The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, Interview
Interview with The Boy Who Trapped The Sun
To start with, could you explain how you came to be a signed musician?
Well, I signed a publishing deal about four or five years ago, and started writing songs and through that I started to make an album. Then a guy from Geffen, Colin Barlow, sort of liked it and offered me a deal. He was originally with Polydor, and we were talking to him when he was there, then he left, and we spoke to him again.
Did it worry you in any way, signing to a major?
Well, you definitely weigh up the pros and cons, and signing to a major. Everybody thinks it's a bit of a 'sell out', but it was the right kind of deal for me, and they were the right people to work with. I always kind of go on feeling, and it was the right feeling.
Were they to first people to come in for you?
No there were a few people interested, but nobody really committed. Geffen were the ones who committed, we put our cards on the table very early about what we wanted from the deal, and they matched it, so we went with them.
And have you signed a deal for just one album?
It's for five albums.
The new single, 'Dreaming Like A Fool' is co-written by Ed Harcourt, how did that collaboration come about?
Just through being friends really, just by having a drink together. It was quite nice, it was an organic thing - we started writing together, and we wrote a few songs, and that one made it onto the album. It was everybody's favourite, I find it quite difficult to pick out the singles, but everybody seemed to like that one, so we chose it as a single.
The new album 'Fireplace' was released in July, could you speak a little bit about the recording process?
Well, I started the album just by myself in my bedroom, and it originally started out as demos, really basic, acoustic and vocals, and we were speaking about who we might work with and what we might do - all we knew is that we really wanted to keep it simple. So Julian Gallagher, who's my friend, he was up for that, and he had a nice studio, a residential studio, so we took the demos there and just played around with them a little bit. The whole idea was like just simple, three takes for everything, some nice strings, a bit of drums and bass, but we mainly wanted the focus to be on the acoustic guitar and the vocals.
Were any of the songs on the album in existence before you signed the publishing deal?
Well, pretty much all the ones that made the album I wrote afterwards - I was just given that opportunity to write, and I looked back on some of the songs I'd written before, and was pretty brutal with them. I just thought, there's no point keeping the old songs for nostalgia. I tried to up my game.
How many songs did you have for the new record?
I wrote eighty songs all together, but I had a long time to do it. We originally recorded twenty, and then cut it down from there, which was quite difficult I suppose.
Are there any specific influences on 'Fireplace'?
Yeah, the Beck album 'Sea Change', inspired me, mainly because of the tight drums, and the strings and stuff. And then I've always liked the Willy Mason albums, with their kind of bedrooms vibes. It was just records that were obviously a labour of love and were made organically, and that was the blueprint.
The album was described as 'Tupelo Honey' era Van Morrison - how does that comparison sit with you?
Yeah pretty good, I love Van Morrison. It's not a bad comparison to have for a debut album I suppose, unless they're referring to me being a grumpy shit.(laughs)
Does it worry you that you could be considered 'just another singer-songwriter' and go unnoticed?
I guess it's never really bothered me. The whole 'recognition for what you do thing', it's just a by-product for why you do it. You make an album, you make it to the best of your ability, and that's the only thing I've ever tried to do. You go and play your gigs but it's all about your songs that you write. But that thing about the amount of singer-songwriters is funny because you never hear anyone saying, 'oh, here's another band', and there's hundreds of different bands. Take someone like Jamie T or someone like Amy McDonald, they're both singer-songwriters, but they're about as far apart as you can get. I think singer-songwriters all have the same mentality, you just have to let it wash over you.
You mentioned the 'organic' sound of your record, but how do you see your sound progressing over the five albums?
Well, I've been messing around with stuff for the next album, and I really like the idea of doing as much as possible with just myself, like a modern one-man band. I've seen a lot of people play and there's a lot of Australian guys and they make a lot of noise just on their own. I mean, there's people who play with loop pedals but these guys actually play the different instruments at the same time. There's this one blues guitarist who's got three different drums rigged up to his feet, and I'd like to try stuff like that.
I suppose the predictable route to go down would be to form a band with you as the frontman and create a much fuller sound?
Well, I've done stuff with a backing band before but I'm almost getting to the point now where I see myself going in the opposite direction, and going more sparse with the next album. Initially I didn't play with a band just because it was easier, and I'd just go play a gig but now I find myself in a situation whereby I play with my friends and I really enjoy it. That said, I really just want to be in a band by myself, but who knows, it's early days and I might change my mind again next week.
So, you're on tour this month with Fyfe Dangerfield?
Yep, it's going to be really fun. I'm really looking forward to it. I think my material would probably go down fairly well. I mean, when you go see your favourite band and there's a support act on, you don't really expect too much, but I would hope that my stuff would appeal to Fyfe's fans. So, at the moment it's just myself and my friend Stacey playing Cello, so we'll just try some stuff off the album and hopefully people will enjoy it.
Do you have a certain idea of how successful you want to become in the next years?
To be honest, I kind of take it as it comes. My goal was just to make an album. Actually, my goal was to sell out King Tuts in Glasgow and I did that, so I didn't really know where to go from there!
Have you played any festivals this year?
Yeah we've been to a few. We're heading to Bestival at the moment so that should be good. The material seems to be going down well with the festival crowds anyway. With me being a solo act I'm usually on early in the day when everybody's chilled. I suppose if people have had a heavy one the night before they don't really want anything too noisy, so one guy and his guitar is just about right I'd say.
Who are your heroes?
Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the usual suspects really.
This years Mercury Music Prize was won by The XX - what did you think about that?
I didn't actually catch it, I heard The XX won though and I was pretty happy about that to be honest. The Mercury's is a funny one really, it certainly seems to be a sort of 'cool' awards show, but whether or not it has any correlation with the industry...I'm not sure really. But these types of things seem a million miles away from what I do.
But what if you found yourself in a situation in the next couple of years whereby you were nominated for, say, a Brit Award?
I'd probably swallow my tongue, I'd be so shocked. It would be very weird. I'd probably send my brother or something in my place.