Sam Lewis // Interview

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Nashville Americana/Soul/Blues artist Sam Lewis has been garnering plenty of praise for his third LP entitled Loversity, which was released on May 4th via his own label, Loversity Records.  He made the move from Knoxville to Nashville in 2009 and immersed himself in the local scene, recording his first LP and traveling from Nashville to NY by train to tour his music, even spending a month of his tour in England.  He's collaborated with everyone from Leon Russell to The Wood Brothers and was asked in 2015 to open for Chris Stapleton's Traveler-release show.  Lewis toured with Stapleton for the remainder of the summer of 2015, with Stapleton referring to him as "a modern Townes Van Zandt", exposing Lewis to a wider audience and broadening his exposure.  Loversity is the closest that Lewis says he will probably ever come to writing a concept album, in response to current events.  Although the world is divided now more then ever based on differences, he is hopeful that his latest collection of songs can be a reminder that diversity and unity can co-exist.  Emily May recently spoke with Lewis by phone, in which he talked about the new album, the lessons he's learned from the artists he's performed and collaborated with and what's next for him.  You can stay up-to-date with Lewis and all upcoming tour information on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can stream his music on Spotify and SoundCloud.  You can purchase his music from his website,  Amazon Music, and Apple Music.  Check out the video below for Loversity!

How are you today?

I'm doing good...a little groggy today. I saw Paul Simon last night and decided it would be a great idea to drink until 1AM, in his honor, as if he would really appreciate something like that (laughs).

 

He might (laughs)! I'm sure it was a great concert!

It was great!

 

You've been playing music in Nashville since 2009 and have released 2 prior LPs. How has your musical journey been over the years?

A piece of cake! It's been easy. Everyday I wake up and it just gets easier and easier. The industry changes every day, so that's always fun. The experts are only right for like a second and then they're wrong. Ummm...I think the hardest thing has been to just make the music that I want to make and listen to, you know? There are a lot of people who can bend your ear and fill you with ideas and things that they think you should or should not be doing be doing. Fortunately, I've had different people in my ear encouraging me to make music that I want to listen to, and I think that has made things easier and harder, if that makes any sense. I'm proud of what I've done. It's not the best music in the world, but I believe it and am able to perform it without any kind of reservation. Unfortunately it's a little too, at times, left of center, at least for Nashville. Nashville's intentionally small minded, and I say that very lightly because it is an industry that's more of a business than an art form. At least it's become that way. Their ultimate job is to get you inside the smallest box as possible, and if you are unable to help them with that or unable to fit inside something like that then they just don't waste their time. I find that a lot of artists battle with that until they finally just move away.

 

That's a shame!

Yeah, well it's just, you know...that's good and bad, I guess. That's putting a lot of pressure on one city to define you. I think as an artist that one needs to remain in charge and remind people that “without me there's no music and actually, I tell you what's up”. Unfortunately, you don't have enough people really trying to make that the case, at least in Nashville. That's why a lot of people just find themselves beating their head against the wall. And I hear this a lot from people who relocate here from LA and NY. We've had a massive influx of people, at least as long as I've been here. Every time I go out and I meet someone, the odds are high that I'm going to meet someone who's moved here from one of those two places and they're like “what the fuck is the deal with this place” (laughs). I'm like, for one thing it's the South and we're a little slower, and two we can only handle so much culture at a time, so please be patient (laughs).

 

You're latest album Loversity was released last month. What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the album? I saw it referred to as kind-of your breakout moment. What do you think it was about this album that made it different from your other albums?

Ummm...I don't know. I mean, that's just something to say to get people's attention I guess. It's my third record and usually that's around the time that an artist is either going to break out or they should probably look at getting another job (laughs). I'm hopeful that one of those is the case but I'm probably still going to need some type of part time job because music doesn't sell the way it used to sell. I think the biggest thing is that I've progressed a little as far as my sound. I picked up an electric guitar and wrote some new songs, a lot of which happen to be fairly topical with kind-of where I find society right now and our leadership. That kind-of just naturally came to me and half of the album was written before Trump even campaigned in 2016, so it was very weird where my head was at and what also came after that.

