In late-January 2022 a good friend of mine contacted me for some help with concocting a plan to propose to his girlfriend. Straff and Carrera have been dating for 17 months and are a fantastic couple who seem custom-made for each other, they also happen to be big fans of my music! Straff wanted me to write a custom song which he could play before popping the question.
I had approximately five weeks before Straff was due to propose on 4th March, a few days before Carrera’s 30th birthday for which he was whisking her away on a secret trip to the North Yorkshire coast.
I got started immediately – I’m very lucky to be able to call upon my dad Phil Wilkes who is a talented pianist, and he came round one weekend to lay down some tracks. We recorded a couple of tracks of piano music, some romantic strings, bass and drums. I then added some final touches and arranged it ready to start writing.
I quizzed Straff about his relationship with Carrera, her interests, special memories or in-jokes that he’d like me to include and I got to work. When I had a draft set of lyrics I checked them with Straff, made a couple of small tweaks and started practicing, followed by recording four vocal tracks once I was confident with my delivery.
Finally I mixed and mastered the tracks to make sure they were well-balanced and would sound great on any device. When the mix was complete I tested the track in headphones, in the car, on my TV and through my studio monitors before sending the final mp3 and wav files for Straff to keep.
I was finished ahead of schedule so I asked Straff to send me some treasured photos of them both, and I made a video compilation for them with the track playing in the background. This makes a fantastic keepsake for them and they were delighted with my efforts.
The big day arrived and Carrera got the shock of her life as he pressed play and unveiled the song we’d worked so hard on. Carrera was bowled over and of course she said yes! How could she have said no after that?!
I’m absolutely amazed at what Wilko managed to achieve with this. I had a vague idea at first but he helped me come up with something really specific and personal to us both.
At every step of the process he kept me informed and it was exciting seeing the great work he was doing as the song started developing. He had me in tears more than once!
I’m so thankful to Wilko for providing us with this special song which we’ll treasure, he went above and beyond and I knew it’d be good but I couldn’t have imagined it would be this good!
Straff – the groom-in-waiting
For what I thought was a quick trip to visit a special place for us both before my birthday weekend away, I was given the most wonderful and unique surprise ever, a song written and performed by our friend Wilko Wilkes detailing our relationship!
I was blown away and it was a beautiful part of a day that will go down as one of the best of my life! Thank you so much Wilko I absolutely love it!!
Carrera – the bride-to-be
Straff and Carrera – congratulations to you both!
If you’ve got a special occasion coming up later this year, or if you’d like a custom song to advertise your business or surprise a loved one, let me know with some notice and we can cook something up together!
Discretion and high quality is guaranteed, consultation is free and I won’t take on commissions that don’t fit with my ethics. I have limited capacity so let’s get the ball rolling early! Get in touch here
Struggling for inspiration in December having hit a bout of writer’s block, I found myself in a familiar situation – deeply invested in a new game of Championship Manager 01/02. Football manager games have always appealed to me, Premier Manager 98 is the first game I really loved, and it went on like that for a number of years.
Often these days when I burn out, I turn to a football manager game from my youth and it gives me senses of comfort, nostalgia, excitement and control. I’m sure anyone who plays or has played these games will understand, as will their long-suffering partners who are well-practiced at scratching their heads and feigning interest as they see their loved one gleefully whiling away hours and wonder how we can possibly enjoy the reams of information, green bars, numbers and stats etc. without ever actually kicking a ball.
So anyway as I was wrapped up in my warm blanket of managing Newcastle United in 2002, imagine my horror as the team kept losing. Then at around 1am the message came that the board of directors had decided to sack me. I was gutted, I’d planned on playing for another couple of hours at least. I couldn’t stomach it so I turned to writing to vent my rage and frantically smashed out the quickest set of lyrics I’ve ever written.
A few weeks before, me and Connor had been having a play on Logic pro and started a beat which I loved and later finished. The beat was perfect for this track with it being quite emotive and punchy so I got to work. Also a few weeks earlier I’d won a raffle held by Andres Guazzelli on New Artist Spotlight for people who donated to the surgery he required to save his shoulder, the prize being to have a song mixed and mastered by this music master for no cost! I couldn’t wait to use the prize so that also quickened up the process of this track.
Nine days after I started typing the lyrics, this song was finished and ready to go and I’m buzzing with how it sounds. I know it’s a bit niche but I know it will resonate with many people who’ve been through a similar relationship with these beautiful yet cruel games, and hopefully even people who don’t have a clue what I’m on about will still enjoy the passion, the obsessive fury and the music! It’s also a lot more light-hearted than my last few releases, nice to change it up a bit, but in the same vein it’s a passion project writing about things that I know.
