Paul Carrack, singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist chats with Kevin Cooper about his relationship with Radio 2, working with Pee Wee Ellis, his latest album One On One, and his tour of the UK in 2022.

Paul Carrack is an English singer, songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist, who has recorded both as a solo artist and as a member of several bands.

He rose to prominence in the mid 1970’s as the front man and principle songwriter with Ace. He has also worked with Roxy Music, Roger Waters and replaced Jools Holland in Squeeze. From the mid 1980’s to the late 1990’s he enjoyed considerable success as the co-lead singer with Paul Young and songwriter for Mike + The Mechanics. Following Young’s death in 2000 Carrack became the band’s lead vocalist until he left in 2004.

Carrack now maintains an active solo career. He has toured with Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band and in 2013 he helped kick off Eric Clapton’s 50th year anniversary tour. Two years later he helped Clapton celebrate his 70th birthday with a concert held at Madison Square Garden. He has since played with Clapton on a number of occasions.

Since releasing his debut album Nightbird in 1980, Carrack has released a further seventeen studio albums.

Before flying to America with Eric Clapton, Paul Carrack took some time out of his busy schedule to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Paul, good morning, how are you today?

I’m okay thanks Kevin, how are you?

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

It’s not a problem, no problem at all.

I was going to ask you how life is treating you, but you have obviously put your time in lockdown to very good use; writing, recording, producing and playing all of the instruments on your latest album One On One.

I hope so, yes. I’ve been very fortunate really. I have my small studio here at home, and I have never had so much time to work on stuff, so, for me, it hasn’t been all bad.

Is it the first time that you have done everything yourself, from start to finish?

No, not really. I have done it before but probably not to this extent. In the past there have been tracks and albums where I have done the majority of stuff myself, just working here at home.

Is it something that you would happily do again?

(Laughter) I kind of said that I never would do it again, simply because it is just so time consuming. It always seems like a good idea at the beginning when it’s easy and you are just putting a few ideas down, sketches and this, that and the other (laughter). It’s the final quarter when you are having to get those ideas up to scratch and making it all sound like a proper record. It is hard to describe just how these things evolve to be totally honest with you, especially to people who have no idea as to how a record comes together in this way. As I said, this time it has been okay because I have never had that much time before to go into so much detail of the record and take it onto that next stage. For me, lockdown has been a god send; it has given me a purpose and more importantly, it has given me something to do.

I have been playing the album for the last couple of weeks and I have to say that I think that it is fantastic.

Thank you, it’s always nice when you hear that people like what it is that you have done, so thank you for that.

One On One, where did the title come from?

(Laughter) I must confess that was down to my friend, or my manager or whatever you want to call him, Peter Van Hooke. He came up with that one, seeing as I was doing it all on my own. That’s the angle where he was coming from.

Are you happy with the album?

Yes, I am surprisingly (laughter). Usually, by now I would be sick to the back teeth of it, but no, I think that it is a decent piece of work. I think that it has got ‘a thing’. It has got a stamp of me all over it; my fingerprints are all over it, and that is one of the good things about doing it this way. It does tend to have an individual stamp on it, rather than if you turn it over to musicians. They could be better guitarists than I am, better bass players, better drummers, and sometimes that can be a positive thing, and bring something new to the table, other times it’s just not quite as you hear it.

Do you have a favourite track on the album?

It changes to be honest with you.

Well, as you know, normally at this stage I would be saying to you, “I love this track” and “I love that track” but after writing tracks down I stopped after seven. It is easier to say that I like every single track. Every single track stands up on its own.

Thank you for saying that, it really is truly appreciated. At the start, it had me worried when I started playing it to various people such as the distributors, the press together with the pluggers for example. Every one of them was saying, “I love the whole album, its great but there is no standout track”. I thought, ‘does that mean that we haven’t got at least one really good track on the album’ (laughter). However, I think they meant it as a compliment, or at least I hope they did (laughter). I personally feel that the entire album is quite strong, so I do know where they are coming from.

I personally feel that there is a very strong soulful feeling running through the entire album.

Really. Good, well I will take that, I like it.

The last time that you and I spoke, we spent some time assassinating Radio 2 because they wouldn’t play anything from your last album, These Days, and now here you are, Radio 2’s record of the week.

(Laughter) yes, we did didn’t we. Well, I have to be totally honest with you and say that was the first single from the album, and let’s just say that they didn’t play the second one (laughter). And I don’t know if they will play the third one (laughter). The first single, You’re Not Alone, just hit the spot for them because it’s a ballad, and with the sentiment behind it they were quite happy to get behind it. But whether there is going to be any support for the rest of the album, I don’t know and to be frank, I simply don’t care. I would like it if they played it, because I find it helpful in terms of letting people know that I am still here, we are still making good stuff, and importantly, we are once again back out on the road.

I have always enjoyed their support in the past. However, if it is the fact that I have had my time, I have had my day and they have got other agendas, then fair enough. The good thing is that on the digital side of things, and on the streaming side of things, we are going from strength to strength. Now, that is a different kettle of fish. There is an argument out there that artists don’t get paid enough and this, that and the other, but nevertheless, it means that your music is getting out there; it’s relevant and people are still enjoying it so, that is the positive that I take from that.

If we were talking about the old days, when you had a lead single from the album, then, in my opinion that would have to be Good And Ready. Would you agree?

Yes, I would totally agree with you there. However, I have to say that I am not really that sure anymore (laughter). I no longer listen to the mainstream radio anymore. They all seem to have very narrow criteria nowadays, which is aimed at a younger sort of sound. So I can’t see any more of the album being played on Radio 2. Anyway, it remains to be seen. We are going to give it a go. They didn’t play the second single which was Good And Ready, and the third single is a slightly edited version of a song called Precious Time. The people who we employ to get the record into Radio 2 suggest that track is our best shot, and we will see how we go.

