An Interview with Graham Gouldman of 10CC
By Roger Crow
Graham Gouldman is one of the most acclaimed singer-songwriters of the past 50 years, both as a solo artist and with 10CC. I spoke to him ahead of the band’s pending tour…
What can we expect from 10CC’s new shows?
Well, we’re going to do all the hits that you’d expect. And we do various album tracks that we like. We’ve got a special video of Kevin Godley singing one of the songs from the Sheet Music album. That was an album that we’ve recently been touring. We feature it in the first half of the show. We did the album in its entirety in the first half and the second-half is sort of all the hits and more.
How have you managed to keep your feet on the ground over the years?
I guess being a realist. Maybe it’s a lot to do with my general upbringing, and friends and the people you work with. It’s a hard one to answer that.
Have you found that being a songwriter is a great way to stay focused and grounded?
Yeah, if I’m in the middle of writing something, that’s like the only thing that matters in the world to me. And then if I’m recording, that’s the only thing that matters in the world. It’s the same thing when we are on the road. It’s like putting these different hats on. And I always feel very lucky about that, that I can do that. Those three things that I love doing the most, and make a living out of it.
“I’ve got very good memories of the whole period”
What was the light bulb moment when you thought ‘I could do this for the rest of my life’?
I had no idea that it would last so long. But now I think of it as I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Anyone is lucky that enjoys their work. Someone that enjoys their work will never do a day’s work in their life. It’s an old saying, so I’m very happy about that. Any job where you get up and look forward to doing it is not really work at all. And I have that pretty much all the time.
Impossible question, but what do you think makes a great song?
It is an impossible question, but it’s just that something that connects and touches the soul. It doesn’t have to be technically brilliant or anything. There’s just some combination of words and music that are just right and very, very powerful. To think that you can hear just a few notes of the song that can bring back so many memories. It can make you happy and make you cry, in fact, almost immediately. It’s a fantastic thing.
For me it’s fascinating to hear a classic song like ‘I’m Not in Love’, which I’ve heard a thousand times, and then to experience it in the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy, and suddenly I never hear it in the same way again.
Yes, I suppose the context makes a difference. Also when you hear a song that you’ve not heard for a while, your perspective on it may have altered. Or you might suddenly understand something about it or some phrase in it might suddenly strike you as very poignant. Something that you might have ignored before.
How was it composing the songs for the film Animalympics?
Yeah, I loved it. Quite simple really. I saw a copy of the storyboard, the director (Steven Lisberger) put in where he wanted to have a song. And I would say to him “If you could have any song in here, a song that exists, what would you have?” I was looking for clues basically. He would say: “A Who song or a Beach Boys song”, or whatever it was. And then I would just go away and write it. We did the recording in Los Angeles at A&M studios, and I enjoyed working there. I’ve got very good memories of the whole period.
Can we expect any ‘Wax’ on the tour, or any classic songs that you wrote for other artists?
We used to do ‘Bridge to Your Heart’ on tour, but there’s so much 10CC material, I decided that it was going to be purely all 10CC songs. There is a song that I wrote with Andrew (Gold) that was actually the last single 10CC ever put out. Unusually that was a song written by me and Eric (Stewart), it’s called ‘Ready To Go Home’, and I’m thinking about possibly putting that into the set for this tour.
“I don’t like explaining lyrics”
There is a lovely story in which your dad provided the inspiration for ‘No Milk Today’. Was that a pivotal moment for you as a songwriter, looking at things in a fresh way?
If you’re a songwriter or any kind of creative artist, you’re always going to look at things in a different way. Whether you’re a visual artist or musician, you tend to… It’s not conscious. Someone says something which strikes you as odd, or you mishear something that sounds interesting. My writing career is littered with overheard conversations and things people say. Not the obvious things of real experiences, but also things that are completely imagined. I don’t like explaining lyrics. A lot of the time, there are lyrics of songs that I’ve written or co-written that even I’m not sure what they mean, but I know it feels right. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s like an abstract painting. You don’t know what the picture’s of, but you know you get an emotion from it. And that’s the most important thing. You might have your own interpretation of it, and it might not make sense, but it’s right. That’s the beauty of it.
When were you happiest?
Well if I said I was happiest now, would that sound corny?
A bit, but that’s okay.
The start of a new project is always exciting, whatever it maybe. When I started writing in the sixties; when we started the band; working with the great Andrew Gold. Working with him initially and beyond was wonderful. So there’s so many highlights, but I’m a bit more relaxed about things now I’m a little bit older and I take things as they come. You get a bit more philosophical as you get older I find, and you don’t get too upset about things if they don’t go well.
Obviously the tour is dominating your thoughts at the moment, but is there anything we can look forward to in the future?
There is something I did a couple years ago and have wanted to do since but never had the time, but all being well later in the year, probably October, November, do an acoustic tour with two other musicians, and it’s called Heart Full of Songs. So it’ll be some 10CC stuff; some stuff I wrote in the sixties; some film stuff, and other oddities. Because it’s set in more intimate surroundings, you know just the three of us sat on stools, it gives me a chance to talk about the songs, and I really enjoy doing that. They are much smaller audiences, but nevertheless it’s a very nice thing to do.