Music and travel: expanding your audience overseas

By Alex Jones

20 May 2024

Certain sounds are synonymous with the UK and this nation has produced some sensational guitar talents over the years. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t go down well abroad. Meet Ize Neal, a young lad from Cornwall who has combined travel with music, and brought his vibrant indie-pop sound to the Far East. 

It’s 4:15 on a Sunday afternoon in the Phi Phi islands. Over 12,000 kilometres away from home, 21 one year old Ize Neal, from Saint Agnes in Cornwall, returns from the Thai sea and takes a seat on the beach. After a crazy week and a half which saw Ize bump into an old Cornish friend tying his shoelaces on a Bangkok side street, reuniting with the Thai busker who grew his fanbase in the first place and an unrelenting period of gigs and recording, Ize takes a moment to reflect on his travels. 

“It was two years ago when I came to Thailand for the first time. That was just purely travel and getting to see the country, having time off after studies and that.

“Everywhere I go I want to play music, if I go to a bar and see a guitar I’m just itching to play it. So if I can play music on the other side of the world, why the hell wouldn’t I. It’s all about the experience of playing on the other side of the world and maybe growing a fanbase.” 

This attitude speaks volumes – it is no wonder music became such a big part of Ize’s travels.

“I stayed in Bangkok for a little bit (2 years ago) and met these 3 guys that were all travelling together from Amsterdam, we instantly connected like brothers and we were pisssing around like we’d been mates for years.  

“We’d been getting absolutely slaughtered for a few nights so we agreed tonight we’ll have a really nice meal. We got to this restaurant but the service liked us so much they started giving us free booze. What was meant to be a really lovely meal ended up being us staggering out. There was a busker playing at the side of the road and I ended up playing with him.

“Next thing you know the whole place has stopped, cars have stopped and people have stopped walking. Someone took a video and it went viral overnight and got to 13.2 million views. Another video got to 3.4 million. I got put on the news and got a very large Thai following on Instagram.” 

It was a drunken moment that opened so many doors for Ize, attracting the attention of a Thai producer and making another visit to Asia almost inevitable, if nothing else, to visit his new busker friend and fellow musician, Tewter Thanawat.

“Tewter, who doesn’t speak a single word of English, we stayed in contact and I came back and met him and we played again in the exact same spot the other day.” 

This time, there was no internet fame awaiting Ize the next morning, but instead a chain of musical events to pass his time in the city, not just networking with other musicians and gigging, but some time in the studio recording three demos for his new EP. Travelling is all about taking your opportunities and it seems Ize has taken the lot of them. 

“It kind of wasn’t in my hands, I would just get told right today you’re booked up, tomorrow you’re booked up.

“We had actual gigs as well. Moved on to Chang Mai after that where again it was gig-heavy. I would play a gig somewhere and the word would get passed on i’d get a new gig that I wasn’t even planning to do. There was one day I played three gigs in one day. It was completely unplanned… It’s just feeding and feeding and feeding.” 

Ize’s popularity with his Thai audience is absolutely remarkable given his knowledge of the language, which in his own words goes as far as “I can ask for a few beers, I can ask for a discount and I can count to a thousand.”  That’s right Ize, you’ve nailed the essentials. 

But there seems to be a thirst for English songwriters in this part of the world.

“When you’ve got so many tourists from so many different parts of the world and Thai people, people are kind of wanting one song – all The Beatles songs or all the Oasis songs. You’ve got to cater to that but also put your own song in there somewhere. You’ve got to kind of find the spots where you can show you for you.” 

Don’t look back in anger and Country Roads are two of Ize’s go to crowd pleasers. “Unless their legs don’t work they’re going to dance.” Followed by a little bit of self promotion in the quieter bits: “You should always try to feed your music into the setlist.” 

And of course living this far from home has its hiccups. Ize very rarely has a sound engineer at gigs and once managed to rock up to a gig in Leanne Square in Chang Mai completely guitarless. He is frequently reminded of Cornwall when his family bombard him with pictures of their pets… He is not homesick, that was made very clear: “Sounds a bit wet but they are all getting a bit old and cute.” 

But he seems absolutely chuffed. With a month more in Thailand and an EP out in the summer, Ize concluded: “This place is phenomenal. If you look at photos of Ko Lanta you have the best sunset pretty much every night. It is 31 degrees but feels 45. The sun is amazing and there’s blue sky as far as I can see… I feel very at home here.”

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tiktok for more content!

You may also like…
document.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', function() { // Select all audio modules with the custom class var audioModules = document.querySelectorAll('.custom-audio-module'); audioModules.forEach(function(module, index) { // Create a container for the counter var counterContainer = document.createElement('div'); counterContainer.classList.add('counter-container'); counterContainer.innerHTML = '0'; // Append the counter container to the module module.appendChild(counterContainer); // Get the audio element var audio = module.querySelector('audio'); // Initialize the counter var counter = 0; // Add play event listener to the audio element audio.addEventListener('play', function() { counter++; document.getElementById('audio-counter-' + index).textContent = counter; }); }); });