“In my opinion, genre crossing is the only way music can and has ever evolved...”- hmv.com talks to Andrew Roachford
First emerging in 1988 with their eponymous debut album and scoring their first huge hit just a year later with 'Cuddly Toy', Roachford's blend of soulful R&B influences and guitar-driven pop/rock proved to be a winning formula that made them a regular fixture in the charts and on the radio airwaves over the next decade, becoming Columbia Records' biggest-selling UK act during that time and landing several Top 40 hits with songs such as 'Only To Be With You' and 'Lay Your Love On Me'.
In recent years the band's frontman, namesake and chief creative force Andrew Roachford has been employing both his songwriting talents and his soul-drenched voice as lead singer for Mike and the Mechanics, appearing on their last two albums, 2017's Let Me Fly and 2019's Out of the Blue.
This week though he returns as Roachford for the first time in seven years with a brand new album, Twice in a Lifetime. Featuring 12 new songs including recent single 'Love Remedy' and a duet with UK soul legend Beverley Knight, the new album made its arrival in stores this week and we caught up with Andrew for a chat about his new album, his recovery from recent surgery on his vocal chords, and his surprise at being handed an MBE last year...
We hesitate to call Twice in a Lifetime a comeback album, but it has been a little while since your last one as Roachford– when did you start putting this new album together?
“I started about 2 years ago I’m between tours, started off getting the songs together which took a bit of time because I didn’t want any 'album fillers'. I wanted each song to have a life of its own.”
It's also your first album since having surgery on your vocal chords – that must be a scary thing for any singer, how has it been recovering from that? Has it changed the way you approach recording / performing?
“Having to have surgery on your vocal chords is every singer's nightmare but I’m happy I had it done and it’s taught me not to take my own voice for granted. It hasn’t really change my approach in the studio much but as for performing live I’m taking a lot more care and trying to drink loads more water!”
You've worked with Jimmy Hogarth as a producer on this album – he's worked with some great artists, not least Amy Winehouse – how did he get involved and what did he bring to the table on this record?
“I was introduced to Jimmy through my record label, I met him at his studio which I loved as soon as I stepped foot in it, it has loads of vintage equipment and Jimmy understood what I wanted to achieve from this album so it felt like a no brainier for us to work together.
“Jimmy is a great musician apart from having great ears for production. Jimmy was a great focusing element on this album giving me freedom to be creative.”
Was there any particular track that set he direction for the album as whole?
“The track entitled 'So Long' was one of the first tracks to be written for this album, and at that point I felt sure I knew were I wanted to go with this album, I knew it had to be an earthy soul/pop crossover album.”
There's also a great duet with the wonderful Beverley Knight, how did that one come about?
“When we started to record the song ‘What We Had' it soon became clear that it might work better as a duet, I’ve met Beverley quite a few times over the years and I love her voice and I thought she might like the track, actually she loved it and agreed to come down the studio and put her magic on the track. t brought the track to the next level.”
You're also back on a major label this time, how has that been? Quite often artists who've been in the industry in a while tend to go independent, and some get to preferring it that way. Are you enjoying it?
“My first deal was with a major label (Sony) and I was with them for a long time, after that I spent years doing the independent thing. They both have their merits. Now I’m back with a major BMG, they approached me about making another album together after seeing me performing live with Mike and the Mechanics, I honestly believe that you have to see me live in order to fully get what I’m about, so I felt we were on the same page.”
You were awarded an MBE last year for services to music, what was your reaction when you found out that was happening?
“When I got the letter asking me if I would accept the honour I couldn’t believe it. I had to read it a few times before it really sunk in and then I let out a loud scream which probably had my neighbours worried (but then I told them and they were nearly screaming too). My brother just had that knowing look, but he has always believed in me through thick and thin.”
It was nice to see your contribution recognised – thinking about it now, there really weren't many all-black bands playing guitars and scoring hits in the pop charts during that era. How do you think things have changed for black artists in the music industry, compared to when you guys were first breaking through?
“Things have changed immensely, as a kid growing up in the seventies when it was still quite rare seeing black actors on TV or hearing black British artist on the radio, especially a black artist with cranked up rock guitar in the music.
“It's great to see that there are so many more black artists getting air time and I feel you can be more 'genre fluid' without people thinking it’s not allowed. In my opinion genre crossing is the only way music can and has ever evolved.”
What are your touring plans for the new record? Obviously the pandemic is limiting possibilities at the moment, do you have a plan to get around that?
“I will eventually get back on the road touring starting around Europe in late March and the UK in late May/June including two dates opening for the icon that is Lionel Richie. Because this whole post-Covid touring is gonna be so new I’m still curious myself to see how the smaller venues will be able to accommodate this. I’m sure the show will go on one way or another.”
Twice in a Lifetime is available in hmv stores now – you can also find it here in our online store.