Miss Fliss 15/02/2009
Roddy Breaks his 'Silence'
We joined the Idlewild frontman in his solo guise which is in currently in collaboration mode, joined as he is by folk luminary John McCusker and the Orcadian singer songwriter Kris Drever. It's to a packed and extremely excitable crowd in Cambridge that the trio performed just after this interview took place. Roddy seemed in really generous, easeful mood and talked in depth with GIITTV's deputy editor Fliss Collier about the folk music scene, his experiences as a solo artist, being a father on tour, and he also dropped some exclusive (and ecstatic!) news about future Idlewild plans. John McCusker had some valuable contributions to make, giving us his perspective on Idlewild as a fan, working with Teenage Fanclub, and what it is that drew him to folk music and how he feels this time old genre of music is received in modern times.
Just to get the obligatory Idlewild questions out of the way… Roddy, you've gone from the early days where you would roll around on the floor and scream to a quiet folk thing all very civilised and grown up, and I was just wondering how you feel about how you've grown up personally and musically?
Roddy: Well, I mean it's not like a conscious thing. It's not like I thought: 'Right, okay, I'm 25 now or whatever and I'm not gonna be playing rock music anymore. It was much more natural than that. And, yeah, I'm 32 now, I think that I make music that befits my age somewhat. To be still rolling on the floor now would be terribly depressing - for the audience as well as me. So, yeah, I'm quite glad now. It's just evolved really naturally. There's nothing pre-meditated about it, I've always been a fan of folk music. I felt comfortable singing along to acoustic guitars quite early on, much more so than loud rock guitars, which are quite hard. It's quite limited the different melodies and things you can try with that, sort of a certain style, a certain formula. So I've been quite keen to try different kinds of music. I've been meeting up with John [McCusker] since about four of five years ago and it was great, it gave me a direction to go in. and now it's just great.
There was always a folky tinge to Idlewild as well. But did the other band members veer away from that - are you more folky than they are?
Roddy: They're not folky at all [laughs]. I mean, Rod the guitar player, he's interested in lots of different kinds of songwriting, and he's definitely keen to do different stuff, and he does his own stuff as well. And, to be honest, most of the Idlewild songs are written between me and him. The other guys are just happy being in a rock band, which is cool, 'cos I think we're a very good rock band when we're playing, so it works out for everyone.
What are the different challenges?
Roddy: I don't think of it in terms of challenges. You're expressing yourself, and if you're doing it honestly… See, I don't really make a division between folk music and rock music. It's just good songs. Itdoesn't need to be put into genres.
The Idlewild sound got a bit folky with the last three albums, but do you see going solo and working with other people as a better vehicle?
Roddy: Yeah. I mean, I'm not really interested in doing that kind of songwriting with Allan and Gareth and Colin. And they wouldn't be interested either, so it works out best for both of us. It means I can go and do my own thing.
And what do the band get up to when you're doing your own thing?
Roddy: Well, Allan plays in a metal band. They're pretty extreme. Gareth plays with a bunch of other people in Glasgow. Colin doesn't do anything, just goes surfing and looks after his little boy. Rod's doing other stuff as well. But we're doing another Idlewild record.
And just one more Idlewild question - you did five nights in Glasgow of all your albums. Would you do that in London or as a national tour?
Roddy: We're doing three nights in London in May. And that'll be the end of it, 'cos I feel it's a weird thing. The good thing about a gig is it's a mix, it's different moods, and you're just going on stage and playing an album straight from start to finish - there's a novelty aspect which is great for fans, but if you carry on doing it, you'll kill it.
The new album you've done with Kris Drever and John McCusker mentions the sea fondly - have you ever spent time on or near the sea?
Roddy: I grew up beside the sea, in Carnustie. And I've spent a lot of time on islands. It's such a big part of my life. And I think it's a great idea in songs, emotions, and it's perfect for metaphors. And Kris is from the Orkney Islands, he doesn't like to be too far away from the sea.
John, could you explain how you met Roddy and came to work together?
John: I'd known Roddy from years and years ago - I'm still a huge Idlewild fan. And then there was a charity concert for the tsunami when I was with a group called Teenage Fanclub and Idlewild were playing, and we hung out after. And Roddy expressed an interest in doing a solo record and working together. I think lots of things start with friendship. I mean, me and Kris met in the pub and then ended up making a record and that was years and years ago. So you meet people and have a drink and out of that comes ideas, and you keep in touch and become pals. And that ended up how we made 'My Secret is My Silence' [Roddy's first solo album, which John produced and co-wrote songs for].
R: The intention is always to do good work. It's not to be famous, although obviously you want to make a living out of it and tour. But first and foremost is to do a good solid body of work that you're proud of.
J: And the music we're involved in is such a friendly scene. You meet great folk at festivals and you want to hang out with them and work with them. That's how this happened. We were fans of each other's music. It was very organic. And fun. I think you get to a stage in your career and you want to do something that inspires you. We've all had years slogging on the road, and there comes a point where you want to hang about with people that inspire you and have fun. It's about keeping things as fresh and exciting as possible. You learn from every project.
Do you find the folk scene friendlier than the indie scene?
J: They're completely different. I grew up playing the fiddle and doing Irish dancing but I was listening to Dinosaur Jnr as well. The two ran side by side in my life.
R: I think the new generation of people that play folk music are all like that. A broad selection of music. And I think that's why a lot of new folk music is so original and quite exciting. They're keeping the old traditions alive but doing it in their own way.
Check back next week for Part Two of our exclusive Roddy Woomble interview!