How would you describe the difference between this new album Hello Starling and your previous Golden Age of Radio
With Golden Age there was much more nervousness about it. There was much more underlying tension and real – what’s the word? – ambivalence about travelling, about is this what I’m going to be doing in 5 years, would I still be playing hard on the street or… I was just nervous about everything and in the record I think it comes out sometimes. I can hear I am really scared of everything.
With Hello Starling I think I was a little less focused on worrying about how things were going and much more excited to talk, to explain myself to myself and why I’m doing music and really about why I want to keep on doing this. I got more confident.
When I did Golden Age I hadn’t performed at all and with Hello Starling I’d been perfoming, and I learned to use my voice a bit better and then with the songs, I think I took more chances with the songs. I pushed harder in certain directions and I think there are loads of different moods in the record. I wanted to kind of refine some of those moods and stretch them out over the course of the record, but I just kind put songs on it that I thought would fit together. Hello Starling is really a lot of Serenades, a lot of singing to people in windows. Which I really like, I like the idea, cause you are out there singing and sometimes when you are out there on stage singing …. you go out there and give your best shot and people either listen or they wont. It’s about just singing it out there. I think that’s what most of the record is about.
What was it like working with Dave Odlum as a producer? – he’s done a whole host of great records in the last while (Gemma Hayes, The Frames, Mic Cristopher)
I met him through the Frames and he was always such an incredible guitar player – I loved the way he played guitar – just emotional. And you know, to find a lead guitar player who listens to the lyrics, is like finding a white elephant!(laughs)I always thought it was so great the way he complemented things. I knew that he did production, I heard some stuff that he did with the Frames record. I loved how good he was talking with my band and with me, and suggesting things.
More being a good producer than knowing how to work the dials is being a psychotherapist, knowing …. they have to be able to navigate all the different ideas that you have and tell you in the best way which one will work and which ones won’t work, without getting in the way of the whole creative process.They walk an incredibly difficult path. And Dave is incredible – he is so Irish (laughs) he just knows… he has a good word about everything. So working with him was great cause I knew there was going to be really no limit to what we wanted to do. He was not going to stand in the way of anything, but he was going to help refining the vision down, which was very good ’cause we had to only had 7 days to record and then mix for 7 days, so, going in, we had a good idea of what we were going to do, but some stuff was up in the air and we had to make choices quickly before the money runs out!
Things are going really well for you, you’ve had the Joan Baez cover, the song on Six feet under, tours and critical acclaim. Are the tentacles of the music business beginning to creep in around you?
I mean, I am lucky in a way because I am not writing songs that are meant to be hit songs. I do feel sometimes, you see people you know, friends, that it is hard for them to cope with the kind of pressure that people in the industry put on and the fact that it’s artificial pressure doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. You know when people start to talk about records shipped, and secondary markets and stuff like that, it’s ridiculous. You know, if you don’t have the time to sit down and write a little bit – that’s your touchstone. When you write a song and it’s going well, you know, it does not get any more exciting that it is right now, you know !
Out of all the songs on the latest album, and maybe it’s not fair to ask but, what is your favourite song?
Well…even when I chose the songs on Golden Age I chose the songs I wanted to put on as the songs that all really fit together and in the same way on Hello Starling I feel that the songs all fit together like chapters, you know. But Bone of Song I guess is really the one that I feel is like the centrepiece for me. It’s in terms of a song one that I don’t care if it gets played on the radio; if it came out and people said, you know, it’s all a good record except for this one song – he must have been smoking crack when he wrote that one!! ( Laughs) … To me that’s the song I would want my grandkids to listen, ’cause it is, for me, what it’s all about.
You know you write a song and maybe they’ll get forgotten. How many people can actually say the aria from La Boheme is by Puccini, but they hear it on commercials, it is amazing, the fact is that it is out there, and that’s pretty cool! You can live a comfortable and charmed life if you’re able to navigate through the music business but that lasts a few years and then, when you are gone, there are songs that are left and that’s great. That’s the end goal. It was about the songs when you started, before you started putting out records, and getting paid for shows and everything. It was the songs you loved!