surfers Know as End Of Neil showcases his vocal prowess.  

During Only Surfers Know, End Of Neil showcases his lived-in, world-weary, soulful vocal. Sometimes, End Of Neil’s vocal is a cathartic unburdening. This proves powerful and emotive. It’s as if we’re seeing a glimpse of End Of Neil’s soul. We get a sense of who End Of Neil is, and what makes him tick on his debut album Only Surfers Know.

Although Only Surfers Know is End Of Neil’s debut album, he’s an experienced artist. End Of Neil has been working towards Only Surfers Know, the album which hopefully, will launch the career of Neil Stewart.

END OF NEIL-ONLY SURFERS KNOW.

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