The Liberty guys are all local chaps, aside from vocalist Rob Cooksley who resides in South Wales, and all have had years of experience in various bands including in the case of Rob, being the vocalist in Mick Underwood’s Glory Road. The rest of the band consists of Fred Hale (guitar), Andy Muse (Guitar) and rhythm section Steve Byrne (drums) and Bassist Mark Thomas.

I was genuinely pleased to see that the guys were highly communicative and worked very well in the rehearsal room. I’d say this is experience and cooler heads on older shoulders than most of the acts I have worked with. This is no mean feat, no matter what age you are, if you have decided that you’re right and nobody can change that opinion then it’s always going to be difficult. Experience does account for a lot.

We spent the first couple of hours getting to know one another; I was keen to understand intrinsically why the band had formed, what their expectation were, not just of the day ahead, but in the medium to long term, what they thought they were, musically and presentation wise and  crucially, how the songs are written, by who and generally how.

As ever, there was some collective scratching of heads – more often than not, these questions are not asked within bands and so it is hard to answer. This is one major part of these workshop days – to get everyone thinking, talking and challenge the idea of what it means to be in a band and start to really communicate. It’s amazing what can be achieved with a focussed, collective understanding of what you are trying to do. It’s a lot harder than you think.

The rest of the day was then spent in the rehearsal room examining the music the guys were preparing to record for their next EP.

I have found over the years that the worst people to really make decisions about song arrangements are more often than not, the band themselves. It very easy to settle on standard procedure when working together, and a lot of the time the ‘song craft’ aspects of writing are ignored in favour of pleasing yourself and finding gratification from your own parts rather than as a collective involvement. This isn’t really a criticism more an observation and a very common problem when bands work together without clear focus and direction.

Again in the case of the guys in SOL, they had very clearly set out their intentions to create ‘southern rock’ styled music and to make it as authentic as possible. This, again is a big positive because at the very least they know what they want and have direction to aim for. I did however have many suggestions as to how to authenticate this style of music, which is after all inherently born in the USA, which included discussions about bringing a Celtic flavour – specifically lyrically – into the mix. We have to be as ‘real’ as possible at all times, integrity in the music is key to the believability and thus an audience ‘getting’ what you are.

We worked through several fully formed ideas that I was able to have input on. The process works roughly thus: the band played through the track a couple of times so I could familiarise myself with the arrangement and get a feel for lyric/narrative – Rob had very kindly printed them out in readiness – I then suggested various ideas which ranged from title changes, lyrical suggestions, chord substitutions, arrangement ideas etc. We then worked on each idea in turn deciding as we went if it was working or was a non starter. I like to move fast and keep the vibe fun and fluid; the moment the room becomes bogged down, that’s the time to stop and move on. It is quite an intense experience for bands, but I believe this method always throws up lots of ideas and I love it when I can see the penny dropping with a band where they crack it, and begin to discover a new way of working and can see the positive results. That is a real buzz for me.

All in all the day was very productive and I could see by the smiles all round that the experience had been a positive one, leaving the guys with lots to do, but full of ideas.

Job done!

“Sons of Liberty spent a day working with Toby Jepson as part of his new Lightning In A Bottle project, and it was quite an eye opener – probably the most helpful and significant musically that any of us can remember!

Toby brings his total passion for great song-writing into the rehearsal room with the band, and then there’s his mass of experience to tap into also – as a writer, performer, arranger and producer! Having a thoughtful, passionate and impartial song-writer really listening to our songs (both musically and lyrically) and then exploring them together was immensely rewarding. 

The process is well thought out too, with the day kicking off with a chat about previous bands, gigging and recording history and experience, and a bit of “where are you currently” and “what are you aiming for” kinda stuff. We’d already put a bit of thought into this, with a rough plan mapped out for the next year or so, but a couple of gems that make our roadmap even better hit the table almost immediately – and we hadn’t even played a note yet!

We came into the day with ten or eleven original songs (including five that we’d already recorded and self released as our ‘Shinola’ EP in March 2018…..) plus a couple of ideas that were in the early stages of development. We got to play all of ‘em, normally three or more times, so that Toby could get into the feel of the song, the narrative and the arrangement. And then the suggestions start – hold onto your hat, this is where the ride kicks up a notch!

We ended up tweaking lyrics, melodies and chord progressions, and also a couple of major arrangement updates and a bit of editing here and there too – nothing was off limits. When Toby thinks something is good you get that feedback as well, and how bloody good does that feel to hear??

We gained so much from our session, and his suggestions made so much sense – from start to finish it was relaxed, fun and immersive and afterwards we felt really positive about ourselves as a band. If you are prepared to have someone give you honest and impartial feedback on your music, and you are serious about your music reaching people, you really should consider investing in this. It’s worth every penny.

The end game is to help you be the best you can be – who doesn’t want some of that??”Sons Of Liberty

More info: