July 29, 2011 Leave a comment
It’s 9.30pm on a cool summer night in Gawthorpe, a small village situated between Dewsbury and Wakefield. It has a population of nearly 3,000 and hosts the World Coal Carrying Championships every Easter.
I am sat at the dining room table of singer-songwriter, Ryan Spendlove, probably the village’s most famous resident.
The former Blueskins frontman is playing me a newly written song, entitled Not That Strong. Unsurprisingly it’s very good.
“This is another soppy one,” he warns me beforehand as he performs it with the same bluesy soul he offers on stage. He holds his guitar throughout the interview, occasionally playing small blues licks to punctuate his sentences or buy him more time while he thinks about my questions.
Two months ago he released his first solo album, Fable, through American indie label, CandyRat Records, and is spending his summer playing small festivals and one-off gigs, mostly throughout Yorkshire.
“It’s all been really positive feedback so far,” he says, “I haven’t had any hate mail or anything like that. It seems like the songs are appealing to lots of different people.”
Ryan is gifted with a friendly, generous Yorkshire charm, pausing the interview only to make more tea.“I love tea,” he says. “I wish it got you drunk.”
Spendlove began performing in his late teens, singing on the street with friends.
“I liked the feeling of it and thought I’d better learn how to play the guitar,” he said. “I was 19 when I started the guitar and writing songs.”
The Blueskins tasted success with their 2003 single, Change My Mind, which was famously featured on an advert for Lynx deodorant.
The band finally broke up in 2008, for reasons he describes as one of those ‘musical differences’ situations and so decided to go at it on his own.
He sent demos out to a few small record labels. CandyRat registered their interest immediately.
“CandyRat got back to me the next day,” he said. “They asked what my plans were and then offered me an album deal. Three months later I was in Milwaukee.”
The resulting album is an open and raw musical display. The 12 tracks transcend blues, folk, gospel and reggae without ever giving up ground. There are no tricks or elaborate recording techniques, instead, he embodies a one-man-and-his-guitar way of doing things, writing and recording songs at home.
“It’s a tricky thing because, you know you’ll never force out a song,” he says. “You can’t just pick a guitar up and think, ‘Oh, I’m gonna write a really good song.’ If it was like that, every artist would make a masterpiece every day or every week.
“I just keep practising and playing and playing. Most of the time I won’t come out with anything, but sometimes I do and it works out pretty well.”
In spite of the album, Ryan Spendlove is very much a working musician, playing gigs where he can get them and supplementing his income by selling copies of Fable to new-found fans after his shows.
“It’s a different industry now, isn’t it,” he says. “The Blueskins were signed just before the time when labels stopped giving advances and we were lucky that we got one. But as long as I can pay my way, I’m alright. I am lucky, I’m doing what I want to do.
“I’m aware that it’s not easy to play your own music and earn a living.”
As the interview concludes, inevitably I ask what the future holds for Ryan Spendlove and if there is another album in the works.
“Ask the record label,” he shrugs. “I’ve got, like, three songs finished, and another three I’m working on. We’ll have to see. I’m thinking about moving to York and getting a boat. I reckon that’ll be my next move, saving up for a boat, a place where I can just jam and not bother anybody.”
Watch the video below to hear Ryan’s latest effort, Not That Strong
Buy his album, Fable, and see Ryan’s bio on CandyRat Records site here