Clive Gregson is an accomplished singer, musician, and record producer. In the 80s he was the leader of Any Trouble before releasing his first solo record, Strange Persuasions, described by Hot Press as “a truly exceptional piece of work.” The record featured the voice of Christine Collister, and between 1985 and 1992, Gregson & Collister formed a partnership that Rolling Stone called “the state of the art in British folk-rock”. Their first four albums all achieved chart success and numerous tours of the UK, USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan further established Clive’s worldwide reputation as an innovative leader in the world of British folk-rock.
Throughout this period Clive was also a member of the Richard Thompson Band and in demand as a record producer and session musician. He also developed a fruitful songwriting partnership with Boo Hewerdine, founder member of The Bible, and has toured as a trio with Boo and Eddi Reader.
Clive is now based in Nashville and has released a string of solo albums: 2004 saw the release of the solo acoustic ‘Long Story Short’. He also appears on Nanci Griffith’s latest album ‘Hearts in Mind’ and is touring the UK as a member of her band in 2005.
Clive, you have had a wide-ranging 15-year musical career, ranging from your early days in Any Trouble, through collaborations with Richard Thompson, Christine Collister, Boo Hewerdine, and Eddi Reader, to your current solo career. For the uninitiated, how would you describe what you do?
A desperate attempt to avoid real work by keeping far too many plates spinning in the air at any one time!
Why did you move to Nashville 10 years ago?
My wife is an American and we initially moved with her job. At the time she was working for a medical corporation. Now she teaches yoga.
What influence has Nashville had on your music and your career?
Interesting question….. I think being here has helped me become a better player, especially in the studio. The competition is fierce! I think it has also helped me develop my own voice as a writer. I look at what is popular here and do the exact opposite.
How do you write your songs? Music first or lyrics first?
No rules, really. Sometimes I start with a tune,
sometimes it’s just a title, sometimes I have a basic chord sequence, sometimes a complete lyric that needs a musical setting. The “secret” is to keep the antenna up at all times and process the information as it comes in.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I’m fortunate….. I don’t really get it. I trained myself years ago to sit down every day and write something.
Not everything I write is any good, and not everything has to be heard by anybody but me. However, I have found that adopting the daily routine helps keep the pipes open.
How is your music received in the US?
No idea! It’s all a mystery to me…
Autumn 2004 saw you play London’s Albert Hall as part of Nanci Griffith’s band and then do a solo acoustic tour around pubs and folk clubs in the UK. How do you adapt to playing in such a variety of venues?
I pretty much treat them all the same. Venues are just rooms with people in them wanting to enjoy themselves. My job is to interact with them and make that happen. It’s a two-way process and as long as you don’t leave the audience out of the equation, it’s not that
You released your new album ‘Long Story Short’ on Fellside Recordings in the autumn. How long did it take you to write the album?
Probably about a year, on and off. I just kept writing and recording whenever I wasn’t on the road.
How did you decide the album was ready?
The release date loomed large!
What kind of recording facilities do you have at home?
I have 24 tracks of Roland VS hard disc digital
recording, a few mics, and bits of gear, all jammed into a little room. Pretty basic but it works for me…
You appear on Nanci Griffith’s new record and have one of your songs on it. How come you don’t use other musicians on your own record?
Well… “Long Story Short” was always intended to be a voice and guitar solo record so it wouldn’t have been appropriate.
I love playing with other musicians but for my own projects, it’s not economically viable. My records sell so badly that there just isn’t the money available to pay players. Plus I play
quite a few instruments myself, so it’s a challenge for me to do things my own way. I quite like being entirely self-contained. I try not to be self-indulgent but at the end of
the day I only really have to please myself which is a nice position to be in.
Have you sold or donated any of your songs to any other artists?
Not really. Quite a few artists have recorded my songs but it’s usually because they’ve heard my own version and liked it.
I’m the world’s worst at selling myself.
What are your ambitions as a songwriter and musician from here?
To retire wealthy as soon as possible. Very unlikely, so I guess I’ll just plug on doing what I’m doing. I’ve never had a master plan. Things just happen.
What advice would you give to the independent songwriter who wants to get noticed?
Run naked down Oxford Street in the middle of the afternoon.
Clive, thanks very much and best wishes for the future. Songstuff thanks you from the bottom of our digital heart!
You’re welcome. Thanks for asking me…
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