I’m proud of this one being the first track I’ve released where I’ve made the beat. Shoutout to the people who’ve been involved to get me to this point like Stu Herring, Hashfinger, Connor, Dad and everyone at NAS. I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to music production but I’ve been steadily putting together the pieces for a couple of years, enjoying the process and learning little bits here and there, which now is adding up and starting to bear fruits. I’m a lot more confident in using a Digital Audio Workstation now and I enjoy it more than I get stressed by it (most of the time!). It’s a steep learning curve but I’ve got a handle on the basics now and it’ll stand me in good stead to keep creating my art for years to come.
Let me know what you think of the track, I love to hear feedback good or bad, it all helps me to be self-aware and improve.
As always a massive thanks to everyone who’s showing an interest, playing my music, telling people about it, helping me out, watching from afar, coming to gigs, egging me on etc etc. I always wish I had more time to spend with every one of you and hope to see you soon. Big love and respect to you all!
ABCDEpression is my attempt to put into words the constant battle that is depression.
Everybody’s experience is different but I’m sure anyone who’s living or has lived with the condition will identify with some of what I’m saying.
I don’t want people to worry about me – I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, but the effects aren’t just fly-by-night, it’s something I have to manage and stay on top of and probably will do as long as I live.
I spent many years running from my own mind, the crippling and debilitating way it made me feel, the incessant internal chatter spinning me this way and that way and I was a slave to its every jibe.
I’m by no means moaning about life – I’m extremely grateful to be here and for all the opportunities I’ve had, it’s a gift and I try to enjoy every day. But it’s a tough world out there sometimes and if you’ve got a natural chemical imbalance or a depressive nature it can be a frightening and overwhelming slog.
Since about 2015 I’ve been on a journey to improve and correct a lot of my thought patterns, to stop listening to the harmful thoughts and fight back. The thoughts are still there but I can deal with them better.
I’ve been through cognitive behavioural therapy, adult ADHD assessment, counselling, medication, peer support and a whole lot more to strive for a better life, to find some peace and contentment in my restless soul, to find my authentic self and try to be comfortable with it.
It’s been difficult and I’ve had to unlearn a lot of bad internal habits and re-frame them, forgive myself for wrongs of the past, be kind and encouraging to myself and nurture my mental health, but it’s been the greatest journey and it led to the rapping odyssey I’m on now!
I am at a point in my life where I’m happy to talk openly about my mental health and do so regularly (shout out Andy’s Man Club) but I wasn’t always like this and I feel happy to be able to put material like this out there, even if I am a little nervous about it all!
But I can’t hide away anymore. Writing ABCDEpression was the ultimate outlet for me. Working within the A-Z format was a chance to really vent in some depth, and as a piece of writing it was a challenging structure that made me think about every word.
I hope you enjoy the track and I hope it helps for some people to see me putting my vulnerabilities out there like this in a way that I never would have considered plausible a few years ago.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this track, I’m always trying to improve and hone what I’m doing and honest feedback helps tremendously with that so give me a shout! And please help by hitting like, share, comment etc. sending to friends, bothering the neighbours etc. so that hopefully this can get into some ears that appreciate it!
The track was recorded with help from Leeds City College Arts Fund at their recording studio in Leeds city centre.
In June 2021 Craig Smith from CRS Editorial contacted me through my website having seen my videos with an idea to promote his copywriting, proofreading & editing business. Having been an editor for 25 years Craig went freelance last October and wanted to put something extraordinary together to celebrate the first anniversary of CRS Editorial.
I had a lot of questions and wanted to really nail down what we were going to do so we had a Zoom call to chat it all through and get a project brief together, agreed a fee and I got to work.
I’m thankful to Craig for contacting me well in advance of CRS Editorial’s October anniversary as it gave me plenty of time to do a thorough job. I’m also thankful to Prod by Millsy who allowed me to re-use his excellent beat from my track You Can’t Stop Time.
There were various aspects to this project – I spent time researching Craig’s business, carefully planning the tone and vision, scripting the lyrics with every word considered, mixing and mastering the audio to professional standard, planning the video then filming, editing, re-editing and editing again, re-editing again then editing some more, re-editing…you get the picture.
