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I think this is a better album
Interview with Chris Norman
 
 
 

Hi Chris, what are your news? The main one is obviously about the new album?

— The news is that Iíve got a new album out in September and a single out three weeks before that. The single is called “Waiting”. I think it is out at the end of August everywhere except the UK where itís to come out at the same time as the album. Because they got a different system in the UK with playlists. You canít get into a BBC playlist before the record is out, so you have to build up to it, itís weird.

Will it be only a download?

— The single is just a download, nobody buys singles anymore, I mean hardly ever. Itís not worth to do it. The only if youíd be pressing some singles for promotion. There will be some, but only for giving to radio stations and stuff like that. But the actual thing is just to download. Itís just easy. I do it as well because people do that now, you know, get it on their iphones, mp3 players, computers, whatever. And when the video is released which will be about a week or two weeks before the single...

A video on that singleís song, “Waiting”?

— Yes. And then, when you go on that, youíll be able to just click and download it of iTunes or something and thatís it. Or I think when it first comes out you can preorder it and then get it.

I saw pictures from the video shooting on your FB page. Some light airy room, you and Geoff are playing... Who else was taking part there?

— My son Paul on the drums, Geoffís daughter Joanna playing acoustics and Andy Whelan playing bass.

Yeah, the bass player looked much like him. But... Andy playing bass?

— Yes, but that was just for the video. Before that I knew Geoff was gonna do it, and I was thinking about bringing over some of my kids. But then Geoff said, Joanna will do it. Paul was over anyway, so I asked him and he said heíll do the drums. And I rang up to Andy Whelan and said “Do you fancy playing bass?” Because heís local, you know, and it was easy.

Because you did it in England?

— Yeah, in Manchester.

Ok. So how long in a whole did you work on the album?

— I started it doing demos, I think, in November of the last year, just before Christmas. I started finishing off song ideas that I got and then doing demos. And then I went right through after Christmas again, getting back to it. Then Geoff had a song over Christmas, he sent it to me and I just added some bits to it as well and then we demoed it. And then we took the demos that weíd done pretty much to the studio, and took some things off the demos and added extra things.

So you have a Christmas song, right?

— Yes, itís coming out in November. Itís not gonna be on the album because itís too soon for a Christmas song to be on the album. It will come out separately. The first song to come out is “Waiting”, thatís on the album. And then in November weíre just putting out this single with a Christmas song called “Thatís Christmas”.

How many songs are on the album?

— Twelve songs plus one bonus track. And the bonus track is the song “Forty Years On”. That was just a song that was a part of the writing demo session I was doing. But then, because of the Smokie “40 years” thing, they heard that at Sony and decided they wanted to put it on this album. So I said OK. But now Iím gonna put it on my album, as a bonus track because itís already has been released. But thereís 12 brand new songs, plus this bonus track, plus later on the Christmas song, so thereís 14 all together.

Are all these 12 tracks written by you?

— Yeah.

And who took part in the recordings, what musicians?

— Mostly that was me and Geoff. Rob Taggart played keyboards. I played bass. We used sample drums apart from one song Dorino played on (Christmas song). We had a couple of people in doing extra bits. We had a harmonica player coming in, a violin player, an accordion player on one track – I think his name is Simon Chandler. We had Harry Hamer, who was a drummer in Chumbawumba, playing washboard on the song called “Catís Eyes”, which is a bit like a skiffle song. And then he played congas and brushes on a couple of tracks.

Did you work on the sound again with Neil Ferguson?

— Well, we recorded some of it in Neilís studio, some of it in my little studio in Skipton, which isnít really a studio but it has got a recording machine. I did the back vocals at Neilís studio with Elli Luha and Teri Sullivan. Geoff did a lot of the stuff on his song at his house, on his recorder and then we took that to the studio, put that on and then added stuff to it. And same with all the songs. So we recorded in Neilís at Chairworks studio.

And was it all produced by you?

— Yeah.

What kind of album it is, what kind of songs are on it?

