Ex-Lawson frontman and singer-songwriter, Andy Brown, has a huge year ahead of him. He’s doing his first solo tour in February, appearing at C2C in March, supporting The Shires through May and releasing his debut solo album, “Cedarmont” in June. All with a new baby in the house! Will he ever sleep again? Read on and find out.
Lovely to speak to you Andy – You must be excited for the coming year? For people who might not know of your history in the music industry, give us a potted history of Lawson.
Lawson started as a band 6 or 7 years ago. We sold over a million records, travelled the world and a top five UK album and six top ten singles. We had loads of success, loved every minute of it, but now we’ve gone on hiatus for a few years whilst we all pursue other projects. I was only speaking to Joel (Lawson’s guitarist) the other day – and we were definitely saying that we’ll make another Lawson album in the future, we’re all really still so young – the other guys are in their mid 20’s, so there’s lots of time for all sorts of projects. I really wanted to explore this Country route for now, as it’s something that I’ve always been interested in. I actually tried to make Lawson a Country band, to be honest, but with the label that we signed to we ended up taking more of a pop route in the end, which made us more commercial in the end.
Did it frustrate you that certain publications or sections of the media painted you guys as a boy-band a little bit?
It is what it is to be honest. It was a little bit of lazy journalism on their part I think. I think some writers just judge a book by its cover – they saw four young, good looking guys (laughter) and decided that we were a manufactured band put together by the label, but that wasn’t the case at all. We were all muso’s, we all became friends at music college – and then we went on to sell a million records, so it didn’t bother us in the end.
You recorded the second Lawson album in Nashville, so there was already a leaning towards Country and the genre even then.
Yeah, Yeah we did. That was our idea – we said to the label that we wanted to head out there to record. Nashville is so saturated with amazing musicians and songwriters and we wanted to explore and exploit that. That’s why I wanted to go back and do the solo record there too. I recorded half of ‘Cedarmont’ in a place called Franklin, just outside Nashville at the drummer in Rascal Flatts’ studio. I stayed there for a good six months and took in the vibe and culture of the place.
Is it intimidating or exciting starting all over again?
(laughs) Yeah, it is a bit intimidating for me, because it’s something completely new for me. I do feel a little nervous to be honest. I don’t know how people are going to react to my music, but the reception I’ve received so far has been awesome, so I’m actually a little more chilled out about it now and looking forward to the next few months. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes – Country music in the UK is very different to how it is in America – it’s much more folky here – you can’t really compare the two styles. Hopefully, the UK Country scene will go a little more in the style of the American version as more and more people get onboard with it. I think, at the moment, people are confused by the word ‘Country music’ and expect to hear bluegrass or a guy playing Johnny Cash songs on a harmonica. My version of modern Country is basically similar to pop music but with honest and lyrics that tell a story.
How much credit do The Shires take for breaking down the barriers between pop and country music in the UK?
Absolutely loads of credit – they’ve broken down the doors between the worlds of pop and country and I have nothing but respect for them for that. It’s not easy to do Country music in the UK, you know? I wanted to do it with Lawson but we ended up taking the route that the label and management thought would get us played on radio 6 years ago. I have unbelievable respect for The Shires because they’ve paved the way for more artists of that ilk to come through. Also, American artists like Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett are breaking down the barriers between genres too.
You’ve just become a new dad fairly recently too. Congrats! Has that opened up a deeper well of songwriting ability or are you just knackered?!
(Big laughter!) I think the latter to be honest! It’s been amazing actually, although I haven’t written a song since we had him, because I’ve just been a full time parent with my wife just to get him going and get us into the groove. It’s definitely opened up a new world of emotion for me. I find myself nowadays watching adverts on TV and just welling up! It opens up more of your emotional side and I’m really looking forward to just getting in the studio again and doing some writing. I am primarily a songwriter, first and foremost. Even before Lawson I was doing the songwriting circuit in London so I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes out next when I do sit down and write again.
So the album is called ‘Cedarmont’ – explain the title for us.
Cedarmont was the location of the studio in Franklin where we recorded it. It has a great ring to it and I had lots of good memories recording there. The first Lawson record was called ‘Chapman Square’ which was the place I first moved to when I lived in London – I just think it’s good to call the album something that means something to you. It represents a place and a certain moment in time that was important.
