Review: Green Man 2017 – ‘At fifteenth time of asking, a festival which delivers on every level and does so with a dose of love’

Published on AfterDark ( 25 Aug 2017) – click here to access article

Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s Green Man Festival held on 17 – 20 August 2017. (Photography by Nick Evans)

Photo: Nick Evans

Even as Green Man Festival enters its fifteenth year, the ethos of promoting the best of new music alongside established icons has not waned. Nor has the encompassing love-one-another vibe that is infectious as soon as you arrive. Certainly, the latter is needed more than ever at such a turbulent time, and the festival returns one more to provide a green oasis of escapism. Still, the awareness of events happening elsewhere in the world filters through and becomes a running theme in many of the artists’ mantras to the audience.

The Big Moon, Far Out Stage. Photo: Nick Evans

US rockers Hurray For The Riff Raff make the odd reference to the growing political unrest in their homeland and elsewhere throughout their set on the Mountain Stage on Friday. The performance itself is a breathless ride of soaring northern-bound classic rock with a southern-fried punk energy simmering beneath that burns with an inner yearning for a more peaceful world. Inward-looking lyrics with a social conscience are delivered with boldness and bite by frontwoman Alynda Segarra – the musical love child of Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen both in her lyrical delivery and her smouldering stage presence. A fitting tribute to The Boss himself is thrown in for good measure with a hedonistic cover of Dancing In The Dark closing the set.

Another high-octane cover of an 80’s classic is provided by London indie quartet The Big Moon – their delirious take on Bonnie Tyler‘s Total Eclipse of the Heart just one highlight of what is a typically vivacious set by the four-piece. Their delirium-inducing, body-elevating blend of murky guitar riffs and sultry melodies is suited for the confines of the Far Out Stage. A backing band of dancers in fancy dress join the band on-stage for closing number Sucker to provide a fittingly fervent finale. An accidental on-stage fall by guitarist Soph Nathan during an over-zealous guitar solo only adds to the chaotic charm of their set. Continue reading

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Album review: Baby Queens ‘Baby Queens’ – “Their greatest strength is their ability to break down walls between genre and time”

Published on AfterDark (06 Nov 2016) – CLICK HERE to view

Dean Hodge reviews the eponymous debut album by Cardiff R’n’B fusion band Baby Queens (released through Strangetown Records on 28 October 2016).

Tracklisting: Tired Of Love/Melodi/Had My Heart/Hear Me/You And I/By The River/It Feels Like/Forever/Spiritualize/Unite/Red Light/Samsara

baby-queens-copyirght-baby-queens

Having followed them for a lengthy period of time and thrown around the lofty words ‘long-awaited album’ in much of my previous reviews, it comes as a massive relief to be able to finally review an actual album by Cardiff’s Baby Queensthe female five-piece who serve up a hypnotic and harmonious aural cocktail that is shaken and stirred with R’n’B-infused pop melodies and garage rock-imbued hooks.

The Welsh quintet can pose a two-edged sword to any music journalist or press figure. On one hand, you would need a list longer than your arm for the myriad of genres the band could justifiably fit into with petite ease. But it poses something of a quandary on how exactly to articulate or market their sound within one genre or within a single tagline. Additionally, it is just as much of a challenge in how to thread together the numerous stitches of the band’s sound into a cohesive whole, and capture the raw energy of their live sound onto record. This is perhaps an obvious factor as to the why the wait for a debut album has dragged on for what seems like an infinite amount of time. At least it has so in the eyes of many of their fans – or their ‘New-Jack Army’ if that could be considered a suitable royalty-inspired nickname for their fan club – who have been licking their lips over the prospect of a full-length album by the five-piece.