— Itís anything you think of. Thatís why I called it “Crossover”. Itís like every crossing over from one style to another all the time. Because, you know, I didnít stop myself from writing anything I liked pretty much. So if there was a song that was like a bit country and I liked it, I recorded it. And if I wrote a song that was a bit rock-n-roll and I liked it, I recorded it. So I didnít think – oh, I canít do that, itís too country or itís too rock-n-roll or itís too whatever. I recorded everything that I had written and I liked, all the songs that I would like to listen to myself. I finished them off and recorded them. So itís like a mixed mishmash of different styles. But it still sounds like me because itís my voice, and still sounds like us because itís our playing, you know.

The thing with album title is that you always get at that point and you think: what we are going to call the album? And then youíve got like a list of things with “could I call it like...?”, “could I call it like...?” And then Iíve might asked, “what do you think of that?”, “what do you think of that?...” I did that with Geoff, I was saying “what do you think of this?”, you know. And then he sent me some. And at the end I went with that name.

Do you have any favourites on the album or think it can be a hit?

— Well, I hope “Waiting” is a hit. Actually Iím not necessarily thinking of it. I donít need to have a single hit because people like me donít really have hit singles anymore, you know. I just talk about a hit – a radio hit, so that everybody heard it, knows it, then goes and buys the album. But itíd be nice if there was some kind of a hit as well, if itís sold enough to be in the charts, that would help, of course, then to even more promote the album. So thatís the main thing really.

I like all the songs on the album actually. All the songs, more than Iíve done before really. Because usually always there is a couple of songs on album that you are not so sure about. But I like all these songs. The first song is “Waiting” and I like that. The second song is “Catís Eye” which is that skiffle one, I like that a lot. And then this “Highest Mountain”, I like that. “Fly Away”, thatís a good song. “Carry On”, thatís a good song. They are all in different styles, so I like them all, you know.

But you will probably have to pick some of them when youíll be doing your promo interviews for the new album?

— Yes, Iíll do them in September. And itís always hard to pick a song anyway. When I do those interviews they say, what song would you like to pick of the album? I have to pick a song. And I donít really know if Iíve picked the right one, I never know which song to pick. I donít really know which song I like best out of an album till about a year or two after usually.

Well, then you probably know this already regarding the previous album... :)

— What songs are my favourite on “There And Back”? “Nobodyís Fool”. It wasnít a “star” track on the album when I did it, but it is now. I guess at that time the “star” track was probably gonna be “Iím Gone” or something, but now Iím not keen on “Iím Gone”. “Nobodyís Fool” has stood up, I like that a lot. Also “Gypsy Queen”, which stood the test of time.

So itís difficult at the time when itís new to know which one is... But I think this is a better album. (“This is your best work” – adds Geoff who's sitting beside).

Ok, any other news?

— No, thatís the main thing – Iím doing an album and Iím doing the stuff I always do when get an album out, Iím doing a tour... Iím releasing the album via Internet – downloads everywhere, taking out some Google ads and stuff. Iím hoping itís gonna get to more people because Iíve always relied before on radio and stuff. But radio donít play me as much as it used to do, so I got to find a different way. So this is gonna be promoted on the Internet more.

And Iíve done this video which is gonna be on my YouTube channel. I like the video, by the way, itís good. Itís not just a shot with a group, it starts off with close-ups of me all in white, a bit like the album is like that too. I think itís a good kind of general theme, image going through it. So this is thing. And then there are bits with us playing there, but there are also bits on location with a little girl and a woman and a black guy doing stuff. Itís kind of to do with waiting for something, looking up at the sky and all that. So itís good, I like the video, itís well shot, itís of a good quality and the people who did it were good, I was very pleased with them. And also Iím doing another one now, in September, for the Christmas song called “Thatís Christmas”. The song is catchy, very catchy.

But you had a Christmas song before...

— Oh, that was years and years ago. Me and Pete wrote that, but that was just a rip-off of “Ode to Joy” by Beethoven. We knew that when we did it. And we never released that. The only reason we did that was because of that Christmas thing, Riga thing. No, this is a purposely written thing.

