AIDEN Grimshaw is out on tour supporting the release of his debut album Misty Eye and plays the Roadmender in Northampton this weekend.
The record is the result of two years of writing and recording following Grimshaw’s appearance on The X Factor in 2010.
Speaking about his time on the show, he said: “I didn’t really know what I wanted from it. I love music, and I knew I could sing, but I didn’t think I was X Factor material.
“I’d been given this opportunity and I didn’t want to waste it.”
After the X Factor Grimshaw signed to RCA.
Grimshaw’s debut album was recorded with songwriter producer Jarrad Rogers, who has previously worked with the likes of Lana Del Rey and Tinchy Stryder.
Grimshaw plays on Saturday, September 22.
Doors open at 7.30pm and tickets cost £11.50 in advance.
Supporting Grimshaw at the Roadmender is Seye, described as one of the most exciting of the new wave of African-influenced pop stars.
Seye released his critically acclaimed White Noise in April, was signed by Mercury Records and has toured with Lana Del Rey, Emeli Sande and Paloma Faith.
He also shared a stage with Damon Albarn and Paul McCartney on the recent Africa Express tour.
Q: It’s been an amazing summer for you, hasn’t it? Signing to Mercury, playing loads of festivals and topped off by going on Damon Albarn’s Africa Express Train Tour.
A: I’m just back from the Africa Express tour, and I’m literally eating a greasy spoon breakfast right now - I felt I had to do something very very English. But it was unbelievable - probably the best creative experience I’ve ever had, and one of the best social experiences I’ve ever had too. It was inspiring, fun and really quite challenging too. Often I’d get taken aside by someone asking me to play bass for them. I’d go “cool, when are you on?” - and they’d say, “er, 15 minutes”. So you had to learn the part quickly, run up on stage and just do it.
Q: And you played with Paul McCartney.
A: Yes. Damon pulled me aside a couple of days before the London show and told me I needed to learn a couple of Wings songs. I didn’t really know why, but the day before it was confirmed that the man himself was going to come down. It didn’t really hit me until he turned up. I was talking to someone else and saw him come in the room - I had to turn away because I was so starstruck. But it was fantastic. That’ll always be my comeback from now on: ‘yeah, but have you played with Paul McCartney?’
Q: A lot of people went to Africa Express who perhaps wouldn’t usually find themselves listening to music from or inspired by that continent’s sounds. There’s a real upsurge of interest in African music, isn’t there?
A: Yeah, we’ve seen it this year in the charts. D’Banj, a fellow Nigerian, made it into the top 10 with Oliver Twist. Wizkid and Ice Prince are now touring here, doing big shows. Africa Express was pretty much sold out the entire way, so it feels like things are bubbling up. And that’s what I hope to be a part of, a future Afro movement which can do something like Paul Simon did in the 1980s - bring African music to a world stage where it can’t be ignored.
Q: Graceland by Paul Simon is a really key record for you, isn’t it?
A: It was unique. When he recorded Graceland, there was no internet, no Spotify or whatever, where people could easily check out a song and see whether they liked it. So that meant not many people actually knew what music from South Africa sounded like. There was all the apartheid stuff going on, which made it a controversial but nevertheless intriguing record. People hadn’t heard a western pop artist playing with African instrumentation before - they might have come across some of the rhythms, but this had lyrics they could understand. It was a mixture of the familiar and the alien that gelled so well.
Q: Which is, maybe, a bit like your music; there’s all sorts of elements of chart pop, dance, garage, African rhythms and melodies in there.
A: Yeah. We don’t want it classed as ‘world music’, or to be on specialist radio shows on stations you have to seek out and find. Trying to get it into public consciousness so it simply becomes music should always be the key. See, I genuinely believe people do want something a bit different. They’ll listen to bog standard pop because it’s easy but the music that really hits home, that lasts, that means something, is the stuff which does sound different. And I think you can have a pop sensibility, make songs which are catchy and which people can sing along to and still have that quirkiness. That’s the music which is valuable in the end.
Q: Which brings us onto Mexicana Bounce, your new single.
A: We were randomly doing this jam, singing the line “a break up... in a Mexican joint” over and over. So then it expanded into the story of this guy who thinks he’s going to a Mexican restaurant to split up with his girlfriend, but just thinks, “forget that, let’s just go out and have a good night.” That’s the Paul Simon influence again in that we did want to channel something of Graceland into Mexicana Bounce: the verses are quite abstract and very lyrical but the chorus is quite straight - something you can recognise and sing along to. Mexicana Bounce has a really infectious electronic sound and yet your acoustic covers of Bat For Lashes and Emile Sande have got quite a following on YouTube.
Q: Where do you feel most comfortable?
A: Well, I write on the guitar, and most of my ideas start that way before we start adding things to the riffs and melodies. I love Ryan Adams and when I was younger I tried to write songs like his, but to be honest they were pretty dreary. The stuff I really really love makes me happy - so I tend to gravitate towards writing songs like that. That’s not to say that every song on the debut album will be relentlessly “up”. Hopefully there’ll be stuff that’ll make you think - it’s not just about partying.
Q: You wouldn’t have noticed a love of Ryan Adams from Mexicana Bounce. But then, you have some really interesting guilty pleasures, don’t you...
A: I love 1980s music, man. I love Deacon Blue. I’m a Real Gone Kid. I was 14 or something, and I saw the video for that on VH1. And it made me so freakin’ happy, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And as I got older, I got into more of their stuff, YouTubing old concerts and so on. It’s not all great but they are really under-rated songwriters. I’ve got a lot of time for them.
Q: You’ve supported Emeli Sande this year, and in some ways you’ve followed a similar path; both of you have made a career making or playing music with other people before releasing your own material. Are there benefits to that approach?
A: I always wanted to make my own music. But I didn’t know how to go about it so instead I offered my services to other people as a guitarist or bass player - either live or in the studio. I knew I wanted to make a living through music basically, and if that meant playing songs for Ellie Goulding or The Noisettes, that was fine. And it’s been an amazing journey, playing to hardly anyone in a tiny indie venue to playing for Paloma Faith. I’m so grateful for it because if I’d started out playing my own stuff straight from school it would have been a disaster. I wasn’t ready.
Q: What did you learn?
A: Well, it taught me a lot about playing with other people, how managers and labels work, who to stay close to, who to avoid, how venues and touring works. I must have stayed in every Travelodge in the country. Basically it laid all the foundations I needed before going off and doing my own thing. The only thing I needed really was my own songs. And it’s been a complete joy to play with all these people. I mean, I’ve even got Paloma’s dove insignia tattooed on my neck.
Q: What was the one thing you’ll really take from all those experiences?
A: Well, that to be successful takes time, that you have to build a fanbase. But most of all that it’s often the bits in between the songs which really define you. A lot of the time you go and see a band and you can see the musicians are giving it everything but the singer is really aloof. He doesn’t say thank you. Or if he does, he doesn’t mean it. I’ve got no time for any singer who thinks they’re too cool to look like they’re enjoying what they’re doing. It’s important to be personable, to have a rapport. After all, these people have come to see you.
Q: And hopefully more and more people will come and see you after the new single.
A: Absolutely. The next six months are going to be really exciting. I’m hoping that the connections I made on Africa Express will mean I can do some good collaborations, we’re working on the live show, I want to expand my band... and then there’s the album. Getting that ready to go is the main thing - I can’t wait for it to be finished and for people to hear it.