Not content with just putting out sub-standard recordings of the music that they have been pouring their heart and soul into writing while balancing day-to-day jobs, the band take a decidedly more meticulous approach. For them, the production should be just as important, and just as emotionally ambitious, as the songs themselves. Additionally, so much can happen within the realms of life and love in the space of a couple of years, that can only serve to enlighten and enrich the creative nous. Continue reading

Review: Sŵn Festival 2016 – “Providing musical memories for ten glorious years, and hopefully more to come”

Published on AfterDark (26 Oct 2016) – CLICK HERE to read article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October 2016).

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

Photo provided by BBC Cymru Wales (Photographer: Simon Ayre)

The sight of instruments and amps being wheeled from numerous white vans into one of the various venues in Cardiff. A sea of pink and red balloons dotted around the city streets and inside said venues. People walking around with glitter etched across their face as if it an acceptable form of everyday attire. These are images that have become very much synonymous with the annual orchestrated cacophony of chaos that is Sŵn Festival.

Like a song that reminds you of an iconic scene from your favourite film as soon as you hear it, these images are a visual accompaniment to the many moments of musical magic that have come to define the Welsh festival. Artists have marked their breakthrough here. Friendships (and relationships) have been formed. The odd Jager-bomb has been consumed here and there.

They are moments that indeed now span an entire decade for those that have shared the journey of Sŵn right from the beginning – and four years (and counting) worth of musical memories for me. With local music venues fighting an uphill battle to remain relevant in the current streaming-dominated music industry, the support of these venues and the ability of city-based festivals like Sŵn to highlight the independent scene, is more vital now than ever before. So the Welsh festival marks its tenth birthday by providing more of the high-calibre new artists that have come to define the ethos of Sŵn. Continue reading

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Interviews Leif Erikson – “I want to ensure, when writing songs, that they retain a little bit of mystery”

Published on AfterDark (19 Oct 2016) – click here to view article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge speaks to Leif Erikson lead vocalist/guitarist Sam Johnston ahead of the band’s upcoming appearance at Sŵn Festival in Cardiff (23 October).

Leif EriksonLondon quintet Leif Erikson‘s choice of name – inspired by the famous Icelandic explorer – is perhaps an apt one for their dreamy, dexterously-produced indie-rock sound. They bridge elements of the jangly guitar hooks of The Stones Roses and pre-Screamadelica Primal Scream, the angular melodies of Joy Division and the shoegaze grooves of Ride. Within wide lyrical landscapes – of life, love, loss, lament and everything in between – the band churn out cathartic melodies like unearthed diamonds, and chisel at them with lean guitar riffs and polished vocals. Ahead of their eagerly awaited return to Cardiff this weekend (23 October) – as part of the line-up for the 10th anniversary edition of Sŵn Festival AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to lead vocalist/guitarist Sam Johnston about the band’s plans for new music, growing up in London and the inspiration for their songs. Continue reading

Sŵn Festival 2016: AfterDark’s 10 must-see artists

Published on AfterDark (16 Oct 2016) – click here to access article

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge previews the 10th anniversary weekend of Sŵn Festival (Friday 21 – Sunday 23 October) and picks his 10 recommended artists.

10 Must See Artists Swn (Copyirght AfterDark)

Cardiff‘s own curtain-closer to the festival season Sŵn Festival returns once again to numerous venues around the Welsh capital for a whole weekend – showcasing the cream of upcoming artists that are sure to be the soundtrack of the years to come.

Like the one music-obsessive in your social group that continually claims bragging rights to knowing the best new artists before anyone else does, Sŵn prides itself on bringing future headliners and chart-hasslers directly into some of Cardiff’s petite venues. Artists like Temples, Alt-J, The Vaccines and Disclosure are just some of the acts to have graced the Welsh festival on the way to the ‘toppermost’.

Now in its 10th year, Sŵn shows no signs of going stale with its ear still finely attuned to the freshest sounds – and this year’s line up is sure to have something to please everyone whatever their aural tastes. AfterDark’s Dean Hodge handpicks his own ten artists to look out for this weekend. Continue reading

Review: Green Man Festival 2016 – “The quality of the music, like the incessant Welsh rain, continues to be in unlimited supply”

Published on AfterDark (3 Sept 2016) – click here to access article

See all photos by Nick Evans for AfterDark here

Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s Green Man Festival held on 18 – 21 August 2016. (Photography by Nick Evans)

Photo: Nick Evans.

