We had a chat with rising solo star Liam Bailey about his debut album, the perils of being a ‘pop star’ and feeling intimidated by Thom Yorke…
How would you describe your music for people who don’t know you?
Big people’s music.
You’re supporting Paloma Faith on her forest tour – are you excited?
I’m very excited. I had a brilliant time supporting her on her arena tour, so I’m looking forward to playing the forest dates. I was lucky, to be honest, because the crowds responded really well to my set when I supported her on the arena tour. The music I make is quite eclectic, and I think that the crowds just appreciated all the different aspects of the songs. I can’t wait to support her again.
Your solo music is very guitar-led, but you’ve collaborated with a lot of dance artists – what made you step away from collaborations and make a more guitar-led album?
I wanted to get the album released. That’s the only real reason; if I had carried on doing as many collaborations as I was doing then I would never have finished the album. I adore any music that’s got skill, honesty and soul, so when I was asked to collaborate with my mates – because everybody I’ve collaborated with (like DJ Fresh and Shy FX) is a friend of mine – I found it hard to say no. It’s fun! To be honest, I just realised that I was doing too many collaborations and that I needed to crack on with my solo stuff.
How involved do you get with writing the songs you feature on?
I always help out with the writing. I’ve got a reputation for being a songwriter, so whenever anybody’s looking to collaborate with me that’s usually what they want me to bring to the table.
Are you planning on collaborating with anybody else?
I’ve got a few up my sleeve, but I can’t tell you much more… I’m just more careful with who I collaborate with nowadays. I only work with people I enjoy making music with, because you’re naturally going to write better songs with them.
When can we expect to hear some new music from you?
My debut album Definitely Now is coming out on July 10th. I feel like I could write another one tomorrow, though, if I wanted to… I’ve just got something in me now, and I can’t stop writing songs!
What’s your favourite song from your album?
At the moment it’s So, Down Cold, with Sail With Ease in a close second. I love the strings on Sail With Ease. That’s just the mood I’m in at the minute, though. My favourite song changes a lot… I guess that’s why the album’s so eclectic. It’s like that Paul Weller song – I’m a changing man! I’d just get bored if I did the same thing time and time again.
Was the album easy for you to write and record?
No. I mean, it was easy to write, but the recording process had its challenges. We did it in sections of a week at a time, so overall it only really took about five weeks to record, but it’s been two years since we finished it… It all takes time.
Let’s talk about songwriting – can you talk us through your usual songwriting process?
It’s unpredictable, really. Waiting for a song is like waiting for… You know, I hate this, because it always sound really cheesy when I try to explain this! It’s just a process, really, and it depends on how I’m feeling – if I feel like it, I’ll pick the guitar up and try to get something together on there. Before I know it, there’ll be something coming out of my mouth. From there, I’ll either finish it, or I’ll play it to a mate – like a producer, or my guitarist – and try and get something together with them. Lyrically, I’ll just sit there with a bottle of red wine and see what falls out…
Out of every song you’ve ever written, which is your favourite?
Your Heart’s Not Safe. It was the first song that I ever sat down to write with a different perspective, and a different mindset. I’d never written about things like that before. It was a nice feeling.
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
Oh, wow. That’s hard! I’m gonna say… You know what? Because of the mood that I’m in, I’m going to say You’re A Wonderful One by Marvin Gaye. I just love the guitar riff, and the way that he comes in with the vocal is just amazing. If I had to pick another song, it’d be Guiltiness by Bob Marley. I mean, I’d like to say Waiting Room by Fugazi, but I just don’t think I could’ve written that! I’d have to be on something strong to write a song like that.
What made you want to start making music in the first place?
It’s the same reason why a footballer wants to play football. It’s all about the people you looked up to when you were a kid. I mean, Michael Jackson was my hero when I was four, and I always liked listening to singers. When I realised that music could get you girlfriends and that you didn’t have to go to work, I was all for it! It’s only later on that you realise that you need to choose between being a ‘pop star’ and being a serious artist… Thankfully, I chose to be a serious artist. I think that I’d have been dead by now if I’d decided to be a pop star.
Who’s your ultimate musical icon?
Today, it’s John Lennon. It is most days, to be honest, but it’s always either John Lennon, John Martin or Marvin Gaye. I would say Thom Yorke, but I’m just intimidated by him. If you spend your life trying to emulate Thom Yorke then you’re going to go insane. He’s just too much, and Radiohead are just too much. I’ve never met anybody who’s turned being inspired by Radiohead into something that’s worth listening to for more than three minutes. Never.
Describe yourself in three words?
Honest, alive and hungry.