Huey Morgan is back this week with his first solo album Say It To My Face - which sees him team up with some of his musical friends.
We caught up with the singer-songwriter to chat about the new album and the reasons behind making it.
- You are about to release your debut solo album Say It To My Face so what can we expect from the new record?
(Laughs) I like the way that you said that ‘Say It To My Face’ (northern accent) and that is pretty much what I meant by it to ‘Yo, if you wanna say some shit you had better say it to my face’ (laughs).
It was one of the titles that came up when we were thinking about what we were going to call it. It was originally going to be called Huey and the New Yorkers and then Frank jumped on board and he came up with ‘You know what man? No one ever says anything to your face’ and I was like ‘that is perfect.’
Because no one would ever come up to me and say to my face the things that they say over the internet because they would get it busted up (laughs) - not that I am a violent guy. But most people wouldn’t come up and cuss me out and say that I suck they just leave it.
- I listened to the album this morning and I found that there were blues and soul influences in there so how would you describe the sound the album?
I think that it is the sound of your heart, it sounds corny but when you open up your heart it is about to be broken in certain ways. The songs on the record are songs that are about exposing yourself and how you feel about things - I could go through all the tracks and tell you about what each one of them are about.
This is the music that I have always wanted to make and I was allowed to do and I was allowed to do it in a circumstance that was amazingly coherent for everyone involved. It was recorded in a way that people use to record records it wasn’t recorded because we wanted to make a record it was recorded because… me and the guys in the band wanted to do an album and have it mixed by Tim Latham.
We thought that we would just have that as a record for ourselves we never expected it to be released. And I think that that is what this record is all about - you are looking into our hearts and all of our minds and on this record I have exposed myself a lot more than I should have.
- So how have you found the early response to the record?
It has been very positive. All of the guys in the band are like calling me up with links to guys who have given us eight and a half stars out of ten.
I think people are actually getting where we are coming from because this was not an economic endeavour - from the beginning we just wanted to make a record and it was an artist endeavour. Lyrically I just wanted to look into my heart and see what was there and write about it and I did.
We wrote songs and we also used songs that me and the boys had written up to four years ago that we thought were imperative.
Especially in the an election year in the United States and for people I general who are fed up with the way the status quo is - it is just one of those records where you are a fly on the wall while you listen to it and if you enjoy the conversation or in that room or in that song that is up for you to decide.
- You have enjoyed a music career that has spanned almost twenty years so why did you decide now was the right time to make a solo record?
Oh god you brought that up, my back hurts, my knee hurts (laughs). To be honest with you I had written a couple of songs The Ripple, Fall Into Me, She Gone and Christmas By The Side Of The Road a year in the man cave, which is my garage/studio.
It is my safe place and so I wrote these songs here and I didn’t really think about making an album out of it. But I got an itch to play a couple of these new songs live and the people really enjoyed that - I like telling stories and having people enjoy themselves as I am an entertainer as you said.
I met Simon Drake from Naim Edge Records that night and he was like ‘you played four songs and I heard four hits’ and I was like ‘I am not looking to make hits I am just looking to play music’. The Criminals were a creative quarto in a way and there is not much more we can do more than what we had done - we created a whole genre to ourselves and so no one sounds like us, no one can sound like us and no one wants to sound like us (laughs).
When we play our shows people come back and come back and come back and enjoy it. We are all good friends still and we haven’t split up or anything like that.
I asked Frank to join the band after I realised that it was going to be a band and we were going to record a record and he did great and did a lot of great drums.
I did this for the love and I am not talking any money from this as all the proceeds from the record is going to veterans charities as these are a generation of guys who are going to fight these wars that I don’t personally agree with.
And that is why a lot of the songs on this record tend to go this way - Christmas By The Side of the Road is obviously by a soldier trying to get home for Christmas to see him mom - those are things that I was thinking about because when you watch the news it just makes your head ache.
No one who was involved in this album ever brought up the subject of money or anything like that and I think that that is the way that you have got to do something if you want to do it with no bullshit and with integrity.
Everybody who puts a record out is looking to make money except me.
- You have mentioned Tim Latham a couple of times and you have worked with him in the past so how do you find working with him? And what does his experience bring to the record?
Tim Latham has a set of ears that is unparalleled. He is a much sort after producer, I met him twenty years ago and he was known as the best engineer in the world at that point - according to Bob Powell.
Tim has gone on to be much more than that and become a producer in his own right. And I think what he brought to this was what he thinks we needed. A lot of the songs are very stripped down and there is not a lot going on computer wise; there is some programming but he has made it incredibly subtle so it feels human.
