Chris Difford, English singer, songwriter, record producer and founding member of Squeeze, chats with Kevin Cooper about life during the lockdown, the state of the music industry, what he would say to our politicians, and his latest project, Chris Difford’s Song Club, an album released to raise funds for our front line workers.

Chris Difford is an English singer, song writer and record producer and is also a founding member of the British group, Squeeze.

During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, he became inspired by a collection of photographs taken by Hannah Grace Deller, a paediatric matron who throughout the pandemic documented hers and her colleague’s experiences on the front line. He saw them on the channel 4 programme, Grayson’s Art Club.

Believing in the need to do something, Difford gathered together a collection of artists and songwriters to create an album to celebrate the work of front line workers. The album, entitled Song Club features work from award winning songwriters like Nick Heyward, Graham Gouldman, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Mark Nevin and Kathryn Williams.

The first single from the album titled Working On The Frontline will be performed by the BAFTA nominated actor and Jessie Buckley and her band Jessie and The Leonards. All proceeds from the album will go to the RCN Covid Support Foundation where it will make a huge difference to the many front line nurses, midwives, and health care support workers who are continuing to make an invaluable contribution at the very forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whilst busy collating songs for his second Song Book album, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Chris, good afternoon, how are you today?

I’m not too bad thanks Kevin, but more to the point, how are you today?

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

It’s not a problem. Thank you for being interested in what I am up to.

And I have to ask, just how are you coping in these strange times?

Well I am having good days and bad days, as you would imagine. I recently heard the Government at PM’s Question Time, totally ignore the music industry who were asking for help, which I find totally unbelievable. We are all stuck here, in a cul de sac, which in my opinion, we are not going to be able to get out of for at least a couple of years. From what I hear you and I are in the same boat, so you totally know where I am coming from.

Yes, I know exactly what you mean but, at the end of the day, we have all got to try and look after ourselves Chris. That’s the main thing.

That’s right; we have all got to try and remain healthy and wise, if we can.

Well, I can stay healthy but as for being wise, I think that I may struggle with that (laughter).

(Laughter) me too.

We have to speak about The Song Club which is the album that you have put together which was inspired by the NHS frontline workers during these difficult times. However, before we do may I just say congratulations on pulling it all together.

Thank you, that means a lot, and I have to say that it has been very rewarding.

You were obviously touched by the images that we all saw on the TV, which had been taken by Hannah Grace Deller, a nurse on the front line. How long from seeing those images did it take you to begin working on the album?

The idea for the album came to me pretty soon after seeing the photographs on TV. And then once I had contacted my friends from within the industry, the songs came together relatively quickly, over the course of two or three months. By that time, I had already got over twenty mastered songs for the record.

There are some big names on the album; Judie Tzuke, Julia Fordham, Nick Heyward and Graham Gouldman to name but a few. Did they take much persuading to get involved with the project?

I didn’t have any problem asking people to join in. With the music business currently being in a dark place at the moment with the lockdown, artists have time to think about getting involved with certain projects like this. I think that the project became a nice focusing tool for our friendship really.

Was the project initially about raising funds or was it more about raising awareness of the Covid-19 situation?

It was initially about raising funds for the Royal College of Nursing as well as awareness of just how hard our front line workers work because from the Amazon drivers to the Doctors, they are all working extremely hard in dangerous situations and I feel that it is an incredible gift that these people have.

Did anyone who you approached to be involved with the project say no?

(Laughter) I didn’t have anybody say no. However there were a few people who delivered their songs late. Because of that they will most probably go onto the second album. There was a flow, once people got to hear about the project, with people who wanted to take part.

I notice that there is no song on the album by your good self. Will it be on the second album or will it simply not happen?

I did actually think about being involved but at the end of the day this project is not about me, it is about the songwriters and the photography. I didn’t want the focus on the project to be purely driven by me or by Squeeze in particular. So, I kept out of it. Having said all of that, I did co-write a song with Kimmie Rhodes which unfortunately didn’t make it onto the first record but, fingers crossed, could make it onto the second record.

You mention the second album, when can we expect to see that?

If everything goes to plan, I would think that you will be seeing the second album sometime after Christmas. It certainly will not be before that.

If you take away the music side of the album and simply listen to the lyrics, there are some very powerful messages on there.

I totally agree with you. In fact, I think that each song contains a powerful message which comes from a really good place so, I really am so proud of this project. For me to have formed friendships with so many people, and then for them to give up their time, and to have mastered the tracks in such a beautiful and collective manner, it has really been absolutely stunning for me.

I have been listening to the album for the past few days now and I have to say that Working On The Frontline (Jessie & The Leonards featuring Hannah Grace Deller), We Can Breath (Nick Heyward) and I See You (Graham Gouldman) hit you straight between the eyes and most definitely get the message home.

I have to totally agree with you, and I would also say that they are obviously the best three songs on the album. Having said that, For Us (Judie Tzuke) is a song that I really love because she has actually had the virus so she is singing the song from her own point of view which I have to say is a very powerful view. All of the songs have individual stories to them, and I love them all in some way.

