By Andy Hirst
When Mason Whittle was 13 he picked up a guitar for the first time.
Within a year he’d taught himself how to play it, by the time he was 15 he was busking in Huddersfield, Holmfirth and Slaithwaite and now has five self-penned tracks on streaming giant Spotify with more to come very soon.
By the time he was 15 Mason was doing paid gigs in restaurants and bars and has used his talent to raise money for charity.
In May this year the young singer songwriter played four venues in Slaithwaite in one day, raising £450 for the Eden Smith appeal to send seven-year-old Eden from Holmfirth for specialist cancer treatment in the USA.
It was a memorable day as the ale trailers were in the village and Mason’s set involved a rousing rendition of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline which had them all singing in the streets.
Mason, 16, of Linthwaite, has just left Colne Valley High School and is now looking at several options to study music at specialist colleges, including the Access Creative College in Manchester and the Creative And Media Studio School in Huddersfield.
He’s achieved all this in just three years … yet he can’t read music.
Mason said: “I just learned it all from watching tutorials on YouTube and now if I hear a song I want to learn I take myself off to my bedroom and work on it until its performance ready. I suppose I’ve learned to play in a very natural way.”
Mason sings as well as plays and admits he kind of fell into the vocal side of things by accident.
He’d formed a band with a few pals at Colne Valley High just to play one song at a couple of variety shows at the school at Christmas and in summer. The vocalist fell ill just before the Christmas gig so Mason took over and sang Year 3000 by Busted … and the reception from the audience gave him the confidence to carry on singing as a solo artist.
The first song he learned was Love Of My Life by Queen and Mason can now perform dozens of cover versions ranging from the Beatles through to George Ezra.
But he loves to write his own songs too and he’s now put five of them on Spotify. He’s due to go back into the studio soon to record some more.
Mason said: “People love to hear the cover versions – after all, the old songs often trigger so many memories for them. But I like to slip in a few of my own during the set to see the reaction.”
Mason had learned to play the drums for a couple of years and had a kit in the cellar at the family’s former home in Cowlersley.
He started to lose interest in them and sold the kit but when the family moved to Linthwaite he asked dad Mark if he could have another drum kit.
There simply wasn’t room in the house so Mark suggested the guitar. Mason wasn’t keen at first but once he started playing, he simply couldn’t put it down.
Mason said: “I want to make my living out of music and will just keep on writing new original songs. My passion is now my music.”
Mark said: “Mason was really nervous when he started out busking as he’s naturally shy but he pushed himself to do it and it’s really boosted his confidence.”
Mason remembers the exact day his songwriting career began – May 28, 2020.
“I just decided to try writing some songs and had written three or four by the end of that day,” he said. “Even now I don’t know exactly what triggered it.”
Mason’s gigging took off after he played for friends and members at the AVL gym in Slaithwaite to mark its first year in business and was spotted by Carl Awty who runs the Northern Sole café in Slaithwaite.
He gave Mason his first break supporting musician Carl Morris who specialises in mod, Britpop and indie and is a regular act at Northern Sole. Mason quickly progressed to solo bookings and last Christmas had his own show, Mason Whittle’s Winterwall.
Mason now plays at the Fourth Fiend Taphouse in Meltham on the last Friday of the month and the Toast bar and café in Netherton on the first Friday of the month.
He’ll also be at Berry Brow Liberal Club on Saturday, August 13; Moldgreen Conservative Club on Saturday, September 3 and the Smile Bar on Wakefield Road in Aspley on Friday, September 16.
Mason lives with Mark, mum Lisa and 21-year-old sister Emily.
Some people have mentioned that Mason bears more than a passing resemblance to a young Ed Sheeran … but Mason has no intention of being an Ed Sheeran tribute artist.
“Some of Ed’s songs are brilliant but I want to do my own thing,” he said.
To hear Mason’s music on Spotify just put Mason Whittle into the search bar and you’ll see his five songs – Titanic, Lightside, Girl Like You, Fallen In Love and Missing You, a song he wrote during the pandemic about being cut off from people.
* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.