Andrew Roachford, a British singer and song writer, chats with Kevin Cooper about getting his MBE, working with Mike Rutherford, his re-scheduled tour of the UK in June 2021 and his latest solo album Twice In A Lifetime.


Andrew Roachford MBE is a British singer and song writer. He formed a band of the same name in 1987 and by 1988 they were touring, supporting acts such as Terence Trent D’Arby and The Christians. They went on to be signed by Columbia who gave them a seven-album recording deal and with 1989 hits Cuddly Toy and Family Man, they became Columbia’s biggest selling UK act for ten years

Roachford released his first solo album, Heart Of The Matter in 2003. He has since released four further solo albums with his sixth, Twice In a Lifetime being released on 11th September.

In 2010 he joined Mike Rutherford’s Mike + The Mechanics along with Tim Howar. They have released three albums; the latest being Out Of The Blue in 2019.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.

Whilst preparing for the release of his latest album during the current pandemic, Roachford took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Andrew, how are you?

I’m good thanks Kevin, how are you doing man?

I’m doing very well thank you.

That’s excellent.

Before we move on, let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

As always, it’s a pleasure.

And just how is life treating you in these strange times?

I’m in the same situation as almost everyone else, trying to find ways in which to work around everything. As you are aware, I can’t really do any gigs, so in the meantime I have started writing new material once again. Even though I do have a new album coming out shortly, I am trying to make the most of the time available to me.

You are not going crazy for a haircut like the rest of the population?

(Laughter) no, not at all. I’m fortunate in the fact that I have low maintenance hair. I like to keep it short and it is something that I can keep on top of whist I’m at home. At least if I do need any expert help, the barbers are all open again now (laughter). It’s amazing but it would seem that the whole world has gone crazy for haircuts. It’s amazing when you watch movies which are dealing with extreme situations like the current pandemic, they never think about the little things that end up meaning so much. We find ourselves in crazy times man.

I suppose that we had better talk about your latest album, Twice In A Lifetime.

Yes please, I suppose that we better had (laughter).

Well I must tell you that I have been playing it now for the last week and I absolutely love it. It is in the house, the car, the study, everywhere. To me, it sounds like business as usual for Andrew Roachford (laughter).

Well thanks man that truly is great to hear, thank you. I certainly put a lot of love into this album, and I am really happy with the way that it turned out. Sometimes, when you get a vision for a record, you never really know just how it is going to turn out. You simply go into the studio and hope for the best. However, I am really proud of the way that this one has turned out. I am truly excited for it to be released; I can’t wait. It has been a long time coming, partly because of Covid -19, but it finally drops on 11th September.

You have called the album Twice In A Lifetime. Where did the title come from?

One of the first tracks that I wrote for this record is called Once In A Lifetime, and it basically made me think about the saying that people use all of the time but don’t actually think about it. So I found myself thinking about how as an artist in the music business, people are often surprised when you are still around after a few albums because it is very often perceived that you have had your flash in the pan and that’s it. I personally feel that in the case of an artist, that simply is not true. We keep going and eventually when you keep going, the world comes back round to you. That is how it feels like to me. This is my second record deal, and everything feels like another phase in my career (laughter).

Would you agree that Twice In A Lifetime is your best work to date?

I would have to agree with you and say that in some senses yes, it is my best work to date. Obviously, I think that as time has gone on I have learnt a bit more about the recording process together with the writing process so one would hope that it gets better because you are always honing your skills, especially in a writing sense. Also, I’m mostly very much a live artist, which is my main thing. So I am learning how to get some of that live energy from the gigs onto my recordings which is an art within itself. That is why I feel that it has got to another place, another level now.

At the minute I have got four go to tracks. They are High On Love, Too Much To Lose, So Long and The Truth Hurts Too Much. I think that they are all fantastic.

Thanks man that is truly great to hear, thank you. With regard to Too Much To Lose, I can remember going into the studio having not written that song yet. It was one of those days when I was sitting watching the news and thinking, ‘you can’t do too much because it will always bring you down’ (laughter). The guys in the studio were all asking me, “what’s wrong with you, you look a little bit down” and it was because I was looking around for things to appreciate in life. Whenever the world is in a place similar to where it is now, I always try to look for something positive and try to find something that I can appreciate.

