His first single got 'Record of the Week' on BBC Radio 1 but Billy Lockett's debut album took 10 years
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Hailing from Northampton, Billy Lockett has been hailed as “The English Lewis Capaldi” but the funny thing is he’s actually been around a lot longer than you’d think. It’s only taken him 10-years to finally release his long-awaited - and pretty good- debut LP, Abington Grove, which came out on 17 February, 2023.
He’s supported the likes of Lana Del Ray, Lewis Capaldi, Dean Lewis, Birdy and KT Tunstall, rubbed shoulders with many a star over the years, he had even performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden and he’s amassed more than 170 million streams to-date — yet he’s somehow somewhat an unknown quantity.
One thing that’s immediately apparent about the self-professed “nerd” is his candour, humility and endearingly humorous nature. Speaking about his long in the works debut album, he had this to say about the creation of Abington Grove.
“I just took a long time, I wanted to get it right. For such a long time I didn’t feel like I was ever ready for it.”
That’s not to say that he didn’t want to release an album before this, it’s just that life doesn’t always deal you the hand that you’d quite like, or expect.
“Well, ten years ago. I got quite lucky actually. My first single got ‘record of the week’ on BBC Radio 1 with Fearne Cotton. That was at a time when it still mattered basically.”
“But it really kind of exploded me into the scene, which was great. We put a load of songs out, signed an indie deal… which kind of fell apart about a year later. That’s the music industry.”
“Then my dad died and I sort of stopped for a long time.”
“But then I came back and signed a deal with Warner Music. We were sort of building up to the album for about three years, just before I was going to release it… they dropped me. So, I didn’t get to release the album. ”
After experiencing such a tumultuous period like that you could understand if he decided he wanted to pack it in for good and do something else entirely. Many would. But Billy didn’t.
“I sort of had to start all over again. I got a new manager, a new record deal with Virgin. I made the album then I finally put it out… and here we are.”
After releasing Abington Grove, where Billy Lockett channelled his thoughts and feelings into an expressive twelve-track record, he has since followed that up with the impressive single ‘Finish Line’. He also released the rather excellent LP Together At Home in 2020, a beautiful collection of easy listening songs released in the midst of the pandemic.
It would be an understatement to say that Billy is in possession of an undeniably powerful vocal range, combined with insightful, introspective, reflective, cutting and raw lyrics which go some way to giving you an insight into the window of Billy’s soul.
Abington Grove is an album of perseverance, self-kindness, navigating through the tortuous elements of mental health, dealing with and recovering from addiction, along with the lingering effects of the pain of loss. It’s a showcase of Billy tortuously tearing through elements of his character, self-flagellating sans the pleasure…
“I’m my biggest critic with not just music but everything. I’m always trying to check in with myself. My biggest fear is being a nightmare. You know what I mean?”
Having listened to the whole album, I’d have to say that it’s more of an earnest, self-critical, journey of honesty than it is an album wallowing in despair, something that Billy is also worried about.
“You just never want to be that guy who when you leave a room that people go, ‘Oh God!”
He laughs a little as he shares his fears of being a musically relatable but creative fun-sponge at times.
The reality of it is that we are all going through something in life, where we are trying to parse things to figure it out, and just understand our place within a certain space… in the best way possible. It’s just that sometimes we’ve got to delve into the pool of seemingly perpetual crap to get there.
“It’s almost like we’ve got to figure out what’s within that crap, which bits are the diamonds in the rough.”
In short, it’s brave.
Abington Grove as a musical introduction to new listeners of Billy Lockett is a treat. It’s a richly varied and ultimately powerfully emotive debut that navigates themes of love, lust, lunacy and loss across a collective of tracks spanning an array of genres. It’s an explosion of what has been retained within him for such a long time — it’s just taken him 10 years or so to finally get to share it with us.
“Now, I’ve got it out of the way. I’m in the flow of things and I think the second one is going to be a lot quicker.”
“The first one is done and dusted. I’ve been out touring it all year. And I’m going out to perform the finale tour of it throughout November.
It’s been a journey.”
You can listen to the interview with Billy Lockett in full on the Chris Talks Music podcast at: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/chris-talks-music
Billy Lockett will be performing at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield, on Sunday 26 November, 2023. You can buy tickets for the show here: https://www.yellowarch.com/event/billy-lockett/
His debut album Abington Grove, released by Photo Finish Records in February, 2023 is out now. It’s available to buy physically in record stores as well as across all the streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and more.