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Spotlight On: Paul Liddell PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nic Wright   
22 06 2011
ImageA singer-songwriter with the gigging stamina of a Shire horse, it's been a busy year even by Paul Liddell's standards. April saw the release of his third full-length EP ‘Milestones and Motorways'. The album marks a move away from the acoustic pop fare of his previous albums and into bigger tunes and more experimental fields.

A self-confessed control freak who previously self-released all his material, ‘Milestones and Motorways' is his first full-lengther since joining the roster of 360® Records last year. So how did being under the wing of a label for the first time affect the process of recording the record?

"The thing is with that, I'm not on the label anymore," Paul says. "I kept it quiet because it did my reputation good for people to think I had a record deal, but after the EP I was really dissatisfied with the way everything was handled. I wriggled and got out of it. So I'm on my own again now."

ImageNot that doing things on his own has ever bothered Paul before; his previous albums, ‘Sketchy Little People' and ‘A Lighthouse Keeper's Diary' were both recorded and produced by Paul himself, and released on his own Regulus Music label. Despite being offered numerous deals with various labels, he turned them down in favour of doing things his own way; something he's admittedly glad to be back to after his brief and dissatisfying stint with 360®; "Everything that happened with the EP I could've done myself really, so, I decided to take control again. I was happy at the time but in the end it felt really good to be free of it."

Part of the problem Paul feels, as I'm sure anyone who's familiar with his music will agree, is that he's never been the sort of musician you can put neatly into a box, tie it up with a pre-cut generic ribbon and sell from the shelf.  "They just didn't know what to do with me. Everyone else on the label was indie/punkish sort of bands and I was a bit alien to them really." A lack of that easy classification is one of the things driving a wedge between Paul and the label fat cats, he says; "I feel kind of marginalised in many ways because I don't really fit in anywhere. I'm not a folk singer although I play folk festivals, I'm not a rock singer or in an indie band. I think I'm stuck out on a limb really, I think that's why I'm best off on my own."
So is his transitory love affair with contracts and label bosses at an end already? He's not on the rebound? "No, I don't want one at all now. Unless one came along that could pick it up and instantly do more with it than I could do myself then I wouldn't be interested.  There aren't many labels that do that." Indeed, despite an amiable end to their relationship, it was a failure to make good on the promises that beckoned him into their arms in the first place that ended their affiliation.

"They've got a lot of contacts within the industry, and they promised they could do a lot for my music, which in the end just didn't materialise. I've learned a lot about contract law since then! It wasn't what it was sold as. It was sold to me as something that could help me out a lot and didn't help me out much at all."


And with songs such as ‘Man in the Corner', ‘New Thing Coming' and ‘Caffeine Kicks' lamenting the more tiresome sides of the life of a musician, how has Paul managed to keep his head above the water for so many years? "I think there are two main factors, the first being I can't do anything else! And the second being that even I could do anything else I don't have any choice, I still love doing it. Even at the worst gig you've ever come across I'd still rather be doing that than anything else. It's the only thing I want to do, so I keep going."

He also maintains that despite the frustrations of the struggling performer, he's not a misery at heart; "I do feel a bit of dissatisfaction I suppose because I don't like a lot of modern music. I feel sometimes like I deserve more than I have but other times I look and I feel really pleased and lucky. So I'm not really that dissatisfied, I just whinge too much. I whinge through songs and put them out for other people to listen to and think I'm unhappy but I'm not!"

In the six year gap between ‘A Lighthouse Keeper's Diary' and ‘Milestones and Motorways', there's been a lot of musical evolution for Paul. Not least of which, the addition of beat-boxing to his already heavily-stringed bow. "I wouldn't go as far as to say I've learned to beat-box," he laughs."It's an approximation of beat-boxing. It's very white!"

He does concede the changes to his sound however; "There has been a massive evolution. I feel like I'm gonna be able to work more swiftly now. I've already got enough songs for a new album, straight away. So my aim is to put out an album every year. Because I love the whole process, I love recording." However his contentment with his current sound does cast a shadow over his previous records; "I really want to go back and rerecord the older albums, so I can sell them at gigs without making people think ‘he doesn't sound anything like that'. There's even a bit of an American accent on the first album which I'm really not happy with."

Oh but he was so young, everyone fell foul of the faux-American accent back in the day. "I know, but it gets on my tits! I avoid listening to it as much as possible but every time I hear it I think ‘oh fuck'! And some of the songs are strong, and I could do other things with them. The recording itself I'm pretty happy with. The producer Steve Daggett did a really good job, especially with what equipment we had, which was my little studio set-up in a damp room. "

Another instrument (if you can refer to the beat-boxinghuman mouth as an instrument) making an appearance in Paul's sets recently is the trumpet, most strikingly in a cover of Evita's ‘Don't Cry for me Argentina'. So with prior cover versions including Temple of the Dog and Rage against the Machine, how on earth did this one come about? "I don't know! I kept hearing it and I thought ‘I fucking love that song!'"

Having learned the trumpet as a school child and playing with the City Orchestra, Paul's career as a classical brass recitalist came to an abrupt end during a tour of Germany; "I drank ¾ of a bottle of Jack Daniels, in about an hour in my first night! I didn't play any of the gigs because I was ill for three days."

The classical world's loss was song-writing's gain, although the Paul's business with the trumpet wasn't quite over yet. "When I was doing the cover for shits and giggles I thought I'd whip the trumpet out. The first few times I did it the trumpet sounded awful! And by increments it's getting less and less hideous as I play it."

ImageHaving spent much of his recorded career tackling the shortcomings of modern society and the interweavings of its persons ‘Milestones and Motorways' appears to contain more, or at least more obviously, romantic leanings. Is Paul, married to his childhood sweetheart, getting soft in his old age? "I totally am! I used to write songs like that before but I never let them out of my house, because I thought people wouldn't like them. But I stopped caring."

Finally, it's time to use my professional position to dredge up a personal grudge. Many years ago, in the drunken haze of Roker's Smuggler's pub, Paul promised me a cover of late British rockers Reuben's ‘Scared of the Police'. Said cover has never materialised. "Oh yeah! You gave me all the CDs! I can do it acoustically actually, it's just I can't do the screamy metal bit in the middle." To quote The Futureheads, I can do that. "You're on. I think it'd be a good band song to do. It's a really strong pop song, so I think we could do it."

Obscure covers aside, what does the future hold for the newly single (professionally speaking) Paul Liddell? "I'm trying to get some reviews and radio play for the new record. I'm trying to gig more as well, I'm finding now I'm getting more people turning up to gigs that I've never seen before so it's working slowly but surely. So just keep doing it really, that's all there is to it."

In the meantime, you can catch Paul gigging all over the country (details via the link below). All I ask is that you repeatedly heckle him with request for ‘Scared of the Police'. Together, we can make it happen.


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