Photo: Nick Evans.

Having become anointed with the unique charms of Green Man Festival last year, a return was definitely on the cards for me this year. It is quite clear on my second visit that some things simply don’t change at Green Man 2016 – one of them being the incessant Welsh rain (lots of it) which has seemingly become a permanent staple on the annual line-up. Thankfully, neither has the quality of the music – which this year, like the downward water that falls out of the sky here, is in unlimited supply.

Having finally arrived and set up camp on Thursday – on what is a once-in-a-blue-moon dry day in the Brecon Beacons – I make my way to the front of the Far Out tent, which is probably not the most ideal place for the more passive gig-consumer given that the next band to play are capable of bringing bears out of slumber with their cacophony of noise. Continue reading

Live review: The Bluetones – TramShed, Cardiff, 19 April – “The band raise a gin and bluetonic to twenty years since their soaring debut”

The Bluetones TramShed 1 (Copyright Nick Evans)

Published on AfterDark (21 April 2016)

Dean Hodge reviews the band’s Cardiff leg of their ‘Jukebox’ 20th anniversary tour, at the recently opened TramShed venue (support from The Standard Lamps). Photography: Nick Evans.

For a band often considered part of the blossoming Britpop scene of the mid-1990’s, The Bluetones were far more inspired by the harmony-laden guitar-pop of 60’s US West Coast bands such as The Byrds, than by the British songbook circa-Kinks and Small Faces that informed the sound of much of their peers.  But timeless singles such as Slight Return and Bluetonic have ingrained themselves in the psyche of many of those who were in their twenties when the band started, as well as those lucky enough to discover them since.

Having initially parted ways, the band have reformed for a one-off tour as they raise a gin and ‘bluetonic’ to twenty years since the band’s inception and the release of their soaring debut album Expecting To Fly – an often overlooked, but scarcely overpraised, classic from the 1990’s British indie scene.

Their return to Cardiff coincides with the recent arrival of the ambitious TramShed venue in Cardiff, which in a short space of time has established itself as an integral part of the Cardiff music scene, filling the gap for a suitable ‘medium-sized venue’ that Cardiff has lacked for so long. Its thousand-strong capacity makes it suitable for housing the audience for this gig – albeit many of whom are in their late 30’s to 40’s and whose youth was fortunately soundtracked by the Britpop era. Continue reading

Review: DimSŵn 2016 – ‘A premature serving of Sŵn’s 10th birthday cake, with just as much rich sonic filling’

Published on AfterDark (14 April 2016) [click here to view]

Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s DimSŵn Festival in Cardiff , 9 April. (Photography by Nick Evans)

Anelog (Copyright Nick Evans)

Anelog, The Moon Club (Photo: Nick Evans)

If its older sibling Sŵn is the headline act of the festival season, then the younger DimSŵn is the inaugural support whetting aural appetites for the soundtrack to our year ahead. With the tenth year of Sŵn approaching, DimSŵn was in some ways a premature nine-and-a-half old birthday celebration – a mere slice of the Sŵn birthday cake full of the rich sonic filling and rare flavours-of-the-month that this defiantly Welsh institution never fails to mix up.

As is often the case at Sŵn, it falls on the slim guitar-adorned shoulders of a singer-songwriter act to open proceedings. So DimSŵn 2016 gets under way in Undertone with Merthyr Tydfil chanteuse Bryony Sierthe first in a line of acts representing the Forte Project stage. She manages to inject a unique edge into the country and folk genre with a voice that sounds more Memphis than Merthyr, and melodies cut straight from the heart. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 – meet the new class of Welsh artists

Published on AfterDark (3 Mar 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gives his first review of this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 artists (announced on Feb 29).

