At age 16, I turned down a career in airplanes to pursue a life in music, and joined Slithey Tove (now The Toves) the following year. I paid my way through a degree in music at Salford college working as a sound engineer. One night in 1994, I edged on stage with my sax, and within months I was playing in 12 bands. I joined the UK’s first touring samba group, Inner Sense Percussion, and toured Kazakstan, where we left country as national heroes. I started a Latin hiphop band called Nylon Jungle, and wrote the song Catfood the night before we played a headline slot at the Manchester Jazz festival in 1999.
In 2003 I moved to London and very soon spent my life savings buying a baritone sax. That was the year that Amy Winehouse’s musical director called up and asked me to play it in her band. The first day's works was filming the Rehab video (which required miming for 17 hours!) I was with her as she became a household name, and spearheaded popular music's return to real music made by live musicians. We toured, recorded, and appeared on TV playing for Jools Holland, Sharon Osbourne, Charlotte Church, the Brits, and the BBC's Porchester Hall documentary.
A year later I got a horn section together and toured, recorded and did some TV with one of the greatest voices in the UK, Beverley Knight. Prince asked Beverley to play a support slot at his 21-show residency at the O2 arena. We played two nights of that tour, where I was hugely influenced by Maceo Parker and Prince himself, whose mastery was inspiring. And when Prince hushed the rhythm section to better hear the riff I'd come up with during our jam session at the Indigo it was one of the highlights of my life!