You might have clocked Lloyd Dread on the streets of Nottingham singing his heart out with his mates. We sat down with him in the good owd GB Cafe in Sneinton to find out more about the ReggaeNotts movement, spirituality in music, and some of the recent changes to the rules around getting musical outside...
How long have you been busking?
I started by myself about five years ago, doing the odd night outside Rock City when I first moved to Nottingham from Long Eaton. Then me, my brothers and another guy we knew from Highness Soundsystem, Trevor, kind of formed a reggae group and a drum circle. That split up, people had jobs and stuff, so it was just me and whoever came out. We decided to get some amps and start singing on the street.
What is it you prefer about busking to being in a band or on stage?
I’m choosing what I wanna sing. I’m more in control. It’s more satisfying. If people appreciate it, it’s because they appreciate what I like and what I’m about. And it seems to be working. I normally jam with Trevor, and my brother will come for an hour and then go home.
What are the authorities saying about it these days?
They’ve changed the law here: no amplified music after 9pm, and they’ve only started enforcing this in the last couple of weeks, so they’re messing it up for me when it comes to nighttime busking, and we’ll probably have to start doing it in the daytime again. I used to do that outside Vic Centre with a different guy called Mikey. I prefer playing in the day anyway, you get all sorts; like the older crowd, and the music we play really appeals to the older West Indian community. We play a lot of John Holt and Elton Ellis, people like that.
How did you get into reggae?
When I was thirteen, I picked up an acoustic guitar that was gathering dust as a decoration. I put some strings on it and started learning. It was quite mellow music when I first started, but then I got into rock and started playing in some bands in school, but the bands got a bit too heavy for me, and so I ended up quitting because I was more about the melody. I went solo and started singing my own indie-type stuff.
Then when I was seventeen I got dreads. I’d always wanted them but my parents made me wait until I’d finished school. When I got my dreads, my music started to change. I started listening to Bob Marley and stuff like that, and went back to writing music. When my music changed from indie to reggae, the lyrics became spiritual, talking about God and stuff, and I felt like I was changing. At first I was like “I can’t do that. I’m a white guy with dreadlocks.” I’m serious about my music, so I didn’t want people ripping into me, but I had to go with it because that’s what made my heart beat. That was when I was seventeen or eighteen, and I’ve been playing reggae ever since. I’m 31 now.
What message are you spreading with your music?
My lyrics are normally positive, to uplift the people and make them want to live and spread love. I’m just trying to help the world, and keep the message positive. Love is all we need, that’s my take on it. This whole music thing, the reggae and that, it’s a spiritual thing for me.
Tell me a bit about you. What do you get up to day to day?
Some tricky shit. Busking really. If I’m not busking, I try and get out, hang out with people. At the minute I’ve got a lot of time which I feel like I could be doing something more with. I need to be in a band and touring, but I don’t wanna rush anything.
You get some wicked street parties going. Some of the videos have been doing the rounds on social media...
I made a Facebook page last year. NottsMan on Facebook almost made me go viral; he videoed me and it got like over 55,000 views, so he told me to make my own page. Because I didn’t have a band name, I just called it ReggaeNotts and put some videos on there, and he’d share them too. This past year has been quite good on social media, I got a lot of views on videos that I wasn’t expecting.
Can you remember Xylophone Man?
Yeah, I would have been quite young, but I do recall walking through Nottingham and seeing him there with his xylophone. He always used to be in the same spot outside Broadmarsh.
It seems like all buskers do it for different reasons...
It’s not something I set out to do in the first place. I’m a musician, I write my own music and songs and I’m not doing anything about it at the minute, so I just started busking. It keeps the musical juices flowing as well. It’s very easy to have dry periods, and this was keeping me practising and training my voice, and getting me noticed at the same time.
It puts a smile on people’s faces.
Lots of people come up to me and they’re so emotional. Some say they’ve been having such a sad week, and they’ll message me online saying they’re suicidal, and that they walked past us playing and it brightened their day up. It’s really nice. There are so many times on a Saturday night where the vibes and the people go mad. It’s almost emotional when you finish playing; we look at each other and it feels good. A lot of gigs you don’t get the same sort of response.
You had much trouble with the town drunks?
Yeah, things get nicked. The odd tambourine here and there. You’ve gotta be careful with the small drums too, you have to keep an eye out!
It’s great that you get others involved.
We’ll throw ‘em a tambourine.
You have a laugh then...
It’s good on a Friday and Saturday night. Some people go out clubbing, but I don’t feel the need. This is my party.
Are there any other artists or buskers in Notts that you admire?
Nottingham’s got some good history. There were The Naturalites, who made it onto TV back in the eighties. With buskers, I see Sam a lot. He’s hardcore, always out there no matter what.
Have you got any plans for the future?
I’ve been ready to get a band going for a while now. I’m always looking for the right musicians. A decent bass guitarist would be good, someone who can carry the natural swing, keep the rhythm going and get people dancing. All I really need is a decent one of them and I’m ready to go. I’d be happy gigging as a cover band at first, to see how tight we can get.
It’d be nice to take my music to the world and go on tour. If I can touch more people with the music and the message, bring some good vibes, that would be great. I’m happy though, I’m not gonna want anything. Whatever will be will be, if it happens it happens, God willing. It’s out of my hands.