Horizons 12 2016 (Copyright by BBC Wales and Horizons)

When casting my eyes and ears over the new Horizons/Gorwelion 2016 line-up, for some unusual reason the film Forrest Gump seemed to immediately enter into my mind. More specifically, it was the famous line which Tom Hanks says at the beginning of the film – “Life is like a box of chocolates, because you never know what you’re going to get.”

The peculiar reference to that line is slightly justified here because it goes some way to summing up what has to be the most diverse line-up of twelve acts picked by the Horizons/Gorwelion scheme yet. From hip-hop to post-hardcore, from indie to electronica, from folk to pop – there is certainly something here to appeal to everyone’s aural taste.

But one thing is guaranteed – you are bound to stumble across some true musical gems that hopefully will have only just entered your life (and your playlist). If they haven’t yet, they are bound to make their presence felt over the course of the year ahead.

Once again, Horizons will be delivering on its ethos of promoting new music in Wales and shining a light on these twelve artists over the course of 2016 – through extensive radio airplay, live shows, festival slots, and an exclusive recording session at BBC Maida Vale.

BBC Radio 1 presenter – and one of the Horizons panel – Huw Stephens summed up the mission statement of Horizons in his previous interview with AfterDark. “There is so much talent in Wales but sometimes it’s hard to find it, and people might not know about new bands or where to start looking. You need to have a ‘filter’ for all the music out there and Horizons is a great music filter.”

To get you acquainted with the new wave of Welsh artists providing the ultimate ‘alternative’ soundtrack to the year ahead, AfterDark’s Dean Hodge provides his own take on the chosen 12 – and there is certainly a mixed bag of musical treats to indulge in here. Additionally, you can find out more about Horizons here.

Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions – Interview with Huw Stephens

Published on AfterDark (28 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio Cymru presenter Huw Stephens during the Horizons/Gorwelion 2015 sessions at BBC Maida Vale.

Huw Stephens (Copyright BBC Radio Cymru)

Last month saw the new wave of acts from the Horizons/Gorwelion scheme descend on the iconic BBC Maida Vale studios over the course of two days. There to preside over these sessions was BBC Radio 1/BBC Radio Cymru/C2 presenter – and new music connoisseur – Huw Stephens. As a member of the Horizons panel for the previous two years, Huw has lent his support for new original music to helping uncover the most exciting new talent in Wales. Here, Huw speaks to Dean Hodge about why a scheme such as Horizons is so important for Welsh music, his thoughts on the class of acts this year, and how he thinks the Welsh music scene can get bigger. Continue reading

Horizons/Gorwelion 2015: The BBC Maida Vale sessions

Published on AfterDark (13 January 2016)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gains exclusive access to the Horizons 2015 sessions at BBC Maida Vale and talks to some of this year’s Horizons acts about the past year.

Horizons - Violet Skies w/band (Copyright by Horizons)

For two days over last December, the iconic BBC Maida Vale Studio in London transformed into a glowing musical furnace of Welsh talent as the acts from this year’s Horizons/Gorwelion scheme waltzed through the doors of the building.

For those not familiar with the Horizons scheme, here is a bite-size synopsis – Horizons is a scheme delivered each year in partnership between BBC Cymru Wales and Arts Council of Wales, with the sole intention of developing and nurturing independent music in Wales. As part of the scheme, twelve Welsh artists are picked each year by a panel of producers, and offered a number of opportunities throughout the year.

Just some of these opportunities include more exposure across Welsh radio, slots at a number of national/international festivals, career mentoring carried out through numerous music industry workshops, and at the end of the year a recording session at the illustrious BBC Maida Vale studio itself.

Some of the chosen artists to pass through the star-adorned walls of the building this year include Aled Rheon, Cut Ribbons, Dan Bettridge, Delyth McLean, Hannah Grace, HMS Morris, MELLT, Peasants King, Violet Skies and Yr Eira (with Y Reu absent due to other commitments).

