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Roachford - Interview

  by Eoghan Lyng

published: 9 / 9 / 2020

Roachford - Interview


Singer-songwriter Andrew Roachford talks to Eoghan Lyng about his new album, 'Twice in a Lifetime'.

Exploding in the 1980s, Andrew Roachford’s 'Cuddly Toy' rocketed from the CBS Recording Studios to the upper echelon of the fiery Billboard Hot 100. With its pounding hook, jaunty chorus and colossal vocal sound, the song still remains a rock radio mainstay, accruing fans as diverse as the louche Alan Partridge to the dynamic Beverley Knight. Gifted with a shrill, soulful voice, Roachford remains one of the most exciting singers of his generation. Roachford’s 'Twice in a Lifetime', the vocalist’s most assured work in years, offers this gift to a newer generation, a societal subsect who will doubtlessly remember this year as the one they journeyed from living room to kitchen. Matching this internal journey, 'Twice in a Lifetime' captures the varying colours life gives us, profering moments of astonishing invention ('Love Remedy', 'Are Your Satisfied?') alongside songs of naked inspection ('What We Had', 'Won’t Think Twice'). And then there’s 'The Truth Hurts Too Much', a superlative power ballad that echoes the very best of Rod Stewart’s stirling '70s output. Keen to express himself as both an artist and person, Roachford took this opportunity to talk to Pennyblack about the work. Along the way, he voiced his opinions on those who inspired him; those Roachford inspired in turn; and what it’s like working with a guitarist from Genesis. PB: The name of your album strikes me as a conflation of two tracks: 'Once in a Lifetime' and 'Won't Think Twice'. Was that the intention? AR: That thought didn't even cross my mind. What it is...I like to play on words. Play with sentences. People like to say, "In my day..." I mean, who makes these rules? You can have more than one day. So, I'm challenging that mindset, and that's where the title comes from. PB: The music industry is an unusually ageist one. AR: Exactly. It's not as bad now as it was when I first started out. 'Cuddly Toy' would have been in 1988, 1989. Back then, people thought by your late twenties, you'd be working in Sainsburys, or somewhere. Partially, that's because people think you're not a musician anymore; you're a pop star. People think there's a sell by date on pop stars. But I never thought of myself as a pop star, I've always thought of myself as a musician. PB: There's a lot of tremendous barrel house piano heard on the album. Was Elton John a formative influence of yours? AR: Absolutely, his singing too. There’s so much soul to his voice, and some of those melodies like 'Your Song' are just genius. I was thrilled to hear he's a fan of mine. I was opening for INXS years ago, and my mum found herself sitting next to Elton John. He turned to her to say, "This guy!" PB: He's also a fan of Gary Barlow's work. What was it like performing with the Take That frontman? AR: That was great, so much fun to do. I'd met him a few times before that; we were on the same bill at concerts a few times. We spent time corresponding how we would do 'The Crooner Sessions' gig. It's nice meeting someone in Gary's position, who hasn't lost the plot completely. When you find success, and people tell you what they think of you, we mere mortals can lose it a bit. But Gary, like me, has always been about the music and there's no bigger buzz than that. The other buzz is when someone tells you that your song helped you through a tough time in their lives. PB: Barlow was still in his early twenties when he wrote 'Back for Good'. AR: Yeah, and I was in my mid twenties when 'Cuddly Toy' came out.You're very impressionable at that age, and my audience seemed quite young at that time. It's easy to go astray when you find success so young. PB: Has 'Gonna Be The One' been released as a single? AR: It has, it's the current single. I heard it on the radio, and it's always interesting hearing your stuff on the radio. Because that's the time, I feel, that you let it go. Let it go into the public domain, and then it's out there. PB: 'The Truth Hurts Too Much' brings Rod Stewart to mind- Is that a fair comparison? AR: I think we share similar influences. I mean, there are aspects of our voices that you could compare, but I think it's more to the music we listen to. Rod is a blues fan, Rod's a Sam Cooke fan, and I'm massively into blues and Sam Cooke. But Rod is a fantastic singer. I heard him sing a live track at The Marquee with The Faces; phenomenal. PB: Talk to us about Sam Cooke. AR: Much of it inspires me, but a lot of it makes me want to give up. It's such an unreachable quality. He could really bring it to the songs. I listen to one of his live albums, he has two, and he could sing through the harder stuff. It's so truthful. PB: What was it like duetting with a singer of Beverley Knight's calibre? AR: Lovely, just lovely. For one, she's such a warm soul. We had a lot in common as both our families came from the Caribbean. We knew there had to be a female vocalist on the track, and when her name came up we said yes to that. She really did her homework - she knew the song better than I did! She had it in one take, and I just thought, "I think you've done it." PB: 'So Long' features an echoey keyboard, similar to the one John Deacon used on the achingly beautiful 'You're My Best Friend'. Was Queen's soft rock approach to balladry an influence on your writing? AR: Not consciously, but growing up in the 1970s what you heard on the radio fed into you. 