I am a massive soulie at heart and I have to say that, in my opinion, Once In A Lifetime and Too Much To Lose both smack of The Reverend Al Green and The Muscle Shoals Studio Sound. Would you agree with that?

Wow man, thanks for saying that. I really do appreciate it and yes, I totally agree with you on that. However, I must be totally honest with you and say that it was slightly a conscious thing whilst we were recording this record, because I found myself in the studio with producer Jimmy Hogarth who just so happens to have loads of vintage gear such as mics and the likes, and he was even using tape to record the band on to (laughter). I have found that during the last few years, I have gone back to listening to a lot of that kind of stuff, especially a lot of Al Green. I think that I know Al Green inside out, together with the late Bobby Womack plus a hell of a lot of Motown stuff.

You hear a record and you think, ‘I want to make a record like that’ because I don’t really hear a lot of that on the radio, and it is a very high standard to reach for, and I think that is what we were doing. There is something about those records in the fact that they weren’t overly complicated, but they were just so very good. Obviously, Al Green, Bobby Womack, and Marvin Gaye, were simply the best of the best. That is what I strive for.

Well I have to say that with this album, I think that you have achieved it.

Thanks man. This is the first record that I have actually used live horns on. It seems to have been a long time coming. My uncle is in a band and he is a horn player, so I have always been around Stax sounding bands whilst I was growing up. I suddenly realised that I had never actually recorded like that, so it really was quite exciting for me.

I have to tell you that the more that I listen to The Truth Hurts Too Much I can hear Aretha Franklin or Mavis Staples singing that track.

Thanks man that is a massive compliment. Again Aretha and Mavis are two of my all-time favourites; in fact I have to say that Aretha does it for me every time. She is one of those people who when they say she could sing the phone book she literally could (laughter). And of course, Mavis, they both came from Gospel roots, but they took it somewhere else. In this world there are three kinds of singers. Firstly, you get the singers who are technically good but who don’t have that feeling. Secondly, you get the singers who have the feeling but who aren’t technically that good. And then thirdly, if you are lucky, you get the singers who can put the two together, people like Aretha and Mavis. Those two certainly set a high benchmark so thank you for saying that, that really does mean a lot to me.

When you were writing What We Had, the duet which you recorded with Beverley Knight, did you set out to write a duet or did it just happen?

What a great question. No, I never set out to write a duet. When I first recorded the demo it was just me, it was just one voice. However, by the time that it got to the second verse, Jimmy Hogarth the producer said to me, “as a story, I can hear a girl on this” and after thinking about it I said, “you are right, it definitely needs the girl perspective”. It is a song that I wrote about a relationship that was losing a little of its light, and as you know, relationships are about two people and therefore two perspectives. Jimmy then asked me “so, who is going to be singing the female part?” and Beverley’s name came up straight away.

I have known Beverley for quite a while now and we have both performed gigs on the same bill. I have also watched her perform many, many times and she really is amazing. I had a strong feeling that she would say yes, so I called her and immediately she said, “yes, I’ll do it” (laughter). Beverley does her homework and when she came down to the studio, she already knew the song really well, so she recorded her part almost instantly. I looked at her and said, “do you know what, you’ve nailed it” (laughter).

That’s great but you have now made a rod for your own back. If you perform the song live on tour, who will perform the female part?

It’s funny that you should ask me that because I was actually with Beverly yesterday and out of the blue she said, “I would love to come and do some of the gigs with you” (laughter). I thought, ‘well, that’s solved that problem’ (laughter). Beverley won’t be able to join me for all of the gigs, so I may be forced to bring someone one stage to do that or I might just have to do that part myself. The thing about performing live is, especially for someone like me who is about improvisation, it doesn’t always have to be exactly like the record. I am not a pop artist in that sense where you just perform the record and that’s it. I’m literally performing the song as I feel it in that moment so you are getting something extra each gig, which people find out when they come to the gigs.

