Thursday, 20 May 2010

An interview with Rich Watson

Rich Watson is a singer/songwriter with a line in melodic, sixties-tinged guitar pop. As well as contributing the title track to The New Goodbye, he has recently worked with Ford and The Times, and recorded with musical statesmen Mike Rutherford (Genesis, Mike & The Mechanics) and Kenney Jones (The Small Faces, The Faces, The Who). He is currently working with producer Tim Woods on Department 66, his debut album. 

Rich playing The Albert Hall with Neil and Andy from Travis

You’ve been writing songs seriously for a number of years now. Recently you seem to have found a more distinctive voice. You’ve retained that sixties musicality you have always excelled in, but there’s a more modern feel to the music, that I think is very much a good thing. The New Goodbye is probably the first public demonstration of this, but is this a conscious move? 

I have been writing fairly consistently since I was about 14, when I started my first band at school. I guess I've been refining and honing the sound that is gradually crystallizing into Department 66. Ultimately, the bottom line is to make something of quality with a strong melody, an interesting lyric and that is reflective of its time. A tall order, but that was the brief I gave myself when I started the project.

Tim [Woods. The producer] has been invaluable in bringing this to life and Avatar, another track we worked on together (before the arrival of the James Cameron film I hasten to add), is in a similar vein.

They’ve updated The Prisoner. Shame they didn’t give you a call for the soundtrack. Marriage made in heaven, I reckon. 

Funnily enough I've just completed work on a new track for the album, entitled Just Around The Corner. It’s an instrumental piece, directly influenced by the likes of Lalo Schifrin. I’ve recently been turned on to his work, like the score he did for the Bullitt (the Steve McQueen film).

Can you tell us a bit about Department 66? 

I’m planning it as an album of 10 songs. The writing kicked off with Avatar last year, and the album will of course include The New Goodbye. I'm halfway there now. Ultimately, I'm keen to have something that incorporates the full range of my writing. I've always loved albums like London Calling [The Clash] or The White Album [The Beatles] where each track effectively creates its own little world.

So individual concept songs, rather than a concept album. And the title? Where’s that from? 

Department 66 is the road that crosses the border between France and Spain via Catalonia. I overhead the name on my travels last year and it struck me as an interesting title. I chose it for the sound of it, but also for the sense of transience it evokes; that place between borders.

That’s one of the themes of the novel too. It fact, it’s directly referenced, except in the book it’s the Mont Blanc pass between France and Italy.

You tasted a level of success a couple of years back when Six O’Clock was picked up by Ford (who, I have to confess I think helped murder a great song), and then there was the tour for Teenage Cancer Trust. But is that how you see yourself, as a front-man of a band? 

I enjoyed both experiences very much and certainly performing at the Royal Albert Hall was a particular highlight. I guess the idea of fronting a band and performing my own songs has always appealed, as, like most musicians, I have a very clear, defined view of how my songs should be performed. That’s not to say I’m not interest in writing for other people.

Originally from the Midlands, Rich now lives in Kent and works in London. Department 66 should be with us sometime next year. If you’re interested in contacting him, drop him a line.

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