In total it took around 16 hours from conception to completion roughly broken down as follows:
It was important to me that the final product was something that Craig could be proud of, that showcased what he is about through both the lyrics and visuals. During each step we kept in touch often and I gave Craig progress updates to show him what was happening, keep him involved and check that he was happy with the direction I was taking it in.
When it came to finalising the project I went through everything with a fine toothcomb and reviewed it many times to get everything right, consulting with Craig before adding the finishing touches and delivering the final film.
Craig was delighted with the end result and was ecstatic to be able to show this video to his clients, friends, family and business associates. Despite brimming with excitement about this for about 3 months he somehow managed to keep it secret from even his wife and was thrilled with her reaction when he unveiled it to her first!
“I wanted to do something a little bit different to promote my first year as a business owner, so when I met Wilko, the cogs started turning straight away as to how we could work together.
I am blown away at the fantastic job he has done to help promote CRS Editorial and my services and I know my clients will be too!
A superb talent who can really offer businesses and individuals alike something a little off the cuff!
Many thanks, Wilko!” – Craig Smith, owner CRS
Craig unveiled the video on his LinkedIN page and this is what his clients and network had to say:
Now if you’ve read this far and haven’t yet seen the video then you must be bursting at the seams, so here it is!
If you enjoyed the video and would like to work with me in any way then please get in touch on my contact form or drop me an email at email@example.com and we’ll have a chat about what we could do.
Do you want to advertise your business in a fun and imaginative way? Maybe you want to surprise a family member or friend with a custom rap? Whatever your ideas I’m open to them, but due to time restraints and many other commitments I can only take on a limited number of projects at any one time so get in touch soon, the more notice the better.
A product launch for January? Let’s talk. Advertising your new range next Spring? No problem. Planning for your wife’s 80th birthday in the year 2055? Why wait?
As I plod on with the internal juggernaut that is Wilko Wilkes Music, my mind at times becomes a clouded mess. I’m not the sort of guy who finds it easy to keep up with updating social media several times a day, constant updates, video messages etc. but I’m doing my best without burning myself out, so I thought I’d bang out a blog post to help organise my mind, to have for posterity and to update anyone who’s interested or thinks they can help in any way! This might be a long one and time is of the essence so if you’re not bothered then you might as well close it now, and I’ll try to type from the heart without worrying too much about the details or I’ll never get it done.
Approximately 18 months in now and it feels like I’m entering a new phase which I’m really excited about. I’ve turned a corner mentally from thinking of myself as a guy trying to be a rapper, to an actual credible independent artist. It’s not all been plain sailing, it’s been a difficult journey at times to get to this point. There’s been a ton of mental roadblocks, knowledge gaps, time constraints, dread and other barriers that are to be expected when you put yourself out there. It’s being driven by a burning desire and so I’ve managed to keep my focus throughout, which has always been to get to my main target of having a catalogue of complete songs that I can have some fun and play a live set with.
The reason I’ve managed to ride all those waves is that from the minute I started this I knew exactly what the dream was. It’s been the most thrilling thing I’ve ever done for myself – the highs of nailing 2 or 3 minutes of lightspeed rap that I conjured from deep within my soul, the adrenaline rush of performing or recording my own material, the surreal moments of hearing myself on the radio, getting messages from people in different countries telling me I inspired them, seeing myself feature in blogs, being invited to talk on podcasts etc. and gaining a small platform to talk about the things that I care about, it’s been brilliant and I’m very grateful to everyone who’s helped me and been a part of my journey so far – elephants never forget and you can call me Dumbo.
If I packed it all in tomorrow I could be proud of what I’ve done, but there’s no chance of that. The next step for me is the one I’ve been waiting for – taking my rap to the streets. Along the way I’ve spent a lot of time rehearsing my catalogue. I love live music and I’ve never wanted to be a Soundcloud rapper or an internet musician, for me the pinnacle of music is live performances, people expressing themselves and speaking directly through the powerful holy grail of the mic. I’ll be trying to get out and about busking as much as possible in the upcoming weeks and months even though the calendar is filling up quickly now that lockdown is coming to an end.
I’ve got a couple of provisional gigs pencilled in for later this year but I won’t count my turkeys just yet as my first gig was meant to be in December 2020. Busking is the perfect alternative though, why wait for someone to ask me to play when I can grab the bull by the bollards and do it myself? I don’t see a lot of rappers busking but I’d like to see more, I suspect a lot of them either don’t have the inclination to play live, or are rapping about subjects too inappropriate for the masses!