 

Your songs ended up fitting into what happened after they were written, in a sense?

Yeah, I think there's some people that can...and I don't claim to be one...I was just channeling something. I'm not really going to talk much more about my songs because they are what they are. I was just tapped into something, as were many people. There are a lot of great records right now that have similar things, but I'm just not one to attack. It's more of an invitation to help me actually better understand what it is my role should be. Loversity is a term...to me it means love without boundaries...not without rules but without boundaries. I believe that we are all on one line and are either running towards something or away from something. There's a lot that can be done while waiting in that line, and that's my question to my audience-what more can I give you other than Instagram posts and social marketing?  Like something substantial, something with sustenance. What is it that I need, because I have a microphone and a stage and you don't, so I need to be held accountable for that. Knowledge is responsibility and so on and so forth, but I think it's really being accepted by the industry as much as it can be, just for the progressiveness of the sound. It's a really great band and a big record-there are 14 tracks. It's probably the closest thing to a concept album that I will ever make. That was all unintentional, but once I wrote Loversity all of these songs kind-of fell underneath that umbrella. It just made sense to kind-of get behind that one idea and push it forward. 

 

I read that you led a pretty transient life as a kid, attending 20 different schools. How do you think your experience growing up influenced your music as an adult?

It definitely prepared me to travel without hesitation. I sometimes prefer to be on the road meeting new people just from the conditioning. As far as creation, it's definitely let me know that none of us are really that different from one another. Every place has the same problems, or at least very similar issues and things that affect everybody as a whole. I went to India in November and have never seen anything like that before. I was not prepared for what I saw and experienced, but I'm glad I did and that I have that experience. You come back home and it really puts things in perspective for you and you realize that you live in a country that is basically the youngest child in a family, and if it doesn't get it's way watch out. Everywhere else is just basically where all of our residue goes. I think that type of conditioning and then traveling and playing music and meeting people just makes everything that much smaller and I feel a connection to almost everyone I meet or come into contact with. That's a lot of interaction and in order for me to create I really have to have silence and stillness. When the tank is full, it has to empty out and I need to empty it out in private. So yeah, it definitely seeps into the music and again, with the whole Loversity record...these are just my observations and collections and my reporting to you, to make sure you are seeing what I'm seeing. That's really what's going on. Like, if I have this confused with something else then let me know, but more importantly, what more can I do other than just write some songs and do this shit, ya know (laughs).

 

You produced Loversity yourself and released it on your label Loversity Records. What prompted you to start your own label and when did you start it?

Loversity Records was made...it's an LLC company that I was kind-of forced to create. I was getting very little interest from labels that we were...the proverbial we that includes my management...we were pitching a lot of these songs and the album to a few different labels and they just really weren't biting. That's common, though. It's hard right now to get that kind of company behind something like that. With the way music is made now and the way it's delivered and the way it's shopped, most labels want you to basically make the record, package it up, get it sealed and then work some kind of distribution deal with you. That was not what I wanted. I wanted to work with a family entity, a company...whatever the hell you wanna call it. I wanted to work with a label that wanted to work with me right out of the gate and go “here's the body of songs, demo versions or whatever, and we're gonna get them somewhere but you're just going to have to trust me.” And whether these people trusted me or not I don't really know, but I just know that's the new platform for where we're at right now with records. They want you to do all the work, finance all the work and then work out some kind-of distribution on the back end. That's just not what I wanted. So once I figured out that this wasn't going to be what I wanted, then I went and privately raised some money and started my own company and paid for it myself and own it outright. And that's where we're at.

 

Do you think you'll release music from any other artists or was this just for you?

