How did you get your initial start in music?
I started learning piano when I was a child, not that seriously at first. My father played a bit and there were always sing-songs around the piano (or guitar) when my family got together. I wanted to be good enough to be able to play a tune from a song-book. When I got to Secondary School and lots of boys were taking up the guitar I realised I already knew a lot about music. I didn’t need to learn guitar, just take the piano more seriously. It came from there.
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
I’ve always wanted to be a film composer. I’ve scored several short films, but still haven’t scored a feature film, so I guess my ultimate aim would be to be established as that, and get to work with interesting directors on all sorts of different projects. But I’ll always love writing songs too.. I don’t see those things as being mutually exclusive.
How long have you been writing your own music?
I’ve been writing songs since I first started playing the piano, they just weren’t very good (and I can still remember one of them so I know this for a fact). When I was a teenager I started writing much more and different sorts of compositions too.
Who are your top three influences and why?
As a singer/songwriter? Three is hard. But Tears for Fears are my favourite band. The Seeds of Love is an album I have listened to regularly since it came out and I still hear new things in it. Nowadays it might be hard to market as it doesn’t really fit to one prescribed genre. But I think that’s why I like it so much. Everything they do sounds like them and that’s where the unity comes from. I really like the sound of real instruments and songs which aren’t afraid to be composed, to take time to develop if necessary. That’s probably why I love that album so much. Joe Jackson is another of my biggest influences… probably for identical reasons, as well as which I love the way he uses the piano. Kate Bush and David Gilmour I think do the same thing… And nobody writes a middle-8 which modulates like Joe Jackson.
Robert Wyatt has always been a big influence as well. From him it’s more about what he sings and how he sings it. Nobody sings like Robert does and he has a wonderfully emotional directness. Sometimes his lyrics are wonderfully poetic (Sea Song for example) and sometimes he is just singing an argument or a fact, but he conveys it beautifully. He has always been a big influence on me and I feel very priviliged to have him performing on Ibrahim. Radiohead do this as well (Harry Patch for example) – these guys literally could sing the phone book and it would sound amazing.. also with a very orchestrated approach – not necessarily acoustic instruments, but always very carefully arranged.
I think that’s technically six, but hopefully it gives an insight into what I like about music and songs.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?
Robert Wyatt doesn’t do much these days. As a fan, I’m saddened by this, but I respect his back catalogue enormously. In some ways Ibrahim is a Robert Wyatt tune as much as it’s a Great Divide tune. I think that’s partly because of his inspiration on me, but also because of the incredible way he brings his own artistry to everything he does. So I hope his fans get the opportunity to hear this. The Gone-Away World is inspired by a incredible book by Nick Harkaway (of the same name). It’s a great post-apocalyptic existential thriller love story. My song differs a bit from his narrative, but the central relationship between his two main characters is the starting point for both. I hope people will dig out his novel and read it – it’s unlike anything else I’ve read and definitely worth it. This EP is a little taster of a forthcoming album “River’s Tent”. It’s almost finished and will have 10 songs, with a few more guest stars.
Where are you based and what’s your local scene like? Any favourite venues?Who else can you recommend from your local scene for people to have a listen to?
I’m based in North London. I don’t play live much, but I’ve done a few shows in Crouch End and had the privilege of meeting and playing with others like the great Cabaret Cellist Kate Shortt, the folkie Yan Yates. However I really struck it lucky at a local pub/theatre/venue called Moors Bar where I met local couple Scott Ferguson and Maria Payne. We played a few shows together, they both play on my album (Maria sings on World, Scott on TGAW) and I’ve been helping them produce their own album, “Bright Star” which we’ve pretty much finished. It’s incredible. They’re great singers and very natural song-writers. I strongly urge people to check it out when they can.
Give our readers a roundup of where they can find you online and hear more of your music.
For news of releases, or perhaps even the odd gig, follow @GreatDivideUK on twitter. For more regular updates, people can like us on facebook at www.thegreatdivide.co.uk.
With regards to MP3s, do they mean apart from the souncloud link? I could send the actual mp3s posted up there if that would help, but I wouldn’t want them sent out to everyone. In fact I’m a bit miffed to see that some sites have just printed your press release complete with the soundcloud link. That was only for Radio, not for general press. I don’t want the songs to be streamed. I could change the URL for that link but can you try to make sure that the link doesn’t get printed online? At least not send that version of the press release to everyone? I’ll take your advice on that if you think we should, but I want a bit of mystery. I don’t want it streamed, and I want people to buy the record if they’re interested.