After 18 months of being locked down in his home studio, Paul Carrack has emerged with his first new album for three years and is Good And Ready to get back on stage in front of his fans. His new album One On One was released last month on his own Carrack-UK label and he returns to the stage with his Good And Ready Tour in the New Year with 27 dates across the UK including Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
One On One is a very personal take on the past year and a half, not something he was planning, but a product of the situation in which we all found ourselves:
“The album’s been done through lockdown, pretty much, it’s 95% me, and as the lockdown eased, I’ve also managed to get some real horns on there.
“We had a whole year of touring planned for 2020, not just with my band, but I play keyboards for Eric Clapton, on tour in his band. Obviously in mid-March, when things shut down, we thought it would be a couple of months, maybe, and we rescheduled some shows.
“I was just coming into my studio to keep my voice ticking over and keep everything in shape. Then it became clear that we would be shut down for a good while. I think that, in those early days, there was a lot of anxiety knocking about, we didn’t know what we were dealing with and people were going mad, panic-buying toilet rolls. I was coming into the studio and, at least, that was taking my mind off of things.
“I had no songs, just a blank sheet of paper, so it’s difficult to know how these songs evolved. I’d come in here and play with my toys, keyboards and so on, and just started putting some ideas together and then it became a whole album.”
One On One is a very upbeat album which I think will bring a lot of joy to people.
“Well, I hope so,” Paul responds, “and that’s probably because I was in live mode. We had done 20 or 30 shows through February and March and we were in good spirits. The tour was great, the band were playing great. We had a lot of good nights and finished up, funnily enough, at the London Palladium. It was incredible because everyone knew that we were going to get locked down and they seemed to be wanting to make the most of it. Going through my mind was ‘What if this is the last gig we ever do?’ It wouldn’t have been a bad place to finish!” he laughs.
Around this time the Carrack’s became grandparents again when their daughter gave them a new granddaughter. All is fine, now, but it was a difficult time for the family, says Paul. “She had a very difficult birth, very traumatic and it was a bit touch-and-go at one point. Fortunately, our daughter did survive and then we couldn’t go and see her. You’re Not Alone was a message of support. I didn’t set out with any specific concept in mind, I never do, these things kind of happen spontaneously.”
A ballad in the classic Carrack mould, You’re Not Alone was the first single from the album and a BBC Radio 2 Record of The Week. I Miss You So also came from not being able to spend time with his new granddaughter, a song that will resonate with so many who missed spending time with family during the dark days of lockdown.
The lively Good And Ready opens the album, a catchy number with a positive message from an artist who is now raring to go and get back among his audience. The groove continues with A Long Way To Go which includes a guitar solo by Paul’s long-time friend and collaborator Robbie McIntosh. They go back to recordings with The Pretenders, when Robbie was a member, and Paul was as in demand as ever for session work. The track also features horns arranged by Carrack’s long-time neighbour, and new friend, Dave Arch.
“I only discovered, this year, that Dave lives just half a mile from me,” he explains. “I had written some horn parts, using samples, and they sounded pretty good but we thought it was essential to get real guys playing on it. Dave helped me and made sure the arrangements were voiced properly. So, we had Steve Beighton, of course, who’s been in my band for 20 years, the legendary ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, of James Brown and Van Morrison fame, Dennis Rollins on trombone, and Andy Greenwood on trumpet. We recorded the horns in here, and they sound great. And backing vocals by Michelle John, who I met working in Eric Clapton’s band, she’s absolutely unbelievable.
“Another of the arrangements, on Lighten Up Your Mood, is by ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis. He’s a real great guy and did all the arrangements on my last album, so we had to get him in to do that one. He’s authentic, he’s the real deal.”
With a new friend in Dave Arch, would Paul be interested in doing Strictly, I wondered?
“Have you seen my legs?” he laughs. “My wife’s already told me ‘You’re not doing it! I’m not having you running off with some Russian dancer, it’s not happening!’”
