Arts

Elbow frontman Guy Garvey brings his solo show to Belfast

Guy Garvey is best known as the frontman of Mercury Prize-winners Elbow. While the Manchester indie band are working away on their seventh album, Garvey is still playing gigs to tour his first solo LP – and he's on his way to Belfast this weekend. He talks to Brian Campbell

Guy Garvey plays a solo gig in Belfast on Sunday

GUY Garvey is the lead singer of Elbow, a popular radio presenter on BBC 6 Music, an entertaining and chatty man to speak to and now a solo star in his own right.

Having released the superb album Courting the Squall last October, the Bury-born singer with Irish roots is heading to Belfast this weekend, performing with a brass section, Pete Jobson of I Am Kloot on guitar, Nathan Sudders of The Whip on bass and Alex Reeves on drums.

Hi Guy, what are you up to today?

I just came up to Manchester from London this morning, I’ve been writing with Elbow all day and later I’m off to see my mum for tea.

When will the new Elbow album be out?

It should be out early next year. The stuff we’re working on is really exciting. [Drummer Richard] Jupp has left the group, unfortunately, so it’s taking a different road, because there’s one less person in the room. That changes the dynamic straight away. It’s coming through at the moment as quite an ornate mood album and less rock, which makes sense having lost a drummer.

Congratulations with Courting the Squall. After recording six albums with Elbow, was it an interesting experience to put out and tour a solo record?

Yeah, the live stuff has been very interesting and the whole project has been interesting. I wanted to test myself and I also wanted to make a record quickly. The guys I worked with are people I’ve known for a long time and always wanted to work with, so it was a joy from start to finish. While being recognisably me and while my contributions to Elbow can be heard on there, I did want to work on some different-sounding music. It’s drawing a lot more on my Afrobeat influences and I really wanted to use a brass section because I love brass. If I could play anything, it would be the trumpet. It was a lovely record to make.

What did your Elbow bandmates make of it?

When the guys came to see the gigs they were full of compliments – and I can tell when they’re lying. I hadn’t done a project like this without the boys before. They’ve gone and done stuff they wanted to do too and now we’re back together and writing again. I really appreciate having the lads’ opinions again, because the only downside to working on your own is that you don’t have an immediate sounding board.

Was it funny to see your record getting to number three in the album charts, just behind Rod Stewart and an orchestral Elvis album?

That’s right, it was Elvis, Rod Stewart and me – quite a triumvirate. I must admit, it was a little frustrating being beaten to number one by a man that’s been dead for nearly 40 years.

Are you a fan of any particular albums by other lead singers who have put out solo releases?

Thom Yorke’s first one, The Eraser, was just stunning. And I love Peter Gabriel’s solo work, particularly So (1986), which has been a massively influential record. That album has really stood the test of time. Then there’s Bjork’s stuff, of course, post Sugarcubes.

Was Prince a big influence?

He was. The album that came to mean the most to me was Around the World in a Day (1985), which is a brilliant piece of work. I love the song Condition of the Heart. I’m sure he contributed in some way to Elbow’s sense of the dramatic.

Are you looking forward to your Belfast gig this weekend?

I really am. I’ll always remember when I came over to Belfast with the rest of Elbow [in 2007] to help open the Oh Yeah Centre and Snow Patrol were there too. The Snow Patrol boys are notorious party animals, so we had a really heavy one that night. We stayed in a hotel and the next morning we were kicked out of our rooms at about 11am and we had a couple of hours to kill. So we were sat in this hotel bar/restaurant and we looked around and everybody else in the room had something really strange about them. One guy’s hair was bizarre, there was a small child in a spangly tuxedo and everybody looked just really strange. I thought, `It’s just me’ and I put my head back, looked up at the ceiling and there was a playing card stuck to it. I just went, `Lads – we’re at a magicians’ convention!’ and that’s what it was. They really were all weirdos. I’m particularly uncomfortable around magicians. I’m like, `Why do you want to fool people for a living?’

Will you be encouraging the Belfast crowd to get involved and to sing along on Sunday night?

Of course. We don’t play any Elbow tunes, so it’ll only be for people who know the songs on my album. But you lot all know how to sing, so it always sounds bloody great.

One huge singalong at every Elbow gig is One Day Like This. Is it surreal to see how massively popular that song has become?

It is. It became the national anthem over here for a while. It’s a lovely thing. I constantly run into people who say they got married and walked down the aisle to it, which is ridiculously flattering.

The Courting the Squall album cover has a striking photograph of you on it – were you happy with the finished product?

I was but it was a bit disconcerting seeing my head on all the merchandise. It was an interesting photo shoot because I was really rancidly hungover at the time. A couple of days later, I was emailed the photographs and the photographer – who is brilliant – had got rid of pockmarks and stray hairs, but I told her to leave it as it was. Although when I saw the ear hair that I hadn’t known about I did get her to remove that. There’s realism and then there’s ultra-realism!

Guy Garvey plays the CQAF marquee in Custom House Square in Belfast on Sunday from 8pm. For tickets (£20), visit cqaf.com. Courting the Squall is out now (guygarvey.com)

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access