Have you written the songs yourself or did you use co-writers?
Usually I will have a title and a lot of the lyrical content myself and then i’ll get in a room with 1 or 2 other guys and the producer to flesh out the rest. I like doing it that way, I think it’s the best way to produce a song, sometimes you need an external ear to provide input or an idea that you wouldn’t have thought of yourself. Those songwriters in Nashville, it’s in their blood, they’ve been doing it for years. I used 50% Nashville based songwriters and then other people who I’ve written with before in the past. ‘Standing in the Dark’ (Lawson’s biggest hit) was written with a guy called Ki Fitzgerald and we wrote ‘Landslide’ together for this record. It’s nice to use people that I know and are comfortable with from the past but also to challenge myself with new writers from Nashville like Jimmy Robbins, who I worked with out there who has written so many great songs like Maren Morris’ recent hit ‘I Could Use a Love Song’. He’s a great guy and it was brilliant spending time with him.
‘Talk of the Town’ is the first, big single. It has a big sound and a very exotic video – that must have been fun to make?
In this day and age that we are in it’s all about putting out as much content as you can for people. The landscape has changed so much since we released our first single with Lawson. In those days you put a song out, it built for six weeks or so, you did TV, you did radio tours and then it only began to chart and would need promoting then for weeks after but now you just put a song out on Spotify and see if develops a life of its own. Sometimes it can take up to a year for a song to build up a buzz and sometimes it can be a matter of days. My aim this year is just to release as much content as possible and ‘Talk of the Town’ is the start of that. The video was brilliant to make – we went out to Lisbon to do it. Because the song is so upbeat and feel good we wanted to make a video that captured that.
Let’s talk about some of the other songs on Cedarmont that people can expect to hear out on tour next week. ‘Hold On’ is going to become a classic isn’t it? Your signature song in-waiting maybe?
I feel like that one is going to be the most important song on the record. It’s the most Country song on the album – it tells a tale from beginning to end. The story of a life. I want to get that one out as soon as possible. I feel with the music video we also have to get that one right, we have to capture the emotion of the song. I love the production of the finished album version but I also think it might lend itself to a more stripped back, acoustic style so I might end up releasing two versions of it and letting people choose which they like the best.
Obviously ‘Hollow’ is going to be a big song for you too. (It was written about Andy’s wife, Joey’s miscarriage)
Again, another emotional, real life track. It happened to me and my wife, but it happens to loads of people and I hope they are able to relate to what I’m singing about. Working in Nashville amongst such talented writers gave me the courage to try and capture what happened to us and put it in a song. My wife, Joey, actually wrote the lyrics to the song – she said we had to do it.
I hope you are going to pay her for it?!
(laughs) She’s got songwriting credits on it, don’t worry. It touches a nerve that a lot of people go through.
‘Honey’ is another song that stands out. It’s got a sort of Richard Marx, Billy Falcon, even Rick Springfield feel to it. We don’t have that tradition of solo pop – rock male guitar players in the UK like they do in the US do we? We have Ed Sheehan and James Bay but they are more rootsy, folky even.
That’s another big compliment thank you. I seem to be a little bit of a throwback don’t I? (Laughs) Richard Marx is such a skilled writer. ‘Honey’ is a bit more grown up, a timeless vibe to it. There’s a sort of ‘New Radicals’ feel to it as well. I’m definitely not in that Ed Sheehan area, I’m definitely trying to do something that isn’t as well represented as it could be, perhaps?
You’ve got such a busy year ahead. Looking forward to it?
It’s going to be awesome – I’ve got my tour the first week in February, then I’m at C2C in March, then supporting The Shires and after that we’ll release the album off the back of all those live appearances. When I played in Lawson we got out their on the road as often as we could – theres nothing better than showcasing what you can do in front of a live crowd. I’m taking out a full band in February to do the songs justice and play the songs like they are on the record. I might play a couple of Lawson songs for the Lawson fans who might come along and support me too. It’ll be a good way to engage with new fans and re-connect with older ones too.
Best of luck with the tours, C2C and the album release this year – I’m sure we’ll talk again a little further down the line to see how it is all going.