Andrew Roachford, singer-songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about joining Mike + The Mechanics, working with The Clash, his new album Encore, and his forthcoming UK tour.

Andrew Roachford is a British singer-songwriter, born in London. He was the main force behind the band Roachford, who scored their first success in 1989 with the hits Cuddly Toy and Family Man. Shortly afterwards, they signed a seven album recording contract with Columbia. 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, Andrew joined Mike + The Mechanics, and now he pursues a solo career.

Whilst busy preparing for his forthcoming tour of the UK, he took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Hi Andrew how are you?

I’m very well thanks for asking.

Let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

It’s my pleasure man.

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

Life is good; life is very good. It is great to have another album coming out and it is great for me to be gigging once again. It’s nice to be doing a few interviews once again so in general all is good.

So I can take it that you are in a happy place at this moment in time?

Yes Kevin I am definitely in a good place right now.

I was thinking about the first time that I saw you performing live and it was on Saturday 13th July 1991.

Bloody hell (laughter).

You were supporting Inxs at Wembley Stadium.

My gosh, that was such a lovely day.

How was it for you playing in front of over eighty thousand people?

To be honest with you it was a totally surreal experience. It was possibly the biggest gig that I had played at that time, but it really was lovely. Funnily enough I can remember that my mum was there and she was sitting next to Elton John of all people (laughter). She tells everyone who will listen that Elton John was telling everyone that I was the best thing since sliced bread (laughter). She was obviously very proud of me.

It funny you mentioning that because I recently interviewed Leo Sayer and when I asked him who he was currently listening to he was waxing lyrically about you. He simply can’t get enough of you and he doesn’t have a bad word to say about you.

(Hysterical laughter) bless him, that’s really lovely. I did bump into him at a service station whilst I was out on the road last year which is where most musicians seem to bump into one another. He now lives in Australia which is crazy. He is a proper talent and one of the great performers. Leo really is the real deal.

You are currently getting ready to go back out on tour; does is still excite you?

I am really excited Kevin especially now that I have got a new product which I can’t wait to try out in front of a live audience. That really does give touring that extra buzz. Touring is where it is at for me. I have grown up doing that and I love it. However some people don’t take to it that well because they can’t get used to being away from home but it suits me because I am quite nomadic and cool with that (laughter).

I’m hoping to get over to The Glee Club in Birmingham to see you.

Make sure that you come down as it is going to be fun.

I have been listening to your latest album Encore for the past few days and I have to say that I think that it is really good.

Thanks Kevin, it is good of you to say that.

Are you pleased with it?

I’m the kind of guy that is never 100% pleased with anything that I do; I don’t even listen to a lot of my old stuff because I will listen to it and think to myself, I could have done this and I could have done that. But at the moment I am pretty pleased but I am sure that at some point I will start picking it to bits, but that is just my nature. If I am ever 100% happy then I will be worried because it will feel as though I have nowhere to go as far as improving as an artist.

Well listening to the album from my personal point of view I feel that your voice is sounding better than ever.

Thanks very much Kevin I really did enjoy recording this album and I really do hope that comes across. It was great fun.

So what made you decide to record a covers album?

Well there were a couple of reasons but the main reason was that whenever I do a gig, during the encore I will always do a song that isn’t mine. I won’t just do a straight cover, I will always try to reinterpret the song and whenever possible I will make it my own. Because of that, people have always asked me if I would ever record a covers album. For many years I was dead against it but then when I was listening to a lot of my favourite artists it dawned on me that they had all done covers at some point in their careers whether it be Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye; they have all done covers.

It was at that point that I thought that I would be up for it. I already had quite a few things that I had been performing live and so I had a large collection of songs that I thought would work.

So just how did you manage to trim those songs down to just eleven for the album?

I already had about six of them that I had been singing live at gigs over the years so I knew those songs already. I simply went into the recording studio with a band and a producer and we recorded the first four songs on the album right then and there. Then we looked at each other and asked, what do we do now (laughter). I went through a number of songs that I had loved when I was growing up because the album was always going to be about the songs that had influenced me at a young age, and songs which I thought that I could bring something to, which was the main criteria.