I know my music won’t be everybody’s banana fudge, but I’ll enjoy myself immensely and I’m sure to some it’ll be entertaining and something a bit different. I’ll be a respectful and proud custodian of this fine tradition and the generations of buskers who’ve been before me. I’ll think about the buskers I’ve loved, the ones I used to look up to as a child, the ponytail guy with the violin outside WHSmith in Ilkley, the fella with the accordion outside Fenwicks in Newcastle, Chris the ever-present guitar playing legend strumming songs to night-time revellers in Leeds – these are the stellar names I’d like to put mine alongside.
I’m currently working towards a provisional date in July for my next recording session which will be over two days. Hopefully in late 2021 I’ll be achieving another dream – releasing an album. There’s a lot of hoops to jump through before I get there so I can’t guarantee it’ll be out by the end of this year but I’m almost certain it’ll happen. The recording session came about through some Leeds City College Arts funding I applied for – I was unsuccessful but they’ve very kindly offered me a sound engineer and use of their facilities for a couple of days which should be very exciting.
There won’t be any new tracks from me for the next couple of months (but there’ll be some fresh videos etc.) as I go about my business and keep my head down working away with writing and other stuff to improve my collection. I’ve got two songs that are completely written and are currently in the practice phase, one in particular is causing me some issues as it’s littered with tongue twisters, once I’ve got it nailed it’ll be a brilliant one to play live and to tie people in knots if anyone ever attempts to rap along. I’ve got other beats that I’m formulating ideas for but I find the simmering process often takes a while, with the type of tracks I like to write and perform I can’t just sit down and bang something out in an hour.
There’s also another opportunity pencilled in for the Autumn where all being well I’ll be getting some branding support, with 2nd year design students taking on my artwork as a project for their portfolio. I’ll have input and they’ll help me with a new logo, social media assets and other marketing and design materials that I can use. Like the next recording session this has also come about from my application for Leeds City College funding. A reminder that it’s always good to take shots – if they fly over the bar and land in Row Z you can always try again, and even if it’s off-target there’s always the chance of a lucky deflection. I found the funding through Studio 12’s website where there’s a brilliant page of opportunities for musicians, artists, writers, actors and other creatives.
Another new development is that I’ve become a moderator for New Artist Spotlight, a collection of independent artists and playlists run by the fantastic Ed Eagle, and a supportive community that work together to help promote each other’s work and collaborate on projects. I’ll be writing some human-interest stories for the website and I’ll also be co-hosting the NAS podcast with a mercurial burgeoning artist and producer from Minnesota called Plummy who I advise you check out – he’s got two songs available on Spotify and they’re both catchier than the common cold! In fact I’d say have a listen to all the playlists, there are loads of super-talented undiscovered, unsigned and upcoming acts on there and enough diversity that you’re bound to find something you like. Whilst I’m blowing some smoke I’d also like to point you in the direction of Charles Connolly, Mr. Oddzo and Elion Melody, three brilliant artists and all-round good guys who’ve helped me along. I don’t pay for playlists, followers or anything like that so it’s great to have found a community like this where there’s loads of benefits at no cost.
Speaking of free support, I can’t finish this post without mentioning Andy’s Man Club, the men’s mental health groups for which I’m now a facilitator at the Leeds groups. Every Monday we meet 7pm – 9pm to lighten the load, chew the fat and get whatever is bothering us off our chest. It’s open to any man aged 18 or over and they have grown massively over the five years they’ve now been active, from one small coffee group following the tragic suicide of Andy Roberts, to now being on the cusp of 50 groups across the UK meeting every week, as well as online groups. The more people that know about this the better – I’ve seen men walk through the doors who were on the brink and some who just needed a helping hand, I’m yet to see anyone who hasn’t benefitted from the groups. Whoever attends can be guaranteed a safe and non-judgemental environment to work through their issues and/or help others and this kind of safety net or even lifeline is something that is not to be taken for granted. I’d like to say to anyone who is struggling not to downplay their problems if it’s damaging them mentally, not to be afraid to ask for help, and not to wait until the manure hits the fan before taking action. It’s a crazy and intense world where neglecting your mental health is a dangerous game.
So that’s about it from me for now, if you’ve got this far then thanks for reading and I hope you got something from it, it’s been therapeutic to write. I’m not at my sharpest right now but I’m excited for the future and always trying to balance the feelings and emotions that come with life. There are two sides to every coin – my anxiety comes from my passion, my depression comes from being sensitive, my inner turmoil helps me to make sound decisions, I’m grateful for it all as it all helps to make me a better artist and give me the ability to express myself. The more I do it the more it helps heal my soul, I’d encourage anyone who doesn’t have a creative pursuit to find what makes them tick and try sticking at it for a while to see where it takes you. From music and writing I have had moments of pure bliss that would have been impossible to achieve had I not scaled the initial massive hump of anxiety and got started. From here there is no such thing as failure.
