By Max Modell
You recorded “A Bird in the Hand” at the legendary Church Studio, where Bob Dylan, Adele, Radiohead, Beyoncé, and many others have recorded in the past. What was that like as a recording environment?
It was next level. We recorded the album during the Mumford and Sons album recording sessions, when no one was looking. So it was a kind of a whirlwind that included world-class recording equipment, priceless musical instruments and a rich musical history floating in the air. It was a beautiful thing.
Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons produced the new album “A Bird in the Hand” and also produced your debut album “Standing on a Chair”. What was it like reuniting with him for another record?
Ben knows his shit. Big time. He did when we made that first record many moons ago and still does now. I took my simple songs in, Ben listened to them once through then sailed the ship and took the songs to where you find them on the record. A pleasure to work with. He’s a good friend. He’s also the busiest person I know, so the fact he found the time (and arranged the studio) was a massive honour.
There is no profanity on the new record or songs about getting intoxicated, two things which have featured on past records. Were your consciously trying to make a cleaner recorded? And do you think the fact you are a new father plays into this?
No, it wasn’t a plan at all, it was actually pointed out afterwards. That said it’s not like it older records I’d make a point of swearing. I just write about how I’m feeling and this year, that was the vibe.
“Magic” is a truly beautiful song and reminds me of “You Are Your Mother’s Child” by Conor Oberst, one of my all-time favourite songs. When I played it to my Mum she told me it took her back to the moment me and my siblings were born and made her rather emotional. What kind of response have you been getting from people about this song? And do you think it has introduced you to a new demographic?
I’ll take that as a compliment, Conor Oberst is one of my all-time favourite songwriters. I find the best songs are drawn from real emotion and real-life experience. The birth of my daughter had that in abundance so turning it into a song was the natural thing for me to do.
Ever since playing it live the response has been wonderful, it definitely seems to touch people, especially those about to or who have just had a child, I’ve had some great, deep conversations about childbirth with people after shows and being as it’s something that’s fresh in my mind, was great to be able to talk to so many people about it. One of the many joys of songwriting.
Your disdain for Amazon’s Alexia is obvious with your song “Alexia”. Did you ever own one which led to this resentment or is it just what it stands for and means for society?
No, I saw them at friends houses and had a little chat with them, my old man also has one, which he loves. I think everybody knows what they are no tho, even if they don’t have one. It’s already become the norm.
How do you approach writing a song?
Smoke some weed and sit with my guitar, alone somewhere I know nobody can hear me. Then wait.
You write about all sorts of details from your life in your music. What is the most mundane thing you have ever written a song about?
Nothing is mundane in the eyes of a song. `That’s the beauty of it.
You are very political in your songs and are often critical of politicians. Do you think you’d ever consider becoming a politician to try and improve things? I can imagine you bringing out your guitar to make a point during Parliamentary questions.
No way. I’m up for trying to improve things, but in Parliment? Not a chance.
How do you balance fatherhood with being a musician and touring?
When I’m not touring I’m here 100% and my wife works, or the little one comes with us. That and facetime.
You played at Benjamin Folke Thomas’s Modern Man album release show this year and he played at your album release show, as well as playing in your band. How did you guys get to know each other? And can you see yourself touring with him in the future?
I’ve known Ben for years, not even sure how we met, to be honest. Maybe through the Strummerville charity back in the day. We’ve toured together in the past, he’s an epic guitar player so was chuffed he said he’d play with the band this tour. I really Love his new album, it’s his best work I reckon.
You’ve had numerous collaborators over the years. Do you have a favourite?
I was also delighted to discover you have written a book “Drunk Folk Stories”. Can you please tell me a bit about it?
10 short, true life stories about drinking, songwriting and the adventures they have led me on. Available in all good bookshops.
The first night of your UK tour is at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff on 30th January. What can we expect for that gig?
It’s the first gig so expect all of us to hit the ground running, bright eyed and bushy tailed.