INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Originally from North Yorkshire, but now based in Manchester, Chris Blackwood is an emerging singer-songwriter.
Initially an acoustic soloist, Chris is now more at home delivering an indie rock sound as part of a four-piece, taking influence from a range of both retro and contemporary bands and artists.
The release of recent single ‘The Quiet Elude’ has only heightened the anticipation for the imminent unveiling of his self-titled debut album.
The talented musician discussed this and other things when we chatted recently.
What made you want to become a singer-songwriter?
It’s the only way I can communicate in a way that I believe is right and true. Speech is muddy, and there’s rarely chance to say anything meaningful. Everybody’s talking at the same time. There’s so much information now that we all risk being drowned in irrelevance, but music promises more. It makes the world make sense to me, it puts things into perspective and fights all the things in the world that we’d all wish to eradicate.
Which bands/artists do you take inspiration from?
Mainly The Beatles and Pink Floyd, but these are so ingraining in my subconscious that I will talk more about artists that have influenced me more recently. Pavement are a band that I’ve really started taking influence from, and are one of the main reasons I took the leap from acoustic artist to indie rock singer. Elliott Smith has also been a great artist for my songwriting, his chord patterns are unbelievably beautiful.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
They just pour out most of the time. Most songwriters will tell you the same. You get a fragment, a hint of a song, and you chase it. You come to your senses twenty minutes later and realise you have this fully formed song. Elliott Smith said that songs are pictures and fragments of memory. I agree with that statement.
What serves as inspiration for your lyrics?
I try to put everything I see into my lyrics. It’s a fine line songwriting. You have to put it what you feel, but you’ve also got to put in what you think other people will feel.
However, most of the time, people feel the same kind of things, you’ve just got to get the combination right. You’ve got to remove yourself from the equation and think if someone and think if someone was singing this at me, would I feel and believe it? I don’t expect people to understand everything I say though.
Bob Dylan said in his recent Nobel Prize speech that just because he’d read all these works of literature and put them into his songs didn’t mean people had to read the same reading list, they just had to feel it.
Your self-titled debut album comes out shortly. How has the recording process been?
It’s been fantastic, a real breeding ground for ideas. I had a pretty set idea of what I wanted to sound like, but then, I’d bounce ideas back and forth with Dean Glover, the producer and Ben Robinson, the drummer, who would give new ideas. This resulted in an album that has exceeded my expectations of what it could be, and the soundtrack of my life has been improved vastly.
Dean has a fantastic way of getting to the heart of a song, and making each part into a cohesive whole, while Ben can create a drum part for a song after one run-through. He’s unbelievable, a fantastic musician. He sat through fifteen songs recording tambourine for them in a row over two hours, and he got it perfect every time.
What can be expected from the album?
It’s a portrait of what it is like growing up in the 21st Century. Our generation is young, but we’ve got a lot of spirit. We need more music to reflect that, and I think it’s changing.
When I was at school, all I heard on the radio was a heavily compressed electronic rabble with no emotion and no real feeling. Just demographic grabbing glimpses of music. It’s why I slunk away, listening to older bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd and The Smiths. They all seemed so different, with spectrums of their sound seemingly unavailable to the musicians of the time.
However, recently, I’ve heard some outstanding music. Albums from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Tame Impala and Death Grips. Is hip-hop still the future? It appeals to most people that surround me, I want to dissect it more. I think there’s a lot to learn from it.
Going back to the question, it’s a kind of concept album and a kind of coming of age album. I would like the listeners to discern their own individual meanings from the process of the album itself, it feels wrong to give away all the secrets.
You will be supporting the release with a gig in Manchester next month. How is the experience of playing live for you?
I love playing live. I normally play acoustic, so it’s going to be very different. I prefer playing in a full band though, because when we practice, there is a lot of energy that cannot be achieved with an acoustic guitar.
I want people to enjoy the music and walk away with a piece of my music in them forever. That’s what all the best gigs do, leave an imprint on a person.
What is your long-term aim? What would you like to achieve in the next couple of years?
To keep writing as many songs as possible. They keep pouring out, what’s the point of stopping? I’d like to keep touring the album and get it to as many people as possible.
I’d also like to increase the number of band members, because moving from acoustic guitar to an indie rock four-piece has been very enlightening, and I’d love to extend that further.
THE SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM FROM CHRIS BLACKWOOD WILL BE RELEASED ON AUGUST 11.
FURTHER INFO ON CHRIS CAN BE FOUND AT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.chrisblackwood.co.uk