Words by Yaw Owusu.

As part of Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF) 2015 we are creating a documentary that explores the ever-evolving Liverpool music scene, its influences and how it has influenced and how it connects with other music cities around the world. Myself, photographer and videographer Mark McNulty and producer Jernice Easthope are heading out to some the world's leading music cities to explore the roots and routes of the music and sounds that have brought Liverpool to its storied height within the music world. The journey will see us travel to New York, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis, Kingston (Jamaica) and Dublin (Ireland).

Fittingly, we started off in filming in Liverpool.


First stop, Liverpool

Liverpool is without doubt a leading global music city. In addition to The Beatles, the city is internationally known for churning out more no1 records (per capita) than any other city in the world, quality bands and massive music brands and events. We spent a number days in Liverpool speaking to some key players in the music scene including Paul Du Doyer, Andy McCluskey (OMD), Rebecca Ferguson, David Pichilingi (Liverpool Sound City), Kevin McManus (Journalist & Liverpool Vision), Spencer Leigh (BBC Presenter) and many more. The consensus seems that music in Liverpool holds a very prominent and powerful position in our history and present. The scene has changed, splintered and continues to develop, but one thing holds true, our music scene have been influenced by other cities and cultures and continues to influence other cities and cultures - and always we punch above our weight!


Next stop, New York...

Our second music city stop was New York. Our first interview was with Nelson George who is an author and music and culture critic. Nelson gave us a great overview of the evolving New York music scenes. We also spent some time with Rob Stone, who is the CEO of Cornerstone promotions and owner of Fader Media. He is an expert in the field of music and youth culture. Rob broke down some key moments in New York music history over the past 20 years (many of which he has been in the centre of when they happened) and shed light on the various music movements that have developed and how the New York music landscape currently looks. He also stressed that the meshing of culture and arts and the fierce competitiveness between artists are the reasons why New York stands way out in front in terms of music offer, excellence, influence and export.

Before we left New York, we hung out with a classic Doo Wop group in Coney Island who told us tales about the influence and impact of The Beatles on music in New York and vice versa. We also snuck in a visit to the no1 U.S dealer of Gretsch guitars. Now if you don't know about the Gretsch, let me tell you, it's one of the most famous and important brands of guitar. And for our story, it has real significance. I would tell you more about why but I want you to watch the documentary when it's done, so I'll end here (ha-ha), jump in the car, and head to the next city.


Next stop, Detroit

So our third music city stop was Detroit and more specifically Motown. Motown Records and the Motown Sound undoubtedly have a special relationship with Liverpool and Liverpool Music. We endeavoured to go to the source and speak to key people from the Museum about what that relationship is all about. For now, I won't say much - but we found out some interesting facts. All will be revealed when we showcase the documentary.

I must say that visiting Motown Museum was certainly a highlight for me on this trip so far. The Motown sound and the songs hold special memories from my childhood and Berry Gordy is a true musical icon. To be able to film in Studio A where all the biggest tracks were recorded was an absolute blessing and honour. I must give special thanks to Robin Terry, Nicholas Mancuso, Coraleen Rawls and the team at the Motown Museum for supporting this documentary and giving us special access.


Next stop, Nashville

Our next destination was Nashville - dubbed 'Music City'. Nashville is so well known for being such a hotbed for country music and we wanted to scratch under the surface to find out how the city's music scene ticks, its links and similarities to Liverpool and why it continues to be so dominant in the country music world.

On our first night we hooked up with Liverpool born singer-songwriter Siobhan Maher-Kennedy. Siobhan was the lead singer in the successful Liverpool band River City People. Once that band broke up, she moved to Nashville to work with her now husband, Ray Kennedy. Ray is a multi-Grammy winning producer and artist. Siobhan showed us around the city and told us how the place has grown since her arrival and really gave us an overview on how massive music is in Nashville and how important it is to the people of Nashville. Over the following days we interviewed Ray Kennedy, Peter Cooper (Country Music Hall Of Fame), Erika Wollam-Nichols (COO, The Bluebird Café) and Michael Snow (Liverpool Musician). One thing that was abundantly clear from these interviews is the prominence of the song (much more than the artist) within the Nashville music scene and how the whole culture and business is based around that. Some very interesting links - and lessons - in relation to Liverpool were shared too.


Quick stop, L.A

Off the cuff, we decided to go to L.A to do some extra interviews and find out more about the scene there. I've never travelled to L.A, so it was a mad-dash 30-hour voyage of discovery.

As soon as we landed, we headed out to Amoeba Records on Sunset Boulevard, which is a world-renowned record store. I must say, I've never seen so many records and so many record buyers in one place in my life. It felt like a church for music lovers. I found myself picking up about 4 records and bits of paraphernalia. This was 11pm at night.