I think that some people who have never seen me live expect everything to be pretty much like a pop gig. Each song is the same length as it is on the record, and everything sounds exactly as it does on the record, whereas with me, I always take things somewhere. I try to give the audience that little bit more excitement. I try to give them something which is in the actual moment, and I have found that people get off on that, they love it.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

Oh my god (laughter). That really is a tough question, but I would have to say that Love Remedy must be up there. It was the first single off the album and it went straight to radio. As you know earlier this year I was honoured with an MBE and I was driving into Buckingham Palace with my brother and my mum, and we happened to have the radio on and Love Remedy was actually playing on the radio as we were driving through the gates at Buckingham Palace (laughter). I have to tell you that is one of those moments that I will never forget. My mum has supported me since I was a kid with my musical career and tuition, and it was just one of those moments. There I was on the radio driving into Buckingham Palace, and if you could frame a moment then that would be it (laughter).

On the subject of the MBE just how did it feel?

(Laughter) well, when I got the letter through the door, it was a very surreal moment. At first, I thought, ‘is it a wind up’ (laughter). However, because it was such an official looking letter, and I had no idea, I wasn’t expecting it, it came totally out of the blue, I had literally just got off the road after the tour with Mike + The Mechanics, and it was waiting for me. I don’t even know how long it had been sitting there, but I replied saying “hell yes” (laughter). After that, things really did start to go ballistic, I started getting other messages and I started to gradually realise that it was real (laughter). I felt so honoured and of course, when I finally called my mum that took things to the next level of pride (laughter). She actually managed to get me even more excited about it (laughter).

I recently spoke to Courtney Pine who has, as you know, been awarded an OBE and a CBE. When I asked him how that felt, he said, “I am still expecting the doorbell to ring and for there be a man standing there who has come to take my OBE and CBE back to the Palace” (laughter).

(Laughter) well now I get the postman knocking on the door whereas before, he would just push the letters through the letter box (laughter). Whenever he delivers a letter that has my name on it together with MBE, he never pushes them through the letter box; he always knocks and hands them to me (laughter). It really is quite funny actually.

In 2016 you released your last album Encore. You were also busy touring with Mike + The Mechanics as well as doing a solo tour. Is that the reason why Twice In A Lifetime has taken you four years to release?

As you rightly say, back in 2016 I did record and release Encore which, if I am honest, really was a covers album, and it was a release to satisfy the fans more than anything. It was a studio album but there was only one original song on there; the rest were covers. Really, it was my take on the songs that I had grown up with. What with that, together with all of the touring, I didn’t really have the time to pen a new album properly because it does take a while to get the songs together. The number of nights away from home on the road touring had doubled, and I have to say that I was quite shocked at just how many gigs the Mechanics were doing (laughter). I truly didn’t expect that but it was great; I wasn’t complaining. I loved being a part of that. Having said that, it really was intense and it simply didn’t give me the time to really properly sit down and write songs, so when I finally did get the time, I went for it and that’s the reason why it has taken the last four years or so.

You have mentioned Mike + The Mechanics, just what is Mr Rutherford like to work with?

I like working with Mike. He is a really lovely guy, he really is down to earth, especially when you consider his history, where he has been together with what he has done, and being in the studio with him really is a pleasure. Mike has his own unique approach when it comes to lyric writing; he is very particular about what he likes and what he doesn’t like. I learnt a lot of things from Mike, and that is what I liked, it was a different kind of challenge for me. It made me feel as though I now have another string to my bow, so to speak, working with Mike. It was as if the penny had finally dropped when I thought, ‘oh yes, of course, that’s how you do that’ (laughter).

Even the way that he puts music together; it is not the way that I would have normally done stuff in the studio, but it has now become a part of my thing. There are certain things that we do have in common musically, but then there are other things which Mike approaches differently and I have learnt from that.

Due to Covid-19 this year’s September tour has unfortunately been cancelled. At this moment in time, how confident are you that it will take place next year in June?