It's really for anything. You know, it's not like a stake in the ground and I'm gonna build a brick and mortar label or anything like that. I don't even have a website for Loversity Records. It was just basically something that my lawyers said that I should put under it's own umbrella, which is very common procedure, so I did (laughs). It's there and it's not going anywhere. If something happens with this record and it takes off and it pays for itself, which is my biggest hope, that it pays for itself (laughs)...if it does that and then some and I have the ability to help another artist other than myself then absolutely. I'd love to make it a home for people that want label accountability right out of the gate, which is something that I think every artist needs. That's what we're not really seeing right now, we're not really seeing a lot of artist development even anymore. The artist is now the entrepreneur and unfortunately they are spending more time on how to market themselves versus how to write a good song. 

 

That kind of leads into my next question! You place a great emphasis on songwriting. What do you think goes into writing a good song?

Writing a whole lot of songs that suck! It's like anything. You can almost get good at anything if you do it enough. I believe anyone can write a song...I really do. Is it going to be a good song? Probably not, ya know, but they're easy to write. Now, structure-wise anyways, I mean it's something that can easily be taught and learned. To write a really good song that takes you somewhere or explains something to you, and not just in an abstract way...anything that's perceived as simple is really hard to do. I write really simple songs and most of them are really, really hard to write. They might not be great, but they're really hard to write because you're breaking something down. One of the hardest things that I've had to do with this entire release was when American Songwriter wanted a feature. They wanted me to explain each song in about two sentences and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do (laughs). I was like “you want me to paraphrase a paraphrase?” because that's all songs are. I mean, it starts there and ends there and I think a lot of time should be spent in that, if that's what you claim to be or if you're recording your own songs. You should definitely make them as great as you can. I mean, you have people like Ray Charles who could write songs, but when he couldn't he would find the best songs he could possibly find. Willie Nelson did the same thing, and still does the same thing. If he can't write them, he knows how to find them and they find him and they are great songs. That's the whole thing that I get really fired up about, is just that there a lot of great songs out there. You just have to find them. People have learned now, over the past couple of decades, that most, if not all, of the money is getting that way. It's all in the publishing, so artists are encouraged to write and record their own music. I think we're learning that maybe not all artists should be writing and recording their own music. A lot of people would not really want to hear that or admit that, but I think that's the truth. I think that's why it's a bit stagnant right now, because everyone's making sure they're making as much as they possibly can make.

 

What led to your decision to include the songs “Accidental Harmony” and “Natural Disaster” on your album, as those are the only two songs you didn't write.

“Natural Disaster” has haunted me for a really long time. It's a Loudon Wainwright song and I discovered that song when I was living in Knoxville, I think in 2006. It's a great song, a brilliant song and the version I fell in love with is an acoustic version from his live record from, I think, 1976. It just stuck with me for a long time and then I started picking up the electric guitar and kind-of rediscovered that song in a different kind of way, through electricity, I guess. I presented it to the recording band when we first started tracking the record and said “Hey, let's just jam on this for a minute”. That was actually the first thing we cut. It was originally a 12 minute jam that we scaled back, but it unintentionally got recorded. Once we recorded it and I got to live with it for a little while, I thought man, that's a really, really different approach to this song but that's the way I hear it and the way I feel it and kept it because it was a really fun memory. It's just a great song that I felt fit really well under the Loversity umbrella of the album and it was something a little different and a bit more avant garde then your typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus. It's more of a poem. “Accidental Harmony” was written by John Mann. He's one of the first guys I met when I moved to Nashville in 2009 at an open mic night. I really fell in love with his songs and how he writes. I didn't go to many more open mics after that. I just prefer to hang out with people like that and learn a little bit of how to write a good song. He wrote that for his first born as a lullaby and it's a lot slower and little bit more like a lullaby...his version is. I just think it's a beautiful concept, that one day maybe we can all live in some type of harmony, even if it's by accident. I just thought that the record cried for something that was very simplistic and beautiful and innocent, so it definitely made its way into the studio and we took it to where we got it. I think it fits nicely there. 

