‘Ruby’ has the feel of ‘Elenore’ by The Turtles. Was that intentional?
It was definitely an attempt to write the newest Turtles smash – ha-ha! I love their music and I was after their vibe. ‘Ruby’ is the coolest girl you’ll ever meet – the song is about meeting the one who just makes sense. It’s a universal theme.
‘Say You Will’ is one of my favourite tracks on the record. It’s a great breakup pop song, but one of the more upbeat moments. I love the guitar and horns, and I admire your ability to wrap up a melancholy lyric in a great pop tune. ‘Mystery’ and ‘Don’t Cry’, from the new album, are both good examples of that, too. Sad songs are always the best, aren’t they?
‘Say You Will’ was inspired by the late ‘60s Kinks records and it has a little Beatles in there, too. ‘Mystery’ is a Spector-meets-Scott Walker vibe all the way. ‘Don’t Cry’ is one of the rare times I’ve taken a stab at folky melodrama. I sung it with my co-writer Emeen [Zarookian].
‘Somewhere’ is the heaviest track on the album. It’s psychedelic...
Well, you could say bands like The Byrds and Love inspired it. It’s just a funky weird little song about escaping everyday boredom with the one you care most about.
Another of my favourite songs on the record is the final song, ‘Look To The Horizon’. It’s a Phil Spector-style epic - a ‘pocket symphony’. Where did that track come from?
It’s an uplifting song about the promise the future has if we stay focused. I was going for The Turtles jamming with Spector and Brian Wilson, and a little McCartney, too. It’s one of my best songs.
You released two albums on the same day – one of which was a covers record. How did you choose the songs for the covers album?
I wanted to go with songs I had played before, or that had really influenced the mood of my writing. I am big fan of each of the songs I picked out and feel like I did them justice as best I could.
Songs like ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’ [Herb Albert] and ‘Roses and Rainbows’ [Danny Hutton] are very special to me and they’re ones I have always wanted to record. Many of the others were songs that I had played with the band in the past. It was great trying to find the vibe of all those great songs.
What’s the trick of doing a good cover version?
I personally like to stay faithful to the original versions, but with some small, extra touches [of my own].
Do you have a favourite cover version by another artist and who would you like to cover one of your songs?
I really dig Elvis’s take on ‘Any Day Now’ – it’s a great cover of one of my favourite Bacharach songs. I am also very fond of Noel Gallagher doing ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’.
As for one of my songs? Man, there are too many amazing singers to single out just one.
What music – new and old – are you enjoying at the moment? What was your lockdown soundtrack and what’s your preferred way of listening to music? Are you a vinyl junkie?
I prefer vinyl, but I love streaming as well. I have been listening to a lot of Gram Parsons, Sinatra, Oasis and The Beatles, as well as my usual weird soundtrack music.
My isolation soundtrack was mostly ‘60s country music – Buck Owens and the International Submarine Band – and ‘50s Frank Sinatra. I have also started writing a few new songs. Hopefully I can find another new record within them.
Will you be playing any live shows for the new records?
I am working towards having a live version of The Explorers Club play, as soon as concerts make a comeback.
The Explorers Club and To Sing And Be Born Again are both out now on Goldstar Recordings: thexplorersclub.com
Photographs by Susan Lloyd and Matthew McQueen