Clear Water

Every album I’ve made, including all the Grand Drive stuff, seems to really start moving when a certain song is written… a kind of catalyst that seems to define the feel and approach of the whole process from there on in… it’s not necessarily the first song or even the best song written but it’s the one that everything seems to hang off. "Clear Water" was that song for this album… it set the tone for everything that went on from that point. I wrote it with Paul Lush, our guitar player, in Oslo I think. We toured a hell of a lot last year and I’ve never written much on the road before but getting the guitars out and opening a bottle of wine on days off became a regular thing… I started looking forward to it… I hadn’t collaborated on songwriting since the early days of Grand Drive and it was refreshing, fun. There’s no pressure… you don’t need to record it… it’s funny, when you’re young you start out trying to be Dylan or Townes, feeling that you have to say everything in three minutes… now I wanna be Chuck Berry or Bob Gaudio! This song reminds me of "Chairman Of The Board" and that makes me very happy...

Precious Cargo

This one had been around for a little while… there’s always stray songs hanging around, waiting to be paid some attention. Another one that I worked with Lushy on… reminds me of something that Ben E. King could have done in the '70s… on this album we got our friend Romeo Stodart from The Magic Numbers to ‘arrange’ the backing vocals... it’s always interesting to see what other people who haven’t been so close to the process bring to it… what they hear in it that you hadn’t noticed or considered. I absolutely love what they did on this… the counter point stuff… wouldn’t have crossed my mind but I love it… I guess that’s the beauty of collaboration… as long as you can allow it to happen naturally… I guess this album is defined by collaboration.

This Is Not A Love Song

Again the backing vocals really add something special to this one. I was saying to the guys that I wanted it to sound like Gladys Knight & The Pips covering a Dylan song… and I think it kind of does! I love the irreverence that naturally comes with cover versions… I’m done with being precious about recording… I like momentum, stuff happening quick… not labouring over stuff… it doesn’t sound good and it’s boring. We recorded most of all this live in the studio in very few takes and it just keeps things alive… It’s very easy these days to make perfect music… you can tune anything, make anything in time… but it just doesn’t move me… I want to hear the human-ness not what a computer program is capable of… Me, Chris Clarke and Lushy wrote this one at Henry’s folks’ place in Stroud… Chris doesn’t write much stuff generally but this one is a cracker.

Can I Change My Mind

Speaking of cover versions this is the first cover version that I’ve ever included on an album. It was a hit for Tyrone Davis in the US '68/'69... it was a track that we played in the van a lot and a total pleasure to record. The guitar riff is just so attractive… joyful... it really makes me happy and that’s important. We all use music as part of our uniform… something that tells the world who we are and what we stand for… that we’re cooler or cleverer or crazier. I’m old enough now to know that if a song or piece of music moves you in any way then it’s a keeper… it’s a bullseye, wherever it comes from. I’m not a big fan of the ‘Guilty Pleasure’ thing… if you like something how can it be a guilty pleasure? I’m more that happy to stand up and say that I probably prefer Hall & Oates or The Bee Gees to Nick Drake or Bowie or something…Gallagher & Lyle, now there’s a band.

What Kind Of Love

I grew up in Sutton. I wrote this with my friend Joe Kinsey from the band Billy Vincent. He’s from Sutton too… my Mum was his nursery school teacher. He’s a lovely fella and I really love his band too. Me and Chris, our bass player, were at Chris’s studio recording with them and we’d had a few drinks and Joe started to sing what was the skeleton of this tune… I was totally blown away by it… me and Lushy added a few bits and jigged it about a bit and it turned out great… I love the pedal steel on this track… you don’t hear it much… this blend of country and soul music… I guess without the steel guitar this album would be a pretty straight ahead soul record.

Words On The Wind

We’ve been listening to loads of Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead stuff in the van… I love the later '70s Dead stuff where they’ve obviously discovered funk music… such an attractive mix, what I call Hippy Funk… Crosby Stills and Nash dipped a toe in that water too with "Dark Star" et al… and Manassas were so great at that too… the congas and percussion on this are a total nod to Stills and all those guys… touring so much for Stay True we started to do this kind of harmony lead thing between the guitar, sax and steel guitar… like a country soul Thin Lizzy! This track really shows that off well… it's got a bit of The Doobie Brothers in there too I guess…

Just Be Yourself

Another one where the backing vocals really blow me away… and another example of how someone will come in and see and hear things in a completely different way than you had ever considered… I love this song… there’s a few lyrics in there that I’m really proud of: “Don’t get caught up in a game that nobody wins.” I was going for a Rod Stewart type of feel on this… with a healthy dash of Van the Man. It’s funny, we’re often labelled ‘Americana’ or considered to be a band with a strictly American set of influences but in terms of singers, my biggest influences are probably largely British… Rod Stewart, Terry Reid, Paul Rodgers, Reg King, Frankie Miller, Steve Ellis, Van Morrison, Joe Cocker, Chris Farlowe, Eric Burdon… we we’re probably the best exponents of that R&B rock crossover sound at a time… we just forgot about it!

It'll Be Alright In The End

This is one that Lushy brought along… it has a feel that we haven’t explored before and I love that. I was thinking about The Staples Singers when we were recording it… I’d just seen Mavis staples’ 75th Birthday concert and she blew me away…gotta be one of the best singers I’ve ever heard let alone seen perform. Such a beautiful way about her… I love the brass that punctuates some kind of New Orleans-ish kind of rhythm… I love the message of the song… we’ve been playing it live recently and it’s taken on a heavier more bluesy thing about it… resulting in a great twin lead jam… as you do…

Thinking About My Friend

We started this one in Sweden and finished it on a tour bus in Nashville, Tennessee… wow, what a sentence to be able to write! Lucky… we played at Jack White’s venue, Third Man, in Nashville in September... what a place! He really is like the Willy Wonka of rock and roll… very cool. I really love this song…got a real Steely Dan vibe… one of those bands that I couldn’t get into as a younger man but now I can’t get enough of them… a bit like wine and jazz I guess! All of that has started to happen to me… along with an unexplainable love of bric-a-brac and cravats…

The Sound Of A Train

I can see the trains arriving and leaving at my local station from my kitchen window. I smoke fags hanging out of the window and every now and then it all feels quite melancholy. I wrote this song with my friend Ian Siegal… he’s a brilliant singer and songwriter and, like us, seems to be constantly playing shows. Speaking of jazz, this one has probably the jazziest feel of anything that we’ve ever done in the Champs… though we certainly dipped a jazzy toe back in Grand Drive. I’ve really got into George Benson in recent years… beautiful stuff… like Quincy Jones he straddled so many years and fashions and styles… amazing really. Seems like the perfect way to end the record…

What Kind Of Love is out 1 June on Loose. You can stream it ahead of that below, and check out their upcoming shows after.

June

9 – CAMBRIDGE Junction
10 – BRISTOL Louisiana
11 – LONDON Islington Assembly Hall
12 – READING South Street Arts Centre
13 – OXFORD Bullingdon Arms
16 – COLCHESTER Arts Centre
17 – NORWICH Waterfront
18 – WAKEFIELD Hop
19 – PRESTON The Continental
20 – GLASGOW Broadcast
21 – NOTTINGHAM The Maze
26 – BRIGHTON Bleach

July

24 –  HUNTINGDON Secret Garden Party
31 –  STANDON Standon Calling