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New Music Friday: Andy Crofts

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Andy Crofts is a name synonymous with the Northampton music scene: from those late-90s teenage days with Circa, through The Hi-Drivers and The On-Offs, to his current occupations with The Moons, Paul Weller, and now some solo work. On the eve of his just-for-fun covers project and another solo tour New Boots asked him to take stock of his 2020 visions.

Hi Andy. How is your mood for 2020?
Well I’m actually feeling very positive and excited about the year. For the first time I’ve been seriously considering getting out there as a solo artist – I guess I feel a sense of anything can happen.

You did your first ever solo tour in December. How was the experience?
It was a real eye opener for me. I definitely got more confidence from it and learnt a lot in a small amount of time. I felt I needed to go back to basics and almost learn again. I never take for granted how lucky I am to work alongside one of my idols, but I feel to do music you have to appreciate the trip. I mean you can’t just expect to carry on from where you are without building more foundations. So this is where I’m at; starting again in small venues up and down the country. I guess it’s not a complete true start, as I have built some appreciation up from The Moons and Weller audience over he years. But going out alone with my guitar is as raw as I can be. I’m not hiding behind anything, and what you see is what you get.

Do you feel you can achieve something unique under your own banner now?
Yes I think so. Before I started The Moons I was gonna go for it alone, but felt I hadn’t earned it yet. I needed to get something going, so I started a band. Now, I’m at a stage where I think I’m ready. I guess some of it is a maturity thing, as you kinda naturally grow into this, but it’s also a necessity. I’m certainly not getting younger and I have many things in my head that I feel I need to do, such as go it alone. I’m actually very excited about it all to be honest. I love The Moons completely and the boys in the band and it’s certainly not me waving goodbye. It’s just me adding another chapter to my life. It no biggie in the grand scheme of life, but for me it’s something I must do next.
I have a good bunch of demos together that I think will be the songs for my first album but I need to get into a studio to record them. Time is something I do struggle with lately so I have to wait for a window to open and go for it ,if you know what I mean. It is gonna be great though and I can’t wait!

To see you join Paul Weller’s band on keys back in 2008 was a thrill. The bigger thrill was seeing you step forward to play a bigger role in the music, helping with arrangements, plus stepping out front /switching to bass in 2017. Has that deeper, creative involvement kept things fresh and exciting for you after all these years?
Paul has this ability of not making you feel like a hired hand or a spare part. He really involves us and listens to our opinions, and this is strong leadership on his behalf. I think he’s very particular about who he chooses in his band, and chose all of us for our own individual styles, so that together we can paint a bigger picture. Over the years I have personally put a lot of input into his albums and live shows and I’m pretty proud of that, but I respect him and am happy to be directed. When I think back to being a kid with a Weller poster on my wall who would have thought all of this was going to be my fate. Some would say I am lucky and yes I am I guess, but I’ve also worked and played hard over the years to earn this position. It is possible to make your luck.

The forthcoming covers album, The Boogloo Radio Sessions, tell us all about it. It comes out of the radio show, doesn’t it?
Ok so let me explain. As some of you may know I have my own weekly radio show on Boogalooradio.com in London. Boogaloo Radio is broadcast 24/7 from The Boogaloo pub in Highgate. Now with my show I came to an agreement with them that as I am never in one place for long enough that I would record my show from my own studio at home and if I can make it into the London studio I can. Over many weeks I did this thing in my show where I asked the listeners to choose a song for me to cover, and this became the ‘Crofty Covers’ section of my show. After having a pretty good response from people I thought it would be a waste to just let the recordings just disappear, so I thought I’d make them into a little album. I only wanted this to be digital as they are just covers, and I wanted it out faster.
Let me just say that this certainly is not meant to be my attempt at releasing my first solo record. Not in the slightest! This is just a bit of fun to be honest and fills a hole whilst I’m writing and recording songs and demos for my actual album. There are 15 songs on it and some of them were thrown in to give people their money’s worth. I’m not to hung up about it – it is there if people are interested. I renamed it The Boogaloo Radio Sessions as ‘Crofty Covers’ just sounds daft.

