INTERVIEW: Badly Drawn Boy
Badly Drawn Boys makes his Shiiine On debut in November and he will certainly be one of the weekend’s highlights. We caught up with him to find out what’s been happening and what he has in store…
Hi Damon, how are you mate?
Yeah, not bad. Thanks.
It’s been over two years since your last album was out, what have you been getting up to in that time?
I can’t even believe two years has passed If I’m honest. Since our beloved pandemic that we’ve had, the years seem to be shorter than ever. 2020 and 2021 just seemed to fly by. Because the album came out right in the middle of the first lockdown, it was a bit of non-event. It was kind of like anyone that had a record due out around that time had to make a decision of stalling the release, or just go ahead with it. And I suppose nobody knew what the best thing was to do. I think a few people thought maybe there was a captive audience because everyone was at home, but it was stupid to try and second guess, I just wanted to get the record out because I was sick of it haha!
Life’s been turned up upside down in a lot of ways in the last couple years, I’ve got two older kids who are 21 and 20, and now I’ve got Ruben who is five just turned, and Rhenn who was one in June. And my brother died last July. So, since my brother died, I’ve just not felt like doing much at all. I just felt like getting through.
My brother would have loved this line up of bands. He was three years older than me, and a big influence on my musical taste and bands. He was so proud of me and my achievements but if anything, he was bigger music person than me. So, this festival for him would’ve been a brilliant, because the line up is so strong.
I was thinking about this because you could easily perceive this kind of festival to be a bit of a nostalgia thing. I’ve almost seen it criticized from that angle as well. I don’t see it that way anyway. I feel very current. There’s a lot of acts on the bill that are still current as well. Still making new music. At the minute I’ve got more songs ready to go than I’ve ever had in my career.
So, with all the songs that you’ve got ready you’ve got ready is the plan to do another album?
Yeah. For the last 12 months I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to make another record. It might sound dramatic but going back to what I said a minute ago with the last two years pandemic, someone like me and other artists like me, you tend to be sensitive souls and the way the world’s so difficult, I’ve found it hard to find a place. I’ve questioned myself as whether I can do it from the perspective of, “is there a career still left in music”? I’m fortunate that I’ve been around long enough to have a fan base of sorts and I’m an established artist. So, it’s kind of easier for me than it is for people starting out, I suppose. I suppose I’ve spent so much time pontificating about it rather than just getting on with it. I’ve got so many options open to me in terms of who I could work with, but I’m almost a bit scared to dive into making a record because I know how hard it is to get it right.
I’ve got hundreds of songs that need finishing. I’m desperate to make a new record because I want to emphasize that I’m still a current artist and that I’m to prove to myself that I’m still good at this. I’m just searching for the right collaborator. And I haven’t put the feelers out properly yet, there are a few people in mind. As a solo artist as well you really rely on whoever it is you collaborate with because I haven’t got band members that I bounce ideas around with that.
Did you get to get out and play your last album live, or due to COVID was it not possible?
No, I did a few gigs in January of 2020. I got a band together and we did a couple of shows at The Roundhouse in London and Leeds Warehouse. Two really good gigs. And it was around that time that everyone was talking about what is this COVID thing was, so we were about to announce a bit of a UK tour and then but in the end we didn’t even get to announce it because it became clear it wasn’t worth it. It’s just part of the catalogue now for me, it’s not like I want to go out and tour that record. I’d rather make a new one and do that with a new one. If I can, I’ll still play the songs from it like when I play shows like this festival. Obviously, you tend to try and play the ones people are going to know and that’s fine by me. When I do a solo show, I play like two hours anyway. So, an hour and a half with a 20-minute Encore or something. So, I’m used to playing songs from all across my catalogue, but if I get a 45-minute slot or a 30-minute slot. I don’t know how long I’m going to get at Shiiine for example,
Best part of an hour!
Well, an hour is a decent slot.
It’s a great line up on the day you are playing, you’re Main Stage alongside Tim Burgess, St Etienne and Teenage Fanclub. Will you be sticking around to watch any other acts?