How has the album been received; are you getting some good feedback?

How has it been received, well let me tell you that it is really difficult for the album to get any airplay because it is a busy time of the year and the music business is already ramping up for the Christmas market I guess, whatever that means (laughter). Having said that, I don’t really mind. The songs will build themselves, and the album will stand or fall on its own merit. I never thought that it would be a number one album or anything like that; it’s a compilation of some fantastic songs. That is all that I could realistically hope for.

Why do you think that it is always left to musicians, together with the music industry to raise the public’s awareness of just what is once again happening in the world?

(Laughter) simply because Boris Johnson can’t play a guitar I suppose. I have to say that, in my opinion, the government are missing a trick here in a major way. Not only are they not giving the nurses the pay rise that they deserve, they are not looking after the musicians who bring in four billion pounds per year income into this country for the music that they supply for the communities of our major cities. So, I really do find it extraordinary really and I find it very depressing that both nurses and musicians find themselves in a similar kind of boat and are not being supported in a way that they should be.

The theatres together with the staff and crews are also being totally forgotten by the government, and that simply cannot be allowed to happen.

I totally agree with you on that point, which is exactly what is happening at this very moment in time. If you look at the theatres and crews, that is a situation that I am still really sad about because they are having to take on other jobs, stacking shelves or whatever it is that they have to do, to be able to put food on the table for their families. I know that our road crew are out there somewhere, and I honestly do feel for them. I mean, we don’t have the kind of income that would be able to support that kind of set-up, but I feel for them. These people become your family when you are out there on the road, and without them, you don’t have a show. So, it is sad all-round, I think.

In your opinion, what more can musicians do to make the population sit up and listen?

To be totally honest with you, I simply don’t know. I think that the music industry has become very claustrophobic, in that it has bought the ego down a bit, at least by a few rungs, and I think that is actually a positive because we are all now in the same boat together. It no longer matters whether you are Lady Gaga or Chris Difford from Squeeze, you cannot tour. You can put out music but who is going to listen, you can’t buy it, and it will have to be streamed, at best. You can wear as many expensive clothes as you want to, but it is not going to make a difference really because people will turn away from that type of society that is driven by ego, I believe.

I have to say that I personally feel that the UK Government has let us down badly.

Unless you are in Japan, South Korea or places in the Far East who seem to be able to deal with pandemics in a very different way because the society that they have bred listen and take notice, whereas we are a society of people who don’t listen. So it is not just the government who are screwing things up, it’s the people who are the minority I should say who are not following instructions, which I think people should really.

Do you think that the music industry here in the UK will ever be able to recover?

I can’t really answer that question simply because I don’t know just how long the pandemic will go on for. However, what I would say is if it went on for a couple of years, which is being predicted by most of the people who I know within the industry, then what it will do is sweep out a lot of people, a lot of people will retire early and it could well bring in a new wave of music which would be more useful and interesting maybe. I don’t know. I think that for people in my age group it really is a difficult decision as to what you could possibly do. I am currently teaching song writing online, and I have to say that I am really enjoying it. I have a fantastic group of people who I work with, and I really do love that.

In these uncertain times, I have to ask, what next for Chris Difford?

Well, I am about to do some more Zoom concerts in an attempt to raise some money, for venues like The Robin 2 in Bilston. Obviously it won’t be millions, but it will be something. Also, I am hoping to do a virtual tour of clubs and theatres around the country because the situation which they are facing at this moment in time is nothing less than tragic.

What are your views on the streaming of live gigs via the internet?

Well I have been playing a few Zoom concerts since lockdown began and to date, I have managed to raise twenty thousand pounds so far for different charities and being honest with you I have to say that actually I really love it. It manages to form a community of people; there are seventy or eighty people on the screen and they donate to get a code; it is every other Saturday and its fun. It’s really great fun.

The last time that you and I spoke we talked about your autobiography, Some Fantastic Place: My Life In And Out Of Squeeze. Will there be a second edition or do you feel that this one goes far enough?

No, at this moment in time there are no plans for me to write a second volume as I feel that I have covered the stuff that I felt I needed to in the last book. I feel that I need to find a different form of writing, and that could well be a short story book.

You and Glenn (Tilbrook) are held in high esteem by many since you changed the lyrics to your live performance on The Andrew Marr Show, when you were playing to a captive David Cameron. Do you have a particular message for a particular politician at this moment in time?

If I was to have the good fortune, if that is the right word, good fortune to meet Boris Johnson and to sit down with him, I would ask him just to drop his ego, and for certain politicians to also drop their egos and just to come down to street level and try to understand just what it is like. It is very difficult because most politicians are very privileged people; they all come from backgrounds that you and I do not come from. So, it would most probably be a waste of time to try to explain to Boris that the music industry and all that surrounds it need help, in fact they need embracing. They have got the ability to find the funds, but they would rather not, for some strange reason.

On that note Chris, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been enlightening. Stay safe and I hope to see you performing live somewhere as soon as that is humanly possible.

Thank you for your time too Kevin, you take care and thanks very much.

Chris Difford’s Song Club can be purchased at