I’ll finish with a big thank you to everyone who has helped me along in any small way – you know who you are. I’m always looking for ways to take my music to the next level so if you have any ideas, feedback or things you’d like to help me with then please get in touch. Whoever you are it’s always a pleasure to hear from you – we’re all in this together. I’m now open for live opportunities and bookings, potential collabs etc. – again any contacts or ideas you have which could nudge me along, just give me a shout.
Believe me when I say I appreciate you and I hope to see you soon.
The wait is over! Poverty in the UK is out now on all streaming platforms. This track has been a long time coming for me, having started writing it eight months ago. I’m excited to release it now and to partner with two fantastic charities that do excellent work for causes that are close to my heart, Shelter & Andy’s Man Club. If you would like to donate you can do so on my Justgiving page.
I hope you enjoy the track! Let me know any comments or questions you have, any fundraising or promotional ideas etc. please get in touch.
Whilst you’re here it would be great if you could subscribe to my Youtube and Spotify channels!
As always thank you for your continued support! I really appreciate everyone helping me along on my music journey.
I can’t wait to take this one to the streets and perform it live, I look forward to seeing you all soon!
He was the unlikely hero who inspired tens of Leeds United fans all over the globe with his rags to riches story. But now Gary Hopping has left the Wilko Wilkes catalogue by mutual consent.
The mysterious goalkeeper made his debut in October 2019, famously becoming the first player in Wilko Wilkes history. He made over 1000 appearances on Facebook, 400 on Youtube, and won 197 caps for Spotify. The highlight of his career was being played in the fanzone at Elland Road before a Leeds Utd match in 2020.
His stats left a lot to be desired and there were accusations from colleagues that he wasn’t pulling his weight. Some blamed his confusing playing style, whilst others lamented his lack of pace.
Hopping’s career was dogged by controversy, with some claiming that the player never really fitted in with the rest of the squad. There were suggestions of him being the class clown and a disturbing influence in the dressing room.
Although backed by a small number of dedicated fans, there was a growing feeling within the Wilko Wilkes camp that something wasn’t right.
Statement from Wilko Wilkes:
“Gary is a good man and he has been an excellent servant for me, it’s nothing against his character but we had a few differences of opinion and both agreed it was time for him to leave. There’s no hard feelings and we hope to see him again in the future, we’ve just gone in different directions so we felt a break was best for all concerned.”
When asked if this is the last the world will see of Gary Hopping, Wilkes remarked “In the words of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson – it’s farewell, not goodbye”, before winking cryptically.
A little-known acoustic adaptation is still available on Youtube and the club have said that anyone who wishes to have the mp3 of his career can request it via email or using our contact form.
I feel like in life I’ve often felt pressure around “always doing your best”. You hear it all the time growing up, through school, work, life… “oh well, as long as you’ve done your best”. I appreciate the sentiment, but hearing this can be really hard for a lot of people and make them feel like they’ve failed no matter what it is they’ve done.
Most of the time, whatever I do, I feel like I can’t have done my best. Maybe I was too tired or not feeling it, maybe I could’ve worked faster, harder, smarter. I think it’s meant as a healthy mindset – “just do your best and you can be happy”, but for people like me who are self-critical and take things quite literally, it can be a demeaning question to ponder.
Have I ever done my best? I’m not sure. Even at times where I’ve tried to do my best I’ve always felt I could have milked out an extra few % and done some things better. Does that make me a failure? Of course not! But it’s a concept I struggled with and beat myself up about for a long time. Maybe some people can always do their best, but I don’t think I’m one of them.
A better question for me would be “did you at least try?” Or more importantly “did you enjoy yourself?”… “Taking away anything you think that others might expect of you, are YOU satisfied with what you’ve done?”
With this change in mentality you can be proud of yourself whether you’ve done your best or not. If you’ve failed at something you can brush it off and move on, you’ll learn from it.
The difference between success and failure is only where you set the bar. You might not be the most productive person on Earth or the greatest at what you do, but you don’t need to be!
It’s freeing when you realise you don’t always have to do your best.
Just do what you can, whatever you’re comfortable with, and give yourself a pat on the back for it.