Piano & Band Leader
Our band leader and pianist Mike Paul-Smith formed Down for the Count whilst still at school in 2005. He is a classically trained pianist and organist - and when, at the age of 14, a local swing band was in desperate need of a pianist for a concert that weekend, he had a go at jazz - and hasn't looked back since.
Mike has played with and directed big bands up and down the country, including the Aylesbury Music Centre Dance Band, the Oxford University Big Band, the University of London Big Band (at the Montreux Jazz Festival), and of course Down for the Count.
Mike is passionate about keeping music live, and loves any music with a swing; his main influences are the great bandleaders and pianists Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat 'King' Cole. Mike writes most of our arrangements, and is always keen to find out more about the history of swing music.
When Mike isn't busy with band-related activities, he can usually be found swing dancing or eating Indian takeaways.
Mike runs Down for the Count full-time, and organises live entertainment for more than 150 events every year. He is available to offer advice to anyone looking to book live music for an event - he has written a series of general advice articles about live event music, but is also very happy to hear from you with any specific questions - feel free to get in touch today.
Amelia is a classically trained cellist and pianist who joined the band in 2007 on keyboards. With a love of all things vintage, Amelia is Down for the Count’s in-house stylist; she works on the band’s image, set decorates our live events and helps to design our promotional material. This has included illustration for album artwork plus a lot of shopping for the band’s growing vintage silk tie collection!
Amelia works at Granger Hertzog - a furniture and prop hire company for film, television, photography and events. Before that Amelia worked as a Producer at digital marketing agency Holition.
Her creative project management experience has allowed Amelia to really get stuck in with organising Down for the Count’s own music events - encouraging collaborations with other bands, DJs and venues, and co-producing our very own swing music festival, Rhythm Junction London.
John is one of our two current bassists, filling in for Steve whilst he is unable to perform with the band.
Like most of the other musicians in Down for the Count, John is originally from Aylesbury - but it wasn't until we were all living in London that we met him! He read computation at University of Oxford, where he was also the secretary of the Jazz Society.
He has played bass on Blue Peter; at European festivals, including four consecutive years at the Cork Jazz Festival; and at Andrew Lloyd Webber's garden party, where the guests included Prince William and Prince Harry.
Through Down for the Count's swing gigs, John was exposed to Lindy hop - and you are now just as likely to see him on the dancefloor as on the bandstand.
Charlie is a bassist and singer living in North London. Since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2009, specialising in jazz double bass, she has built a career on her solid groove, classic playing style and infectious cheerfulness!
Charlie has played at many of the capital's finest venues including Buckingham Palace, the Royal Festival Hall, the Purcell Room, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Ealing Jazz Festival, Crazy Coqs, The Ivy Club, Jez Nelson's Jazz In The Round and Ronnie Scott’s. Charlie is also a vocalist and in September 2018, she won the Boisdale Music Award for "Best Jazz Singer", presented by Jools Holland at Boisdale Canary Wharf. Charlie released her original album ‘Dancing Shadows’ in September 2018, and it is now available on all digital platforms.
When Charlie is not playing bass, she enjoys drawing and all things arty (including her own album artwork!) and baking yummy treats for her friends.
Drums and percussion
Having completed studies in Music at The University of Bristol, Dae currently works as a freelance drummer and percussionist throughout the UK. Under the tutelage of Clark Tracey, Mike Osborne, and John O'Hara, he has been exposed to an extensive range of genres including jazz/pop/soul, orchestral, pit and 4 mallet tuned percussion.
Dae has worked with musicians and bands such as the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, the London Swing Orchestra, The Jack Pack, Byron Wallen and Luluk Purwanto. During his university career, Dae conducted the award-winning Bristol Hornstars as well as having the pleasure of working with composers such as Thierry Pecau and his Ensemble Variances. Dae specialised in 4-mallet tuned percussion as the main focus of his final degree recital.
Dae has also been co-leading the Thames Youth Jazz Orchestra alongside Simon Ferris since 2017.
Sam Ainslie is a London-based guitarist, arranger and music teacher. After graduating from the London Centre of Contemporary Music in 2014, specialising in Jazz Improvisation, Sam traveled the world playing guitar on cruise ships for just over two years before moving back to London in the spring of 2017.
Since returning to London Sam has played guitar for many shows - performing at theatres such as The Savoy and Shaftesbury Theatre to name just a few - as well as playing guitar for the UK tour of Saturday Night Fever.
Sam regularly performs with Down for the Count's Swing Orchestra and Motown Collective.
Jonny is a bass player and composer from north London and plays bass in Alexander's Dixieland Band. He has recently graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied Jazz with some of the best players in London.
Jonny is an accomplished musician in a wide range of styles, and has played music with many fine musicians in London and around the world. Some of Jonny's recent work includes a BBC Proms Extra broadcast with acclaimed Brazilian music band 'Caravela'; working as a musician and sound artist for the score of the world premier of Arthur Millers "No Villain"; and composer for short film "Denis Doyle", which was nominated for best student short at the international film festival Camerimage in Poland.
Drums and percussion
Tom has played music for most of his life and began playing drums aged 14. He turned fully to the instrument when he began attending the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he has just finished his BMus Jazz degree.
Currently working primarily in London, Tom plays regularly across a range of styles. He has performed with the London Jazz Orchestra, the Wilderness Festival Orchestra (with Kate Nash and Charlotte Church) and the Jitter Kings, who have a bi-monthly residency at Ronnie Scotts. Aiming to further his work in the music scene Tom is also undergoing the construction of a home studio.
Tom is the percussionist in Alexander's Dixieland Band, where he does unbelievable things with vintage washing equipment. If you're intrigued to know more, you'll have to check out their videos...