 

You've performed with a lot of great artists over the years, such as Kacey Musgraves, John Prine and Chris Stapleton. What do you feel that you have learned from the artists you've worked with and are there any artists going forward that you'd love to work with that you haven't yet?

Oh, yeah! Always. I've learned to strive to be as humble as I possibly can, because all of the people you just named are pretty much the same people they were before. They were probably discovered or found out and that's really impressive to remain that humble and real, and not just one the surface. Really good stuff comes out of that and you want your music and your art to be born out of something that's real and true, and you can hear it and feel it. Yeah, just professionalism and how to perform and continue to engage an audience. The Stapleton stuff started...I mean, I was with them when they just had one bus that pulled a trailer. They weren't selling out the theaters that they were playing in and then things just switched gears immediately and within months they were in amphitheaters and now they are in arenas. I got to learn pretty quickly how to try to entertain a few thousand people with just an acoustic guitar for 30-45 minutes, so that way the venue can sell more beer (laughs) . I was like “Hey guys, I gotta tap out. I need to bring a band”. They were like “Sure! We can't believe you've been doing this for this long. Play with a band” (laughs). So yeah, I think it helped me and I think being a supporting artist helps me and other artists really learn how to share, how to properly share. We remember and we know when we're taken good care of as an opener and, if all goes well, I'm going to have openers one day and I wanna be invested in them and make sure that they're not just being taken care of, but that they're at the right show. There is a lot of really strange, incorrect billing that drives me mad, when you don't understand why someone is supporting this one show and how it's just become a joke like “There's an opener. Well cool. We'll be there a little later then”. It's like, what's the point you know? It's so unfair. It's definitely taught me to be about as appreciative as I possibly can be and to make the best of it, but also take notes and all of that stuff. I've picked up a lot of fans from being a “happy accident” as a lot of these people will call it. “We didn't know there was an opener! We usually don't come and see the opener, but you surprised us”. That's one of the best things you can possibly hear. If I was headlining that show, that's what I would want to hear about the opener. It's an important position. It's something that requires attention and a lot of thought to properly bill your artists supporting someone and not just going after whatever is available. You can talk to my team about that shit. I wear them out about it (laughs).

 

What's next for you? What do you have coming up?

Ummm...just a lot of summer dates. I'm doing a lot of solo stuff this summer...more solo stuff then I'd like to, given that I just made basically a rock and roll album. I'm doing some solo supporting dates with Donovan Frankenreiter and JD McPherson starting next month. I just finished a big Northeast run from here to Boston and back, including Philly and Richmond, VA and NY. Next week I'm playing St Louis. I'm just playing these 250 seater rooms and hoping that people come out. The summertime is a really tough time to be playing indoors, with a lot of the festivals.

 

Do you have any festival dates coming up?

Not as many as I had hoped to have but there's a couple. There's one in Chicago that I'm looking forward to. It's their annual...they call it like an Americana 4th of July thing and it's at Fitzgerald's, which is one of my favorite places to play so I'm looking forward to that. That's next Friday, June 29th. I'm also doing a festival in Memphis called Mempho Fest in October, which I'm really excited about! I've never played in Memphis before, which is really odd because it's just down the road. I'm really looking forward to playing that festival. Beck will be playing at that festival and I'm really excited to get to see him. I'm probably going to try to get back overseas again in the new year. This is the first year that I've not toured any of England or Europe in, I think, 5 years. It feels really strange to have not gone over there. I might be going up to Canada, hopefully before it gets cold (laughs). I just plan to tour this record for as long as I possibly can. We're all thinking about the next project, which is really difficult to do since we just birthed this record and I'd like to enjoy the fruits of those efforts before we slip into another pair of jeans, you know?

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!

The pleasure was all mine Emily! Thank you for asking great questions.