Anyway back to business...

The next day we had the crazy task of fitting in three interviews all across the city - which is huge. The first was with Lamont Dozier - one of, if not, the best songwriters of all time. He wrote or/and produced like 70% of the biggest hits out of Motown that we've all grooved to at some point in our lives. And that was way before he went on to achieve even more greatness as a solo artist and songwriter. (Sidenote: he will be at LIMF 2015 doing a special Q&A. Get tickets here). Lamont spoke to us about what it was like working at Motown during the Golden era and the impact of the magic they created. This was truly a moment! Our second interview was with Liverpool-born Grammy winning singer-songwriter Marsha Ambrosius. Marsha has written songs for a number of massive artists, including Michael Jackson. As a solo artist she has won countless awards, including a Grammy. Marsha talked to us about her upbringing, how Liverpool has influenced her character and career and the experience of performing in Liverpool for the first time at LIMF 2014. Also she gave some advice to our City's music leaders and upcoming talent.

The last interview was at The Grammy Museum - who have curated an exhibitions such as BeatleMania and The British Invasion. We spoke to the Associate Curator Nwaka Onwusa who expressed to us how impactful and influential The Beatles were in the U.S and the role Liverpool played in The British Invasion.


Next stop, New York...again

Before we left the U.S to come home we headed back to New York, specifically to the borough of Brooklyn. From our earlier interviews it was clear that Brooklyn, and in particular Williamsburg, was the new home in New York for the emerging avant-garde music scenes. Therefore we want to go and capture some of that flavour.

Before we returned to the UK, we ventured out to beyond New Jersey to meet with an original Cunard Yank called George Salmon, who spoke wonderfully about working on the Cunard ships, what 'made' a Cunard Yank, the negatively that they were often met with back home and why he moved to New York. He also gave some evidence as to how the music imports that came via him and his Cunard Yank friends directly influenced the local musicians.


Next stop, Dublin

After a few days break from shooting, we headed to Dublin, Ireland to look deeper into Ireland's music heritage and how Irish music has influenced Liverpool. The trip was vital as from the offset of our research it was abundantly clear that without the influx of the Irish to Liverpool, music wouldn't have been such an important part of our city socially and culturally. From our interviews in Ireland, not only were these points substantiated, but we also learnt about why music was so important for the Irish people, how music played a part in the Irish family's lives and their community and why the key elements (melody, rhythm and message) are so prominent in the music.

An interesting issue within Irish Music now is the division between traditional Irish music and the newer fusion form that many new bands and artists are creating. They are really excited by this natural occurrence but also told us about the backlash they have had from more traditional musicians and older people in general. In additional, they definitely see this music - which nods to traditional sounds but takes it in new ways - as the future of Irish Music and it becoming the real youth music movement. If there's anything that we've learnt from our travels is that any youth music movement tends to overthrow past genres (see. Merseybeat, House Music, Punk Rock in Liverpool). I think watching this Irish fusion music develop over the next few years is going to be so interesting.


Last stop, Jamaica

As we made our way through the streets to where we were staying it was abundantly clear that Kingston is a very special music city. Our first set of interviews were at Trench Town which is known as the Hollywood of Jamaica and is the birthplace of Reggae music. This place is truly a musical landmark and we were told all about the key names that came out of the area that really built Reggae music - including Toots & The Maytals, Alton Ellis, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer and of course 'Bob Marley'. That pride and connection to the music is still there and burning bright. It is a great shame that this is not a national heritage site and promoted as a stop for more musicians and artists when they go to Jamaica.

Afterwards we spent some time talking to events and marketing manager, Dennis Howard and University lecturer, Carolyn Cooper. Both talked to us about how Reggae Music not only reflects Kingston and wider Jamaican culture but also how it has influenced global pop culture. Legendary Reggae musician Dean Fraser as well as International Reggae chart toppers Third World and Jamaican media icon Winford Williams all stated that Reggae music has a continued massive connection and influence on other genres. Additionally Rory Stone Love from one of the biggest Reggae sound systems ever told us about how specifically the sound systems have influenced electronic dance music. This sentiment was echoed by some of the Liverpool Reggae DJs too.

Perhaps the most impactful thing I remember from the trip is when Shaggy spoke about Jamaica 'punching way above its weight' (sound familiar?) when he said "considering Jamaica only has just under 3 million people, its impact musically is astonishing. Some of the most influential sounds, styles and culture come from Jamaica." This is without doubt true and can definitely be found in Liverpool as well as many other cities around the world - even if you have to just look a little deeper to find it.


Next stop, the edit.