It was all about me reinterpreting the songs and not just performing them as the originals were performed, because there is nothing wrong with any one of those originals. It was all about me trying to do something different with them.

I love Bill Withers work and I think that your version of Grandma’s Hands is fantastic.

Thank you so much Kevin, I love that song and so it is so good that you like it too. Bill Withers is up there as one of my all-time favourite artists and I just love the lyrics. He is one of the few soul crooners who is still with us today so I thought that it would be fitting to do some of his songs.

I have to take my hat off to you and say that it was brave of you to cover John Lennon’s Imagine because there are a few songs that you think should I or shouldn’t I.

(Hysterical laughter) I really do think that the lyric is still appropriate today. I think that we are all getting far to wrap up with politics that we are losing sight of human values. I feel that we are all in a place where that song is as relevant as it was back when there was a Vietnam War. It feels as though we are back in that place right now.

Will you be releasing the album on vinyl?

I am actually in talks with the distribution people as we speak as I would love to get it out there on vinyl Kevin. At best I think that there will be a limited run on vinyl. I have actually got a record deck at home and I still do buy vinyl albums so I have mentioned to my Manager that I think it would be a good idea. I still haven’t heard what the album sounds like on vinyl so I am personally looking forward to that. Somehow I feel that it was meant to be on vinyl.

Have you ever considered recording a Motown covers album?

The funny thing is, I remember some years ago I did a Motown tribute to one of their songwriters Lamont Dozier at The Royal Festival Hall. In the rehearsals there I was singing one of his songs with the man, Lamont Dozier sitting right in front of me. I have to say that it was quite nerve-wracking (laughter). When we had finished he stood up, looked at me and said that I had blown him away. Since then I have met him a couple of times and he always says that he would love to work with me. When I think of all of the acts that he has worked with, some of my favourite singers ever, it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Your new album Encore has a release date of the 11th March, just how far ahead do you plan. Are you already thinking of the next album?

That is a very good question and also very appropriate because I am already actually thinking about the next album. The thing is when you finish an album there is a saying by quite a few songwriters which is, if you in a recording studio and you have a flow going with recording then the best thing to do is only take a very short break. Keep going and get back on that horse if you can, if you are not doing too much touring. The reason is that it does take quite a while to get the juices flowing again. So if you feel like you are on a roll then get yourself back into the studio.

Whilst I have always liked being in the studio, the studio can be hard work and I have always regarded myself as being more of a live performer. But I feel as though I have got a strong idea of where I want to go with the next album and I want to try out a few experiments, so I want to get myself back into the studio quite soon.

Are you always writing?

Not so much nowadays Kevin, however I do find myself constantly messing around on the piano at home. I also record bits on my mobile phone and then before I know it, after a week or so I will take a look at my phone and there will be hundreds of my ideas on there just all stacked up (laughter). Then it’s the case of me having to set aside some time to listen to them all. I usually listen to a few of them when I go to bed and start to throw away the ones which I don’t think will work, whilst keeping the ones which I think might. I personally think that is the best way rather than saying right we are going into the studio to write which simply puts even more pressure on you.

You get inspired when you get inspired and not to order. So whether you are sitting at the piano at home or you find yourself in a hotel bar somewhere, if you get an idea then it is so important that you record it because you never know when the next idea will come along.

Are there any of the new artists around today that grab your attention?

I quite like some of the things that I hear from artists such as Adele, Labyrinth and Ed Sheeran. I really do find Ed Sheeran promising; he writes really good songs and I believe him. What is important to me is that I believe the artist when they perform and also when they write and Ed has got that element about him. I really do like the fact that he was brave enough to play Wembley Stadium with just a guitar and a stomp box; that takes a lot of guts and it shows that there is some kind of talent there. Whilst I haven’t heard the whole of Adele’s new album but her previous album was wonderful. When she performed her songs I really did believe her.

There was a period when due to a certain DJ culture there wasn’t a lot of really good live artists out there but now everything is cool again. It is once again cool for you to pick up a guitar and to walk out onto a stage and for you to be backed by drum kits. It is allowing real music to rise to the surface once again which I feel is a great thing. When I recorded my album all of the musicians who I recorded with where so young, if any of them were alive when I recorded Cuddly Toy I will be amazed (laughter). They were all really young guys but the good thing was that they were all really into what I was trying to do and they were all really good players. For me I find that very encouraging.