Alexis Taylor // Interview

  Photo credit: Donald Dick

Photo credit: Donald Dick

British musician Alexis Taylor has a wide variety of musical interests, lending his talents to several musical projects.  Aside from being the lead vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist of the English indie electronic band Hot Chip, he is also the keyboardist in the English improvisational rock band About Group and is also an established solo artist.  Taylor's fourth solo album, Beautiful Thing, was released in April of this year on Domino Records to positive reviews.  A departure from his previous two more acoustic-based solo albums, Beautiful Thing has the electronic sounds of Hot Chip, giving it a more upbeat and danceable sound.  The new album was the first time Taylor enlisted the help of an outside producer, having chosen Tim Goldsworthy, co-founder of DFA Records and member of the band UNKLE, to produce the album.  Taylor began the 10 date North American leg of his tour on June 8th in support of the album.  Emily May recently spoke by phone with Taylor, in which he discussed what it was like to work with Tim Goldsworthy, the various musical projects he's involved with, the album artwork and his performance last year with Green Gartside of Scritti Politti.  

You can find tour dates and ticket links on his website and can stay up-to-date with Taylor and his music on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  His music can be found on Spotify, Amazon Music  and iTunes.  Check out the fun video for "Oh Baby":

You just released your fourth solo album, Beautiful Thing. I read that in reaching out to producer Tim Goldsworthy, that you wanted to be in a different head space and environment and have someone else think about the songs to give you a different perspective. Do you feel that you achieved everything you wanted to achieve with the album and what made you reach out to Goldsworthy as opposed to a different producer?

Yeah, I think we did achieve what I had hoped to achieve by collaborating with a producer and more than that really. It was really enjoyable to work with Tim actually. It was a really easy process with lots of good conversation about music and the making of music and was a quite stress-free way to work. I think he's a fairly similar person to me in some ways. We have quite a lot in common and it was a good fit. I did know him years ago when he used to be a part of DFA, so I kind-of knew what he was like but had never worked with him so closely. It was very good from that point of view...not a tense atmosphere or anything. Besides that, I thought he was good at offering some skills that were maybe lacking in me. I thought he was good at thinking about the programming and kind-of transforming things quite radically, if that's what we were after, in terms of the sonics of the music. He was good at allowing things to move away from a demo stage into something more fully formed and fleshed out. We also seem to both enjoy quite strange and...not avant garde by any means...but quite kind-of improvised and experimental approaches to playing and sound. We also got very involved in thinking about reverbs and other kinds of more technical things, like ambient space and ambient sounds, and applied lots of those thoughts to the music. It was good to work with somebody who is quite analytical and giving a lot of thought in advance to what we could do and how we could achieve something that was close to what I had in mind, rather than just trying everything out on every song. We had a bit more of a plan by working together which was new to me-it was new to have somebody who was good at planning. And why did I choose Tim? Well, primarily because just by chance I got given a record by Eugene Wang who runs a record label called Public Release Records based in San Francisco. He gave me a record that he had put out on his label and it had a new Tim Goldsworthy, or The Loving Hand as he's known, remix on it. That was the first thing I had heard by Tim in quite some time. I hadn't really followed exactly what production and things he'd been doing since leaving DFA, but I heard that and I thought it was really brilliant sounding and had some quite exciting drum sounds and keyboard sounds. It was very...it just felt like a very fresh sounding record. I'm not sure if that many people had even heard it, but I thought it was fantastic and was something I got very excited about. I had been thinking about producers before then and had thought of approaching Mark Hollis, from Talk Talk who is retired from making records so that was a bit of a non-starter. I was so fascinated by his own solo record and some of the Talk Talk stuff and thought he would be an intriguing person to work with. I gave it some more thought and after hearing that record I approached Tim and I knew he had a relationship with Domino and a history of knowing and working with Lawrence (from Domino) in the past. Between the two of us we were very up for doing this record together and for those reason I reached out to him.  I also remembered things that he'd done when he worked with Hot Chip on one session we did years ago. I just kind-of had a hope that he would bring something to the album that I wouldn't be able to bring to it myself and that he might have a bit more experience than other people that I might be closer to or had worked with in other contexts, that hadn't directly produced me but other people that I enjoy working with that were maybe less producers and more musicians. I just needed somebody that I could feel confident in. That's a really, really long answer-sorry (laughs)!