And making it very personal is the key to it all. I recorded most of the vocals in the same chair that I am sitting in talking to you and I was lucky enough to have the BBC lend me a microphone and I recorded the vocals here in my man cave.
That is how it got that kind of feel. But then we started thinking about that this could be a record but a record company is not in it for the love as much as the artist maybe and we had to do a little balancing act.
I found Simon Drake to be an upstanding human being as he understood what I was doing and why I was doing it - it is so easy for people to dismiss a dude who was in a group who puts out a solo record and gives the proceeds to charity but it is not like that.
It is a guy who is in a band who can play festivals anytime he wants making a record with his friends that he really wanted to make and trying to help the wounded people who are fighting for our freedom get back into the world ok.
People come back with a lot of physical and a lot of mental injuries and I don’t think that they are being addressed by the governments that are sending them - I am not going to say any country is doing any better or any worse on this.
But any private help is greatly appreciated by these charities and I immediately decided that that was what I was going to do with it. And since I did that all these great things started happening.
I have a copy of the CD in my hand and I am sat here looking at it thinking ‘I can’t believe that I did this’ because there was no agenda and I think that that is good and you don’t get that in music ever.
- You have produced the album as well so how much is that a part of making a record that you enjoy?
Production is something that I have been doing for many years and I love being in the studio to get a certain sound that I want.
I am very lucky to have good teachers like Tim Latham who will sit with you and tell you ‘I get this sound by doing this. And I use this pre-amp through that mic to get that sound so it sounds like that’.
I was always a sponge for that kind of stuff - I am not only a tech head but I always wanted to know how.
It was very much a collaborative effort amongst everyone involved so to say that I produced the record I was the impetus for the record - I did produce granted but I had a lot of help.
- You have slightly touched on my next question really as you have mentioned the various artist that feature on the album so how did you find working with them? And how much was it a collaborative process between you all?
The greatest things about the guys in the band, and I am talking about the people like Danny Clinch who helped out, these people did if for… you don’t have to tell them what to do. Pete Levin plays with The Blind Boys of Alabama while King is one of the great historians of music.
That was the beauty of it because I never had to send them a track and say do it this style because I knew that they would know what to do. So I would just sent them a track and two or three days later I would get the tracks back with the piano parts or organ parts and I would go ‘Jesus, that guy is good’.
This record is something that we wanted to have made for our friends and family and kids to know what we were all about as friends and how we played.
I think that that was kind of interesting how that went down because it made us all better musicians in regards to this album as we all wanted to put the best we could down; I wanted to do the best vocal, the best guitar solo, the best acoustic guitar sound and I know that Pete wanted to make the best piano stuff happen.
I am somewhat embarrassed that it is out in a way, and I am not often embarrassed, because it is so much… I wrote all the lyrics and so there is so much of me in there and I don’t know if I wanted people to know about that. It is a little too late now (laughs).
- As I said earlier you have enjoyed a career that has spanned nearly twenty years so how have you seen the industry change in that time? Has it changed for the better?
I could talk about record companies all day long about how in 1996 I told them ‘guys this downloading stuff we have got to get on that’ and them going ‘nah, nah, nah everyone will want a CD’.
But it is a new generation and they just want the songs that they like they don’t need to hold it in their hand. It is a different way of looking at music - it is not looking music it is listening to music. Part of my heart says music should be free but my other half says well ‘at least get the guys rent paid’.
When it comes to record companies nowadays it is like the meat grinder in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I do this because I really love to do it and I don’t do it for the money - you can tell the people who are doing it for the money.
We are not as dumb as everyone thinks we are and I really feel that the people that are in charge really think we are stupid and we will buy into anything.
I don’t think that band that I love would have got signed today because of the way that we look at music. If you look at Led Zeppelin I that album is pretty awesome, that is a debut album, but I don’t know if they could make that nowadays.
We can smell bullshit now because it has been thrown around too much for us not to be able to smell it. I think that is what is interesting about this record because you can’t smell it on this record - this record smells like roses baby (laughs).
- Finally what is next for you?
What we would like to do it is play a few shows - the whole band will be playing at Bush Hall on November 7th; that is the one thing that I can’t wait to have happen is all of us playing together for the people.
There are bands that play to the people and there are bands that play for the people; the Criminals were a band who played for the people and I believe that the New Yorkers are a band who played for the people. It is selfish in a way because these guys are such world class dudes and it will be an experience to be in that room and the electricity between us all.
We have all played together in bands but the whole band hasn’t actually been together in the same room at the same time. It is going to be interesting.
Huey & The New Yorkers - Say It To My Face is out now - read the full review here.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw