IT is very difficult, nigh on impossible in fact, to predict someone is going to be successful.
Well, that’s not quite true. If you have, say, Simon Cowell behind you, then chances are you’ll have a decent chance at stardom.
But for those artists throughout the land who do it on their own - write songs in their bedroom, perform at local open mic nights, try to arrange bigger gigs and attract the attention of record labels - it is often tough to get anywhere.
Every so often, however, someone comes along that leaps out at you, someone you feel is surely destined for bigger things.
For me, Russ Erwin comes into that bracket.
Maybe I‘m wrong. Maybe in 10 years no one outside of Blackpool will have heard of him.
But surely not. Not when you’ve heard the lad sing and not when you hear the type of harrowing, forlorn but beautiful songs he is capable of writing.
Erwin, 20-years-old, is right at the start of his career as a musician. At the moment he is doing a tour of the local pubs – from St Annes to Fleetwood, and into Preston – and slowly getting his name known.
He played recently in a venue where the football was on in the back room. As he started singing, the blokes watching the tele and screaming for United to attack more, slowly left the game and started to watch the young man on stage.
In the end he played to a packed room.
The main reason for that is the voice. Think Ray Le Montagne. Gravelly, powerful, but with the ability to suddenly go falsetto and silence a noisy room.
Couple that with songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Damien Rice album and you get the idea of the talent, and the potential, Russ has.
But the lad himself didn’t even think about the possibility of making a living from music until late on.
“I used to be an absolutely terrible singer I was embarrassed of my voice,” he said.
“I was about 15, just learning to play guitar and I was sat in the bedroom playing Oasis covers, like all young lads do.
“But then my voice broke and I suddenly discovered this sound. I don’t know where it comes from but it’s just the way I sing. I don’t have to force it or try to sing like that – it’s just my voice.
“It’s what people always comment on and it’s what seems to grab an audience’s attention.”
Erwin began writing what he calls decent songs – “not just rewriting other people’s songs, which is what everyone probably does when they first have a bash at writing” – 18 months ago.
Slow Down, written in a car on the motorway (on the off-chance the police are reading, it’s important to point out Russ wasn’t the driver), was the first song that excited him. Since then he’s penned Arrows, Dreams and a barrel-load of other songs.
His gigs at pubs have already got him noticed. “I was approached by the people who do the BBC programme The Voice,” he said.
“They told me they thought I was really good but I’m don’t really want to go down that route.”
It was Karima Francis, Blackpool girl made good, who pushed Erwin into performing more and, crucially, believing in himself.
“I worked at Top Man in town - still do - and Karima walked in one day,” Erwin recalled.
“I had listened to her music and recognised her. I talked to her and asked if she’d listen to my song Slow Down. She came back in the shop a few days later, said I was really good, and we ended up in a studio where she had a listen to a few more of my songs.
“Basically she pushed me into playing my music live and from that I ended up stood at Silantro, a bar in St Annes, shaking on stage with a guitar, and singing at an open mic night. That was the first time I played in public and it was only about a year ago.
“So Karima got me started really and since then I’ve been playing more and more. The next thing is to move on to trying to get support slots for other artists.”
Also in the pipeline for Erwin, a former pupil at Revoe and Palatine schools, is an album.
He is hoping to record one in the next few months, though he’s sensible enough to know that there’s no rush.
“I want it to be right,” he said. “It is about finding my sound at the moment and that’s not something you do straight away.
“My songs are written quite emotionally and performed the same way so it is important they come across the same way on a record.”
If he can do that, and to continue to slowly but surely increase his admirers and build an audience, Erwin, with the voice he’s been blessed with, has every chance of being the next big talent to emerge from these parts.
You can hear some of Russ’s songs on Youtube. Alternatively check him out at: www.facebook.com/russerwin