The message of Precious Time is fairly self-explanatory and Set Me Free carries a similar message for our times. “I’m not trying to be political or anything,” he says, “it’s more a cry from the heart to get back to some kind of normal. I’m lucky, I live in a nice place and I’ve got a great family, but we definitely miss being out on the road.”
The album closes with the Charlie Rich country-classic Behind Closed Doors while When Love Is Blind features his son Jack on drums who would have played on the whole album had he not been living on the other side of town. “It was a bit frustrating,” Paul admits, “because I would have liked to have involved Jack, who plays drums in the band, more.
“On the plus side, I tend to focus better when I’m working by myself, I’m easily swayed by other people’s opinions, so this time I had to rely on my own thoughts and instincts. I’ve recorded a lot of things by myself in the past. I’m not unused to doing that, I’m a Jack-of-all-trades, I play everything but I’ve got much better at the technical aspects of recording.”
So, with a musical pedigree that includes his ‘70s breakthrough band Ace, Roxy Music, Squeeze, Mike And The Mechanics, Roger Waters’ and Eric Clapton’s touring bands, did Paul come from a musical family?
“My dad’s side were quite musical and my dad, he loved music. He encouraged my interest when I was young, such as it was. I literally had a wind-up gramophone in the attic, that I used to listen to, and I used to bash-along on bits on drums that must have belonged to my dad when he was younger.
“At the beginning of the Beatle-boom, that’s when I really got the bug but I lost my dad when I was eleven. He had a fatal accident at work, so that was devastating. We didn’t then have such a close relationship with my dad’s side and they were the musical side. My aunt and my grandmother played piano but we didn’t have a lot of contact with them. It was my mum’s side that were really supportive in the wake of the tragedy, they were amazing but they didn’t have any real musical connections.
“I taught myself, I never had a music lesson and we never did music at school. Meyers Grove (in Sheffield) was a big, brand-new comprehensive school. There were lots of instruments but there were not enough interested to make up a music class. I read about five pages of a recorder book,” he laughs. “I learned just by listening to records and trying to figure out how they did it. I wish they had YouTube back in those days!
“There were a lot of places in Sheffield to play. We didn’t do working men’s clubs, we weren’t that polished. All the bands I was in were a bit rough-and-ready, but there were pubs, night clubs and discotheques, lots of places to play and hundreds of bands in Sheffield. As I got
into my teens, we went down the Hamburg route, in the footsteps of The Beatles. Then I got into prog rock but the thought was that you had to move away, go to London, so that’s what I did.”
One song which means a great deal to me, is Mike And The Mechanics’ The Living Years written by BA Robertson and Mike Rutherford and sung with such sensitivity by Paul. I also lost my own father at an early age and did not have the chance to say goodbye.
“I know the feeling,” says Paul. “My father had an accident at work, he was in Lodge Moor Hospital after he broke his neck. I never saw him again and he died three days later. It was a great shock and made me a little insecure and a bit of a pessimist. When something is going well, I always think something will happen and knock me down again.”
That song is such a favourite among live audiences and, says Paul, he is looking forward to being back on the road again. “Definitely. The touring thing, we’d never had it so good. The band were going from strength-to-strength, people were coming, the production was stepping up from year to year. And, to the vast majority of musicians, it is their bread and butter, whatever level you play at.
“I’m not an artist that gets a great adrenalin rush, for me it’s more about being nervous and wanting to deliver the best performance I can every night for the people who have paid good money. I’m a little more established now, a little more confident about that, so my feeling is one of satisfaction when we’ve done a good show, the audience have loved it and on their feet. That’s when I relax and think I’ve done my job.”
One On One is out now
The Good And Ready Tour comes to Scotland in February:
Sat 5 Feb 2022, Dundee Caird Hall
Sun 6 Feb 2022, Edinburgh Festival Theatre
Fri 18 Feb 2022, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
Sat 19 Feb 2022, Aberdeen Music Hall