'Bohemian Rhapsody' defined my life in some ways. I played a gig last year, as part of some sort of charity supergroup. Roger Taylor was there, singing and playing drums. More singing actually; Pink Floyd's drummer was there as well. And Mike Rutherford played guitar. That was quite humbling, actually. PB:Well, that leads me onto my next question. What's it like co-fronting Mike and The Mechanics? AR: It's interesting that you say co-fronting, because initially it was just to do some co-writing for an album. And then we've been touring for about ten years now. I did not see that coming in my crystal ball. PB: You find yourself in a strong roster of singers Rutherford has written with: Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Paul Carrack.. AR: Absolutely! Phil still sounds tremendous. It's such a high level of musicianship those guys have. We toured with Phil Collins last year, which was incredible. But Mike doesn't work with people he doesn't want to. We're so different musically, but we instantly started to fuse when we came together. It's been a real learning curve-great to get out of a comfort zone- and I've learned so much from Mike. Then again, he's learned so much from me [Laughs]. But the first time I sang, he told me that he believed me. PB: It was so truthful? AR: Exactly. PB: Sam Cooke was all about truth. AR: There you go! You can't fake that. Some singers express themselves so honestly. They sing so expressively and openly; others shy away from that. Others express themselves on a more technical level. PB: That's probably what differentiates Lennon from McCartney. AR: Your words, not mine (Laughs. PB:Your surname is strangely similar to Mike's. AR: When I first met him, Mike said we should start a law firm: Roachford and Rutherford! PB: Returning to the album, is that you playing the acoustic guitar? AR: No, that's Jimmy Hogarth. Jimmy co-produced the album with me, and he's a stunning guitar player. I really wanted to work with a 'Musician Producer' on this album. There's a lot of 'Button Producers', because...Anyone can be a producer. You don't need a certificate to be a producer. There's no piece of paper for it. It's such a broad term. So, I wanted more of a musician, and it was so much fun to play with Jimmy. PB: There's a great deal of tremendous Hammond too. AR: Yes. I got someone in for that, because it is a very different instrument. Just because it has keys, doesn't mean it's the same. We brought in some really good people. John Green played piano on the demos- he was off the scale! Eg White, who co-wrote the Adele song 'Chasing Pavements', came in. He's incredible, the way he moves around musically, and he really gets the fusion. He decided to play a Womack and Womack song, and got it so right. PB: Womack and Womack were an outstanding outfit. AR: It's that Southern grittiness, but with a pop sensibility. That's how I describe it. And Linda, of course, is Sam Cooke's daughter! PB: Did you work with some of Amy Winehouse's musicians on the album? AR: Although London is a big place, the music scene is quite small. I was watching Amy on the telly, and I recognised the drummer. Amy worked with three drummers, and two of them had worked with me! Jimmy suggested working with one of Amy's drummers, and I told him that he was my drummer before Amy [Laughs]! I caught Amy early on. I was sitting with my brother, and I told him to look out for her. She was special. And then she came up to me, and said, "Mr.Roachford, I'm a big fan of yours." PB: Such a singular talent. AR: That 'Back To Black' album could have been a pastiche album, because it was so retro. But she made it work because she broke the rules. PB: Have you worked with 'Back To Black' producer Mark Ronson? AR: I haven't, but I probably will. I know Mark very well. His father was the manager of my band. PB: The guitarist from Foreigner? AR: No, that's his stepfather. His father - Mr.Ronson, shall we say- managed my band. I used to hang out with Mark in New York. He started off as a music journalist, writing for things like 'Rolling Stone'. Then he was a DJ,so he's examined every side of music. There was a track on this album where I wanted to ask him to play on, but I'm sure we'll work together in the future. He's such a genre fluid producer. PB: Is there any track that speaks to you more on this record than the others? AR: Obviously I'm allergic to that question, but I have a special place for 'Love Remedy'. It came out on the day I got my MBE from Buckingham Palace, and it's a snapshot of that day. Like I said, I'm not in this for the awards. I'm in it for the music, and when someone tells you that a song helped them through a difficult time. But this was special, because my mum and my brother were there. We were, I suppose you could say, a typical working class family, and my mum worked hard to get me my piano tuition. So, it was a special moment for my mum to watch me get my MBE from Princess Anne. Princess Anne relaxed me, because when you're given all the "protocol", it can make you feel uncomfortable. Then, she came over to speak to me. That was such a special day, so that's why 'Love Remedy' has such a special meaning to me now. PB: To finish this interview, would you like to tell listeners and readers why they should buy this album? AR: I think it has a lot of soul, and a lot of my best stuff on it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this one. I should be on the road as we speak, but for this blasted Covid! But we will be on the road next year, and I'm opening for Lionel Richie, which is exciting. I haven't done that before. This is actually the longest I've gone without gigging since I was a teenager. But this album captures a lot of what I bring to concert. Often people say to me at a concert, "Can you get some of that on tape?" So, I say I'll try, and on this album, I think I have. PB: Thank you. 'Twice in a Lifetime' will be released on BMG on the 11th September 2020.

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