Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Roachford talks about his new album 'Twice in a Lifetime'
YOU'VE GOT A NEW ALBUM DUE IN SEPTEMBER ENTITLED 'TWICE IN A LIFETIME' - WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT?
AR: I was writing over a period of time just getting stuff together and working out where I wanted to go. From my experience, you don’t really know what you’re doing when you start, you just go with it and it’s about creativity. You let the flow happen, it’s organic. Eventually, you think “oh this is where I want to be, this is where I’m heading”. It became quite obvious that the soulful side of me wanted to come out more. I’ve been listening to a lot of older soul music over the last couple of years; a lot of Bobby Womack and Al Green of course. It’s weird how you can listen to something for so long and still be discovering new things about it and find new depths to it. That’s that stuff that still really turns me on and seems to come out when I write.
YOU MENTIONED AL GREEN AND I KNOW YOU’RE A FAN. WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT ALL THOSE SONGS THEY STILL STAND UP. THE ONE THAT ALWAYS GETS ME IS 'HOW CAN YOU MEND A BROKEN HEART' BECAUSE OF THE NUANCES IN THE MUSIC AND THE WAY HE EMOTES THE SONG.
AR: Oh my God. People forget that that’s a Bee Gees song because he takes it somewhere else you know. You use the word nuance and it’s like he’s on edge; the tension he gets is amazing and of course Al Green's voice. That’s the stuff that really moves me. I like a lot of the stuff that’s around now but a lot of the contemporary music I’m hearing becomes heavy. It's really impressive, but I’m not hearing a lot that is doing as much as those songs for me. A lot of the time there’s different reasons for making music and I’d say that a lot of contemporary music is about, I won’t say being cool, but it’s about fitting in more. When I hear younger artists I want to hear stuff that makes me go “wow, where did that come from?” I don’t wanna hear stuff that sounds like everything else that you hear on the radio. You want to hear the younger generation of musicians and artists to really challenge you. I’m sure there are people around that are doing that but I’m just not hearing it as much as I would like to.
I KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN THERE ARE A FEW THAT ARE DOING THAT, I GUESS ONE ARTIST THAT SPRINGS TO MIND IS BETH HART. SHE’S GOT THAT WAY OF EMOTING A SONG THAT JUST MAKES YOU WANNA CRY.
AR: It’s weird that you mention her name because I was cooking at home yesterday and I just put on my phone for music and it was on random play and I heard this voice and I was like “who is that?“ and it was Beth Hart which I didn’t even know was on my phone.
HOW DO YOU STILL TRY AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF CREATIVELY?
AR: I am creative and I can go any way really. I feel that sometimes I’ll do something and maybe wrongly I’ll think it might be too out there. And then I sort of rein it in a little bit because I think that I could probably go too far sometimes. When it comes to music I’m very open but maybe that’s for the next album when the more experimental side of me comes out. On this record, I was really looking at the emotional impact and I focused on that. But I do challenge myself and I think that with Mike and the Mechanics I was definitely out of my safety [zone]. With Mike, we do like the same things but he also has a very different ear. Some of the things I would normally do that would blow people away was met with a bit lukewarm feeling from Mike. So I thought I can’t really lean on the things that I know would normally work and that broadens what you can do.
THE TITLE TWICE IN A LIFETIME IS QUITE OPTIMISTIC-DO YOU BELIEVE IN SECOND CHANCES?
AR: I believe that you have to believe in second chances. You can get dragged down by negativity. When you get to a certain age people always say “oh back in my day" and they talk as if they’re not relevant anymore as if they’re redundant. I don’t like that kind of thinking because then it becomes true. That was what I was challenging in a way with the title, you don’t have one day. It's as if people are resigned to the fact that they are getting older and that they don’t have anything more to give. I think that’s a state of mind definitely.
" I like to be genre-fluid. I think that’s the only way forward. "
THE ALBUM HAS A RETRO SOUL VIBE, BUT YOU'VE GOT SOME OF AMY WINEHOUSE'S BAND ON THE ALBUM AND JIMMY HOGARTH PRODUCED IT, DID THAT HELP CREATE A CONTEMPORARY FEEL?
AR: With the band set up, we had a tape recorder and we recorded onto tape. It wasn’t a one mic sort of set up situation, I’m not a purist in that sort of way. I worked with Jimmy Hogarth the producer and his studio has got a lot of vintage stuff. At the same time, I’m not afraid to do something that someone back in the day wouldn’t do because they didn’t have the technology - we have it now so we should use it.
Even though I do like a lot of music from the 70s and 60s I also like contemporary stuff and I think that an album should sound of its time. I didn’t wanna do a pastiche record and that’s not what I'm about. I like hip-hop, I like some dance music and because some of that stuff is around in my psyche why not introduce it. When I did 'Cuddly Toy' and my first album the whole idea of adding a rock guitar on a track that has a soul rhythm section wasn’t the done thing. I like to challenge that kind of thing, I like to be genre-fluid. I think that’s the only way forward. I’m surprised at musicians who really adhere to the rules that strictly and say “you can't do that” - says who? That’s a media thing that’s not what I’m about. For example in the Caribbean part of how reggae music came about was that black artists were listening to American artists but they had their own take on it and that’s how music moves forward: people fuse things.
