Hello Howard! Hows the tour going so far?
The tour has been really good so far. Super busy. We just came back from London last night, and just before that we were over in Nottingham, and Liverpool prior to that. It’s been nuts! I’ve been using a smaller, three piece band; so we’ve been working on getting everything tight throughout the tour. We’ve also got some fairly big headline shows coming up at the end of it, so everything’s just working towards those. It’s been nice to see other parts of the country as well, like Birmingham tonight; so that’s great.
What have you got in store with your set today?
It depends on the vibe of the evening really. If it’s busy, then we could just play all night; but we’ll see. We’ve got a bunch of new material to try out tonight. We’re performing as a three-piece on this tour instead of the tried and tested six-piece band, so it will be a case of working the older material out in a different arrangement and showing Birmingham what we can really do.
How would you best describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?
I just try to be as honest and as transparent as possible when I’m writing. I really try and get into the vibe of what I’m writing about; so some of it could be touching on political, but there’s also a lot of songs about love, inequality and honesty. It’s all based on things that I am interested in and experiences that are personal to me that I want to share.
Your EP Make It Easy was released last year, and your new single The Sailor was released in December. Can you tell us a bit about the experiences of recording those?
The idea with Make It Easy was to do something as stripped back and relaxed as possible; to get a band in a room, teach and work with all the individual members on the songs, and bring it all together within a short space of time. We would just work day by day like that. It was nice because it was just about making it as easy as possible. With The Sailor; that was kind of different because I was working with a guy called Luke Oldfield; who is the son of Mike Oldfield. Luke runs a studio called Tilehouse Studios; so I went over there with my drummer and bass player and a guitarist, and we just kind of tracked the bulk of the band all in one day. It was more of a collaborative effort than Make It Easy. I’d demoed The Sailor to a degree, but I knew that I wanted it to be a step up; so that’s why we got Luke involved. I’m working with those guys at the moment, and this band as well on tour; so it’s interesting.
What inspires you the most in terms of songwriting?
I take influence from everything. Personal experience, things that I read about; sometimes, things in the news. I think that if it’s something that I can’t get out of my head it inspires me to continue with it and keep working on it. There’s so many great artists as well. We are so lucky to live in the time that we do now musically, because essentially we’ve been through the golden age of popular music. To be able to pull from that is a pretty remarkable thing.
How do you relax on your days off? Do you have any interesting hobbies other than music?
To be honest with you, I don’t really have days on and days off. Music is pretty much just a constant thing. I tend to practice writing; but not in a mind that I’m ‘practicing’ doing it. It’s more like a compulsion to be doing it all the time. I do enjoy a few TV series at the moment, like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I also like music documentaries, because I like seeing how old bands used to record. I don’t really have days off. You don’t really need a day off when you have a job like this, because it’s great.
Have you seen anything really strange or funny when you’ve been touring?
I don’t remember if anything particularly odd has happened. I’ve got the worst memory. I can’t even remember the lyrics to a load of songs! Saying that; nothing interesting has happened so far on this tour, but maybe it could be tonight. We’ll see.
You were on The Voice last year, and did some pretty funky dance moves during your performance of Hall and Oates’ You Make My Dreams Come True. Will you be bringing out the dance moves again for this tour?
I think at the moment, while we’re working as a three-piece band; it’s kind of hard to get moving. I won’t be free like that tonight; I have my guitar. We’ve got another guitarist working with us from next month, so it will be nice to be freed up and be a bit more liberal with the performance. I’ll get the moves out and run around a bit.
While we’re on the subject of The Voice; can you tell us a little about your experience on the show last year?
To be honest with you, it was something that I never thought that I would do. I was at an open mic in Manchester and the show had their scouts out. I got a phone call the next day asking me if I’d do it. I thought ‘I might as well; I’ll see where it goes’. I was just open to the idea and went along with it. Luckily, I had a really fun time. It was nice to hang out with people who were at a much later stage in their career; they had really been through everything that you would imagine. I think I didn’t want to expect too much from the experience; I just took every day as it came and made sure that I enjoyed it. I was happy. Some people are frustrated with their lack of support after the show finishes; but I just saw it as the people who look after you on the show are really good at their job, but when the show finishes, that is their job over essentially. It’s not something that I would do again, but it was nice doing it and gaining exposure. Off the back of it, I’ve picked up a booking agent and management; I’m now working with a label; so it’s done everything that I needed it to do. It just exposed me to more people, which was great.
Your mentor on the show was Tom Jones. Is he still in contact with you?
No, not really. Occasionally I hear off Ricky Wilson every now and again, but no; not Tom. I don’t think he’s particularly active on social media.
Which artists inspired you the most while growing up?
There’s a few. Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, a guy called Steve Marriott who was originally in The Small Faces, and then he went on to form a band called Humble Pie. Also, Paul McCartney, and Creedance Clearwater Revival; they inspired me a lot, and I think that you’ll hear it in my songwriting. Bob Dylan is another, and Leon Russell. When I was growing up my parents weren’t massively forthcoming with the whole music thing. I don’t mean that they didn’t encourage me to do it; but they just didn’t have a massive record collection, so when we would listen to music, it would just be whatever was on the radio. I went to music college when I was 19, and that helped me discover new things. Before that, I was listening to bands like Tool, A Perfect Circle and Deftones, and then things just progressed from there.
Are there any particular artists that you would like to collaborate with in the future if you have the opportunity?
Anyone at all?… Paul McCartney! Actually, there’s a girl called Jesca Hoop, who’s a Manchester based artist. She’s absolutely wonderful. She was the nanny to Tom Waits’ kids in L.A. and Guy Garvey went over and heard her, then he encouraged her to move over here. There are so many great artists at the moment; so many great bands that I’d love to look at doing something with. We’re touring with a group called Little Mammoths; and one of those guys was one of the key members in Noah & The Whale. It’s really nice to share the stage with them, so I think maybe a collaboration with them might be cool. Also, there’s an Americana band called Wilco who are touring later this year, and I’d really like to work with them.
Is there any particular music venues that you would like to play?
There’s tonnes of places that I’d like to play. We did a theatre show last summer in my home town, and that was fun; so I’d like to get out to some of the theatres around the country. Obviously, in terms of aspirational venues; I’d like to play at Madison Square Gardens. Actually, it will be nice to play The Barfly in Camden again. When I was growing up, that was an aspirational venue. It still is. The first time we played there it was rammed, so it will be pretty nice to go back again next week.
Do you have any particular aims with your music career in the next few years?
The main aim for this year is to have a new EP out by October. We’ll be trying to get into the studio in April to give us loads of time and make sure that we are putting out a record that we are really happy with. The three-piece band is super collaborative at the moment as well; everyone’s working really well together. I’ll bring the songs in, then we’ll get to work kicking them around. It can take quite a bit of time, but saying that, some songs have actually come around pretty quickly as well. So we’re aiming for an EP for October. I want to have a full length record together for about this time next year, at the most; next summer. We’re also planning on more touring; perhaps a European tour, or even getting to the States would be pretty nice. We’re also hoping to perform at some of the UK festivals.