INTERVIEW

Interview by Doug Stone

Let's start with your influences. Give me a few favourites.

There are so many. The Beatles, a big, big early influence. Squeeze, Fountains of Wayne, Kate Bush, Paul Simon, Bonnie Rait, the original Fleetwood Mac, Dylan, James Taylor...

Your guitar playing on 'Open Heart' has a kind of James Taylor feel?

That's absolutely right. Yes, that's a deliberate thing.

Fountains of Wayne are probably the youngest band in that list. Besides your early influences, who are you listening to?

There is so much great music that's under the radar, that never really gets on radio. People I know personally like Laura Cade, David Harris, Miss Cecily, Joel Harper, Fee....wonderful stuff that's just starting to get heard. There's a very distinctive band, Elfin Spurs, if you're in the mood for something a little left-field. So much good music being played at open mics and small gigs everywhere.

With the bigger names, I think there's some fine stuff in the singer songwriter vein, like James Morrison, Ed Sheeran, KT Tunstall, Stephen Knightley, Regina Spektor, Jason Mraz. Cara Dillon and a lot of the current folk performers. And you can't beat blasting out some rock - Heaven's Basement, or The Wildhearts always hit the spot.

You play all the keyboards on the CD

I'm a guitarist who plays a bit on other instruments. I should really use the piano more. In fact, there's a gospel flavour in a lot of Carole King and Elton John that finds its way into some of my writing on guitar. I probably pick up as much from keyboard players as I do from other guitarists.

What other instruments?

Well, bass guitar - which I love - synth and drum programming, various percussion. There's mandola, which is like a big brother to a mandolin, on two tracks. I really want to use that more in future.

What instrument do you write songs on?

Guitar, almost always. Acoustic guitar. Sometimes piano, two or three times mandola. But I always come back to the guitar and an A4 writing pad. That's the magic combination.

What's the best gig you've played?

The most special one for me was a WOMAD showcase in 2007. There were musicians from all over the world in the audience and on one song everyone joined in - there was African and Brazilian percussion, all kinds of polyrhythms and harmonies. Completely exhilarating and quite moving.

And the worst....

If you have a bad gig it's your fault. The performer has the responsibility. Always. Maybe I'm lucky but my audiences have always been really supportive.

So what's next?

My plans for world domination? (laughs). Well, recording's underway for a new album. There's another musical project I'm involved in. And Sondar records, of course. We can only start very small but we really do want to build up to being a quality label that people trust. Like I said, there's so much good music, let's help spread the word.