What I liked about Amy Winehouse was that when she did the album with Mark Ronson it was retro musically but her attitude was so of its time. She had this attitude where she could’ve been singing a hip-hop record but she brought that sort of attitude against a retro backdrop and it became something new. And then everyone started trying to do that. Some people stick out their neck and then it becomes the norm.
DO YOU STILL THINK THERE ARE THE SAME RULES APPLY AS POPULAR MUSIC GOES?
AR: Well it’s funny because I saw an interview with Billie Eilish and she was talking to the lead singer of Green Day and she was saying that she was so happy to be making music in this time because she can’t imagine what it was like way back in the 90s or 80s when you couldn’t cross the genres because that's what she’s about and she’s allowed that freedom. I feel like I’m one of the people who stuck their Neck out. I did get a lot of stick for it over the years. I was told by record executives that you can’t put a rock guitar in soul music especially if it’s distorted. You’re not allowed to do it. It seems like a crazy thing now to put that kind of restriction on music, but there we go.
LOOKING BACK THERE WAS GUITAR IN SOUL MUSIC IN THE 60S - ALTHOUGH NOT ROCK GUITAR. I'M THINKING OF TRACKS LIKE OTIS REDDING'S 'DOCK OF THE BAY'. BUY SADLY AT THAT TIME THERE WERE OTHER RESTRICTIONS ON MUSICIANS.
AR: Well, 'Dock of the Bay' was Otis but it was also Steve Cropper on guitar. The band was mixed and society wasn’t. When they left the studio they had to go to their separate neighbourhoods and they couldn’t mix and yet they were in the studio together. Sometimes the music is what’s pushing society forward.
YOU'VE GOT A DUET WITH BEVERLY KNIGHT - DO YOU THINK YOU’LL DO AN ALBUM TOGETHER?
AR: You know what I wouldn’t say never with that one because I really liked working with her on this track. We’ve got got a rapport, we always had one but it's even more now. We are talking about getting back into the studio together so, watch this space that’s all I can say.
YOU WERE DUE TO TOUR TO PROMOTE THE ALBUM EARLIER THIS YEAR, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT THE INDUSTRY WILL BOUNCE BACK?
AR: Well, all of my musician mates are quite depressed because they can’t do anything, especially the ones that aren’t actually songwriters. But I have to remain optimistic because it’s in my nature. I do think it will bounce back. I can’t imagine a world where people don’t go to gigs anymore. It may take a while for the gigs to be what they were because we have to adhere to certain rules for a while but I’m hoping that science will find a way. It’s not just about a band on stage it’s about a social connection because that’s what we need as humans we need to connect with people and watching a band playing in your living room on a screen on your own, it’s not the same thing.
"Sometimes the music is what’s pushing society forward."
YOU HAD AN OPERATION ON YOUR THROAT A FEW YEARS AGO WAS THAT A BIT OF A SHOCK?
AR: Well, something, as I realise, is that it was a blessing in disguise. At the time when I had a surgeon saying he wants to stick a knife down there, it didn’t seem like a blessing at all; if he slipped that was my singing done. At the time I knew a lot of people that went through it and some of my heroes including Stevie Wonder had the operation many moons ago and it's so much better now. I had to review my lifestyle though, there are a lot of things you don’t realise when you’re a natural singer. I wasn’t a trained singer, I just started singing one day, I never saw it as something I had to train. Then you look at someone like Usain Bolt, he’s really fast but if he didn’t train he wouldn't be winning races. You have to realise that as a singer, especially someone who's doing it at the level I am, it’s like being an athlete: you do have to train. Sometimes you just have to go to bed instead of rocking and rolling. I've had to be a little bit more aware of those things because I’ve been given a second chance.
I had a big tour with Mike and the Mechanics after that operation and it was interesting because my voice had changed and I was told that could happen. I had to get used to Andrew Roachford Mark II. My voice is different, but I quite like it. I still sound like me. It’s not just about your voice it’s about your energy with your singing that people recognise. A big part of what I do isn’t just about a voice, it’s about energy. And I don’t just mean a level of energy, I mean a type of energy. There are singers that are amazing technically and they have amazing power but people don’t necessarily resonate with them just because they like the voice- there are other things that they resonate with. The persona in the voice, the character is a different thing, I think you’re born with that anyway.
YOUR PERFORMANCES INVOLVE SINGING AND PLAYING KEYBOARDS, THAT MUST COME WITH A DIFFERENT ENERGY AND CHARACTER ALTHOGETHER.
AR: Yeah, it’s the connection to the music.
HOW DID YOUR VOICE CHANGE?
AR: It got a bit higher but actually when I did the album that was pre-op. I actually went into the theatre after I’ve done the album because it wasn’t that I couldn’t sing, it was just an underlying issue. There was only one song which was 'Love Remedy' which was done post-op. You can hear the difference. It's great for me because it’s almost like a whole new world. I haven’t had to tour with the new voice yet. This is the longest I’ve gone without touring or jamming with musicians.
ARE YOU WORKING ON ANYTHING AT THE MOMENT?
When we first went into lockdown I didn’t do anything for like a month I just sat out in the garden and listen to birds singing which I never do I’m a Londoner and normally it’s planes flying over and cars and sirens and neighbours talking. But then there was all this nature in London and that was a whole new world you don’t realise. I’m not a country boy, I'm a city boy and I’ve never experienced that, it was like being on holiday or something. Later I started to think I must write something and experiment with that and I have been doing that and I’ve just been getting back into writing even though I’m spending time promoting my album.
Interview by Cathy Clark
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