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Starsailor- Past successes and all the future plans
By Liam Ronan
Starsailor are one of Britain’s most successful guitar bands they’re back with a new album, All The Plans. Notching 10 top 40 hits including classics such as Poor misguided fool, Good souls, Alcoholic, Silence is Easy. It could also be said that they are darlings of the summer festival scene and epitomise British indie. They not only echo reminders of a long lost Britpop era, but are also a modern, constantly evolving and ever relevant contemporary group.
Swine spoke to James Walsh, lead singer and song writing genius. Swine points out the band’s decade long history, asking whether they feel relatively old and what the secret to their success is,
“I feel old yeah, I’ve been in the industry a long time but I’m still only 30 and I hope I can stick with it a while longer because to be honest its all we know. So we’ve got to keep on going really!
“We’ve definitely matured and we’re incredibly proud that we’ve managed to stick it out for four albums. I’ve seen so many bands fall by the wayside during our time.”
“We’re ambitious people- we look at bands who are doing better than us, or who are ahead of us and we ask what they’re doing and try to emulate the positives.”
So it seems a certain entrepreneurship is necessary to be a success in pop. But it can’t all be marketing and PR can it? For many people, Starsailor possess a lyrical prowess and whether you like them or nor, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Walsh’s lyrics are deep, intelligent and romantic. For many songwriters, Walsh is an inspiration. But who are his influences and inspirations?
“I have to say Neil young but I also like the Fleet Foxes and Ryan Adams, Panic at the Disco at the moment and even Take That.”
Did he just say Take That?
“Gary Barlow’s done some brilliant song writing and I would like to emulate him in that respect. They deserve their success as well, especially how they’ve come out from the wilderness. I even met Mark Owen recently and he seems like a really nice bloke.”
James Walsh is a Chorley lad and although he front a globally successful band and lives in London he has somehow managed to remain grounded. Swine asked Walsh how he manages this,
“I’ve got a wife and two kids and they’re my inspiration. But also I go to the supermarket, I cook, I have rows with my wife, I watch the football, I go to the pub-I lead a normal life and my family keep my feet on the ground. I feel very much like I’m still connected with the average bloke on the street.”
Swine talks to James about comparisons; love it or hate it bands get compared to other bands, but how does Walsh feel about comparisons to bands like Snow Patrol, Keane or Coldplay?
“I don’t mind comparisons to be honest. I like Coldplay particularly. Chris Martin’s developed in to a really good front-man, with a lot of nerve and confidence.”
Wash expands on the grouping of bands into genres and how this affects Starsailor,
“The frustrating thing for me though is I think we’ve fallen in-between the cracks when it comes to our fans because we’re not accepted by the people who like Snow Patrol or Keane nor are we accepted by the cooler music fans who like Doves and Elbow. It would just be nice to be one or the other!”
One of the reasons for this loss of ground may be Starsailor’s sound. Lovely as it is, it isn’t really dynamic or cutting edge enough to be associated with Elbow or Doves, but it’s much less extravagant and poppy as Snow Patrol and Keane. The new album focuses very much on a Blues/Americana sound which has always been there but not with as much gusto as All of the Plans. Walsh explains the band’s sound,
“Blues and western music has always been an influence for us, there’s the Neil Young element like I’ve said, as well as Gram Parsons and the whole Americana sound- stripped down to the acoustic guitar and piano. This is what we attempted on the first record.”
The new album, All The Plans, is out now and is a real gem. If you like Starsailor, even passively, you will adore this album. But if you don’t, I’m afraid it won’t convert you. They’ve certainly stayed true to themselves and stuck to what they know- this album is very Starsailor. They’ve nailed their colours to the mast and hoisted it high with pride.
A fresh listen smells of The Killers and Johnny Cash with moody blues guitar, catchy tunes and ballads. Stand-out tracks include current single Tell Me It’s Not Over, The Thames could easy be another single, as could title track All The Plans, which is classic Starsailor and harks back to the nineties in its sound, then there’s the lovely Neon Sky, Hurts Too Much and Listen Up which despite not being an Oasis cover still has the swagger- albeit a lot softer.
Starsailor and the Rolling Stones toured together a few years ago (I’ll leave it up to you to guess who headlined) and Ronnie Wood became a huge fan. So much so, Wood joined Starsailor on their new album. Walsh explains,
“He [Ronnie] always watched from the side of the stage when we played and was a fan of the band… so he turned up to the studio with his fender stratecaster and a bottle of vodka and played on All The Plans!”
The way Starsailor are going they could be playing till they’re the Rolling Stones’ age. Walsh even admitted that the band knows “nothing else” and that this prospect was very possible. So what’s next for Starsailor? James Walsh gazed into his crystal ball and revealed all,
“In these times, bands can be dropped whenever record companies feel like it. We’re determined to continue but don’t take it for granted. When this album comes out and we’ve done all the touring and the press we’ll make a decision on what to do next when the time comes round.”
James Walsh admitted that a film soundtrack could be even be on the cards. But for now, Walsh had to excuse himself from the interview to go buy a suit from Saville Row.
“Still connected with the average bloke on the street,” my arse!
Starsailor’s fourth studio album All The Plans is out now on Virgin Records.
The single, Tell Me It’s Not Over is also out now and a UK tour is in full swing meaning Starsailor will be playing at a venue near you.
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