Liam Bailey, singer-songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about recording his early material on a laptop using an in-built mic, signing to Amy Winehouse’s record label, the release of his new album and his forthcoming performance at Sherwood Pines with Paloma Faith.


Liam Bailey is an English musician hailing from Nottingham. He is noted for his soul, reggae, and blues influenced vocal style and has been compared to Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Bill Withers, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown.

In 2010 he released two solo EPs on Amy Winehouse’s Lioness Records, the first being 2am Rough Trade and the other So Down, Cold. Having signed with Polydor earlier that year his debut solo single, You Better Leave Me was released, which was supported by DJ Zane Lowe.

Bailey’s album, Definitely Now was scheduled for release in 2011 but Polydor unexpectedly pulled the release. It was eventually released in America 2014 by Flying Buddha / Sony Masterworks, and is expected to be released in the UK soon.

Whist busy preparing for his acoustic set at Sherwood Pines, he took time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.


Hi Liam how are you?

Not bad thank you.

How is life treating you?

Life is treating me very well thank you.

I have to ask you this being a local lad. You were born in Beeston but then moved to London, so where is home?

I would have to say that home is currently in London Kevin but I do spend an awful lot of time between London and Nottingham.

So you are living out of a suitcase?

Near enough Kevin (laughter).

You are going to be playing in front of a home crowd here at Sherwood Pines, how do you feel about it?

I have to say Kevin that I am really excited about that.

And to make it even more interesting, you will be supporting Paloma Faith.

Yes that’s right, I can’t wait. She is amazing Kevin, a truly beautiful, beautiful girl. I am very excited to be playing all of the Forestry Commission gigs with her on this tour.

And how have rehearsals been going?

We have been working really hard over the past few weeks and we have decided to go with an acoustic set complete with a double bass and we are all really looking forward to it.

Will you have the cello there as well?

Unfortunately not Kevin, no cello I’m afraid.

That’s a shame because I think that the cello really does work well with your songs.

Thanks Kevin, I really appreciate you saying that but we are trying to keep it acoustic on this tour with just a double bass and the guitar.

I have to tell you that Sherwood Pines is such a fantastic setting. You will really enjoy playing there but take your wellies just in case (laughter).

I have never played there before Kevin and that just adds to the excitement. Thanks for the tip man (laughter).

Your album Definitely Now was really well received over in the USA. You must have been happy with the reception that both you and the album received over there?

I was definitely happy with how well I was received over in America Kevin; defiantly pleased with that and as you say the album went down really well.

With the album being received so well, I have to ask you, why the delay in releasing it over here in the UK?

Essentially, the record label decided that they wanted to release the album over in America first as they wanted to concentrate on one territory at a time. To be honest Kevin I think that they overlooked the appetite for the record over here in the UK. I think that they were surprised by just how much interest in the album there was from UK radio stations and fans.

I have been listening to the album for a few days now and I think that it is fantastic.

Thank you very much for that Kevin.

I have read that the industry have already likened you to Bob Marley and Bill Withers amongst others. I certainly think that there is a Lenny Kravitz vibe going on in On My Mind.

Well Kevin I think that it is all relative as there is a wealth of rock ‘n’ roll out there. It is quite difficult really to pin-point what anything can be and that is part of the beauty as to why I like to play rock ‘n’ roll. Despite being compared to all of the other artists, I feel that I essentially managed to capture me in there. However, with the mixed race skin together with the afro I suppose that Lenny Kravitz is in there as well (laughter).

Having said that, whoever said that there was a Bill Withers thing going on in there, I have to totally agree with them.

Yes Kevin, I definitely agree. There is a lot of bluesy guitar in there, and I love Bill Withers.

On that point, how would you describe your music?

I would describe my music as a reflection of myself; of my personal journey, of my wants and needs, my record collection and sonically, my ear. I don’t mind if someone wants to pigeon hole my music Kevin, there is no use getting upset by it because it will happen anyway. In order to be able to sell music you need to be able to describe it and in order to be able to describe it you need to associate it, therefore we all tend to get pigeon holed Kevin.

You mention your music collection, who were you listening to whilst you were growing up?