And will you be following in the footsteps of a certain Bono and be giving your new album away free?

No (laughter). It was such a weird thing to do Kevin. It can set a precedent which will make it even harder for up and coming bands to get a fair deal. People will simply think that is how it is going to be now and every artist will be expected to give away their product. In the past Prince has also given away various albums free of charge but the problem that I have with that is that people then cease to value any of his work because they think that it can’t be that good otherwise why would he be giving it away free.

Also for up and coming musicians who are trying very hard to make a living, it can be really hard for them. It is hard enough, as it is especially hard for new artists to actually make a living from music. But giving away albums free makes that even harder I think.

We all know that the music business is currently on its knees due to illegal downloads and more recently streaming. Do you think that it will ever recover?

No I don’t think that it will. It is all down to the ways in which people today access their music. The major labels were completely caught off guard and never realised the impact that downloading and streaming was going to have upon the music business. When I first started making music there were lots of record labels everywhere, together with great recording studios but of course now all of the labels are amalgamating into two or three major labels simply because they cannot survive individually.

Plus all of the recording studios are closing down because everyone now is making music at home because they cannot afford to hire the big recording studios because everyone is downloading music illegally (laughter). Because of that I personally do not think that the music industry will ever recover Kevin, I can’t see how it can.

It’s sad for me to say but I now label music as a disposable commodity. Kids download it, listen to it then erase it.

Downloading will be a thing of the past in a couple of years and all that there will be is streaming. People simply do not want to own music; they just want to steam it and listen to it when they feel like it without buying it. If you can listen to music in your home anytime without having to buy it then why would you buy it? Plus you also have to consider the convenience too. I feel that the artists are going to have to change their outlook on how they view their business; it simply has to be more multi-media. They need to wake up and realise that their products are being listened to all over the world but they are not receiving anything for it.

You go into the studio where you do all of that work; it costs to use a studio, it costs to use musicians, and at the end of the day people are simply listening to your work for free which can’t be right, it simply can’t be right.

You mentioned Adele and I recently saw an article involving her and streaming where over a period of one month her songs had been listened to tens of thousands of times and I believe she received a cheque for $5.

Yes I believe you Kevin and don’t forget that Adele is at the top of the pile so you can imagine just what the people who are in the middle or right at the bottom receive. It’s sad to say but it’s like forget it, go out and get yourself a day job. The problem with that is if all of these writers and musicians do go out and get themselves a day job then they cannot concentrate on the music as much as they would like and therefore the music suffers; it is just not as good. The actual quality of the music will eventually reflect that. It’s a vicious circle because then the public will start complaining that there are no good artists out there anymore. I am interested in finding out exactly where all of this is leading to.

The frightening thing for me Kevin is that people are already getting used to listening to their music on low quality, low bit devices be it their phone, iPod or even a tablet. So they are quite satisfied with it. They have been listening to low quality files for so long now they think that it sounds pretty good because it is what they are used to (laughter).

On a lighter note in 2010 you joined Mike + The Mechanics happy times?

Really happy times Kevin. We have had some great experiences together. I personally have learnt so much from Mike (Rutherford) and I think that he might have learnt a little bit from me but you would have to ask him about that (laughter). I really didn’t know that much about Genesis but I did know about Mike + The Mechanics of course. However I had never been in the studio with Mike. Being in the studio with him really opened my eyes because he does some things differently from me and vice versa. So we both came together and went on a learning curve together.

How was it performing live, did you encounter any problems from the older Mike + The Mechanics fans?

The gigs have been absolutely amazing. The first tour that we did there were all of the old Mike + The Mechanics fans there who were all a little apprehensive because obviously they were real big fans of the original two vocalists Paul Carrack and Paul Young. I can imagine that if I went to see the Roachford Band and there was some different guy at the front (laughter) I would be thinking this isn’t going to work (laughter). But they soon realised that having me in there does work. The ticket sales for the first tour were good but they weren’t great. But then, once the word had got out as to just how good we were the ticket sales for the second and third tours all sold out.

