1. Having now completed two ‘Spirits’ tours, which do you feel met your expectations best?
I enjoyed both tours very much, but maybe this last one in May and June was where it all came together a bit more. I’d learnt a lot on the first tour with Alan, particularly how to handle my own guitar parts a bit better. The latest tour was more concentrated and playing a lot more gigs meant that Julie, Mike and me had the chance to improve as we went along. I loved both tours though – brilliant.
2. There were some changes in this last solo tour, ie one less musician, and switching out Land Of Make Believe and New Horizons for I Dreamed Last Night. How did this affect your pre-tour preparations?
I’d done guitar and voice demo with Alberto of ‘I Dreamed Last Night’ for Mike and Julie and I sketched out a simplified idea of the Peter Knight orchestration. Julie learnt the harmonies that I had done on the original recording, and she transcribed the keyboard part into written form to read from her IPad on stage – voila! We had already rehearsed up “What You Resist…” from the first tour.
3. Did this even more sparing approach simplify or complicate matters compared to the previous tour?
I think it simplified things, although Julie took on a lot more. With Alan’s help she got all the sounds down, and Alan was able to transfer the programmed settings between the two Yamaha Motif keyboards.
I had a bit more to cover as Alan was adding some guitar sounds on his keyboards on the first tour – but it just meant I had to concentrate harder – not a bad thing.
4. Do you have any plans set for a next tour, and if you have, can you give us some idea what you have in mind?
I have been asked to do a load more gigs, and I’m up for it – Let’s see what happens in the next few weeks?
5. Did your Spirits Of The Western Sky CD sell well on the tours?
Eagle Rock tell me it’s been moving solidly. The vinyl seems to have been strong too – do you think that’s a novelty or collectors thing, or will they actually be played? I must get one myself actually – although maybe I don’t have room for a record player!
6. How would you spend the money if you were given an unlimited budget to ‘dress up’ a next solo tour?
I would have more crew on the road if the budget was bigger, that’s all. Steve, David and Karen had a lot do every day and worked really hard – too hard at times.
7. Do you have a sense now which song or songs got the best reception over the two tours?
‘The Western Sky’ and ‘Forever Autumn’.
8. Is there any particular show or venue from either Spirits tour that really stood out for you, and if so, what was it that made it stand out?
The Fox Theatre in Tucson Arizona was magical. Such a nice venue and a fabulous audience. The Troubadour in L.A. was very special too. Sometimes there is kind of mystic feeling in the air, and it was present at both those gigs. But, if we had a bad gig, I don’t remember it.
I’m ready to get back out there now!
9. What do you feel is the most important element in a concert outside of the music-related essentials and chairs?
I know it sounds daft, but to feel welcome at a venue is the most important thing. At some Moodies gigs the backstage is cold and sparse – thankfully the group makes up for it. But a warm reception backstage is always nice.
10. Of the songs you’ve performed from the album thus far, which song has most transformed in the live situation?
I think ‘What You Resist…’. Mike was brave enough to take it on and get it going. I really enjoyed playing rhythm to his lead. Loved it!
11. After much anticipation and waiting, Spirits Live – Live At The Buckhead Theatre will finally be coming out in August on Blu-Ray, DVD, and CD! Are there any events or special promotions planned to accompany the release
Well, all being well, I shall be on the road with The Moodies then. Whoops, should have thought of that.
12. Will Spirits Live be issued on vinyl as well?
Good point – I’ll ask.
13. What else was different in the process of making Spirits Live over previous concert video/audio projects you’ve been involved with?
It was simpler to mix that’s for sure. In fact, I’m not sure Alberto did anything – just put the faders up and let it roll. Steve Chant has done a great guide mix anyway. The Moodies is on 76 tracks so it’s a lot more complicated, but no less enjoyable.
14. Could you tell us a little about the video’s extras?
David Minasian managed to film just about everyone around on a couple of gigs before Atlanta, and backstage during the Buckhead gig. I haven’t seen it all yet, but I’m sure David has it together.
15. Will the song selections be identical for both audio and video versions?
I think so yes.
16. Soon you will be switching gears back to Moody shows, what from your solo tour do you most wish could be done the same way on a Moody tour?
Er…That the drummers could be a bit quieter when we have acoustic songs?
17. Has the purchase of Eagle Rock by Universal had any impact on your previous relationships with either entity
Not that I can see.
18. Your new 12-string seems to be a crowd pleaser by all reports (including your own), how does this one differ from others you have owned?
I wish I could have had the McPherson for the first tour – it’s so true and powerful. Never mind, it’ll be on the next DVD.
19. Did your custom Tom Anderson come home yet?
Yes thanks. Now we have a ‘tour Tom Anderson’.
20. How well do you think Mike Dawes has adapted to this ensemble and playing your songs in this setting?
Mike is one of a new generation of really exceptional guitar players, and he is an absolute joy to play with. He took on the challenge of these songs, and his contribution to the show is immense. I’m a Mike fan.
21. Have you and Mike made any plans to collaborate on anything outside of your tours?
Ah – good thinkin’. Let’s make some.