I have to say that when I was listening to the album, I could envisage a certain Mavis Staples singing Shame On Me.

Wow, that’s great, I will take that. I will most definitely take that. Thank you.

You have finished the album with your take on the Charlie Rich classic, Behind Closed Doors. Is there a reason for it being that particular track or was it simply off the cuff?

(Laughter) that track was most definitely off the cuff. I love the record and I always have done. As you say it was recorded by Charlie Rich back in 1973 and it is one of the songs that we would sometimes play during the sound check just for fun. It was one of the first things that I did when I first came into the studio. As I have said, we had a whole year of touring planned, and I wasn’t expecting to be in the studio. I came into the studio to tick over and to keep things moving and I put that track down simply to give me something to do (laughter). I have always loved the song. However, having said that I don’t know if the song is politically correct nowadays to be honest with you (laughter).

When you listen to the lyrics, ‘always a lady just like a lady should be’ I don’t know if that’s acceptable; do you know what I mean (laughter). It’s all that bull shit that you have got to think about, although I have to say that I don’t think about it.

What a fantastic voice the man had.

Oh god, yes. You know what, I got a message from a guy in Nashville who is a legendary radio plugger and I think that he plugged the original. He is very good friends with the piano player who Charlie used on that track, and he sent me a message saying that the piano player absolutely loved what we had done with it. He said, “you have absolutely nailed it”.

I see that a certain Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis has been heavily involved with the new album. I have to ask you just how did you and Pee Wee meet?

Again, I would have to put that down to Peter Van Hooke. Although he doesn’t play much now, Pete was the original drummer in Mike & The Mechanics. He also played with Van Morrison for ten years. It was during that time that Pete got to know Pee Wee very well. When I said that I needed to put some horns on the last album, Pete naturally put Pee Wee forward for it. He is an absolute legend. He is getting on now, but I have to say that he is the real deal, he is very authentic. Pee Wee was responsible for writing the arrangement for Lighten Up Your Mood. As for the other horn arrangements, I have to say that basically I originally wrote them, but I did them on the keyboard, using samples.

But then, once the lockdown started to ease up a little bit, we thought, ‘no, we really do need to get the real guys in’ so we got Pee Wee into the studio together with the guys to play the thing, but basically it was my arrangement. I have to tell you that I was helped out by a guy called Dave Arch, who is the music director on Strictly Come Dancing would you believe. He actually lives round the corner from me (laughter). I have lived here for thirty years, and he has lived around the corner from me for twenty odd years, and we had never met. He just helped me to transcribe it for the real guys and that how we did it.

Fingers crossed your UK Good And Ready Tour kicks off on Friday 21st January 2022 in Blackburn at King Georges Hall. You must be chomping at the bit because you are always touring.

As I said earlier, touring now is your bread and butter on all levels. To be honest with you, I’m okay but I have got a band, I have got a crew, they all need to work, and the tour was just going from strength to strength anyway. The tour was thriving, people were loving going to gigs, and I am hoping that we can persuade them to come out again. That’s the thing now; that’s our goal as we are all most definitely chomping at the bit. The only thing that I haven’t missed is the pressure of being a singer, looking after yourself, looking after your voice, not getting ill and not picking up the coughs and colds which you do normally.

That brings a little pressure and I have to say that I have not missed that at all. But that is the cross that we have to bear as a singer. We recently played the Under The Stars Festival up there in Barnsley, which is organised by Kate Rusby and I have to say it was great actually but it pissed it down which was a shame. It was all very well put together. They had all of the testing facilities and social distancing, and as I said it really did chuck it down, but people really did enjoy it. Regarding Covid-19 I personally think that it is now or never really. I feel that we are almost on top of it, and as you know, I am flying over to America next Monday with Eric Clapton.

I was going to ask how things were going with Eric?

For me, as you know, it really is a cherry on top of the cake. My band is the bread and butter, whilst touring with Eric is just such a nice thing for me to be involved with.

And how long are you going to be out there?

Pretty much the whole of September and let me tell you, I am really looking forward to it. On the other hand, we simply don’t know what is going to happen. If someone catches Covid-19 somewhere along the way, then all of a sudden everyone is closed down. I personally feel that the vaccine is working to a large extent, and I think that things will probably start to get better, the more they find out and the more they know. I was reading something the other day which was quite optimistic about those aspects of it. As you know, a lot of people are still saying that the vaccine doesn’t do any good, so what’s the point having it, you can still catch it, this that and the other. I think that the advances that they have made are pretty incredible and I have to try to be optimistic that with time, it will become like the common cold, eventually and hopefully. Otherwise, we really are fucked as I don’t really fancy life as it was.

And who knows, maybe sometime in the future we may get to see a real living and breathing GP (laughter).

(Hysterical laughter) steady on. I think that you may be thinking just a tad too far ahead with that. You really are going too far now (laughter).

Will there be anything new or will you tour the album here in the UK next year?

We have got three shows which were re-scheduled, which are still in the book. They are in Hull, Ipswich, and Folkestone, and they are scheduled for October this year. Then, we are supposed to be going to the Netherlands, but hey, who knows what their rules are going to be by then. This is kind of why, halfway through last year, we didn’t throw the towel in. We got realistic and said that there was no point keep re-scheduling gigs; have them cancelled and keep messing people around. So, we took the decision to start putting gigs in for 2022, and surely to God we will be okay by then so, that is what we are banking on.

On that note Paul, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. It’s been delightful as usual. You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham.

Thanks Kevin, it has been my pleasure as usual. You stay safe and please do come by and say hello when we get to Nottingham.