Graham has a heart full of songs
Anyone who has seen 10cc in concert over the past decade will recall Graham Gouldman’s solo set where he reminds the audience of his earlier successes as a songwriter, complete with the stories behind the songs.
Recently he has expanded the set to include more recent songs, and after a short road test last year ‘Graham Gouldman’s Heart Full Of songs: An Acoustic Concert’ hits the road this month for a full UK tour beginning at The Glee Club, Birmingham on May 6, with The Forum, Tunbridge Wells, the following day, 20 dates in total ending in Cheltenham on the 30, including the full range of his work featuring the 10cc hits as well.
The forthcoming tour was obviously the main item on the agenda for our chat, but first I wanted to remind Graham about the teaser he had left me with on our last conversation.
I said to him: “When I spoke to you ahead of the 10cc 2012 tour you said you would be giving one of your biggest hits a very different treatment, but I had to wait until the gig to find out which one. I sat and absorbed every number as I always do and, when the main act came to a close, I sat puzzled as I’d heard everything I’d expected, sang exactly as recorded, with only ‘Rubber Bullets’ your final encore to come.”
“And, just when you thought it was safe, along came ‘Donna’, which has now become a major part of our show. That idea came from Kevin Godley. We did the Albert Hall together and we were talking about what songs to do, and he said ‘Why don’t you do a Doo-Wop version of ‘Donna’’: so we did. I thought it was just going to be a one-off, but now it’s part of the show,” Graham said.
How did the Acoustic Tour go last year?
“Very, very good, which is why we’re doing it again. Last year, we did about 10 dates and this year we’re doing about 22. It’s something I really enjoy doing, it’s so different from what we do with the 10cc show. Obviously, there are 10cc songs in there, but they have to be re-adapted to fit the acoustic setting – and interesting. It’s interesting how some songs work and some don’t, so we don’t do those: it’s a much more intimate show, I talk a lot more about the songs as well.”
More and more of the artists I go to see are happy talking about their songs now, I suppose they feel more comfortable and relaxed with their audiences now.
“That’s right: it’s much better than ‘let’s do one hit after another, and then go home’. If you like the song, you want to know the history of the song, the story behind it and how it was made. I was going to do a Q&A session but decided that would take too long, so I decided to explain how they came about. I do that in a limited way with 10cc because there isn’t time to do more, and in an acoustic setting where you are sat down, it seemed more fitting.”
The Heart Full Of Songs tour you have coming up – is that just you?
“No, there are actually four of us onstage. Mike Stevens will be on keyboards, plus other instruments; a guy called Iain Hornall, who is a very fine keyboard and guitarist himself. Iain sometimes sits in for Mike Wilson, with 10cc, as it’s not always possible to get Mick, as he’s so busy. I needed somebody to take Mick’s place when he’s not available and Iain is fantastic, a sort of part-time 10cc member, plus Dave Cobby, one of our roadies will be on percussion.”
So it’s not a fully acoustic tour, more of a stripped back unplugged show.
“We’re calling it acoustic because they are all acoustic instruments: the fact we plug some of them in, you could argue that point,. We’re using piano so I think we’re safe calling it acoustic.”
You’re playing some really small venues, Tunbridge Wells is only 250!
“I know, I just hope we can get everything in, the reason we’re doing this is because it’s like starting a new band, which it clearly isn’t because they know us for the 10cc stuff and other guises. I’m really enjoying this and we’re hoping it’s going to grow into something more substantial and move onto the bigger venues, but I think it’s always going to be a smaller venue thing because of the type of gig it is, maybe not 250 but 500-ish. It suits that.”
That’s sounds right, a more intimate gig for 500-750 people.
“It’s more personal. We sit down and, because the venues are smaller, we’re much closer to the audience: in fact, sometimes you’re really close, much more an atmosphere of intimacy, more than at a 10cc gig.”
Last time we spoke ‘Love And Work’ had literally arrived a few minutes beforehand and I hadn’t been able to listen to it; but when I did, the final track ‘Memory Lane’ really grabbed me: and when you closed the solo set at the 10cc gig, with the song’s background, it had exactly the same effect on the audience. Everyone was talking both about it and how they’d done the same during the interval.
“I know, and that’s what I want, I’ve had a lot of comments about that song. Certain songs you write are started with a grain of truth and a lot fantasy as well, but that song is all true. It also reflects the whole album, retrospective. I’m of a certain age and it pays tribute to people like The Shadows. Some are not that obvious but ‘Memory Lane’ and ‘Ariella’ are completely true, and they have a sort of resonance about them.’
We’ve both done the exact things you describe, going back to show each other and our children where we grew up, tracing our roots.
“It’s so important to do those things, and I’ve never forgotten where I grew up.”
Because of wonderful songs like that you’re about to be inducted into ‘The Songwriters Hall Of Fame’.
“Yes, I am: it’s happening on June 12 and I’m going to New York for it. I’m looking forward, and really proud of it. I’ve been nominated before, but this time I’m in, and I’m really excited.”
I think it can be really hard for some writers who write primarily for one band and their songs aren’t covered widely by other artists, it can be easy to be overlooked.
“That’s right, there some great songwriters: take Gary Barlow for example. I think you need to have international success including America. You could do 25 No.1s in the UK, but I think they need to be international to be fully recognised, I think that’s one of the criteria. You have a massive hit worldwide, but if that doesn’t include America, it won’t mean anything to them, which sounds unjust, I’m not saying that’s true – it’s just my thoughts on the matter.”
Longevity is also important.
“I agree! There aren’t any young whippersnappers in there. It’s a good year for the Brits this year, as Ray Davies and Donovan are also being inducted, so I’m in good company.’
After all this excitement, when can we expect to see you back on the road with 10cc?
“We’ve a number of dates during the summer and then a full UK tour in the autumn. Plenty to keep us busy.”
Full dates for both tours are listed at www.the10ccfanclub.com