Wanting to visit the UK for many years, American musician Dylan Gardner finally succeeded in visiting London in June this year. As a big fan of The Beatles, Dylan visited the iconic Abbey Road studios and celebrated his 22nd birthday while over here by having a meet up with fans in the Biscuiteers café. With Dylan mentioning in previous interviews with us how much he wanted to visit England, we asked him his thoughts on the trip, what tourist attractions he visited and if the UK lived up to his expectations.
How did your visit to the UK come about?
My 22nd birthday was coming up and I had just gotten the idea to finally make the visit to the UK to celebrate! It was a New Year’s resolution for me to leave the country this year, and I’ve been an Anglophile since I was five when I first heard British records from the 60s in my dad’s cover band. I’d always said it was my number one dream in the world just to visit the UK, and I’m so glad to say I just achieved that dream!
What did you think of Abbey Road?
It was literally everything I wanted it to be. I learned how to record from a book by Brian Kehew called “Recording the Beatles” where he broke down every single session and piece of gear in Abbey Road. The details were down to placement of where they were standing and what kind of tea they had that day, so I drew up a vivid image in my head from that book and the countless films I’ve seen of the studio. When I first saw it, it felt just like a dream, where I felt like I’d wake up in my bed in California right then. I got to stand in Studio 2 where all the magic happened, and I almost cried about one hundred times, but I didn’t want to get tears on anything in there. The moment I walked in I shouted “There’s the Mrs. Mills piano!” which is the piano used on “Martha My Dear”, “Rocky Raccoon” and many others. The person in Studio 2 let me play it, and my rendition of “Martha” rang out sonically identical to the original recording. Unbelievable.
Did you get chance to see a West End show?
It was pretty much the only thing I didn’t get to do in my short six days there. The only time I wasn’t doing or seeing something on my list, I was sleeping. I got home at 2am every night and I walked nine miles a day. I didn’t want to waste a single moment there, yet there were still things I didn’t have time to do, so at least I have something to look forward to for next time!
Which parts of London did you get to explore?
I visited pretty much most stops on the Piccadilly Line. I stayed in central London and explored Soho, Westminster, Kensington, Windsor, Shoreditch, West Wickham etc. I saw a lot of the landmarks, parks, and palaces and ventured out to some record stores just outside of London (Rolling Records was the miracle shop). Shoreditch and Soho/Carnaby Street had enough to do for four lifetimes for me! Great food (Dishoom, Comptoir Libanais), great clothes (Pretty Green, All Saints), great shopping (Liberty). I didn’t find a corner of London that couldn’t offer any fun!
What tourist attractions did you visit?
The first day, I got the tourist stuff out of the way and went to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and walk around the city by the overcrowded areas to get a feel for the town. I saw the Tower of London and London Bridge, which was absolutely beautiful. The architecture there is wonderful and I love the cohesiveness of the old brick buildings around town. I took a quick trip up to Windsor to see the site of the Royal Wedding, because everyone in my family was dying to see it on Facetime…
Did you enjoy spending your birthday in the UK and what was the meet up like?
I think it was my favorite birthday so far! If I told myself last year I’d be in London on my birthday this year I wouldn’t have believed it. I wore a nice suit that day (which it was unusually hot outside), and had a fan meet up at Biscuiteers near Kensington, and the fans that came were amazing. They brought birthday presents and fan art and I took them all out to a café afterwards and we had an amazing time. It was so great to finally meet people that I’ve only read on a screen for years who’ve been dying to meet, and it was really a treat!
What did you think of the football World Cup atmosphere at a London pub?
I loved it! The one game I caught, I was in the pub when my Coke commercial came on (I had just written a song for the new Coke commercial in the US). It was the first time I ever heard myself on TV singing and it was very surreal. I hugged strangers, it was awesome.
Has it made you more determined to bring your music over to the UK?
Definitely, I feel like London has a pop scene that I could fit into. The radio station there played artists that I’d love to open for and the whole experience inspired me musically like no other, I’ll probably write an anthology when I get home.
Are there any other parts of the UK you would like to visit next time?
I didn’t get to go to Portobello Road which was the only heavy hitter left on my list. I also couldn’t find the time to try to see Liverpool, which I still need to. Next time I’m back I’ll accomplish both!
What did you enjoy most about your visit?
The whole experience was amazing. Learning the Tube system and being able to be anywhere near London in minutes really makes exploring so fun. I enjoyed the flood of culture, art, music, and architecture it had to offer. It was like finally putting a face to the name of everything I loved so much. I also had so many casual conversations with strangers, it was so refreshing. The most special moment of course was being in Abbey Road.
How did you find London compared to your hometown?
To be honest, I could easily see myself living there. It has everything I need. If I ever manage to make it out of LA, it’d be off to England.
Did the UK live up to your expectations?
It actually exceeded mine, because I got to see and do everything I wanted to and usually when I visit places I’ve hyped up so much, it’s always like “oh, there it is”…. “oh, theres the hollywood sign…cool.” But this was different. It had a staying power. Also, everyone told me the weather would be horrible and the prices of everything would shock me, but it was 80 degrees and sunny that week and the pound was 1.3 times the American dollar, and places I explored were super reasonable so it gets my seal of approval!
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