Welcome to London. You are here to play the ‘Sounds of Tennessee’ showcase. What recollections do you have of your first trip to Tennessee?
I went when I was a teenager, cos we’ve got family in Tennessee. There’s a link with my grandparents. My grandmother’s sister married an American pilot, they moved there. My family are in Knoxville, Memphis, all around. It’s a second home for me, have been back and forth for years.
As a musician, the first time I went Memphis and Nashville in about 2004. A band that I had in Liverpool were invited over the ‘50 Years of Rock and Roll Festival’ It was the celebration of 50 years to the day of Elvis releasing ‘That’s Alright Mama’ We got record in Sun Studio, hang out and we were shown around by the guys from there. It’s always great and I’ve always loved going.
You just got back from the US, what were you up to there?
I was in Lafayette, with the Buddy Holly Education Foundation. It was part of a song writing retreat. There was a bunch of songwriters from Lafayette, other parts of America and a bunch from over here. It’s a great place. We wrote some cool tunes. You write songs with people that you think might be good for you or tunes that are probably more suited to them. We had a great week.
What’s the first thing you do when you get back home to Liverpool?
Have fish and chips!
How has growing up in Liverpool influenced your music?
Massively, even the American element, in the 50s and 60s. They used to have a thing call the Cunard Yanks who used to go out on the boats. They spent so much time there they lost a bit of the Scouse accent and picked up a bit of an American accent. They used to bring back loads of the bootleg albums, American albums we couldn’t get over here. They would bring them into Liverpool. So Liverpool was full of the country vibe and American music in general. My uncle used to go out on the ships. It really opened up Liverpool as a music town, the influence of Irish music and the American style. Country music has always been a really big thing, as well as The Beatles, you got to mention them. There are loads of great bands from Liverpool. Going back, my dad influenced me the most. He was very much a country fan.
You recently won the Americana Music Association UK album of the year award for you latest offering. ‘I’ll Make The Most of My Sins’. Congrats! What are your recollections of the ceremony? How was the night?
Well, surprisingly enough I stayed rather sober and can remember most of it because I had to perform and didn’t want to get too drunk. It was great. I opened up the evening with one of my all-time heroes Ethan Jones. That’s such a box tick for me, because people like Ethan Jones have been such trailblazers for Americana musicians in the UK. It was such a lovely night, really enjoyed it.
What were you trying to capture when you were writing the album, ‘I’ll make the most of my sins’
I wanted to capture something that has a nod towards the music I love, the Americana side of things, but also, I love a lot British bands like Pink Floyd. People like Roger Waters were heavy influenced by the likes of John Denver, Neil Young and those types of guys. There’s that flavour in their music as well. I tried to give it that American vibe but with a very British foundation.
Lyrics wise, every song has got a link to some kind of sin, one way or another. When I wrote the song ‘I’ll make the most of sins.’ I knew I had the album. It kind of reflects we are right now. The way everything is so politicised and how the world is a fairly turbulent place right now. It’s talking about that a bit really. At the end of the day it should just come down to people being people and loving each other.
Is there one song you’re fans connect with and request more than others? Which one is it and what’s the story of that song?
There’s a song called ‘Demons’ on my first solo album, (Life in Easy Steps) I wrote it for a friend. It’s a deep song, but it’s one of those songs people tend to connect with quite instantly. It’s about facing your demons, it’s as simple as that really. It’s a universal theme and the lyrics are quite universal so it connects.
Is there a song you wish you had written?
There’s a bunch. I think ‘Don’t Dream it’s Over.’ by Crowded House. Neil Finn is a genius. Or something by Pink Floyd, maybe ‘Wish You Were Here.’
Can you recommend any new music for my summer playlist?
Courtney Marie Andrews’ new album. I love that album. There’s so many. I love the new John Pryor record too, but Courtney’s been on repeat in the car.
Quick fire questions
Train or plane – Plane
Pizza or hot dogs – Pizza
Albert Memorial or Albert Dock – Albert Dock
Kenny Dalgleish or Graeme Souness -Kenny! He’s the king, he’s the king.
Bob Harris or Bob Dylan – Bob Harris. He’s done so much for me. He’s a legend, I love him.