Andrew Roachford MBE, a British singer songwriter and member of Mike + The Mechanics chats with Kevin Cooper about his work with the Independent Music Venue Trust, his solo tour of the UK, meeting Lamont Herbert Dozier and Mike + The Mechanics’ 2023 forthcoming tour of the UK.

Andrew Roachford MBE is a British singer-songwriter and the main force behind the band Roachford, who scored their first success in 1989 with the hits Cuddly Toy and Family Man. He has also had a successful solo career.

Andrew Roachford was born in London. The band of the same name was formed in 1987, the line-up featuring Andrew Roachford (vocals, keyboards, percussion), Chris Taylor (drums), Hawi Gondwe (guitars) and Derrick Taylor (bass guitar). By 1988, the band were touring, supporting acts such as Terence Trent D’Arby and The Christians.

Shortly afterward, a seven-album recording contract with Columbia was signed. They went on to have a string of success throughout the 1990s, becoming Columbia’s biggest-selling UK act for ten years. Roachford released his first solo album, Heart Of The Matter, in 2003. His next album Word Of Mouth was released in June 2005 under the band name Roachford.

In 2010, Roachford joined Mike + The Mechanics along with Tim Howar. The following year the album The Road was released featuring Roachford and Howar as lead vocalists, as well as the 2017 album Let Me Fly.

In April 2019, Mike + The Mechanics released their ninth studio album Out Of The Blue via BMG.

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

Whilst busy touring the UK, he took some time out to have chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good afternoon, Andrew, how are you today?

Hi Kevin, I’m very well thanks, but more to the point, just how are you today?

I’m doing really well thank you, and before we move on, let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No problem Kevin, it’s always a pleasure when we get the chance to chat and chew things over.

So, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that life is treating me pretty good. As you know I am currently out on tour, and I have to say that it has been a total blast so far. It really is one of the best tours that I have ever undertaken and I am really loving it. As they say I am loving life to the full (laughter).

You and I last spoke back in 2020…

That’s right; we spoke just before the album Twice In A Lifetime was released.

Were you happy with the reaction to the album?

I have to say that the reaction to the album has been totally amazing. A lot of people were telling me that it was one of my best albums to date. However, having said that, for me, the most satisfying thing was that it was being played all over the radio. So I was really happy to actually put an album out when I did, because as you know, the pandemic hit and it was a bit like, ‘what do we do now?’ Obviously, it has taken me a while to be in a position to tour the album, but I have to say that it has been great.

The album even found itself as Radio 2’s album of the week.

That’s right, it did, and the amazing thing is that they wouldn’t stop playing Love Remedy, one of the songs from the album (laughter). That really was crazy. It has been really good.

I have to ask you, are the charts as important today as they were back in the day?

Being totally honest with you, I would have to say not really. I feel that the charts of today really only work as a marker for the media. For example, if you have got a song that is doing well in the radio charts, other forms of media will take it more seriously, but actually for the artist(s) they really are not that important. Going back to when Cuddly Toy came out, everything was very centralised and it was all about the one chart, which gave you a complete gauge as to where you were at, particularly at that moment in time. However, today the charts are all so fragmented I couldn’t even begin to tell you what charts I am in and what charts I am not (laughter).

Are there any thoughts on a new studio album?

What can I say, there is always new material being written, but I have to say that I am not rushing to put another album out at this moment in time. I like the albums to come when they are ready because I feel that is when I do my best work. When I have spent ages writing new material on and off, and before you know it you have got an album worth of material. Let me put it this way, I haven’t planned any release dates for a new album. Also, I find that the way that music is consumed these days, with social media and the internet, it is so different. I will be putting out stuff here and there, but not a full album anytime this year. It will most probably be sometime next year.

You have briefly mentioned the current tour. You were here in Nottingham recently when you played The Rescue Rooms. Do the Nottingham crowds treat you well?

You know what, I was a bit tired when I got to the gig but once the crowd started giving me the energy I thought to myself, ‘now I can see just why they call it The Rescue Rooms’ (laughter). It was like medicine; it really was so good. When you are playing in smaller venues like that, there is such a close connection between you and the audience. You also know when you have got good people in the room from when you haven’t and I have to say the Nottingham gig was really amazing. I loved everything about the Nottingham gig, the staff, the venue, absolutely everything, and that is why we have to ensure that these smaller venues stay open and find that funding if they need it.

On that point, you are undertaking the current tour in support of Independent Music Venues. Tell me a little more about that?

