Tuesday, 31 March 2015
The son of Christian missionaries, McRae is the only member of his family not ordained into the church. Listen to the new record, however, and you’d be forgiven for picturing a ragged itinerant preacher, proclaiming armageddon. According to Tom and his band, the end is always nigh.
Speaking of the departure from his previous, more stripped back albums, Tom says: “as we recorded the album I had the image of the band gathered round a piano in a post-apocalyptic bar, singing our hearts out as the fires rage around us… also handily blocking the exits and stopping the crowd from leaving."
That the album is released on the eve of the UK General election is also no coincidence. "We're sleep walking into a world ruled by oligarchs, where tech giants monitor and exploit our every thought, where governments and banks collude against us, and hyper-caffeinated teenagers design software to destroy any remaining jobs", says McRae, expanding on just some of the record's subject matter. "We're going to need something to sing along to when the shit finally comes down".
Recorded in Wales, Los Angeles, and Somerset this is Mercury and Brit nominated McRae's 7th studio album, and is the follow up to 2013's critically acclaimed 'From The Lowlands".
Did I Sleep And Miss The Border?
1. The High Life
2. The Dogs Never Sleep
3. Christmas Eve,1943
4. Expecting The Rain
5. Let Me Grow Old With You.
6. We Are The Mark.
7. My Desert Bride
8. Lover, Still You.
9. Hoping Against Hope
PLUS Non album single: What A Way To Win A War.
AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER SOON.
Tom wrote and recorded the album in between writing for a host of other artists, including Marianne Faithfull, who describes their song “Love More Or Less" as her favourite from 2014's hit album "Give My Love To London".
Fifteen years since his debut ('Tom McRae Sony/BMG) McRae is an enduring artist, drawing large audiences in the UK and across Europe, and his newly adopted home of France.
With its songs of rage, tenderness and hope, "Did I Sleep And Miss The Border?" marks the return of one of Britain's finest song writers.
Friday, 11 January 2013
I played the festival twice - back in the day - once with my band, and once just me and the cellist known as Oli Kraus. Those heady days of major labels, when it seemed as though anything was possible: reaching a big audience, playing the big festivals, hanging with the stars. So it was that the day before the opening night of the Montreux Festival 2005, Claude Nobs invited me, Oli, my tour manager - the infamous Quinner - and the best front of house sound guy in the world, Johnny Laing, to a party at his chalet, at the top of a mountain over looking the lake.
Now I know I'm a seriously great person to invite to a party. I'll be funny, charming, not fully drunk until the last guest is leaving, I will never play guitar unless begged, and I'm often there to help with the washing up next day, if needed - but even me, in all my awesomeness, assumed this would be a big shindig that only politics told me it would be good to attend. I was still ambitious in those days and I knew how to network. Sure I'd be one among hundreds, but what the heck, free drink is free drink.
So I went. Getting out of the limo at Claude's place I was instantly aware that there was only one other car - and getting out of that was The Corr family. Not a big party then, just me and The Corrs, and two others... oh yes, that's Shania Twain over there, with her then husband - Mutt Lange.
So just us then. An informal do. And I'd put on my best jacket. Only jacket.
What followed is one of my most bizarre memories of those days - and sadly for you, I'm not going to reveal many details of the night, partly because some things are just for me, but mainly because The Corrs have really good lawyers. Suffice to say that Claude Nobs brought together, in one room, a group of people whose paths probably would never have crossed (except perhaps the worst episode of Later ever). During a night of amazing hospitality, I sat opposite at dinner, then played pool and fell in love with Andrea Corr (it's not optional, she's funny, smart, and not perhaps what her music would lead you to surmise)... argued, hugged and became best pals with the man who produced AC/DC's Back In Black, Mutt Lange, and almost talked Shania Twain into covering one of my songs. Almost. And let's not forget they co-wrote "still the one"... and if you don't think that's a great pop song, don't even try and get on my raft when the big wave hits. Mutt even said he'd come and see me play the next night, which is something everyone says, and never does. But I was flattered anyway.
It's rare that you ever see big stars relaxed, when you see them from back stage at festivals or tv shows, or after show parties, they are always "on". Aware of the camera, the audience, the critic. But that night, we were hammered. Maybe it was the mountain air. Or maybe the cocktails before dinner - but make no mistake, it was a case of quiet sound checks for all the next day. Alright, mine don't really get loud, especially when it's just me and Oli K. But you take my point.
