This interview was first published in March 2009
Interview with Liam Frost
Written by Kevin Heath
In a time of economical lunacy, record companies are folding on their artists like a Scandinavian wardrobe. One man determined not to get lost amongst the midst is the soulful troubadour Liam Frost. As he prepares for a big year of getting back to work we managed to ask him, what the funk is going on?
With his second album recorded and ready to go, the outlook was positive for the Mancunian songwriter but, on the inside, things were slightly amiss, Liam explains: “I think towards the end (of recording the album) myself and the record company had a bit of a mixed view over which was the best way for me to go. Not that either was a bad way to go, but sometimes I felt like I was being pushed in a direction that I wasn’t totally comfortable with. Let’s just say I’ll never be Paolo Nutini or any of those guys, they have their place and I have mine.”
As we stroll through 2009, Frost must travel alone. Whether it be with a new label or self-financing the record, he is insistent the album will see the light of day this year, “It certainly feels pretty strange to be heading into this year without much of an idea about what’s going on with the record, having up until September had a home for the record to be released on. In retrospect, I can now see that Lavolta and Columbia Records definitely weren’t the right place for the record to be released.”
Liam shot to critical acclaim back in 2006 with his debut, Show Me How The Specters Dance, where the songs mostly focused on failed relationships and the death of family members. The album commercially didn’t reach the heights it deserved, Liam states: “I felt sad about that first batch of songs, which had been written about massive parts of my life. They went largely unnoticed so perhaps I should have stuck to my guns a little more with regards to how I wanted the album to sound, I think that I might have compromised a little too much with some things. You live and learn, y’know, and then you get on with it and try not to let it happen again.”
When alarming numbers of the public were humming along to the optimistic sounds of James Blunt telling us how beautiful we all were; somewhere in the shadows of popular music’s latest phenomenon resided Liam Frost. But many didn’t get the chance to hear exactly what they were missing out on which perturbed the talented songwriter, “I don’t know if the label had run out of money to put us on the road or not, either way I had a lot of time to think about things. It messed with my head a bit. I’d put my entire life into those songs; quite literally…and to see how few people actually got a chance to hear it upset me. It’s taken me a long time to get past that.”
After touring constantly with his band, ‘The Slowdown Family’ Liam set sail on an adventure, and 2007 saw him take part in a voyage to Greenland to raise awareness about climate change, “I was part of the way through writing the record when Cape Farewell invited me out with them to Greenland. It was dangerous for my health in many ways, that much is true. I genuinely feared for my life at some points, but we were in trustworthy, sea-faring hands, and I was in the company of some wonderful people. However, we did spend an awful lot of days out at sea…mostly due to an awful lot of sea ice that was stopping us from getting onto Greenland shores. It helped me clear my head and I grew up a lot over the 19 days that I was out there with them. The scenery was wonderful and inspiring, and I wrote one of the most personal and important songs that I have ever written on that boat, sat in my below-sea-level bunk. It’s called Leading Lights and Luminaries, it’s definitely going to be on the record. What an amazing time that was.”
Last year he began to record in New York, it was a conscious effort to step away from the singer-songwriter tag that he had previously been painted with, and follow a more soulful direction, less compromising but with clearer intentions. New songs Younger Boys, Older Girls and Sparks, see evidence of Frost’s new approach, “During the course of the final tour of the first record it was starting to become clear to me that I’d really found my singing voice. I wanted that to come across in the songs on this record, so I pushed myself a lot to really make it show. One other thing that I was desperately trying to get away from was the entire acoustic singer-songwriter thing. There’s an awful lot of hyper-literate acoustic music about, and it’s just something I want to get away from for a while. I’m definitely not tired of it, but there are other aspects of song writing that I want to discover. I’ve always really loved the rock guys that made some huge sounds, had a lot of fun with it, but still had something to say, Springsteen, Nick Cave…those are the people that I’m looking up to this time around. Those guys never really stayed in the same place for too long sound-wise, and I certainly don’t intend to.”
After the struggle of getting his first record to be heard, Liam is a lot wiser going into his second run at the industry gauntlet, “I accomplished a lot of the things I set out to do on the first album such as playing a lot of my favorite venues, taking my friends out on the road to play my songs with me, but I won’t ever set my goals too high. It’d be nice to hit thirty and be happy, still making music and having folk enjoy it. Simple pleasures.”
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