What ensues is two days imbued with plenty of musical blood, sweat and tears. Two days of each artist pouring all their musical blood into three specially chosen tracks. Two days that bring plenty of sweat courtesy of the team of producers, filmmakers and project managers working hard to capture the sweet sounds being made. Two days that result in the occasional tear cried over what is an emotional moment for all involved after such an eventful year.

What emerges from these two days is a catalogue of tracks imbued with the heavenly melodies and the fiery soul that the music of Wales excels in creating. Gaining a front row seat to these two fruitful days in Maida Vale is AfterDark’s Dean Hodge, who talks to a few of the artists – Cut Ribbons, HMS Morris, Violet Skies and Aled Rheon as well as BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens – about the sessions and their year-long journey with Horizons. Note: the term ‘musical rollercoaster’ is used with a heavy degree of regularity here. Continue reading

All Change 20 Years On: AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Cast’s John Power

CAST PRESS SHOT JULY 2015

Published on AfterDark (21 July 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge spoke to the Cast frontman before their performance at The Globe in Cardiff on July 2. (Photo: Kate Swerdlow)

This year sees Britpop titans Cast hitting the road once again, twenty years on from the release of their 1995 magnum opus All Change. To mark this special anniversary the band are currently embarking on a forty-date UK tour, which will culminate in a special live performance with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra on Saturday 5th December 2015 at the historic Liverpool Philharmonic Hall – tickets for which are currently on sale now. Frankly, such a music milestone merits a finale of fitting finesse.

Their recent performance at The Globe in Cardiff (with Houdini Dax on support duties) came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of their debut single Fine Time being released – a mantra to the unbounded positivity and invincibility of youth , laced with the melodic hooks that would go on to make Cast one of the shining lights of the burgeoning Britpop scene.

Due to the busy summer traffic on the same day as their Cardiff show, the Liverpudlian group arrive later than usual and pull up outside the tiny venue just as rain showers give way to sun, and a heatwave begins to seep into the confined setting of The Globe.

Despite having to rush to unload their gear and prepare for their soundcheck, lead singer and chief songwriter John Power finds enough time to invite AfterDark’s Dean Hodge into the backstage room for a cup of tea and a quick chat. Read the full interview here in which John talks about reforming Cast, the band’s breakthrough at the peak of the Britpop explosion, the release of All Change and what fans can expect on the upcoming tour. Continue reading

Live review – Cast, The Globe, Cardiff, 2 July 2015 – ‘A stark reminder that they have lost none of their magic touch two decades on’

Published on AfterDark (15 July 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews Cast’s performance in The Globe in Cardiff (with support from Houdini Dax).

CAST

Britpop titans Cast marked their return to Cardiff in fine style within the dense musical hive of The Globe. Their return tour coincides with twenty years since the release of their inaugural album All Change, an undisputed classic of the 1990’s British indie scene that cemented the Liverpudlian band as one of the shining jewels in the Britpop crown, and earmarked frontman and The La’s alumni John Power as a songwriting force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, their Cardiff gig came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the debut single release that kicked it all off for them – the ageless paean to limitless positivity Fine Time.

A full-capacity audience greeted their welcome return, standing as testament to the band’s enduring popularity and the timeless appeal of their impressive canon of anthems. There was a mix of generations old and new, from people who have followed the band from the beginning, to new fans discovering them for the first time. Continue reading

Review: Super Furry Animals, Cardiff University Great Hall, 3 May 2015 – ‘A welcome reminder and a literal jolt to the senses of how much we’ve missed them’

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the third and final leg of Super Furry Animals’ 3-date gig in Cardiff last weekend.

Super Furry Animals

Published on AfterDark (8 May 2015) – CLICK HERE to read article

As far as mammoth comebacks goes, this particularly breed of mammoth is as big, as brash, as colourful and particularly as ‘furry’ as they come. In some ways, Welsh sonic meddlers Super Furry Animals – returning for their first gigs in Cardiff in six years at the Cardiff University Great Hall – never really went away in the first place.

