A Q&A with Guy North
A British twist on Americana – meet Guy North…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
My debut album is called Retreat. I love the duality of meaning that can be held by words. The process of creating music is very cathartic for me and I can say it feels like a retreat in the sense of sanctuary. I worked on some of my album tracks during the Covid lockdowns and it felt like a retreat from performing live, or being in a band.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
I wanted it to be a solo album in every sense. I wrote the songs and I performed everything on the album, except for one song, ‘Fire that Burns‘, where my friend, Stuart Brennan, plays the double bass. It was challenging writing, recording and performing everything myself, but it was also very rewarding. I’d say the hardest part about writing the album was getting writer’s block on one or two of the tracks where I couldn’t get a bridge to fit nicely, or a few of the lyrics didn’t sit right.
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
I produced the album, but I got my friend, Matt Knee, to mix it for me. I really enjoy the process of recording my own material. It’s nice to start with a blank slate and watch a song emerge from it. I won’t be self-producing the next album, though. I might start off with a few demos recorded at home, but I’ll be going into the studio with Paul Brown engineering and adding some production sparkle.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
Some of the lyrics in my songs have specific themes or tell stories. It’s always great if you can evoke an emotional response or paint pictures in the listener’s mind. Bottom line, I’d like people to enjoy listening.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
I normally start with a guitar but sometimes it might just be a tune or riff I have in my head when I’m bored. Boredom is underrated these days; it’s one of the biggest drivers of creativity for me. As a specific example of a writing process, there’s a song called ‘Patterson’ on the album, which started off as nothing more than a test of a new audio interface I had bought. I put down some drums, and I liked them, so I added a whole song around the drum part.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
Taj Mahal is one of my favourite artists. There are a couple of harmonica solos on tracks that have taken influence from him. He’s been a big influence on my music because I adore the rawness and soul of his work. Besides that, I think there’s a real mix of influences from contemporary artists like Jason Isbell and Daniel Norgren, but I can also hear The Beatles or Velvet Underground creeping on some tracks. I honestly didn’t think about my influences when I started recording the album – I just hit record.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
I’d like to tour America, probably more than anywhere else, mainly because a lot of the music I listened to growing up was American or influenced by American music. I played a couple of tracks at an open mic night in Nashville earlier this year, and I felt like the audience really got my music. If I had my pick of any American venue, I’d go with Whisky A Go Go. To play at the same venue as some of my favourite artists (Taj Mahal included) would be amazing. For the UK it’d have to be the Brudenell in Leeds. I’ve played there a couple of times before in bands but never as a solo artist. It has a great feel to it, almost an aura. The first time I played there, they were serving pie and peas from behind the bar like a stereotypical working men’s club. But then they have had so many great bands from all over the world. I’d recommend anyone in West Yorkshire to go see a band there.
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
Until my album is out on the 30th August, I’d pick the one track I currently have on Spotify, ‘Cripple Horse’. Once my album is out I’d probably recommend people check out the track, “A Night Out”. I wrote it after I suffered a panic attack in a pub in York after the covid restrictions were lifted. I found it strange readjusting to normality I suppose.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
I’d love to get on a few tours to promote my album and pick up a decent number of new fans. Ultimately it’d be great if I could turn music into my day job.
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
My debut album, Retreat, is out on all major digital platforms on the 30th of August 2023. Until then you can listen to my single ‘Cripple Horse’ on all major digital platforms.
For more info on Guy North, check out his Facebook page.