Oh yeah, definitely. I was just looking at the line up earlier. Teenage Fanclub and Tim are great. And Martin Carr is an interesting character as well! For me, that run of bands is something I’m really honoured to be in the midst of. Tim’s a friend, I met him in LA when I was doing a band and we hung out quite a lot then, and I I’ve seen him a few times since, we’re kind of in touch with one thing and another. I’d love to watch Teenage Fanclub. The last time I saw them was in Australia at a festival I did with them, but it’ll be between 15 to 20 years ago I think. I’ve kind of been in touch with Norman via Twitter. I’ve commented on a few things and he’s DM’d me. They’re one of the bands I’ve talked about as unsung heroes for me. Just proper songs and melody and harmony. They’re one of my favourites of all time. There are other bands on the line up like The Real People, their first album was one of my favourites.
As you mentioned earlier, the majority of the artists who are playing are still knocking out brilliant songs and great music….
I think you’re bang on. It’s like Bob Dylan, he could have been playing this place, that place and people would had written him off. But he’s still there writing new stuff now. I mean, I wouldn’t liken myself to him, I wouldn’t be that ostentatious, but I’d like to think I’m an artist that can be around that long. In the last several years I’ve had tough changes in my life but I’m always going to be someone that writes new music. And I think a lot of the artists on the bill are the same. They are still going, still doing stuff.
Before you get to Shiiine you’re going on tour with The Lightning Seeds. How do you find opening up for a band as opposed to your own headline gigs?
Doing support is something for a long time I managed to avoid. I suppose I hit the ground running with my career, starting my own label and then getting offered gigs from what was putting out. I was immediately on tours from almost before the first album came out; I was doing the shows of my own. It’s not that I was never not open to doing support slot, I just never had the need to at the time. But I’ve done it a few times, I toured with The Beautiful South a few years which was interesting and I supported Beck too. That’s about it really, I think.
So, I haven’t done a lot of it. But I feel like the older I’m getting, I’m not very precious about it and I’m always me when I’m turn up to a show. I don’t care if it’s my audience or it’s not. Ian Broudie contacted me and my management and put the idea in our heads. I wasn’t so sure at first, because I wondered will people think it’s a bit of an odd combination? But I don’t know how to perceive myself, let alone someone else and the combination of the two bands, but I thought it sounds interesting. Ian is such an underrated songwriter. He had a few big hits and his back catalogue beyond that is really interesting as well. He’s just got a new record coming out as well. So, I just thought it would be really interesting. It seems to have been received well and it’s just before Shiiine so at least I’ll be relatively…
Yeah. Hopefully haha! So, I just did a show maybe four weeks ago and I was as nervous as I’ve ever been in my career because I felt like it was proper starting again. But after three, four shows, I felt like I was doing really well. I was quite proud of myself so I’m a little bit gutted there isn’t much going on between now and Shiiine and this Lightning Seeds tour. I might have to pencil a few little shows in before then.
Since you’ve stopped drinking how has that affected playing live – are you more nervous without having a drink before you go on, or is it better?
I don’t know. I think it’s like anything, there’s equal parts, good and bad. It’s great that I know I’m sober and I can remember stuff and no hangovers is pretty good. The first gig I did after I gave up the booze was the end of 2015. I had a few shows booked in way before I knew I was going to stop the booze. I was booked to play a bear festival in Prestwich near Mark E Smith’s old house. I’d given up the booze for two, three months at that point and it was a room full of people getting absolutely slaughtered. I was playing after a few Comedians and a few other singer songwriters and it was like, “oh my God”! It wasn’t tough because I wasn’t drinking, it was just tough because you were watching a room full of other people getting annihilated. I was just getting more and more nervous, like, “is this even going to work”? Then when I came on, it was like a really brilliant attentive audience. So, I got away with it and that was a learning curve straight away of how to do a gig in a different way than I’d been used to.
Finally, the Mercury Prize list has recently been released. As a former winner, are there any of the artistes there you like?
To be honest, I haven’t really seen the list. All I heard is a few people griping on about Harry Styles being nominated and about there not being enough representation of female artists on the production side of these albums. People are always saying stuff like, “oh no, one’s interested in The Mercury”, it’s like people slide it off until they’re on the list and then it’s the best thing ever. I think The Mercury still at least attempts to serve a purpose of highlighting a diverse selection of artistes and perhaps at least a few that otherwise don’t get a look in. I think when I won it and other years up to then it hadn’t been right. By 2000, it was quite established, but it was still in its infancy compared to now. It felt more organic and natural.
Nice one Damon, thanks for your time, see you in November!
And you thanks a lot, mate.