“A delicious piece of piano led pop” was how we described the Albert Man track featured in Emerging #42, and following the release of his stunning debut album – Cheap Suit – he returns to face a Q&A. So read on to find out more about the album, how he’d love to go to Elvis’ comeback special, and the circumstances upon which he’d be a regular Grand National winner…
~ You must be pleased to finally release the album. How long has it taken to write, record, produce, and finally release Cheap Suit?
I am both pleased and relieved! The initial recording session for Cheap Suit took place 11 months before the release date, however after the initial studio sessions there were extra parts added such as additional harmonies, percussion, guitars and other keyboard instruments. So from recording to releasing, we’re talking about 12 months.
The songs were all written before heading into the studio and the album is a collection of songs which I’ve written over a few years so I think my song-writing may have even changed during this time. The oldest song on the album is “Hold On To Your Love” and the most recent is “The Dream Team” which was written just a couple of weeks before heading into the studio. Like I say, some of the songs were from a few years ago so it’s good to finally have them all in one place on the album. I love song-writing so even though the album has just come out I’m already writing new material and hope to collaborate more with other artists in the future.
~ What was the most challenging part when making the album, and what, if any, was the most straight forward bit?
I think marketing the album and generating a buzz or interest around its launch was the biggest challenge. I couldn’t afford any help from a PR company so had to do everything myself as most unsigned artists do. Trying to do videos on a budget, a social media campaign, and getting blog and magazine reviews were all the most challenging aspect, which to be honest is a good challenge to have. I’d rather struggle with that than the music side of things. The most straight forward part of making the album was choosing which songs would go on it. I was very happy to get these recorded, mixed and mastered properly so I could share them with everyone.
~ Are you a perfectionist?
I think so. I need everything to be organised and prepared well in advance. Such as before heading into the studio, I had already created the Pro Tools files with all scratch tracks in place ready to go on the day. I spent a lot of time in the pre-mix stage as well making sure all the parts were spot on before taking it to the mix engineer. I think you have to be well prepared, do a lot of things yourself and ahead of time in order to save you money in the long run too. For example, I wouldn’t want to pay for the vocals to be comped when I can do that myself.
~ If you were appearing on ‘Later with Jools Holland’, which track from the album would you choose to perform?
Probably “Meeting Your Mama”. It’s a fun song about a bit of a hellraiser meeting his mother-in-law to be, and her being a complete liability and worse than him. It’s quite piano heavy and has a solo too so would be good for Jools Holland I think!
~ What’s the best advice you’ve received about making music?
I think the best advice I’ve been given is to do everything yourself. Don’t rely on someone to make your videos, mix your live audio, book gigs for you, or update your website or social media. You have to do it all yourself. You find that you spend much more time on the business and promotion side of things than you do on actually sitting at a piano and writing a tune. If you did only sit and write music all day though, you’d never be heard as you need to get out there networking, performing and learning how to do things for yourself. Also, some other advice I read somewhere was to not give up, everyone has knock-backs so keep persevering and you’ll get better and better and hopefully one day write that hit song that everybody sings in the shower or whistles on their way to work.
~ For someone who is “half-German, half-Mancunian”, how did you end up in London?
I have spent summer holidays and done a few tours with a previous band in Germany, but haven’t done a tour myself yet to share my own music. That’s in the plan though so hope to get there some time soon. I grew up in Manchester and was definitely influenced by the great music scene there. I was happy to play my first gig up there only recently at Night and Day. Funny enough, after studying in London, I came back here because I got a job at BBC Radio & Music working on the Radio and Festival websites. That job may have come in handy now!
~ Are there any other new bands or musicians local to you in London that you recommend we check out?
I would recommend checking out Joe Garvey who is a singer-songwriter I met at a gig and have seen him perform a few times. We have also recently done some co-writing together.
Alex Gibson is another singer-songwriter I’ve bumped into a few times recently at gigs in London. London may be a big city but the music scene is quite small really and if you’re out and about enough you end up seeing the same faces which is always nice. Alex is from Australia and always plays with a huge smile on his face. Actually so does Joe. Perhaps I like smiley performers 🙂
~ If you could collaborate with a famous musician or band, who would it be?
If David Bowie were still alive then I think he’d be my first choice but seeing as you didn’t say dead or alive, I’ll go to another living David B of the Byrne variety. I love Talking Heads and the “Stop Making Sense” concert movie is one of my favourites. He’s collaborated with so many artists that I’m sure I could learn a thing or two! He’s also worked with Brian Eno, as did Bowie, and like Bowie seems to push the boundaries of creativity.
~ If you had a time machine with just one return ticket, which musical decade would you love to travel back to?
I’d travel back to the 60s I think. I’d get to see Elvis’s 1968 comeback special and catch him in a Vegas show before it sadly all started to go a bit south. It was the decade for the Beatles too, perhaps I’d travel to my neighbouring town of Liverpool in 1960 and try and get in the band! The Doors were also prolific in the 60s and I’m a big fan, my Grandad was actually called Jim Morrison too and I was always pleased to tell that to anyone who’d listen. We also had The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Beach Boys.
~ Which actor would you choose to play you in a film about your musical life to date?
I’d go with Taron Egerton, who is a British actor I’ve seen in a few films recently: Kingsman, Eddie The Eagle and Testament of Youth and he’s really good. He can sing as well and he had to learn how to play Chopin for the movie Testament of Youth so I’m sure he’d be fine knocking out a few bars of my songs convincingly. We may have to wait a few more years before we get started on the screenplay – I haven’t even headlined Glastonbury yet!
~ What would you tell your teenage self?
I’d tell him to crack on with the music and get out of his comfort zone. I spent too much time treating music and song-writing as a hobby. I’d also tell him to practice the guitar more than just be able to strum a few simple tunes. I remember my music teacher tried to get me to sing once and I ended up singing badly on purpose so I wouldn’t be chosen for the choir. If I could go back, I’d tell him to sing well at that audition. Oh and to ditch the violin, I spent 10 years going to lessons and I can’t play a note. I’d also tell him a few Grand National winners!!
~ And finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2016?
2016 has been a busy year already which I am very grateful for. Released the album and done more gigs that ever before, and better gigs than I’ve ever done too. I am playing at the Royal Albert Hall in the Verdi Room on the 8th July which I’m excited about. It’s not the main auditorium but who knows what 2017 may hold (fingers crossed).
I’m also playing Jimmy’s Harvest Festival in July, and Chas & Dave will be there so hope I get to meet them, huge fan. From a songwriting point of view, I already have a few new songs which I’m hoping to record soon, and to release as singles rather than as another album or EP, so the turnaround should be quicker. I am always thinking of the next project, my main aim is to collaborate more, go on more songwriting camps and release some songs which have come out of co-writes and that feature different artists. Very excited about that and looking forward to it.