Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interview with Ed Harcourt

Interview with Ed Harcourt, September 27th at the 9:30 Club

Alas, equipment failure prevents me from offering a full transcription, but my memory and notes are both pretty good… well at least my memory. So here are Ed Harcourt’s answers paraphrased and filtered through me.

So, your thoughts of life on the road…

It is dreadful, very tiring and demanding. Of course the shows are great, but the rest of it as you know is drudgery. I have been across America a few times and all over Europe.  I have a wife and two-year old daughter now so that makes it especially tough. I am going to have some “making up” to do when I get back from this and the European shows. It was nice getting in early yesterday and seeing some of the sites since there is a lot to see here in Washington DC. We had dinner at a nice restaurant and caught the Eels show at this club, which was excellent. They are a very creative band with lots of variation in their sound.

So do you like to watch and listen to other music when you can?

Oh yeah, as much as I can. I have been listening to a lot of classical music lately, Brahms most recently. But I go through pretty varied phases. I might do a death metal phase for instance.

Does listening to other music ever interfere with your own songwriting or can it be positive?

It does not really interfere with my songwriting. Songwriting is a constant for me and I do not get conflicted. I do enjoy listening to a wide variety of music and it fits comfortably in with my own musical endeavors.

Tell me about your band, how you found them, what they bring to your sound, etc.

Raife Burchell on drums has been a friend for many years. I have gone through so many drummers and I finally just asked him to help out. Both he and Ashley Dzerigian on bass played on the album. Raife and I have been mates for so long, we can really argue at times, but that’s how it goes. I trust his abilities. With Ashley there was just a sense that she really captured the atmosphere of what we were trying to do. I can’t even explain it, but it’s more of a feeling from her playing, which goes for Raife as well. It is just something you know when you hear it.  (We go on to discuss at length that the band was successful with a good variety of songs and that these two are a great fit for his songs).  The set was a bit deep and dark tonight, but we had a few lighter cuts that hopefully offset that.

Have you varied band sizes before?

Oh yeah, we were an eight-piece band recently. I worked with my wife of the Langley sisters and others. It is good to have a variety of musical combinations.

You toured with the Gutter Twins. Was that fun or a bit crazy?

Oh, great. Greg and Mark and I are complete friends now. They are great guys, a great band. Greg and I talk regularly. And of course there were the challenges of being on the road again. In fact, getting back to the road, I got the call from my wife while I was sitting with Greg, Mark and a few others of the band. She asked if I was sitting down, I said yeah, what’s that about. So she tells me the big news of her pregnancy, which of course was amazing as I shared it with everyone. I found it interesting that here we are in this little room backstage, former junkies and cokeheads going forward with our lives.

I read that you have played with a lot of interesting people, but were a bit nervous with Patti Smith…

Oh yeah, I mean because she is such an icon. But it was great. She invited me up to play piano on “Pissing in a River”.  (I mention that she was about the most nervous performer I had seen on this stage a few years back, because she was a bit out of practice I think, but was great and was curious if he gets the usual stage nerves) Oh yeah, I am nervous before every show, but it’s the healthy kind of nerves that most people get right before they go on.

And finally, has the switch from an EMI label to a much smaller label pushed a bit more business on to you in these days of new business models?

It really is not too different for me as my manager is great at taking care of things. So not too much has changed for me, but things are certainly different in the music business. Very confusing and I have never been too good with that. But I do try to stay very active with my solo work and other projects. I have a studio where I record others now. I have also done soundtrack work, so there is plenty going on for me musically.

And we conclude with discussions of other bands that I have worked with and some common names we have met. Ed Harcourt is a very interesting person as well as a talented songwriter and performer. I agree with other people’s assessment that he is unfortunate not to have had breakout hits. But his body of work and recent album have succeeded in attracting a solid fan base. Hopefully it will continue to grow and he will keep delivering the music.

It was a fun chat and we could have gone on and on, but his dinner was there and it was the usual crazy back stage scene. Thanks to Ed, his manager Steve, Tim from his publicity firm—Ink Tank and the staff at the 9:30 Club.

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