I have to tell you Kevin that I still listen to the same people (laughter). Essentially I was listening to the pop hits of the day and being born in the 80’s it was Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. But then fortunately I also had my mum’s record collection to listen to as well. That contained a lot of the pop hits of her day which included The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and a lot of Motown. My mum’s record collection even included things such as Bread and Abba (laughter). I would just sit and listen to them all Kevin. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really understand Hendrix at the time and I didn’t really like his music.

It wasn’t until I got into Oasis that I really started to understand rock ‘n’ roll. At school I was always listening to R & B and then Oasis exploded onto the scene. I really got into the Oasis sound and it was at that point that Jimi Hendrix started to make sense. I then began to realise that all of the songs that I liked by The Beatles were in fact all of the songs that John Lennon had written and they also began to make more sense. That was the start of this musical experience that I have had to this day; I have over the years absorbed everything Kevin. I listen to everything; if it has got skill, melodies, honesty and soul then I am most probably going to be a fan of it.

I have to say that it doesn’t have to be black to be soulful. Some of the most soulful things that I have ever heard have come out of Led Zeppelin. Even, dare I say it, The Beatles have got some really soulful songs there.

So picking your brains now, what was the first record that you actually bought?

The first record that I bought with my own money, my actual own money was an album; it was Cooleyhighharmony by Boyz II Men. You have got to remember Kevin that I would have been twelve years old. We had moved from Beeston to Selston and so had to get a bus into the city centre, which was no mean feat, getting permission to do that, and then when I got it back home I spent ages listening to it and studying all of the vocals on it.

Who did you first see perform live in concert?

That would have been Supergrass in Nottingham at Rock City. I was right at the front. It was amazing (laughter).

I have to say that Rock City has a special sort of vibe hasn’t it?

It has Kevin, yes it has.

I have to tell you that I am gutted that you have been able to slip under the radar. You have played The Bodega, The Rescue Rooms and Rock City and I have missed you every time. I am so pleased to be coming up to Sherwood Pines to photograph the gig.

Well do bear in mind Kevin that when you see me at Sherwood Pines you will be seeing and hearing the Bill Withers side of the album. An acoustic blues set is what you will be coming to see so let’s just hope that the weather is good. If the weather is shit when you are playing an acoustic set the wind just blows everything about.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but listening to your music from 2011 up to 2015, I felt that your voice has mellowed, it appears to have got warmer. It doesn’t appear to have that raw edge to it.

No one has ever mentioned that before Kevin. Because the most recent stuff has been quite rocky. I personally didn’t feel that the vocals were smooth for that but once again it is all relative isn’t it Kevin. Don’t be fooled though Kevin (laughter) as all of the early recordings were made on a laptop using the in-built mike so it was just like recording on your mobile phone. So that will be why it sounds so raw and loud because of me distorting the mic (laughter) because it can’t handle the volume.

Do you write all of your material?

I write most of my stuff but I also co-write as I think that is important. One of the best parts of making music for me is writing with other people; it really is. I’m no Paul Weller when it comes to song writing so I like to have different inputs all around me; it inspires me. Maybe if I could play the guitar as well as Paul Weller then perhaps it would be different, but I love to collaborate. But I really do like to write my own songs too.

Who has inspired you along the way?

I could never really pick one person Kevin. A whole number of different people have inspired me along the way. Paul Weller has definitely inspired me, together with all of the Marley’s, Bob and all of his sons, and most definitely John Martyn. I would also have to say John Lennon and The Beatles in general together with Marvin Gaye.

You are currently signed to Flying Buddha / Sony Masterworks, is that a nice fit for you?

Well The Piano Guys are signed to them so I am in good company Kevin (laughter). When I was over in America Sony Masterworks were all so lovely and accommodating and they are really beautiful people over there. The release over here in the UK will be handled by Columbia Records and jointly it has been a good result. We have got the album recorded; we are getting a favourable response to the album, and I am really happy with the company. It has taken me a while to get here and all that I can be is proud of it. That is how I feel and I am still very hungry.

I have to ask you how it felt when Amy Winehouse signed you to her Lioness Record label?

It was a huge compliment Kevin when Amy released my first two EPs. It was very flattering but at the same time it felt as though it made sense.

On that note Liam may I thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Have a good time at Sherwood Pines.

Not to worry Kevin, I will probably see you there. Take care. Bye.