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Mercury Prize Shortlist Coming Soon

Rhonda and The Great Unknown are in the running, along with 234 other bands, for the Mercury Prize 2016. The  album ‘Fifty’ is 50 minutes long and rocks hard.  This blog post comes from the bands website….

The shortlist will be announced on Thursday the 4th of August. Whether the band makes that list or not, it was a huge achievement for them to complete the album entered in the competition and qualify to compete.


In order to record the album, it took building a recording studio from scratch in an open plan office, mainly with bits and pieces of things found on ebay, in rubbish skips or given away. Things like this  2nd hand window that Jim the bass player and sound engineer for the band installed in the control room.

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It took 5 years to complete the album ‘Fifty’, because the band started out with just one person, its lead singer Rhonda Merrick and most of the songs were written during a song-a-day-for-a-year project in 2011 and in the early months of 2012 after the project ended, but the habit of writing new material took a bit longer to dwindle down significantly.


After the song-a-day-for-a-year  project, she started playing small music venues and local festivals.  Sometimes, she needed to pull together a scratch band for a gig and would find other musicians to help out by posting notices on Facebook. In July 2012, she needed a bass player to play Brentwood Festival and Ritchie Swann volunteered.


They started dating, became a couple and eventually began performing as an acoustic-funk duo.

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In 2013, they formed the band, Rhonda and The Great Unknown, together.

Rhonda-and-The-Great-Unknown-Dealratgu 2013    ratgu at brentwood festivalratgu 2014  ratgu logo ratgu poster

The line-up has changed a couple of times as they struggled to find the caliber of musicians that could handle a large number of original material. Really good musicians are usually really busy. In the end, a line-up of permanent deps who are in a number of bands turned out to be the best solution for a band just starting out that needed top notch musicians.


The 4 piece line-up of Ritchie, Rhonda with Jim Dawkins or Joe Cox (bass) along with James Plows or Josh Roots on drums, saw the band through most of 2015 and 2016.  

Rhonda and The Great Unknown collage
Ritchie, Rhonda, Jim and James

On rare occasions, neither of the bass players or drummers were available and the band would use fantastic reserve deps  with the talent and experience to jam through a gig of mostly original songs.  All of thes musicians in Rhonda and The Great Unknown line-up, includingRitchie Swann, the bands composer/guitarist and keyboardist, are accomplished multi-instrumentalists. 


joe cox
Joe Cox
Josh Roots


Jim has a music production company called Humana and Rhonda already had a production and publishing company, called Blue Red Green Media LTD, but the band had no record label and in order to compete for the Mercury, the album had to be commercially released by a label. So, Rhonda set-up a label! It’s called KATFM Records and ‘Fifty’ is its debut release. The band members on the album signed a band agreement, the album was properly registered with the UK Charts Company, PRS, PPL and was made available for sale on iTunes and other commercial online stores through an online service called and this ensured a neutral 3rd party would manage album sales.

Now, in the last few days before the shortlist is announced, the band has no expectation to win a place on that list, but hope springs eternal and hope is better than disappointment, so for a few more days, let’s hope RATGU has a chance to move forward and reach a wider audience through the Mercury Prize 2016. If it’s not meant to be, perhaps the door will remain closed, but a window of opportunity will open from this experience.

Rock and roll.




It’s not all rock and roll.

“Hi Rhonda, I have excellent news for you; my appeal against your penalties relating to the 2013/14 tax year has been successful and they have cancelled about £5000 worth of fines on your account!!”

Rosanna @CalcuttMatthews

I don’t really understand things like finance and taxes, but I am lucky to have an accountant that’s proactively supportive. Because Nick Hume came round and talked with me and Ritchie about the business side of our projects and set us up on a monthly payment plan that we could just manage to afford, they’ve saved us thousands in penalties and other fees. This is only one example of how he and his fantastic team have helped us.

An email arrived from Calcutt-Matthews today, informing me that approximately £5,000 that HMRC was chasing me for had been forgiven.  Most of it was penalties for filing incorrectly and/or late.

I can focus on writing, recording, teaching and promoting the music, film and studio projects that I’m working on, because I have a fantastic team of people in MY corner, dealing with the financial stuff that I barely understand.

If you’re a creative soul like me, then I strongly encourage you to get yourself an accountant that gets who you are and what you do.  If you really want to make it in music, then you need a team of people to deal with stuff you can’t. It’s not all rock and roll.