Friday 18th August 2017
Fresh off the back of his debut album release, I spent time chatting with Chris Blackwood about his music career so far, and what has encouraged him to push forward with a career in music. Upon first listen I was taken aback by the amount of sheer talent Chris has, and it’s aparent that growing up listening to the likes of Oasis and Bob Dylan has played a big part in how his songwriting has been influenced. The debut self-titled album is a concept album that tells a tail through the different stages of life; starting with birth, then moving in to the confusing middle years, and finishing with a bitter ending. After playing in and around Manchester, Chris is now stepping out and ready for national recognition.
The first real connection to music I felt was seeing the “Supersonic” video by Oasis on TV. I was only twelve, but it blew me away. The music really connected to me, and I spent the next four years devouring indie rock music. Then when I was seventeen I discovered Bob Dylan and that blew my mind again. This time with words and lyrics. It was at this point I knew I had to make a career out of it. I had been writing songs ever since I started learning guitar was I was twelve, but Dylan made me write different kinds of songs. Songs that matter.
Your single “The Quiet Elude” is the first release from your debut album. How are you finding the response to your music so far?
Fantastic. People understand it which is the main thing. It’s short, simple and effective, which is perfect for a first single from an album. My main worry was that it doesn’t really reflect the album’s sound, but I chose the song as it would be the neatest transition between the acoustic EP’s and the fully fledged full band album.
Who did you work with for the accompanying video for the single, and where did the shoot take place?
I worked with Gaz Davies, who is a fantastic filmmaker. We shot the music video above a jazz bar in Stephenson’s Square, Manchester. It was this cool little photography studio. We got rid of all the backdrops and just kept the room looking bare, as I thought that’d match the aesthetic of the song. We got it all filmed in three hours! A short amount of time that reflect the brevity of the song. Gaz is also filming the album release show on 2nd September.
Could you tell me about your writing process, and how you know when a song is ready? Is there anyone who you can bounce ideas around with?
Songs come from nowhere. Most of the time I’ll have an idea that pops into my head and I’ll run to my guitar to pick it out. Normally I’ll figure the rest out in less than half an hour and the song is done. You can’t just sit down and write. The labour will show. It needs to be natural and unforced to make it seem organic and real.
I always write songs by myself, apart from my single “Unwinds,” which was written with James Fewkes. There is also a song on SoundCloud called “Slipstream,” which was written with Rob Jones. But apart from this I write them all by myself.
What can we expect from your upcoming self-titled album, and how did you find the process of putting it together?
Oh it’s a journey definitely. Everything’s very carefully placed. It’s been a few years in the making in my mind, and it took about eight months to record. It was relatively easy to record because I had all the parts already figured out from years of playing them. The hardest I’d say to get right were the instrumentals. I’ve never done an instrumental track before, never mind three. I wanted to get these to not seem out of place with the rest of the tracks.
What has drawn you to create a concept album, and do any of the tracks draw upon personal experiences?
Every release I do has some kind of concept. Maybe that was inspired by listening to Pink Floyd and The Beatles when I was younger. The two acoustic EP’s had individual concepts, and these were differentiated with each other. Dark and light. This album is like chapter one of a wider concept I’m planning.
All these tracks draw from personal experiences. The problem with this is that it needs to be broad enough to fit into everyone else’s personal experiences. But I believe everyone feels these things when they’re growing up, so I’d like to think the concept is universal. But I don’t force it either. A concept should never get in the way of good songs, then it gets too pretentious. People can find their own meaning in the tracklisting, that is the best way to listen to this album.
Who are your biggest musical influences, and how have they encouraged and helped you to develop your sound?
Pink Floyd and The Beatles as I said earlier are my inspiration for concept-driven music. Apart from that I’m heavily inspired for this album by Elliott Smith and Pavement. Also Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines, two bands I listened to a lot of when I was a teenager.
I used influences as a device on this album. The first half is inspired by the indie rock I listened to when I was a teenager, the second half inspired by Bob Dylan, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine.
Being in the early stages of your music career how are you finding the whole process, and have you been given any lasting advice?
The only lasting advice I’ve been given is that a career in this industry doesn’t last. That’s why you’ve got to give it your all while you’ve still got it. That’s why I’ve decided to release everything myself. I don’t want to wait for a record company to come along for me to record the music I want. I worked for an entire summer to afford the recording costs of this album. You’ve got to do it yourself. Don’t rely on anyone else.
How are you feeling about your album release show and are there any tracks in particular that you’re most excited about performing live?
Very excited, first time I’ve played with a full band. It’s at a little placed called Aatma, not far from where we filmed the music video. The support acts are fantastic as well. Mystic Rose, The Prions and Scott Lloyd.
I’m looking forward to playing it all to be honest. You can get so much sound out of four people rather than one acoustic guitar. A much more fully-formed sound. But if it’d have to be one track, I’d be “Faraway.” The outro will be fantastic live, and I’m looking forward to how people react to it.
Finally, what other artists are you listening to at the moment and do you have any recommendations?
I’m really liking Sonic Youth at the moment. I’d like to incorporate more noise rock elements into my music. I’ve added partly noise/shoegaze elements to the outro of “Faraway,” but I’d love to investigate more.
Also I’m loving Can. Krautrock is something I’d love to explore further. I did a twenty minute version of my song “Whirlwind” a while back and I’d love to release it if the opportunity arose.