22. Is it difficult making the transition from driving on the left side of the road in the UK to the right side in
Actually I find it more challenging going back to UK driving sometimes.
23. Do you foresee mounting another US solo tour maybe next year? Was your most recent solo tour more grueling than your 2013 solo tour with all that travel?
I think we were a bit more organized this year. It’s tough sometimes, but I do enjoy it.
24. Did you enjoy playing live with your ‘songwriting guitars’ on this past solo tour for a change? We hope your ‘songwriting guitars’ enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them.
I love playing them. Absolutely love it. I will miss them on the Moodies tour. It was great having a couple of them back home – a bit more worn than they left, but nothing bad at all.
25. What was your inspiration for the song “The Actor”; its heartfelt simplicity still delights.
It’s one of the songs I remember just about every detail of writing, and I can see the little studio flat on the Bayswater road where it was written as clear as anything right now. It was very late one night and the road outside was a bit quieter. I got my acoustic guitar out and just started playing. I had this picture in my mind of the scene of a lonely stage and of an actor playing out his life in front of the whole world. Was it me? I have to say it was a lonely time for me, with a lot of pressure on to come up with songs quickly for a new album, but I remember I was inspired by the girls around me then. At the time I wanted to do a song that was kind of the reverse, in musical form, of ‘Tuesday’. I was drawn to starting with that ‘swing’ guitar phrase and then moving into a normal beat. Originally I had intended to sing the opening flute phrase, but in the studio, when we routined the song, Ray played it and it worked better. It was a very easy session with no dramas. The acoustic guitar was a Yamaha FG140 – not very expensive at the time. I think I still have it somewhere. It played ‘Never Comes The Day’ too. Mike bought one exactly the same on the same day as I got mine.
26. Do you feel video/visual associations make music/a song better or takes away from its intent and pleasure
Sometimes it enhances the music and sometimes not. I think I have been turned on to a song by seeing the video first – but it’s also true that it can detract from the music, if you see it after the song has got to you.
27. What comes to mind recalling the recording of “Question”?
‘Question’ was originally two songs that I combined the night before the session. It just seemed to work going from one song into the other. It was a very quick recording – with very little overdubbing or double tracking. We were deliberately trying to return to a more ‘live’ feel. It was recorded well up front of the rest of the album sessions, on a Saturday morning. The guitar was a Gibson 12.
I think we all knew it was strong and we were confident it would be played.
28. Is there anything you’d like to be asked about instead of the ‘same old’ questions over and over?
I don’t know until I’m asked! But, really every interview is different and I’m just pleased people are interested.
29. What’s it like working with the talented Mike Dawes and Julie Ragins?
Love it! Love it! And they are great road mates.
30. Are you taking it easy for a bit or working on something new at the moment?
No ‘down time’ for me I’m afraid.
31. Do you enjoy attending the opera? What’s your favorite
Nabucco by Verdi.
32. Have you ever given a guitar lesson(s) to anyone?
Not a proper lesson, maybe just some tips.
33. What’s your most responsive guitar?
The two best are my 1963 ES335 and my 1955 Martin D28.
34. What would your friends say they appreciate the most about you?
35. Was the magical “The Western Sky” song a recent composition or had you had it for a long time?
I worked on it for a year or so, but pretty soon after I completed writing it I recorded the voice and guitar that are on the recording.
36. Is there anyone you’d be a bit nervous to meet?
My old headmaster from Commonweal Grammar School , Dr Craig.
37. Do you have to preserve your voice when on tour and have less conversations than usual?
Sometimes it starts to go, or wave bye bye, which is scarey. I have a ‘no talking’ badge to explain that I’m not being rude, just trying not to speak (which is hard on the road).
38. Do you ever listen to your past work and does it ever spark new ideas for new songs?
I rarely listen. Sometimes for so long that I forget the recording. I don’t think they spark new ideas, but I’m so happy to have the chance to revive them and breathe life into them again in a stage version, particularly acoustic. It takes be back.
39. Do you think about the listener when composing as you always create your songs deep enough so that the listener is drawn to listen again and again hearing something new each time?
I sometimes think ’how would this go down’, but then I’ve never written (or completed) a song unless it moves me alone and draws me in. It has to express some truth.
40. Can you remember any of your thoughts around the time of writing “Silverbird” from your “Moving Mountains” album? Did you envision yourself on that cliff, was it?
Jeff Wayne had written the music and set me the task of writing the lyric, which I didn’t find easy, but I loved the track. The video was shot in Cornwall and was directed by a very young student director who found, and suggested those locations. He had a pal with a microlight aircraft and he got him to fly around over the cliffs, sea and fields with a camera always running. I liked the video very much, the shots were brilliant, but the track didn’t get much play – maybe it was a bit too complicated.
41. Your guitar on “The Swallow” is so beautiful, did that song come easily to you?
Thank you. Curiously, it was the only song we did for that album where we actually played together and recoded live. Yes, it did come easily, and the song just kind of jumped out of the guitar, which sadly was stolen a few weeks later when I put it down in the street while I packed some other equipment.
42. Blues guitarist Roy Book Binder said “Your left hand is what you know, your right hand is who you are”, do you agree?