The Moons are coming back with a new album this year, Pocket Melodies, recorded at Abbey Road. 
I’ll go more into detail about the album another time, but all I can really say about this is time has not been on our side. Things have got in the way here and there, and have delayed the album like crazy. I’m kinda bored of telling people it’s gonna be out and then nothing happens. Ironically our favourite album recorded live at Abbey Road has become the hardest to finish. All I can say is that it will happen when it’s ready. It’s difficult to tour because of the Weller thing too, so The Moons are sort of stuck in limbo. Maybe we will just put our the album without a tour. Maybe we will only become a studio band. All the answers are in the air at the moment. The album will eventually be heard though, in some way or another.

How’s your view of Northampton now, from a distance?
Well even though I’m currently living down near Brighton my mother and my family are all still in Northampton, so I don’t really feel so far away. My honest thoughts though is that I do actually love Northampton, BUT – and a huge but – it has been seriously neglected. Boarded up shops, more homelessness, and in general just a lack of attention spent on the town centre. It really is a beautiful town, and it frustrates me to see this. The music and arts scene has always been the saviour of the town for me, and is still fighting strong. I’m really happy to see that silly Jesus centre disappear! That was a horrible cult eyesore, but has huge potential now. The town just needs some wise decisions I think. If I was in charge I would lower all shop rent in the town centre to give more independent shops are chance, as having more of a boutique style town would really benefit the town, making a cooler shopping atmosphere. This would include cleaning up the the place and just making it look pretty. Yes it may sound a minor issue but making the place attractive would attract visitors and certainly not more pound shops! Then I’d put more funding into helping the town’s creative people, as this has always been important for Northampton and I think is overlooked [this would include schools]. Last of all I would put funding into helping the homeless and giving them a chance to work or have accommodation. Kinda like a get-back-on-your-feet type thing that helps them fit into society with counselling and a clothing fund, to not feel alienated. No one knows their story, but they deserve a chance. There are good people working at the shelters, but with more help it could make more of a difference. Getting them off the streets into a warm place with a hot meal in their tummy is the priority!

Any musical tips for those just starting out?
The first thing I’d say is “play play play”! Keep playing and rehearsing with your friends. Hang out, have fun and keep rehearsing. Starting out in a band and hanging out with your mates are golden times that you cannot buy, and will be the foundation to everything. Once you have a band work on your songs and instrumentation. Get some local pub gigs. Make a little EP of your best songs, and sell them at your gigs. Be social on the internet, and make the most of it all. Upload regular videos of you performing even if it’s in your living room. Just make the effort for people to see. Get a good photoshoot and make sure you all look the part and not fresh out of the office. Contact local papers in the town for reviews or features, as I know personally that they support the arts in the town. Just treat everything you do as making new steps. Become the best you can be in Northamptonshire, and then take it to another town and the next and the next. If you’re good people will take notice. Just put the time in and don’t be half arsed about it. Just be yourself and don’t try and change you to be like a fashionable trend if you think that will help you “make it”. You yourself are much more priceless than any fad. Last of all: embrace the independent side of the music business. They days of the dream major record deal are dead, as they mainly sign crap and don’t care about developing artists. Make your own world and people will wanna be part of it.

Who are you currently digging?
Well doing my radio show I come across lots these days. So I’m just gonna list a few of them without going into to much detail. I really like the sound of these bands though:
Babe Rainbow
Black Pumas
La Femme
Jack Gardner
Sugar Candy Mountain
The Mysterines
I could go on but where would I stop! Doing my radio show I have found a new found love towards new music. For years I was so stuck into my old stuff that it closed my vision, but now the boundaries are down and I get excited about new music again. I just hope I can end up on people’s favourite lists in the future.

The Boogaloo Radio Sessions is released on all digital platforms March 2nd, and available for pre-order now from iTunes. Andy goes on another short tour later this month, beginning at Northampton’s Black Prince on Feb 28th. Tour tickets from www.andycrofts.com

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