All five members of the group – Gruff Rhys, Guto Pryce, Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford, plus brothers Dafydd Ieuan and Cian Ciarán (see AfterDark’s interview with him here) – have been working on their own various solo projects, while their music continues to be an eternal soundtrack for indie raves everywhere. However, their return to action was a welcome reminder and at times a literal jolt to the senses of just how much we missed them. Furthermore, it testified how much their inbred, technicolour-infused brand of rock ‘n’ roll – delivered in a mystical Welsh lilt – is needed in both in these grey, election-dominated times and the bland chart music-dominated landscape. Continue reading

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciarán – ‘The shows have sold really well so the pressure is on to deliver’

Cian Ciaran

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (30 Apr 2015)

This coming Friday in Cardiff marks the comeback of arguably one of its most revered exports – as 90’s psych-indie kings Super Furry Animals grace the Cardiff University Great Hall on May 1.

With a sell-out crowd awaiting the return of the Welsh rock icons, not an ounce of the huge sense of anticipation is lost over SFA member/synth maestro Cian Ciarán. Yet he shrugs off any nerves in his imitable laid-back, unassuming manner.

As if returning to duties as the synth wizard of SFA for their first UK tour in six years wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he has many other things to keep him occupied – he is currently touring with his new band Zefur Wolves (with his partner Estelle Ios among the line-up) in promotion of their self-titled debut album released earlier this month, and a solo album coinciding with the general election is set for release this summer. Continue reading

Interview with George Ezra: ‘I’m still shocked at success’

George Ezra

Rising singer-songwriter and BBC Sound of 2014 nominee George Ezra is set to release his hotly anticipated debut album ‘Wanted on Voyage’ next month (30 June), which will follow lead single Budapest (15 June). Earlier this year, The Insight reporters Dean Hodge and Alex Spiceley caught an exclusive interview with George backstage just before he kicked off his first major tour in Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff. Check out the interview here as the musician gave his thoughts on his upcoming debut album, the Bristol music scene, breaking America and other topics.

You’re currently working on your debut studio album. Can you tell us about the type of sound people can expect from your album?

I’ve recorded about 19 songs for the record, so what needs to happen now is we have to do the gruelling task of axing however many songs. The whole point of the two EP’s I’ve released (‘Did You Hear the Rain?’ and ‘Cassy’O’) is they’re easing people into the idea of me having a band. I still gig on my own, but the album was recorded with a band and I have sourced a band now.

Can you describe your songwriting process?

Because there’s been a lot of moving around in the last few years, I’ve just been carrying notebooks and writing down anything like conversations or ideas I have and I allow myself to forget that I haven’t wrote any of it. So I come back to them a few months later, and then it feels like someone else’s words. I normally sing melodies or guitar lines into my iPhone. Then it’s just piecing bits together and trying stuff out. It’s interesting because a lot of songs I record, different versions, different melodies but the same lyrics.

Which artists were the biggest influences on you growing up?

The one artist I know who inspired me to go into music was Bob Dylan. But there was so much because when I was 13 or 14, the Arctic Monkeys came out and Britain had a lot of amazing indie bands who I listened to a lot. I also did a lot of rummaging around and found blues acts as well. But I think when you trace it back to where it all began, it all started with Dylan.

Did the music scene in Bristol have an influence on you as an artist?

I moved to Bristol about four years ago. Before I moved there, I’d always been in bands. I haven’t worked out whether that’s just because of the fact that I move to a city by myself and no matter where I went I was going to be inspired, but I do think Bristol has something to do with that.

I actually get to go back to Bristol for the first time since November and actually sleep in my own bed which is nice.

You’re originally from North London. Why did you go to Bristol?

I studied for a year at university there. I didn’t carry on, but I stayed in Bristol. A lot of my friends are in their third year now which is what I’d be doing now. I just did one year and at that point, I was in a position where I can still live there. When I’m in London, I find myself going home back to Hartord because it’s easier.

