How was your Christmas & New Year?
I had a great Christmas thanks; I hibernated for a week reading and watching movies on TV. I don't get to do that often so it was nice.
Your new solo album ‘With Wolves The Lamb Will Lie’ is out 29 Jan. What inspired the title?
The title comes from a line in the last song on the record, 'Let Light In'. It's from the bible but for me it gives a mission statement for the record which is that not everybody is who they seem all the time. Sometimes the goodies lie with the baddies and vice Versa. People are complex creatures and we have good and bad in us. I think this selection of songs explore that.
Was there anything different in the recording process this time around and can you tell us how the band came together for the record.
It was a very different recording process from my previous album, 'The Water or the Wave', in that I recorded in a different studio under the direction of producer Andy Bell who built the tracks up over my basic acoustic and vocal track. It took some two years to complete. Our approach was to pick players who did something a little different so, for example, instead of a straight up drummer we went for Toby Kearney, a versatile percussionist who played all sorts of different instruments to take up the usual drum space on the songs. Lucy Farrell and Neil McSweeney I had worked with on various other projects and it felt right to share this record with them as we work so well together. I was also lucky to capture string quartet, The Froe, to arrange some strings on the record too. I was generally very fortunate to have so many sensitive and thoughtful players to contribute, Andy Bell was key in bringing them all together in one beautiful sound.
How do you balance your musical activities, solo, The Lucky Strikes and other musical commitments?
I really enjoy the variety my music brings and I love all the different aspects of what I do. My solo records allow me to work with amazing musicians and trial new sounds and ideas. The Lucky strikes is like a family and when I want to play loud and jump around we can do that with the band. I then get the chance to contribute pedal steel, banjo and other instruments I don't get chance to play in my other work with some great artists and friends. Last year I was really fortunate to play for Emily Portman, Blue Rose Code and Simone Felice among others. I never struggle to juggle things, it just works out.
You are always described as living on the Thames Delta. Are roots important to you and your music?
Roots are very important for me. At the moment I am trying to catalogue my local area through my music. I see so many incredible stories and poetic things when I observe local life and people that I want to mine that as much as I can before I cease to see it any more.
What creative space do you need to be in to write a song? Is it words to melodies or the other way around?
Always a tricky question to answer. It just happens. Sometimes you have some nice chords and the lyrics flow with them, sometimes you write lyrics for days and none of the chords fit so you have to wait for it to happen. My creative space at present is the corner of my sofa where I can sit with my guitar and look out onto a park and watch people coming and going. Isolation for me is generally good for writing songs, mornings or late evenings too.
There are plenty of different characters in the songs on the record, real or made up?
They're all real. Some are more obscured by the lyric but others are much more literal. Sean or Patrick is exactly how it happened as is Lalita. They exist out there somewhere.
How difficult is it to make a living on the UK music scene these days and is main source of income from playing live?
It is difficult to make a living and live music certainly brings you to new audiences. The decline of record labels and their ability to pay for press and PR and to break new artists in all genres means that the artists have gone back to the pre-music boom of the mid twentieth century. We've reverted back to the travelling balladeer playing for our supper in a different town each night. If I want to sell my music, I have to go out and play it.
On that point, are there any solo shows to promote the new album?
There are shows a plenty and people can keep abreast of my whereabouts on twitter and Facebook. However, I have an album launch on 18th February at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London and then shows in Devon and Newport before shows in the North and hopefully Scotland in March.
Before we asked you "If money was no object, what new guitar would you most like to own and why”? Have you invested in any new guitars recently?
Oh man, I have a serious addiction to guitars and instruments and purchase things all the time. If money was no object I would probably be buying a new Martin acoustic, triple zero model or maybe a Gretsch DuoJet. In reality I bought a new pedal steel, Magnum, last year as my trusty ShoBud was getting old and I replaced the pickups in my telecaster.
Released on 29th January, With Wolves the Lamb Will Lie can be pre-ordered HERE