Interview: Roddy Woomble
Published on June 23rd, 2011 | Jonny Abrams and Georgina Bowie
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Now a fully-fledged folkie, former Idlewild front man Roddy Woomble is back with his second solo album The Impossible Song & Other Songs, a beautiful collection of lyrical folk-pop gems more in line with the sunset nostalgia of Candidate or I Am Kloot than raucous past-life offerings such as ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’ or ‘Actually It’s Darkness’.
Aligned with his numerous collaborative side projects, Woomble has managed to forge a career so harmoniously entwined with his peaceful existence on the Isle of Mull that it’s little wonder to see his introverted onstage demeanour slowly peel away during recent live shows. Let it be known that he’s even been heard to crack a joke or two.
As has become a happy tradition for underrated British song-writers of recent times – think Gruff Rhys, Euros Childs and those delightful Teenage Fanclub chaps – Woomble has emerged from his rockier days with cult following intact and a knack for creating beauty that should sustain him no matter how much more he mellows, like a river’s course from source to mouth.
(Apologies for the GCSE geography lesson but landscape features feel like an entirely apt reference point for music so redolent of its pastoral surroundings.)
Rocksucker fired Woomble over some questions to find out his plans and thoughts on a number of different projects, as well as to see if his current mood is as lovely as his latest output. It would seem that this is indeed the case…
The new album and your recent onstage demeanour would suggest that you’re in a good place right now, which is unsurprising as you seem to have a lot of control over your own career and the various projects that you undertake. Is this fair to say?
That is fair to say. I’m happy with how things have turned out. A few more records sales & radio play wouldn’t hurt but other than that the music is in a good place, as am I.
Was using saxophones on ‘Roll Along’ a cathartic experience for you? You once mentioned the instrument as being a “touchy subject” while in Idlewild…
Well, I had quite different tastes to the other guys in the band. Fiddles, accordions and saxophones didn’t have much of a place in Idlewild’s music but they feel quite at home in the stuff I do independently.
You said you hadn’t planned on doing another solo album but that people seemed to want one. Have you got other irons on the fire? How do you envision the next few years of your career?
I don’t work with any sort of plan but I’ve started work on another solo LP so that is what I’ll be doing next, along with lots more touring with my (solo) band.
Any plans to record a second album with Kris Drever and John McCusker?
We play the odd gig still but there are no plans for a new album at the moment. I’m sure that will happen though as we have a good time together.
You have worked with a lot of very talented folk musicians like Kate Rusby and Heidi Talbot; which collaborations have you most enjoyed? Any particularly good tales?
They are all lovely folk. I’ve got no preferences.
Would you consider doing another project like the Burnsong Song House at any point? Did you hear the album Norman Blake made with Euros Childs under the name Jonny? If so, what did you think of it?
I love the Jonny record. Norman’s the man. We had a good laugh in the Burnsong house together. We didn’t get much done but we drank a lot of wine.
What about another project like Ballads of the Book, or is that kind of thing a one-off? What inspired you to get that together?
I wanted to see if it could happen and what it would sound like. It happened and it sounded good.
Will you do any more writing like you did for the Sunday Herald?
I’d like to but as yet no one’s asked.
We take it from the fact that you now live on the Isle of Mull that you quite like the quiet life. Has this always been the case or, like your music, have you mellowed over the years? Can you still identify with the raucousness of the first couple of Idlewild albums?
I’ve always preferred the company of few, and the space and quiet of the Scottish highlands and islands, so this sort of existence suits me. As for early Idlewild, I don’t listen to it.
What are the other guys from Idlewild up to these days? Any follow-up to Post Electric Blues on the horizon?
Everyone is busy doing other things. There are no plans for any more output.
You seem quite shy on stage. Do you suffer from stage fright?
It’s a fairly surreal, unnatural situation sitting in front of people singing songs to them but I deal with it as best I can. If it comes across as shyness, then so be it.
Do you still get followed around in supermarkets by giggling girls?
Have you ever been star-struck? If so, in whose presence?
Not really. I’ve been lucky to have met a few people that I really admire and thankfully they were all charming.
Any tips for up-and-coming artists?
Play gigs. It’s the only way to get paid.
Could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Today it’s been Dylan’s Street-Legal, Vetiver’s new one The Errant Charm and I’m Having Fun Now by Jenny and Johnny. They’re maybe not my three favourites of all time but certainly of this past week.
The Impossible Song and Other Songs is out now on Greenvoe Records. For more information and a list of live dates, please visit roddywoomble.com