Katie Birtill is our lead vocalist, and recently graduated from the Royal Academy of Music. She was part of the RAM choral group who supported Elton John at the Royal Albert Hall, and since graduating she has featured on the T-mobile advert Welcome Back filmed at the Heathrow Terminal 5.
Katie has also performed as a backing vocalist with artists as diverse as KT Tunstall, Fyfe Dangerfield, Jon Allen, Michael Ball, Mica Paris, Fran Healy, Craig David, Tony Hadley, Marti Pellow, Il Divo, Suzi Quatro and Elio Pace at Hyde Park Arena for Elvis Forever. She was also featured as a solo backing vocalist in the Friday Night is Music Night’s Christmas Eve special with Barbara Windsor.
Katie recently sang backing vocals on Russell Watson’s UK tour and is on the DVD of his Royal Albert Hall performance released this Christmas. Katie has starred in professional productions of Dreamboats and Petticoats, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Sweet Charity.
Our male vocalist Callum comes from a family of entertainers and started performing at a young age alongside his father. He then participated in a number of shows in his native Jersey, including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Rent and The Producers.
Alongside performing with Down for the Count, Callum has sung on cruises, solo shows in Jersey theatres, and with the London Gay Big Band in front of 7000 people at Trafalgar Square.
Callum loves the crooners such as Nat ‘King’ Cole, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Sammy Davis Jr., and brings a little bit of all four to each performance.
Callum works as a medical physicist, has the dubious hobby of cage fighting (he is British Combudo champion, whatever that means), and recently married his partner Laura - and has had to endure signing "I’m Just a Gigolo" ever since.
Hannah Castleman is an award-winning jazz and soul singer based in Winchester. Having grown up in the UK, Singapore and New Jersey, it was always music that tied her travels together.
After graduating with a Masters degree in Comparative Literature, Hannah decided to pursue music full time. She sings with several bands around the UK and has performed across Europe with soul and swing bands. In 2016 Hannah released an EP of co-written original material called WILD.
Hannah is one of the Directors of Winchester Jazz Festival, which runs every September. She is also a vocal teacher and workshop leader.
Lydia recently completed Masters in Jazz Singing at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She now enjoys life as a professional jazz singer, having the privilege to sing with Down For the Count, as well as other vibrant swing and jazz bands, and her own close harmony vocal group. She has also created her own big band and swing dance charity event which runs annually.
Her diverse musical background has led Lydia from a folk upbringing through many genres, until she found jazz during her BA in music. She is classically trained on the piano and clarinet, and even dabbles in the alto saxophone and trumpet, all of which she now teaches.
Since the age of 9, she has also been known to don bell-laden clogs and Morris dance her way around her home county of Essex.
Max joined the band in 2010, taking over from our original trumpeter Tristan who moved abroad.
Max has been playing trumpet since the age of 8 and in his time as a musician has had the pleasure of playing with several superb groups and musicians, including More Ice and Honey, Paul Carella, the University of London Big Band and his own band, the Two Rules Big Band.
A classically trained trumpeter, Max caught the jazz bug at the age of 11 when he was invited to play with his local big band, and it's been with him ever since. He loves the sound of players like Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson and Harry James, and loves getting the opportunity to play with a great-sounding band like Down for the Count. Max is also the band leader of our brass band, Get Brassy.
Simon started playing alongside Mike and Claire in the Aylesbury Music Centre Dance Band, and has been a member of Down For The Count since its conception. He spent four years studying music and composition in Manchester, where he learned the ropes leading the Manchester University Big Band and as Musical Director for Bernstein’s On The Town. Simon finally made the leap south in 2013 and now lives and works in London.
Not always content with merely tootling, Simon divides his time between arranging, composing and producing - including music for short films, classical and choral music, and live/studio arrangements. He has also been known to build websites (this one, for example!).
A stickler for the old swing style, he loves getting his teeth into a little Goodman or Ellington - but when all's said and done there's no-one quite like Louis.
Kate has been playing a variety of musical instruments since the age of 7 and started studying jazz piano and saxophone whilst at secondary school. In 2007 she made the intrepid journey 'up north' to study jazz at Leeds College of Music and left there in 2009 with a first-class honors degree.
Since graduating Kate has performed with a variety of bands including M83, Firing Line and the wonderful Down For The Count. She also runs an adult Glee Club who rehearse once a week and can often be found performing in the local pub.
Kate is a qualified accountant and when not performing she can be found with her head buried in a spreadsheet (often making sure our books are balanced!). Kate can also usually be relied upon to provide the band with baked goods and snacks and is definitely the band ‘feeder’.
Tenor saxophone, clarinet
Jamie has played with Down for the Count since 2011, and was brought in as a fully fledged member in 2015 when Claire moved abroad. He picked up the clarinet at the age of 8, moving swiftly on to the saxophone a couple of years later and he hasn't looked back since.
Jamie has played in a variety of bands such as the Spanner Jazz Punks, Urban Big Band, and The Rhythm and Blues Brothers. With these bands he has played at venues such as The Bulls Head Barnes, the Waterside Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall.
He has spent time organising gigs for small bands and larger line-ups such as the Phase 2 Big Band - and has extensive experience playing in various musicals (including Oliver!, West Side Story, Wizard of Oz, Anything Goes and many more).
Clarinet, tenor saxophone
Alex Western-King is a clarinettist and saxophonist who studied music at Wells Cathedral School and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He leads our dixieland trio, Alexander's Dixieland Band.
Tenor saxophone, Clarinet
Claire started playing in big bands back in 2002 when she joined the award-winning Aylesbury Music Centre Dance Band, and toured with future Down for the Count band mates Mike, Simon and Tristan when they were the only school-aged band to play at the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague.
Claire has recently moved to Frankfurt with her husband Rob, where she runs music workshops for young children.