The island’s much-loved blues guitarist Davy Knowles returned to his home village last week, using the trip to play two spectacular sold out shows at Port St Mary Town Hall.
With that, his own little journey through 2016 came to an end.
And it was a year of massive change for the Manxman.
Although the records will show this was the year he released his fourth album, ‘Three Miles To Avalon’, and continued to criss-cross America touring, the reality is that 2016 marked the point that the 29-year-old grabbed hold of his career, and his musical destiny, and decided that he wanted to shape it in his own way.
‘Everything is going great,’ said Davy, taking a break from soundchecking for his final gig of the year.
‘We’ve had a fantastic year, with lots of touring, around the States mainly.
‘The main thing is, though, I’ve got a new album out.’
‘We formed our own label, Where Are You Now,’ he explained, with the air of somebody who doesn’t quite believe what they have done or, indeed, how well it has gone since.
‘It’s our first independent release, and it feels good to be an independent artist.
‘It means that you don’t have to answer to anybody and you have control of what you do, which is amazing.’
It’s always a bit nerve-wracking playing in front of a home crowd, because you want to do really well for everybody. And my mum’s here as well!Davy Knowles
Moving away from the relatively secure position of being with a large record label to running your own show may sound risky, but it has certainly paid off.
Not only did the album reach number five in the Billboard Blues charts, but Davy came out of the process feeling energised and excited about what lies ahead for his career.
‘Doing the new album independently has changed my sound slightly, I think,’ he said.
‘The whole idea behind doing it was to go back to basics, to record everything in analogue, all on tape.
‘We’d clocked up so many miles as a band, and we sounded so good together, that we wanted to record that live sound rather than just “put your drums down, put your bass down”, track by track.’
He added: ‘We found a fantastic studio in Chicago and we did the whole record in three and a half days the old fashioned way. And yeah, it does change how you do things. It became my judgement, me calling the shots, and it felt good.’
There was a clear sense that he is happier being left alone to create music at his own pace and without the added pressure of the commercial requirements that can come with a label.
Davy explained: ‘There is always that thing that the label are putting up money for it, and you have to deliver a track that they feel they can get radio play from.
‘With this album there was none of that. I’m paying for this out of my own pocket, which meant that it cost a lot less for starters. And you’re not thinking about “radio track”.
‘I’ve written these songs, I really believe in them and I really believe in the musicians I’m playing with, so let’s do it. I think that’s the way to do things.’
This year will bring a fresh, demanding touring schedule for Davy. He intends to break out of America and spend a lot more time in Europe and the UK, and even has a tour of Australia in the pipeline.
There will be a chance to catch him over here when he plays at Cyclefest in mid-May.
Before that though, there was the little matter of playing in front of friends and, most dauntingly, his mum at last week’s show.
‘These gigs have been great,’ he said. ‘It’s always a bit nerve-wracking playing in front of a home crowd, because you want to do really well for everybody. And my mum’s here as well – telling me to get my haircut!
‘There is a degree of pressure, but to see so many people here, and to see that it sold out so quickly, in something like two hours, I feel very, very lucky.
‘It’s been great and I’m looking forward to tonight.’
‘I might pop into a pub or something and play, but it’s been such a busy year, and next year is shaping up to be a hectic year too, so it’s nice to just be here, have a little downtime, see my family and just enjoy being back on the island.’