Was it always music for you, or were there other career ideas?

I don’t know if music is a career idea yet! I left school when I was 16 and went to study Music at a college. I enjoyed it but I think then I was just a chancer like everyone else and there was no point with me staying on at school. I’ve always wanted to do music but at the same time I don’t feel like I’m doing it, it just all comes naturally. It doesn’t feel like I’ve woken up and suddenly I’m a professional musician and get to gig every night. It’s just what happens.

A lot of your influences are ‘bluesy’ and ‘American’. Have you ever thought of performing over in America?

It will happen at some point. Whether it works or not who knows. At the moment, I’m not interested in going as it’s too big a place. I’ve only just started gigging across Europe and that feels quite natural and healthy to do that. A lot of people waste a lot of money flying a lot of people and gear over to America. Plus, there’s a different radio station in every state. You don’t even break America, you break one state. I want to know when I go to America that I got something to come back to, not go there just because I can.

You travelled to Europe for inspiration. What were your favourite places that you visited?

I went Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Vienna, Milan, Barcelona then back up to Paris. A lot of the album was written there. The verses of Cassy’O’ were written while I was going around. I took a guitar but I was written songs on the guitar, I was just writing every little thing down in these little journals. Vienna was my favourite place, I don’t know why, it was just a really pretty, good looking city.

Not to be cheeky, but how was your Valentine’s Day?

You know what, not great, it was my first day off since being on tour. I was so excited about having a day off and we were all in Manchester then. But then we woke up, and everyone was going ‘what shall we do?’ like the vultures in The Jungle Book. Literally, we wasted hours doing that. Then I randomly went to buy a mask – I bought a baboon mask the other week for £8 – and I went in the mask shop and the man had a go at me for putting the mask in the wrong place, right in front of everyone! I just picked this really awful mask off a shelf and tried it on because it was so bad and then put it back and he told me off. He even called me ‘good boy’ in front of the whole shop when I put it back in the right place. Then I did go and watch American Hustle but didn’t really like it. Afterwards, I just got pissed in the evening!

How to feel that most of your fan base who come to your shows are girls?

I supported Tom Odell last year and obviously his fan base is mostly female. Luckily, I also supported Ray Morris and Lianne Le Havas, and they both have really mixed audiences. So far on my first headline tour, mine has been mostly mixed. It’s been predominated 20 or over and a few young people. Cardiff is actually the most people I performed to before, it’s not been like that in any other city. There’s two girls that have been there every time and I met them supporting Tom Odell here. They got me a card and some Kinder Bueno.

Do you often see the same people at your gigs and does it ever feel odd?

I’ve never been somebody that understands wanting someone’s autograph. I got one from Mickey Mouse when I went to Disneyland. Also, I’m a fool! You don’t want my name written down because I’m just me. I just see myself as a bit of a muppet. People ask me for my autograph all the time and I’m just like ‘Yeah OK’.

So you’re still very down to earth then!

Definitely! Whenever I step on to any stage, I’m still a bit shocked that it’s sold out. Also, I’ve supported so many people and you meet a few who think they are owed something or should have attention, and it’s not about that. With all these pools that I was put in for 2014 (including the BBC Sound of 2014 poll), there are a lot of people asking me which artists I wanted to beat and who I considered my main competition, but they’ve got the wrong guy. It’s not about that for me, I just appreciate I’ve been considered.

Do you think having a band on your tour will change your style of music?

In my head, a lot of the songs, since recording them… I guess it’s just because I know what I’ve recorded on top of them. Because we were such a part of it, as in me and my producer didn’t get other musicians in but just did a lot of it ourselves, so it’s looser and more honest. People spend fortunes getting the best keyboard player, but they don’t care about what they’re doing , they’re just very good at playing the right note. We had a lot of fun making the album and that’s all I’m interested in, having fun.

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