 

That's ok! I read that when you contacted Tim Goldsworthy that he was actually trying to quit the music business but you convinced him to produce your album. You only had access to him for one day a week, as he was focusing on his studies, as well. What was it like to have him produce your album but have such limited access to him?

Yeah, it was definitely strange. He was retiring and kind-of has retired now. He's studying at University, but I think he enjoyed being asked back into doing music for one last project. Since this record was finished, we've just begun doing something that will hopefully lead to production together for somebody else. I think he's prepared to do music when he has the time for it and I think he enjoys it but is just trying to focus elsewhere. In terms of only having access to him one day a week, it was challenging only because once you start working for a day, you only, I guess, unless you have a really productive day, don't get everything done that you had in mind and then have to wait a week to carry on. It was a bit of a disruption to a smooth, flowing working relationship, but at the same time it gave me six days between each session to think about and listen to what we had just recorded and to keep writing more material. It wasn't that difficult to do it in that way, and towards the end we got a bit more time together...more blocks of time together. I also worked with an engineer named Bruno Ellingham who Tim had met when they worked on a Goldfrapp record before, and he was great to work with too...another set of ears and perspective on it at the mixing stage really. He engineered a little bit and recorded too but mainly he was there at the mixing stage. He knew Tim well and Tim's working methods, so there was a lot I got out of choosing to work with Tim. It is unusual to work only one day at a time, but that was the situation we were in and maybe next time, if I work with him again, I can try to plan it on holidays from his school time or something or during his summer break.

 

Beautiful Thing marks the first time you brought the electronic sounds of Hot Chip into your solo work. What led you to take the record in that direction?

One reason is that I wrote the song "Beautiful Thing", and the way the song came out was very much a dance record, even if it ended up being a bit more harsh and strange sounding than some of the production elements of it. That was just how that track began and I think that Tim is interested in dance music in the same way that Joe and I in Hot Chip are. There was just a bit of a wish to marry some of those club moments with more ambient influence or pop sounding and slow drifting and dubbie things that were going on on the record too. There's another record I put out called Nayim From the Halfway Line, which is an EP on Domino that's entirely electronic and groove-based music with drum themes, so it really wasn't the first time for me to do this. It was more that I was working with somebody who is, I think, quite good at achieving those sorts of sounds and I suppose I wanted to move away from a stark, acoustic record, having just made the piano record immediately before. I felt like doing something very different from that sonically, so that seemed like a rather important reason.

 

With Hot Chip you get to focus more on the upbeat and lively part of your persona but I read that sometimes you like things more stripped back and simple. You are a part of several musical projects. Do you feel like being a part of these various projects helps you to satisfy the different parts of your personality?