People had finally got their heads around it and it was as if they had accepted the band as being Mike + The Mechanics Mk 2. I am really enjoying it and it all went really well last year over in the USA. At shows the Americans will really let you know whether or not they like you (laughter). English audiences are so much more reserved and held back but in America they are up out of their seats shouting and screaming. If they like you they will give you a standing ovation after every song.   They don’t wait until the end of the show and that is really odd. It’s really freakish if you do a song and the audience don’t get up (laughter). It’s really crazy over there.

Who has inspired you along the way?

Oh my god Kevin there have been so many people. You mentioned Motown earlier and I think that every artist who has ever performed for Motown has had an impact upon me and my career. There are the obvious ones like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. I really love all of the soul crooners especially Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. When I was young I would always be going through my mum’s record collection because she had more of that raw, edgy soul music like the old analogue down south sound that Otis Redding was making.

I once met Steve Cropper in Switzerland of all places. He was talking to me about writing and recording (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay which really did freak me out. There I was standing talking to the man who was there; the man who co-wrote that famous song. Its nuts (laughter). Over the years I would have to say that Prince has always inspired me together with Sly And The Family Stone. If we are talking about vocalists then Paul Rodgers but then he was a big Otis Redding fan. And so it all comes back to the same thing.

Now testing your memory what was the first record that you every bought?

My gosh, well the first record that I bought would have to be Show You The Way To Go by The Jacksons. I remember listening to it; it was vinyl and whilst I was dancing around the living room I would play that song over and over again. I thought to myself,who is this guy, who are these people and what is this music (laughter). I loved the strings on that track too because I thought that they made it so classy whilst still retaining that rawness the song had.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

My first gig, now you are really testing my memory Kevin (laughter). Oh my god, you know what, I actually think that it was my uncle’s band. His name was Bill Roachford and he was a virtuoso saxophonist. They were called Modern Sound, they were signed to Epic Records and they were based in Sweden. When I finally got to go over to Sweden to see them play they had lots of horns and they were a funk band. At that time they were the best thing that I had ever heard, I was completely blown away. It was seeing them that made me realise that I wanted to be in a band in the music industry.

I can’t speak to you without asking you just how did you find yourself working with The Clash?

I had just left school and I was attending Music College and at that point I wasn’t quite sure on exactly which way I was going, although I did know that it was going to be a career in music for me. So I signed up for a two year A Level music course. One day a guy turned up at the college telling us that he had a recording studio in Camden and that they were looking for someone to be an in-house musician and who was willing to do all manner of different jobs. He asked me if I would be interested so I just turned up at the studio one day (laughter).

Punk Rock was at the end of its glory days and I didn’t really know that much about the Punk scene other than what I had heard on the radio. So I went along to the studio and was told that there was a man called Bernie Rhodes who was the manager of The Clash and that he liked my music and what I was doing at that time. And the next thing that I knew was that I was getting a job at the studio which was quite well paid considering that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing (laughter).

Bernie wanted to be the new Motown and so he started his own record label and he asked me if I would be involved in that. The Clash were at that time on tour with David Bowie over in America and it was when they were having their problems as Joe Strummer had decided that he wanted The Clash to be a drug free band. However Mick Jones was having none of that so they were just parting company with Mick and getting other musicians in so that they could carry on.

When they got back to the UK they started recording their last album which coincidentally was called Cut The Crap (laughter) and so I found myself hanging out with Joe Strummer. I bumped into Joe at Glastonbury a year or so before he died and he told me that he had recordings of the two of us jamming together. Apparently whenever we were jamming in the studio they recorded everything which I didn’t even know about. It was such a long time ago that I could hardly remember jamming with Joe (laughter). I was really chuffed that he could remember me and that he had kept the tapes. On their last tour I was sixteen years old and travelling around on the tour bus with Joe Strummer, it was amazing.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

The highlight of my career has to be meeting Stevie Wonder and getting to hear his new stuff before most people had because he hadn’t finished writing; it was one amazing highlight. Also meeting Chaka Khan and having her tell me that she loved my music. When you meet your heroes who you grew up listening to and they actually like what you do, well it is simply crazy.

On that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

It’s a pleasure Kevin, I can tell that you are a proper music fan. I will see you in Birmingham. Bye for now.