I’m so pleased that you have asked me that. I am a member of the Independent Music Venue Trust, and I just feel that it is so important that, for example, during the lockdown some of the Independent Music Venues had to close down whilst a hell of a lot were on the edge of closing down. It very soon became obvious that a lot of those venues were not being taken that seriously and were not seen as important by the powers that be. However, if you think about it, the British music scene is a big part of the British culture. For the powers that be to idly sit back and allow those venues to close down will really negatively impact the music scene.

Why do you feel that the UK Government are reluctant to give monetary help and assistance to the arts?

It’s a weird thing because in certain places in the world they hold the music scene in such high esteem and they take more regard to the arts and music. What they have to remember is that music is such a large export from this country. Everyone knows that the British music scene is where everyone else looks too often for originality, so I don’t quite understand why when we were in lockdown; the government were telling musicians that they really should be getting another job. I personally find that to be so disrespectful. The number of tours that I have done around the world and everyone keeps telling me just how great England is and they see it as the Mecca of music, and it is (laughter).

Having said all of that, they are surprised to know that it is not taken seriously by the powers that be as far as support is concerned. So, in answer to your question, I can’t tell you. It really is a strange one. What people do not also understand is the domino effect, and just how many people within the music industry were affected by lockdown when it hit us like it did. I just think that it needs to be highlighted more. I know that we are all currently in those times where funds are still low because we have been through the pandemic, plus there is currently a war going on, and so a lot of different sectors within society really do need funding. These really are desperate times but please, do not hang the arts out to dry like that.

Since lockdown, have you personally noticed the demise of the smaller music venues?

What you have to remember is that a lot of the smaller venues will get taken over by the bigger franchises such as the O2 or whatever. They will start owning a lot of the smaller venues, which, I have to say, is both good and bad. The bad thing is that you then lose the character of the venue which really is not what it is about. It is about them being local, and that is one of the main things that I have noticed; they just get bought out. A lot of the smaller venues simply get taken over by one of the larger franchises, and it very soon becomes a monopoly and I don’t think that is what it is all about. It’s the same now when a lot of the local pubs in and around London are all owned by the same company and that’s how they have managed to survive. But then they lose their character, and it feels as though you are going to the same place.

They are all built by the same people. It really is a shame because one thing that I love about this country is its history, character, and culture, and you don’t want it to be exactly the same wherever you go, it’s so boring. I notice this especially when I am touring across Europe. All of the shops on the high street now are all the same shops. Everywhere I go, the cities are all the same (laughter). Because I have been around and touring for so long, I remember that each time that you went to a different town or city, there would be a completely different vibe and that is what you loved about it. Nowadays, everything has become really clinical and the same and that really is a bit of a shame. So as much as we can hold on to these privately owned venues, the better it really is for the local culture.

One of the things that really was great about the UK was that its colourful history has shaped what it looks like, and I totally understand that the world has got to progress and change but there is a balance and there has to be a middle ground. A prime example of what I am trying to say is the Weatherspoon’s model (laughter). I grew up playing in these smaller venues. That is where I came through and I have to say that I loved them. When Prince was playing the arenas, he would still make a point of playing a small venue after the main show, because that’s where the buzz was; that’s where the energy was, and you were able to get up close and personal with the audience which enabled you to feel the energy of the town that you were playing in.

Bearing in mind that you will once again be touring with Mike + The Mechanics later this year, are there any Mike + The Mechanics tracks on the current tour set list?

As you know, we do an acoustic section in the current tour where I will play a few things but we also ask the audience if there is anything that they would particularly like to hear. Almost every time I ask that inevitably a few Mike + The Mechanics tracks will get requested. So yes, I play a couple of their songs; a couple of the classics, plus a couple of the newer tracks which I have co-written with Mike (Rutherford). So, as you can see, it all ties in (laughter).

You have now been a member of Mike + The Mechanics for thirteen years, can you believe that?

(Laughter) no I can’t, can you.

Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

I have to be totally honest with you and say that it has been great. Because it has now been a while, I know all of the guys plus I now know Mike really well and it really does feel like you are going out on tour with your extended family who are also your mates (laughter). It really has been great. They are lovely songs to play, and it is such a different thing for me from my live gigs. It really is a great thing to do; it really is so very different. I am so pleased that Mike had the foresight to get me involved and to know that it would work. Everyone was trying to work out just how Andrew Roachford joining Mike + The Mechanics would work but take it from me, it actually works perfectly.

It has now been four years since you released the Out Of The Blue album. Are there any signs of you and Mike getting together to write some new material for a new studio album?