I was on the Isle of Man for Christmas and we were talking on the phone with Geoff, just talking about Christmassy things, you know. What you are doing – Iím just chilling out, you know, and watching telly, presents and all that. And the next thing was that he sent me a text “Iíve written an idea for a Christmas song”. He said, Iíll do a demo and send you. (“The song was based on the conversation with us”, – adds Geoff). Then, about a couple of days later, I got an e-mail with this demo on Geoff singing this song. And I liked it straight away, so I said, yeah, we should record it. So when I got back to recording it, Geoff sent me the basic backing track with a different key to suit my voice because Geoff has a very low voice. I wrote some different words, some parts, some of them changed a bit but not much, basically the song is as he wrote it. I just changed a few bits, and sang it, demoed it. Then we took it in the studio, put vocals on it, and kids choir on it, and some jingle bells, and it sounds really great, I love it! :) So we get a Christmas song out and that meets a plan I had :)... Because, I was telling Geoff, I was watching the program about Christmas songs and there were people like Noddy Holder from Slade, they are making like half a million quid a year every year from these Christmas songs that they wrote in 1973 or somewhen! So I said to Geoff, if weíd have some of that, just a bit of that, then it would be a nice pension, you know, wouldnít it? (laughs). So we thought, yeah, we should do a Christmas song then, but if nobody buys it, then that is a plan out the window, but you never know it.

Ok, Chris, now what about changes of your image which many fans are probably still surpised for...

— You mean my beard? My Vandyke? :) (speaking to Geoff – “What do you call it? Goaty?”) :)) Well, I just got sick of seeing the same f**king face peering out on me every time I look at my mirror (laughs). And also on stage pictures and Youtube stuff, I got sick of seeing myself. This face is getting older every time I look at it, you know :). So then I just didnít shave for a bit and I thought it looks all right. First I thought maybe Iíll change my image. Maybe Iíll do like a Paul Rodgers and Iíll have like a little goaty beard, cut my one shorter and that will be different. But then I thought, no, because I watched a program on TV called “The Three Musketeers”. You know this story, but it was a modern BBC production of it, it was on every week. I was watching it and I thought, I wouldnít mind looking like that :). So I thought, I grow my hair longer and I have this and Iíll have a different image (laughs).

So it has no connection with a new album or tour or whatever, just like, you know, film actors sometimes do it because of their roles, and then you might get back? Because through all your life you hadnít this thing for long... :)

— No, it has nothing to do with the album. Iím getting older and I just thought Iím sick of seeing the same face, I want to change it a bit. If I keep in this business, I canít look like that forever, you know. So I thought itís about time to try to do a different look. So this is it (laughs). And I might keep this now. When I get even older I might just let it go grey too, you know, do a Tom Jones. And then Iíll have white hair and white beard, thatís maybe when Iíll cut the hair short, when it goes pretty white. I mean, itís probably quite white now, I have it obviously dyed but one day Iíll probably stop that at all, but I donít know when.

Are there any news from your daughter Susan?

— As for Susan, we thought she was going to do “X Factor” but it didnít happen at the end. She sang there and everybody was going crazy for it and the “X Factor” people said, youíre gonna be on the show, weĎll let you know. And then it just fell through, I donít know why. Anyway, maybe itís a good thing because once you get on that, you sort of get tied, you know, you are painted with that brush. We were talking before, I said Iím trying to see if I can come with any songs. Because itís a different generation, you know. But if I get an idea what kind of things sheís into, I can usually listen to that stuff, to different people and then trying filter through it and hopefully come out with something. Hopefully I can do something and then we can go and at least do some demos. Sheís got a great voice.

But what about that album that she has recorded with your other kids like five years ago?

— That album was for the kids, for Michael, Steven and Susan. And then they just didnít want to do it anymore.

I mean, wasnít that a similar story when you wrote the songs for another generation?

— But that was a different style. The thing was that wasnít really Susanís thing. And it wasnít really Michael and Stevenís thing, it was sort of in between. It was like a trying to get effects of a heavy rock thing with a commercial thing. And I donít think anybody was perfectly satisfied with that really. Then Michael and Steven didnít want to do it anyway. So Susan was then going out for singing in clubs and pubs and that. And her style that she likes is different from that, you know. Itís more in a kind of a soulful pop, if you like, in this area, whatever you call it – like Paloma Faith and those kind of people. So we are trying to see if we can do something along those lines, I mean in that direction. And if sheís happy with it, we can demo it, and hopefully she can write with me, at least the lyrics. And then weíll see. But, you know, itís hard these days. It really is, the music business changed so much.

Yeah... But itís a pity for those songs, because I heard them once in a car with you and they were sounding really great!

— Well, the songs are still there. One of these days, you never know, you can always revamp them and do them again for somebody else.

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