The Corrs jammed in the music room downstairs, Johnny Laing played the world's greatest theremin solo, then we all sat and watched unseen footage of Nina Simone from the festival years before. We sat in awed silence watching what only people who had been at that show had seen, a woman possessed, playing great song after great song, the darkness (and heroin) oozing out of her. I can't have been the only one who left that home cinema changed for life.
The night ran on, the next day's festival show was great, I was presented with flowers by Claude - always nice, and Mutt Lange was as good as his word, he sat there from the first note to the last, and said nice things afterwards.
SO farewell, Claude, I can't say I knew you well, but you were a fine host, you always threw great parties, the rooms we stayed in overlooking the lake are logged in my rock'n'roll memory bank for when I'm staying in a Travel Lodge off the M40, and need a better view to call up from my past. But more than that, you started one of the greatest festivals in the world, where you would be guaranteed to see great acts, big and small, but none of them would be the safe, obvious choices that make the modern festival circuit look like the same old boring Radio One playlist. And to die, at 76, after a skiing accident - well, that's pretty rock'n'roll. Here's to you.
Thursday, 30 August 2012
As I prepare to send my new record into the ether, zeroes and ones on a digital breeze, I thought I'd write a few words about it, and why part two of The Alphabet of Hurricanes brings to an end a style of writing to which I don't think I'll be returning in a long time, if ever.
Alphabet of Hurricanes was, in my head at least, a double album. But record companies don't like double albums for lots of reasons, so the idea was to break the release into two parts. But as is becoming usual for me, I parted company with the label, and the idea of the record got shelved, along with the recordings I'd already made.
I was busy making plans, then a bit of life got in the way and changed my world... and after 23 years of living in London and other bustling cities, I packed up and moved to the west country. Don't ask me why, I've no idea how I ended up here, I just got in the car and drove until it felt right. It felt right in the lowlands of Somerset.
One of my new neighbours helped me convert an old boiler shed in my garden into a little music room ( I have about as much sense of DIY as I do of rhythm) and I went to work. After the 2010 tour with the band, I wanted to get straight back to work on a record that I could take on the road with them again, a record with songs written specifically with those players in mind, with a different approach musically and lyrically to anything I'd done before. That record, made in Wales earlier this year, will hopefully be out next year. Best to say hopefully with anything I do these days. But still the idea of Alphabet pt 2 wouldn't go away.
I kept returning to that melancholy set of songs. The subject matter had been gnawing at me for a while, some of the memories I thought might be better swept under the carpet kept resurfacing, and when songs keep calling it's polite to at least pick up the phone. Consider this fair warning then, that "From The Lowlands", is as the title suggests, not the happiest of records. I know, I know... I don't make happy records. I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to apologise, but my way of celebrating life is to acknowledge it's brevity and fragility, preferably in A minor.
These songs are resolutely more intimate, darker, and more delicate than anything I've done. It's over 25 years since I wrote my first proper (and properly bad) song, people often call it singer-songwriter music. I'm not sure I know what that means, but I write them, and sing them, so I can't fault the logic.
A relatively late addition to this album is my version of Sloop John B, which I recorded for Mojo Magazine earlier this year. It seemed to fit the overall mood of the album, with its maritime flavour and sad, salty refrain (at least the way I did it, obviously) so I've included it here. There's a full track listing below.
Songwriting is a strange obsession for me. I return to forms and subject matter time and again, desperately trying to get them right before I can move on, trying to get them to do what I imagine they're capable of when I first write them. I want to simplify or reduce some songs to their most basic essence, so that they become a pure, direct form of communication. As an occasional whiskey (and whisky) drinker, that attraction to the distillation process is probably only to be expected. So this, then, is my single barrel, own label, aged for 42 years, McRae Special Reserve. Please enjoy responsibly.
Hopefully you've already seen the teaser trailer for the new record - it's some footage I shot of a buzzard near my house. I've been living here for 2 years now, but I'm still fascinated by these big birds of prey. They were endangered once, now they're so numerous, certain groups want them culled. As a male singer-songwriter, I can empathise. I also love that the collective noun for buzzards is "wake". For a record like "From The Lowlands", that feels appropriate.
From The Lowlands is available to order here: www.tommcrae.com
Lately's All I Know
Nothing On The Dry Land
Sloop John B
Belly Of A Whale
Fuck You, Prometheus
From The Lowlands
Ship Of Blue And Green
All That's Gone
The Alphabet of Hurricanes
The solo tour starts in October, full dates and ticket links are here:
See you then.... Tom