Shrewsbury's Robbie Jones enjoying going it alone - unsigned column
Shrewsbury singer-songwriter Robbie Jones probably didn't envisage spending his 30th birthday locked in his house, but such is the hand we have all been dealt recently with the coronavirus outbreak.
In fact, it definitely wasn't what he had envisaged. He "had a lot planned" for Tuesday - April 7 - but it's "all been cancelled".
But he is looking on the bright side, and 2020 has already been a year that has seen him fully shed his former guise as the frontman of Shropshire band Salopia and go his own way.
"I loved playing in my band and would never say that it wouldn't happen again," he says of his time with the group. "Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and it just got to the point where things just weren't clicking into place.
"Its not as easy as everyone thinks being part of a band. It looks and feels great when you're up there doing it but people don't see all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes."
Early February saw the Radbrook-based musician release his debut solo single Head In The Clouds, which was recorded with Ryan Pinson at RML Studios based in Wolverhampton's Newhampton Arts Centre.
"The song was one of them that just dropped from the sky really," the former Priory School pupil told us at the time. "It’s all based around the guitar riff and the lyrics just seemed to come out.
"I think deep down it’s about someone trying to make their way in a relationship but is not sure on which way to go."
Perhaps he was subconsciously thinking of the ending of Salopia?
"It’s a classic indie rock 'n' roll song which I think the industry needs," he added.
And it went down well, he tells us now.
"Online streams have been successful along with the music video on YouTube.
"The track has been sent to America to be part of a CD compilation there for a small music label, it's been played numerous times on BBC Introducing in Shropshire and was recently played on radio in Wolverhampton too."
Jones launched the single with a show at The Hole In The Wall on his hometown's Shoplatch on its release night. The gig had free entry, with support from Stafford's Ruby Allen and former Star Unsigned column act Josh Lobley, who had released his third EP Fireside Lullabies at the time and was promoting it.
"The launch night went very well," he recalls. "It was a really good turn-out, I sold some CDs and everyone seemed to enjoy the evening at The Hole In The Wall."
And while classing himself as a solo artist is still a fairly new concept to Jones, it's not like he hasn't performed by himself before. It just comes under a slightly different name.
"I've always gone out playing solo gigs, so it was something that just carried on really and I wanted to release my own music."
That was, of course, until the Covid-19 outbreak, which has stopped Jones and the rest of the grassroots music industry in its tracks and is threatening a lot of independent artists, venues and other businesses attached to the scene.
"The current outbreak has hit quite hard," he admits. "I've lost regular gigs I do at weekends and also my open mic nights that I run every week at Albert's Pour House [on Frankwell] and The Hole In The Wall.
"Also, my fortnightly indie DJ Set that I do at Albert's Shed [Barker Street] has been affected too."
Luckily for Jones, he has his day job as a support worker supporting people with learning disabilities which he's "been doing for 10 years", so he has another income stream.
And that means he has a bit of financial comfort that allows him to look ahead to the rest of the year once the pandemic has subsided so he can continue to grow the Robbie Jones solo brand.
"I have a couple of songs that are nearly finished and ready to take into the studio, so I'll hopefully have something out again this year," he predicts.
"During the lockdown I will have the opportunity to be writing new original material, as well as learning some new covers to play at gigs.
"I've done a live Facebook gig which was watched by nearly 70 people at one time and will be looking to do another one soon," he adds.
"Hopefully 2020 will see another solo single released by myself and plenty of live gigs which I thank all the venues that regularly book me for. I was also hoping for some festivals, but not sure that will happen now."
Again, another effect of the coronavirus outbreak - something Jones and the rest of Shropshire will hope to be getting past soon.