I always say whenever anyone asks me that question that yes; next year’s tour will go ahead, Covid-19 permitting, just so long as we don’t find ourselves in the middle of a crazy second wave. The whole live music industry is currently praying that we start to get the whole Covid-19 under control with social distancing. If we want to play smaller gigs, then the venues have to work out just how they are going to do it and make it something that is worthwhile. As you know they can’t sell as many tickets as they have in the past. It is just a whole lot of unknowns in order to manage it together with whatever the regulations are going to be with regard to local councils. There really is going to be a hell of a lot to consider.

I’m raring to go, and I have to say that this has been the longest that I have gone without performing a gig since I was fourteen years old. If I had a complaint it would be that a pandemic is always possible. It can happen at any time, so there should be a protocol put in place so that if it does happen there is a plan. Don’t get me wrong; I accept that this has totally taken the Government by surprise, but I don’t think that they really know what they are doing. It is almost as if we are making it up as we go along. What the Government is doing is that they are trying to please different agendas. Obviously one is to keep people healthy, stop people from dying, and to keep the economy going.

That is almost a contradiction and that is where it becomes very difficult. Just how do you keep the British economy from falling apart with so few people working? How do you manage that, just how do you toe the line; I simply don’t know. Who would want to be Prime Minister right now, I wouldn’t (laughter).

Do you think that the music industry here in the UK will recover?

Wow, that’s a big question. I actually do know a lot of younger musicians are already talking about getting day jobs outside of music and I feel that is quite sad in that sense. I think that there will always be music being made and there will always be people wanting to hear it being performed live; music is a very social thing. We humans are very social creatures so eventually we will all want to go out when it is safe to see a gig, so I think that on that level it will survive. However, the problem is if the venues can continue to survive, if they can stay open long enough. That really is the big if. That is down to the Government helping, so I would have to say that it is teetering at the moment. I personally know a lot of venues that are currently struggling to work out how to stay open, so in all honesty, I simply don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Well, you know what, it was today (laughter). It was a Prince song that I heard just randomly playing on the radio, and it was called Bringing Me Down. It is quite intensely full of emotion, and I don’t know, it just caught me on the wrong day (laughter).

Next year you will be opening for Lionel Richie. How does that feel, and have you met him before?

No, I have never met him, but I am hoping that I will get to finally meet him on this particular round of gigs. It feels great; it is yet another surreal moment in my life, and if you had told me when I was a lot younger when I was listening to him on the radio, that I would be opening for him, I would never have believed you. It really is one of those strange things. Lionel really is one of the last; I would call him an old school legend. He was around back in the 70s when all of the big boys were there, people like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder so yes, for me it feels like a real honour.

You have been performing, recording and touring as Andrew Roachford now for over thirty-three years. Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

What can I say, it has been amazing, it really has been amazing, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, not one bit.

You are known world over for your 1989 smash hit Cuddly Toy. Do you ever tire of performing it?

It’s funny that you should ask me that because, you know what, twenty odd years ago, there was a period when I had performed it every day for a million times and I stopped performing it for over a year. We were doing gigs and I just stopped performing it; we simply didn’t perform it anymore. However, we had the Permanent Shade Of Blue album out at that time which was actually doing really well, and people didn’t mind that much that we weren’t playing Cuddly Toy at that time. During that time, I went to see Stevie Wonder in concert, and I thought, ‘just how long has Stevie been playing Superstition; a lot longer than I have been playing Cuddly Toy’ (laughter).

A little later I was at a Prince gig and he played Purple Rain, and the penny dropped, and I thought, ‘yes, I really do need to put Cuddly Toy back into the set list’, (laughter). At that time, I found a new love for the song, and I have to say that I now really do enjoy playing it a lot now (laughter).

On that note Andrew, let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me once again, it’s been a pleasure and I hope to see you in Birmingham soon.

Thanks Kevin, it’s been a pleasure as usual. You stay safe and make sure that you come and say hi when we all get to Birmingham.

Andrew Roachford’s tour of the UK has been postponed. For the re-arranged dates visit https://roachford.co.uk/category/news/