‘A journey beyond my wildest dreams’ – Sheffield’s blue-eyed soul singer Paul Carrack on music, stability and owning his work
Paul Carrack is one of the UKs most enduring and prominent musicians, it’s rare that you can speak with someone and the question is less who they’ve worked with but rather who they haven’t worked with.
He’s often referred to as one of the hardest working musicians in the industry, so it’s apt that when Paul and I managed to get a little time together to discuss his latest solo album, he’s currently in the midst of rehearsals with Eric Clapton in Dallas.
From humble beginnings with Warm Dust and the band Ace in the 70s to Mike and the Mechanics, The Eagles, and numerous others both as a lead singer, session musician and also his solo career. It’s been a steady 50 years and then some for the Sheffield-born blue-eyed soul singer.
“It’s been a fantastic journey, if you like to use that cliché. It’s been beyond my wildest dreams as a lad from Sheffield,” he said.
His latest album One On One couldn’t have come at a more fitting time, a series of uplifting, vibrant, thoughtful and soulful songs, written, recorded and mastered by Paul himself throughout lockdown, he even played the instruments. Now that’s an excellent example of time well spent.
We discussed the first single from the album, You’re Not Alone, which was quite prophetic as we just so happened to talk on World Suicide Prevention Day, and even though it wasn’t the aim for the song it still had a certain resonance.
“It’s gone down well that actually," he said. I was surprised because I was thinking it was a bog-standard rock ballad. But it does seem to have hit a spot with a few people.
“I’d certainly say I wrote that song with a few people in mind, people who were struggling at the beginning of lockdown, it was just really one way of saying you’re not alone.
“It actually started out as a bit of a love song but then the sentiment kind of changed really.”
You could say that it had evolved from what was going to be a love song into a message about a different kind of love, sometimes the simplest of messages have such a lingering effect.
When it came to the album as a whole, he says “I didn’t really have a particular concept in mind when writing and things just come out sub-consciously, with me it’s always the music that comes out easy”, and the rest just seems to follow.
After more than 17 solo albums, Paul still maintains that he has an element of insecurity when it comes to his lyrics but he’s just trying to have fun with the music.
“I very rarely have a plan or a concept about this stuff, and I really envy people or do, I think that’s where the insecurity comes from,” he explained.
“The hardest part of writing a song is the reason for it, I’ve never been particularly secure about my lyrics because in life I’ve always strived for a stable family life.
"I’ve never wanted a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for my family,” he said.
Part of Paul’s approach to his music, well… his whole career is no doubt connected to when he lost his father in tragic circumstances at the age of 11. This experience shaped his whole outlook growing up and, even though he has carved out a successful career as a musician, he has always ensured that there’s a means to the end of each project that he has worked on.
This desire to ensure stability and to maintain control ultimately led to Paul creating his own record label, whereby he would control his music, his own masters. A result of hard lessons from earlier on in his musical career.
“The penny dropped about 20 years ago, when I realised that I’d sunk some big hits, I’d played records to all kinds of people. I realised that I had no rights to a lot of my recordings and I wanted to put out a compilation, and I was quite happy to pay out to use the some of the music.
"In one particular case… I wasn’t allowed to have the original recording of The Living Years - recorded when he was in Mike and the Mechanics - and I thought that’s bizarre. That’s when I realised I needed to have my own catalogue of work.
“I’ll always feel that I could have done more (musically) and done better, that’s one side of bed to get out of… but I’m just grateful that I’ve had such a long and fruitful career.”
One On One is out now on Amazon, Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, YouTube and also from his own website