To be totally honest with you, I don’t know. What I can say is that we have been talking a lot about definitely getting back into the studio. What will come out of that, again, I don’t want to put us once again under that kind of pressure. I don’t think that we will make an album, what we will do is make music because we love doing that; being together in the studio and being creative. However, if it looks like it could be an album then it will be but who knows at this point.

Do you have a favourite Mike + The Mechanics song?

Oh wow, that is a really good question. I guess that it would really have to be The Living Years especially because of the lyrics, in fact everything about it and I have to say that it really is a beautiful song to sing. You can really put yourself into the song. I love what Paul (Carrack) did with that song; he really is a genius vocalist. It really is so much fun to put yourself into that song. I personally believe strongly in what that lyric is saying.

Being old I am in the fortunate position of having seen both incarnations of the band; many years ago with both Pauls, Carrack and Young and then not that many years ago now with Tim Howar and your good self.

Wow, you really have been spoilt for choice (laughter). I didn’t get to see them live but when I knew that I was going to be in the band I watched loads of stuff and the late Paul Young, man, what a voice, in fact both Pauls were really incredible. They really did set the bar extremely high.

Having said all of that, I really do feel that you and Tim have taken the band to another level.

Thank you very much for saying that. What we have had to do is make it our own and not try to turn it into a cover band. It is an actual band because whenever Tim, Mike and I get together and start writing, we all try our very best to bring our artistry to something that is already amazing in its own right. That really does mean a lot, thank you.

Putting you firmly on the spot, in your opinion, just how good is Tim?

(Laughter) Wow, thanks for that (laughter). What can I say, Tim is more than good. Tim really is amazing; he really is an amazing vocalist. Whenever we are sitting in the tour bus, and Tim starts singing for fun, I listen to him and think, ‘just how does he do that, I can’t do that’ (laughter). Tim is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best singers that I have ever worked with.

You have played here in Nottingham many times now, so what do you think to our fair city?

One of the very first gigs that I played here in Nottingham was at Rock City. It really is a great city. It has got a lot of history, a lot of culture and I find that Nottingham has got a lot of energy to it. It really is a vibrant place to be. Correct me if I am wrong but I seem to remember that there is a really old pub just off the marketplace. Am I right?

Yes, you are correct. You are actually talking about Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem which is a Grade II listed public house here in Nottingham which claims to have been established in 1189. The building rests against the Castle Rock, which Nottingham Castle is built on.

Exactly, that’s the one. So we had a day off on the Mechanics tour once and we went down to that pub, and unfortunately they had an ale that was for sale called The Village Idiot (laughter). The title says it all really. I should have known. We all had just the one too many and needless to say I don’t know much about the rest of the day after that (laughter). All that I can remember is that it was a beautiful pub (laughter).

Being nosey now, what is currently on Andrew Roachford’s rider?

What is on the rider, well not The Village Idiot (laughter). I have learnt my lesson. Well let me tell you, there is a saying in the Roachford camp, because I like to have a glass or two of Champagne before I go out on stage. The bubbles seem to get me into the right energy, and I don’t do drugs, so there you go. So I say “no Moet no showey” then its “no bubbly no cuddly” and finally “no Chandon no band on” (laughter). Now you know what is currently on Andrew Roachford’s rider (laughter).

We recently lost a key member of one the greatest song writing teams of all time, one Lamont Herbert Dozier (Holland-Dozier-Holland). You met him a few times. Just what was he like?

What can I say, Lamont was a true gentleman. You would never know that he was the guy that wrote all of those songs, simply because of just how down to earth he was. The first time that I met him was at a tribute concert in his honour and I had to sing one of his songs with him sitting right in front of me (laughter). Let me tell you, that was one of the scariest things that I have ever done because when you think of people who have sung his songs, people like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and The Four Tops to name a few and here I am (laughter). The great thing was that he was loving what I did, so much so that he gave me his number and said, “let’s get together in Los Angeles and do something together”.

Unfortunately, we never did quite get around to doing that, but I saw him at various places around the world and he was always consistently a humble man and a great singer. Whenever you meet someone who has written that quality of songs you very soon get to see the warmth of his character. I also feel that going through his lyrics, it is clear that he is someone who really understands exactly what that connection means. Meeting him didn’t disappoint me. They quite often tell you, “never meet your heroes” but I have to say that Lamont Herbert Dozier really was a lovely guy.

On that note Andrew, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been enlightening. You take care and I will see you with Mike + The Mechanics up here in Nottingham.

Cheers Kevin, as always it’s been a pleasure man. You take care and enjoy the show.