Interview: Stephen Hudson
Published on May 21st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Lancaster singer/songwriter Stephen Hudson was recently the rare recipient of a five-quail Rocksucker review for his gorgeous single “Everything Electric”, so we fired him over some questions in the hope of finding out more about this highly promising pop prospect…
How long have you been writing, performing and recording music for?
Since I was about 8 or 9. My grandma bought me piano lessons, and I used to sit there making stuff up while my teacher tried to get me to read the music.
How would you describe your music, if pushed?
Haha, getting that one in early. It’s heart-on-sleeve stuff, but hopefully not whiny dog crap, like some people immediately associate with ‘singer-songwriters’.
I write about loads of subjects: grandparents, the evils of Heat magazine, my girlfriend’s terrifying nightmares. Musically, I’m drawn to people who write from the heart but have some balls and a sense of humour too – so Daniel Johnston, The Replacements, Elvis Costello, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, The Lemonheads, Fionn Regan all make music I listen to a lot.
So, if pushed, I’d say: melodic guitar pop with 2 helpings of heart, 1/2 a helping of brains/balls.
Where are you based, and what do you use to record?
I live in Lancaster which, apart from all the hair from the high numbers of cats living here, is a pretty inspiring little town near the coast.
I record at home with microphones and a computer, and if I want to make a big racket then I go to a shop called the Music Spot which is a big Georgian building in town and has a nice upstairs with a bit of a studio. It’s where I teach the drums on a Saturday morning.
How much of the instrumentation do you handle yourself?
Pretty much all of it apart from drums, violin and the girl vocals. I’m no good at those three things, especially drums.
Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like!)
Yeah there is. It’s called Sleep for Railway Dreamers. It’s a collection of sad, pretty songs I wrote when I was pushing paper in a local prison, and before that selling catering supplies over the phone. I’d recently finished university, and I think like at lot of people at that time of life, you reach a bit of a disappointing, frustrating crossroad where you’re in the real world for the first time and it’s looking a lot more rubbish
than what you imagined for yourself.
On top of that, you also feel guilty and spoilt because everybody has to work and you’re lucky to even have a job. The record’s not entirely about that, but that’s the place it comes from, me trying to figure things out and reconcile things in the songs. Although I hadn’t thought about it before, it’s probably one of the reasons why so many of the songs are written from the points of view of different characters.
There’s one song called “Golden Promises”, where parents kind of pick up the flak a bit for promising their kids too much. I wrote it after my friend Paul (the bass player in my group the Fiat Pandas) said something
along those lines and at the time I though it was a bit miserable because who would want to be the grumpy dad you get in films who comes home from work and tells his children not to dream because they’ll never amount to anything?
There’s another song called “Cathy’s Kid is the Newsreader” which is about a woman who gives her son up for adoption as a baby, then maintains a one-way contact with him, watching him read the news on TV when he’s grown up. It’s the first time I’ve dabbled with a big string arrangement and not felt like I was going nuts. There are two great fiddle players called Mikey Kenney and Jo Gillot in Lancaster who really helped breathe a lot of life the record and know what they’re doing with that kind of thing.
Most of the songs are on acoustic guitar or piano and quite sparse with some violins accompanying. There are a few other more upbeat drum-led songs too like “Everything Electric” and “Tallulah?”, which add some sunshine, even though they have the most miserable lyrics.
It’s hopefully not as self-pitying as I’ve made it sound and it should be out in the next couple of months.
Where can we hear your music?
My new single is available to listen to and (if you’re feeling special) buy here: www.stephenhudson.bandcamp.com
Or there’s soundcloud.com/stephenhudson and Spotify.
You can also buy my single from Rough Trade if you live in London.
Which have been your most exciting gigs so far?
This year there have been a couple. At the end of January I got asked to play at the Sage Gateshead supporting Francois & The Atlas Mountains. That was very exciting, because I was asked about three days before the gig. I’d like to say I was excited to be supporting such a good band (they are ace), but backstage there was a video stream of the stage on the monitor, a count-down, and a telephone for a woman to announce when we were about to go on. It was this that really tipped us over the edge.
More recently, I cut my thumb on a tin of beans the day of a gig in Wigan, and got blood all over my keyboard. Other than that, we did a week’s tour with my band the Fiat Pandas last September which was great, driving up to Edinburgh listening to Derek and Clive’s Coughing Olympics at full volume.
Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)
The Mad Ferret, Preston on Friday 25th May with Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies.
Barnbox Bank Holiday party, Lancaster – Sunday 3rd June with All We Are, Married to the Sea and Ottersgear.
Jun 6th – The Continental, Preston.
Jun 7th – The Yorkshire House, Lancaster – both supporting Jack Lesser Lewis, and the Middle Ones.
July 27th – Cloudspotting Festival.
August 26th – Solfest Festival.
Recommend three albums that we might not have heard of…
Good News by Withered Hand
Meet me at the Empire by Songs for Walter
Derek and Clive Come Again by Derek and Clive
…and a song called “Casablanca” by So-Cow.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Yes definitely – Ottersgear (http://soundcloud.com/ottersgear/single-teaser) is a great pysch-folk project from Lancaster about to release a single on the Sotones label, and if you like Laura Marling or Astrid Gilberto then you should instantly love Jo Gillot (http://soundcloud.com/jogillot). There’s also The Thyme Machine who play lo-fi glam rock (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxKFaG5wOqA) and a really fun guitar-pop band from Liverpool called Married to the Sea (http://soundcloud.com/marriedtothesea/mutiny).
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Lambchop – to calm me down.
Hans Fallada – to learn how to do solitary confinement successfully.
Evan Dando/The Lemonheads.
Trisha Goddard – to remind me that things could be worse.
Stephen Hudson, thank you.