Thinking outside the Box

Ian Britt 2011
Ian Britt 2011
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IT’S taken a while but, after a long journey down a rocky road, Sheffield musician Ian Britt finally officially releases his new album on Monday.

IT’S taken a while but, after a long journey down a rocky road, Sheffield musician Ian Britt finally officially releases his new album on Monday.

Nearly three years since he first began work on Box, he launches it this Saturday and is already viewing it as the start of a new era.

In that time Ian’s had tracks featured on Channel 4 teen drama Hollyoaks, earning him fans beyond the steel city, and gets a rousing reception whenever he performs in Holland.

Although, ironically, it is that dabble with the Dutch that cost this chatty chap some time getting Box out properly to the people.

“I got it to the state it is now in February last year,” he recalls.

“The purpose of the album was to try to make something stick in Holland so I took it there, got a record label interested.

“They said it needed tweaking a little bit so I spent the best part of last year on and off going back to a studio there to put some real drums on, tweaked the mixes and re-recorded some of the bass and vocals and a couple of new tracks.

“I finished that by January this year, then the label said ‘It’s lost what it had’.

“They went bust about a week later.”

Needless to say, that hit Ian hard and left him wondering what to do next, having invested so much time in arguably his strongest collection yet.

“It was a massive disappointment. Although they weren’t a great label it was going to be some help to move things forward.

“I didn’t really know what to do for a while. I sat down for two or three weeks and thought ‘I hate music’.”

One reaction was to form a band, a riff-heavy trio called The Blame, that contrasted his life as singer-songwriter of alternative acoustic pop.

And while there’s a plan to release an album in the new year, after a debut gig at the Frog & Parrot for Tramlines festival, Ian isn’t abandoning his solo endeavours, just seeking “fresh energy” for something that has brought mixed success.

While he views Box as something of a marketing tool now, it has earned its keep in other ways.

Tunes have popped up in various places – as an indent for US medical drama Greys Anatomy, soundtracking a cruise liner advert and a Russian mobile phone commercial, as telephone hold music for a boiler company down south, even on CBeebies.

Topping it all, Ian recently had the track Dedicate from previous EP Big Light accepted for Ten Year, a Hollywood romantic comedy due out this year.

All have arguably cottoned on to the summer vibe of a sometimes dark acoustic pop template coupled with lyrics that possess a little more depth than Ian’s contemporaries.

“I’m lucky to have excellent publishers in Liverpool and managed to make a fair bit of money off the album when a lot of artists don’t make any money, so I’m laughing in that respect and it’s kept me afloat.

“But it’s so exhausting being in Sheffield and second guessing what people might like and trying to create a stir. There’s cliques it’s impossible to penetrate because I’ve got a pop aspect to what I do. It’s limited what you can do, creating a genuine fanbase that isn’t going to dissipate after a while.”

For now self release is the way forward for Box, an album that includes assistance from Liam Frost, fellow Sheffielder David J Roch, Lucy & The Caterpillar and Sonic Boom Six.

It was preceded recently by single Boom Boom and gets an official live send off on Saturday when Ian plays new venue Brezza (on the site of the old Wellington Street Pizza Hut) on Saturday.

He’s expecting to be joined by Mr Roch, Ash Holland of The Ratells and Adam Howarth from The Silence, kicking off a UK tour that takes in two gigs as part of Tramlines.

“Most of the people already on the radar have got the album, but there’s still a lot of people out there who haven’t heard it,” Ian concludes.

“It’s a benchmark and I know a benchmark is normally used in the way that you’ve raised the bar but people do love some of those songs.

“The new stuff is going to be more ‘mature’.

“I’ve been listening to Badly Drawn Boy’s Hour Of The Bewilderbeast and Tom McRae’s Just Like Blood.

“I kind of like to please people so there’s always an aspect of that with what I do, but I don’t really see myself as anything, I just see myself as an artist who is doing whatever he does.”

Visit www.ianbritt.com to buy Box and find out more.