Andrew was Columbia’s biggest selling domestic act for over ten years, signing a lucrative seven album deal with the iconic record label. He joined Mike and The Mechanics in 2010 and continues to collaborate with other artists to make music. In March 2016, he releases his 10th album Encore. Photogroupie caught up with Andrew to find out about his latest release and his life long love of music.
PHOTOGROUPIE: (PG) SO ANDREW, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO?
ANDREW ROACHFORD: (AR) I've been recording bits of music, rehearsing, just making music mostly. My new album, Encore, is due out (March 11th) and that's done and dusted, so I'm just doing music with other artists and doing my bit.
PG: YOU SEEM TO HAVE BEEN DOING YOUR BIT SINCE YOU WERE A VERY YOUNG GUY.
AR: There're lots of bits to do. I've said I was born to do it, so ever since I started playing piano at the age of four and I haven't stopped since.
PG: TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW ALBUM ENCORE.
AR: There are a lot of songs that I grew up listening to and I've decided to do my interpretation. It's very soulful. Soul music comes from a deep place, but I'm not afraid of putting guitars in there. That can be the thing that confuses people about what category to put my music in because it's soul music with an attitude really. It harks back to the days of Motown and Stax that had that style to it. There are a couple of newies on the album too.
PG: HOW DO YOU APPROACH WRITING?
AR: Writing has always been one of those mysteries to me. You start off with some people in a room, or on your own and you start with nothing. It's a blank page, then you just make music and mess around with ideas. It doesn't matter how ridiculous they sound. Eventually, you start chiselling away until it sounds like something beautiful and worth investing in. I guess it's like a sculptor starting off with a piece of clay that doesn't look like anything to anyone until they decide to make it into something. The artist is the one that recognises when it's something special.
PG: WHO WOULD BE YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCES?
AR: I tend to be drawn towards the grittier side of soul music. Of course, I love all of the sparkly Luther sounding stuff, but I tend to like the more earthy and raw southern soul sound, Otis Redding, Al Green – the Memphis sound, that's what influenced me more.
PG: A LOT OF THAT MUSIC IS STILL SO ICONIC, SO MODERN, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS RECORDED OVER 40 YEARS AGO.
AR: Yes, if it came out now people would think it was contemporary. Some things are so good that they transcend time, it goes beyond fashion, it goes straight to your heart. When you capture something that honest and real in a performance, people know it doesn't matter where or when they come from they recognise that at a human heart level.
PG: IS BEING HONEST AND HEARTFELT ESSENTIALLY WHAT INSPIRES YOUR MUSIC?
AR: Musically it's never anything tangible that inspires me because it's just notes and chords, but lyrically you tend to draw from things in your life and things that are running around in the subconscious. It's more emotional experiences that drive the song-writing process.
PG: WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED PLAYING MUSIC, YOU SAID YOU WERE DRAWN TO THE PIANO AND HAVE CALLED THE EXPERIENCE 'SURREAL AND MAGICAL', SO HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
AR: It was a weird one actually. I guess the fact that my family were all musicians and we had bands rehearsing in the living room had something to do with it. One morning, I just got up and started plonking away. I'd never played it before, but it was always in the corner of our living room. Then my Mum knew that was what I definitely wanted to do and got me lessons.
PG: YOU'VE COLLABORATED WITH SEVERAL OTHER ARTISTS TOO, ARE THERE ANY MOMENTS THAT STAND OUT?
AR: Yeah I've been doing that more recently than in the past. I write songs and sometimes an artist might hear that and say 'oh I like that.' I've worked with a few people along the road. I was working with Joss Stone when she was 14, I said what do you want to write about? For most 14-year-olds its some boy at school but she wanted to write about a friend of hers who had met a guy, fallen in love and he went off to America but died in a car crash. Then I realised she wasn't your average 14-year-old. If someone comes to you with an emotional idea you can quantify it in a lyric that people will understand straight away.
PG: SHE'S A GREAT TALENT, SO INFLUENCED BY A LOT OF OLD SOUL MUSIC.
AR: She's an anomaly because she listened to music that wasn't of her time, it's normally how I spot the greats. I met Amy Winehouse quite early on and she wasn't just into top 40 music she was deeply into jazz and other music. If it was good and it moved her, she was open to it. That's always a sign of someone that's in tune with something. As an artist, it's natural to want to know where this music came from and what the root of it is.
PG: you're PERHAPS BEST KNOWN FOR YOUR HITS CUDDLY TOY AND FAMILY MAN. WHAT INSPIRED THOSE SONGS?
AR: I was writing about things that were around at the time, I was still living at home you know. When I was touring with the band a lot of things and subjects were about humour. Cuddly Toy was about my keyboard player who had such dodgy chat up lines, but it was like I can't believe they are falling for that. I also wanted to fuse soul music and rock together, I've always liked combining the two because they come from the same parents originally. It wasn't contrived it was just natural to do that.
PG: YOUR UNCLE, SAXOPHONIST BILL ROACHFORD, TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF ENTERTAINING AND GIVING PEOPLE A SHOW. THERE'S A LOT OF ENERGY AND PASSION IN YOUR LIVE PERFORMANCES.
AR: Yeah, some of my favourite artists grab you from deep inside and shake you so you feel that you've had a complete roller-coaster ride. It's about emotion and emotional shake up.
PG: MUSIC SHOULD MOVE YOU, SHOULDN'T IT?