Yeah. I think that, at some point a few years ago, I started to feel like I wanted to do some music that I didn't necessarily have to justify to anybody that I was in a band with while I was making certain decisions. I suppose that began with the solo record Rubbed Out (the first one). It was made in a quite unconventional way, in that the songs didn't always last 3 ½ minutes and didn't always have three sections and music to them or choruses and verses and bridges. The music kind-of followed it's own rules and I was inspired by some other music that I had been listening to that was also free in that way. I just felt that wouldn't really make it onto a Hot Chip record and it also was less collaborative-it was made with just me on my own. What was the point of trying to turn these into a more finished sounding and more conventional record, when what I liked about it was the album from start to finish, 15 tracks, some of which are pop songs, some of which are improvised instrumental features, some of which are quite fragmented sounding. That was the beginning of me trying to do something different outside of Hot Chip. And I moved on to doing a lot of improvised music with a group that became called About Group after a while. Initially it wasn't given a name, it was just a group with four of us-Charles Hayward, Pat Thomas, John Coxon and myself- making one improvised record and that grew into being a band with a name and releasing other records on Domino which were less improvised and more song based that fell victim to improvisation here and there. I did all of these things, as well as about three to four other projects. I found that I was enjoying the music and playing with different people and the challenges of working with other people who aren't working in a pop field and what they offered. I guess I probably enjoyed moving away from the pressure of trying to make commercial pop music. Lots of different things were going on and I was learning from those experiences and bringing something back to Hot Chip, a fresh perspective, or maybe a renewed vigor for working in a kind-of pop/r&b/electronic/housey/discoey mode again. Taking a break and doing other things was really helpful for me and I think that was the case for others in the band too. I think Joe has learned a lot from being in two bands and working on his own and Al, as far as I can see, has learned a huge amount from touring with James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem and making records with them. It does sometimes seem quite different from how other bands operate, to have all of these different side projects and other things that you do and to still be in your main band. We seem to be able to make it work so far and I hope it makes all of those projects richer from all of the different things we've learned from each experience.

 

The song “Oh Baby” had a production assist from Joe Goddard and featured some of the other Hot Chip band members. Do you often collaborate with your Hot Chip band members on your solo work?

No, not really. I don't think I've ever done that before. It's always been something I've liked on other people's records, where you can see where they might be from a band working solo but include ex-band members or current band members or whatever. We're friends with each other and have known each other since we were 11 or 12 years old-a couple of us in Hot Chip-and it's quite natural to include each other in things outside of Hot Chip. I guess it just felt like the right thing to do and it was very, very far ahead of any time that we would be beginning any work on a Hot Chip record. I suppose I could have said “why don't we make Oh Baby as something towards the next Hot Chip record?”, but I was already making my own record and didn't think that song would come out for 2 or 3 years if I waited that long, though I think there was a bit of a discussion before we recorded it. Joe had asked me to sing on his track Electric Lines on his album and it felt like a nice, sort-of mirror image of that invitation, in a way, to have Joe producing a track on my record. Also, it's just very simple-I think he's a great producer so it was nice to work with him. We just did it in one day and in one studio with everybody who played on it playing live . That was a nice, quick thing to do and get good, exciting results from. It's as much the admiration of the people that I work with as anything else. 

 

I read that you mainly write songs on the piano. Have you ever thought about writing songs in a different way going forward, like on a guitar or drums.

I do actually write about half of my songs on the guitar and half of them on a keyboard. If it's an actual acoustic piano then I tend to style the songs a certain way and if it's an electric piano or a keyboard then they tend to be a different kind of song. I often begin with a drum machine, as well. It really depends on what I hear in my head and what the idea is sort-of leading towards. The nice thing about working with Tim Goldsworthy or Joe Goddard as producers of music is that you might hear it one way yourself and you might write the song that way and you might think “well it's slow and played on a certain kind of electric guitar with a certain kind of sound”, but you can then transform that into something radically different if the person you're working with as a producer hears it differently or has a different concept for what it should be. I do quite like that, when a song can be thought about in a new way and transformed. That doesn't always work. Sometimes you return to the initial demo idea, but it's a nice and interesting thing to happen sometimes, to be allowed to change quite radically in production.

 

An artist named John Booth designed the artwork for you album cover. What led you to have him do the album cover? I also read that with past albums, you've never had you face or head visible but decided to for this cover. What prompted that decision?

Yeah, that's sort-of a funny idea because I chose somebody whose ceramic style features making these head-shaped vases which all have very big ears. Most people probably wouldn't recognize it but it's meant to look like me. It's not the most direct way of putting one's image on the front cover. I chose John before I thought about what he would do just because I liked his own work. I'd seen it because my wife had found out about him through Instagram, I think, and we went to buy some of his very earliest pieces that he put on sale in a gallery in East London and got to know him and saw other things he had done. I just really liked what he was doing. It reminded me of Cesar Manrique and Picasso, as well and I thought that maybe he could do something very bold and colorful that would be nice because it's a physical 3 dimensional object that you can then photograph for an album cover. He was really up for it and really excited that what he does would be seen in a different context and on a different medium, on a record sleeve and a CD cover. It was really nice to work with him, and I suppose I felt like it was time to make the record where the album artwork might be directly more inviting if it kind-of has that resemblance of yourself on the cover. It tells people who you are, I suppose, in the same way the music does. I thought that the artwork that was painted for the other records-the last two- was really beautiful and I and I especially chose him in the same way that I chose John Booth. It's not anything against (insert artists name) painting style, it's just that those were quite a bit more abstract and didn't feature me and I hadn't wanted to feature me at that point. I just happened to think it was a good thing to do this time around, with what I thought of as a more kind-of open and colorful sounding record and a far reaching record in it's potential. I wanted it to look inviting too.

 

I read in an interview you did last year that you had been dissatisfied with the working methods you'd been going through for making records. In what ways were you dissatisfied and are you still?

I'm happy with my methods. I just wanted to challenge myself and get out of any habitual patterns, but sometimes you need to cling onto those things too, you know? Sometimes they make what you do interesting or good, but I guess I've made four records in a row, or three records in a row in a specific way. I'd enjoyed doing them the way that I work on my own but I just wanted to see what would happen if I collaborated on this one, and I think if I make another solo record that I'm likely to work with a producer again. I think it's quite good to have a healthy, different perspective on what you're doing before you finish and release it.

 

Last year you did a live performance with Green Gartside, whom you've worked with often in the past. What led to the decision to have the live performance?

We like making music together and wanted to just do it for the sake of some songs we had co-written, songs I had written, songs he had written and some cover versions. It was just a kind-of interesting thing to do and I really admire him as a songwriter and producer and I like him personally...hanging out with him. He turns me on to interesting records and I think maybe I turn him on to interesting records too. We share a love of reggae, electronic music, hip hop and British folk music too. We just wanted to try to celebrate all of that in a short tour and it would be nice to do more with him. It would be nice to make an album together if there's time to do that. I know he's making his own record at the moment. But yeah, it was really just for the sake of the music.

 

You have a tour coming up for the new album. Is there anything in particular that you are looking forward to with the tour? What can people expect on this tour?

Yeah-I'm looking forward to playing in the states, because I tend to find that when I've gone with Hot Chip and when I've gone solo there's been a nice excitement and a nice reaction to what I've done. I've had great shows in the past in New York and Los Angeles, but I've not had the chance to play solo elsewhere really. People often tend to connect with the music and are quite verbal about what they like about it which is very charming and refreshing. I've found that people will let you know how they feel, generally with American audiences and Canadian audiences, and it can be quite a nice crowd to play to. I think it sounds quite different even though it's with two of the musicians who played on the record, Leo Taylor on drums and Susumu Mukai (aka Zongamin) on bass. They're fantastic people to be playing music with and bring a real energy and improvisation to the live show. Leo's one of the most fantastic drummers that anyone has seen. I often find that when people watch him, whether it's in Floating Points or Zongamin or with Graham, The Invisible or in my own band, that he's very exciting to watch and people tend to notice that.  Susumu Makai is a bass player who's released his music on his own in Zongamin, and I was a big fan of those records before I knew him. He was on bass in the band Floating Points, as well.  He's a fantastic musician who's good at just making wonderful and strange sounds. I enjoyed playing with those two together, and we used to play together a lot with another musician called Fimber Bravo where we were the band and Fimber was the leader. I kind-of got into a groove of playing with them before making this record. I hope what we can offer to people is an exciting and varied live set that is a take on the new album and some of my other solo stuff but also taking it in a different direction and not just a remake of the album exactly as it sounds.