AR: It's not just what you're playing, it's what you're saying. Anyone can go on-stage and find a way to impress people. Impressing them is one thing, but moving them and having an emotional impact is a whole other thing. I love the greats, I love Marvin and Stevie and that's what they do to me and I can't think of any other way to make music.
PG: BEVERLEY KNIGHT HAS ALSO COVERED CUDDLY TOY, THAT MUST MAKE YOU FEEL PROUD THAT SUCH A GREAT ARTIST HAS PICKED UP ONE OF YOUR HIT SONGS?
AR: Beverley's great. We've done gigs together we're mates, I've got a lot of respect for her as an artist and for her music and as a human being. Beverley can sing anything. People are always impressed by her.
PG: ANY MORE PLANS FOR WORK WITH MIKE AND THE MECHANICS?
AR: I'm in the studio with them at the moment, and we have a new album coming out the end of this year or early next year. In the meantime, I'll be touring with my album. I'd like to do some stuff with Beverley, depending on schedules. I've worked with some of the old British soul crooners as the soul collective. It's great to work with different people because it brings out different things in yourself.
PG: WHO WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO WORK WITH?
AR: I'd love to work with Al Green, I don't even know in what capacity because as a singer he's the whole package. But maybe as a writer I could bring something to the table because I really do understand his music. I know it inside out and back to front, ever nuance as I do with Stevie's music. They are masters of what they do.
PG: WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE IF YOU HADN'T GONE INTO MUSIC?
AR: I sometimes joke that I would have been a chiropodist or something because I used to look after my Mum's feet as a kid, but now I think that joke might backfire. I'm so about music that it's hard to imagine being without that ability. Maybe I'd be a comedian, I don't know, who knows. I can't second guess that one because my world would be a very different place. I do have other passions, I'm fascinated by future science, where would the human race be in 50, 100 years time and I'd be part of the pioneers who try and push things forward. I'm quite humanitarian too.
PG: WHO ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT?
AR: I like Adele because she is an artist and tries to be as honest in her music. James Morrison, he's got a nice tone of voice and points towards the old soul singers but he has a different twist on it. I like all kinds of stuff, I was recently away in Barbados and heard Aswad who I hadn't heard in years and it made me go back and listen for some of that old reggae music. I like Jill Scott and neo soul music, Laura Mvula and Nile Rogers latest single (Overcome). I like what she's doing because she's challenging the stereotype of what a black female artist should do. It's good when people do that because it can get quite narrow and stifling for an artist to be told you look like this so you should only do this. You need to challenge people's perceptions of certain parts of society and what they can and can't do. That's why Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye started to do and challenged Motown. It's going out on a limb, but if that's a calling then you have to go with it. When Berry Gordy first heard What's Going on he was slating it.
PG: IS THERE IS A TENDANCY FOR THE MUSIC BUSINESS TO BE A BIT AFRAID OF WHAT IS NOT COMMERCIAL?
AR: Mainstream has always been attractive because if you get a hit you can make a lot of money, everyone's jumping on that. Unfortunately then other music isn't allowed to develop, if you're an artist it can do more than just pop you should try and develop that and not just be like everyone else.
PG: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER SONGWRITERS LOOKING TO FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS?
AR: Well, to try and develop would be part of it, but also understand what you want to achieve. If you want to make good business or you want to make great art or both be clear where the boundaries are with the two. It's like if you want to make a great painting be prepared that not everyone will understand that, but if you want to be commercial go for that too. I think getting a great manager that understands what you are doing but also knows how to bridge that gap is the first thing to do.
PG: THAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT. THERE WERE A LOT OF OLDER BANDS WHO STRUGGLED FROM BAD MANAGERS AND DODGY CONTRACTS.
AR: Now you can go online and find out what a fair contract is, we didn't have that when I was growing up, we had to learn the hard way by signing dodgy contracts. Today it's not such a mystery. Look at what you want to achieve but be realistic. Be able to take second position where you can hear the music but understand what it is the audience are getting from you. There are some young artists that are in the bit of a bubble and they get frustrated if everyone doesn't get what they are trying to do and instantly jump on it. Some people are natural entertainers and can hold the crowd and the audience imaginations; some are bedroom musicians they have talent but in front of a crowd they don't have that charisma, it's something that you are born with or not. It's knowing your limitations. If you have that, great, if not you have to find other ways to make it work for you.
PG: WHAT MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
AR: I think I'm proud when I make my mother proud. I remember playing in Wembley. I was opening for Inxs and of course, it was packed. She was sitting next to Elton John and she was so proud and in a way that's giving something back because she put in the time to expose me and give me opportunities and get something back for it.
5: Glasgow - Oran Mor, Byres Road, Glasgow G12 8QX 7:00pm £18.5. 0844 844 0444. 0141 357 6200
6: Aberdeen - The Lemon Tree Lounge, 5 West North Street, Aberdeen AB24 5AT 7:30pm £15 01224 337688
16: Birmingham - The Glee Club, The Arcadian, 70 Hurst St, Birmingham B5 4TD 7:00pm £12. 0871 472 0400
18: Manchester - Academy 3, University Of Manchester Students' Union, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PR 7:30pm £17.60 0161 832 1111
19: Bristol – Thekla, The Grove, East Mud Dock, Bristol BS1 4RB 7:00pm. £19.80 0117 929 3301
23: Milton Keynes - The Stables, Stockwell Lane, Wavendon, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire