“I always knew I was going to be in music for my whole life”
I’ve never been totally comfortable referring to people by their surname, but Andrew Roachford insists – for the purpose of this article, at least – so that’s what I’ll do.
I begin by asking him about his upcoming gig on 17th December at St Luke’s in Glasgow. It’s part of an 11-date tour titled, ‘A Soul Christmas Evening with Roachford’.
“I love touring, it’s what I do. I’ve kind of grown up on the road and I thought it was about time to do another tour. And being as it was in that period so close to Christmas, I think I needed to include the festive spirit in my shows.”
I’m inclined to agree.
Roachford was born in London and began touring back in 1988 with his band of the same name. Surprisingly, though, it’s the Scottish gigs that he looks forward to the most.
“It’s my first time at St Luke’s,” he tells me, “but I’ve played Glasgow many times. Scotland is one of my favourite places to play, and Glasgow is one of my favourite audiences on the planet!”
He would say that, though, wouldn’t he?
“Not just because I’m talking to you,” he assures me, “it’s fact. You don’t get a better reception than in Scotland. Well, I don’t!”
His tour promises all of his greatest hits – ‘Cuddly Toy (Feel For Me)’, ‘Family Man’, ‘Lay Your Love On Me’, ‘Only To Be With You’ – as well as some of his favourite Christmas songs, the intention being, of course, to get his audience in the festive mood.
“In the past, I’ve done a Stevie Wonder song called ‘Someday at Christmas’. I performed it last Christmas for Trevor Nelson’s show at the Royal Albert Hall, with an orchestra. It brought the house down.”
I can’t help but think how magical it would be if he performed that song in the more intimate setting of St Luke’s. What are the chances?
“I like songs that I can put some soul into. You probably won’t get ‘Jingle Bells’, but you never know!”
I’m enjoying the glimpses of humour that our Zoom call allows. I’m also slightly mesmerised by his voice. It’s calming to the point of hypnotic. No wonder he has captivated so many music fans with his songs.
Speaking of which, can we expect a new album?
“I’m just starting to work on a new album but it won’t be finished by the time I do this tour. I’m still touring the last album which was released at lockdown. I had to re-release it after the pandemic so it’s still pretty fresh for a lot of people.”
The album, a collaboration with Beverley Knight, is titled (ironically) Twice in a Lifetime.
In addition to his eponymous band, Roachford is a member of Mike and the Mechanics, and has also enjoyed solo success. His career has spanned almost four decades, but what started him on his musical journey in the first place?
“I was fortunate enough to be born into a musical family. The Roachford family are generations deep in music. My mum saw that I had some kind of musical passion so she managed to get the money together to get me piano lessons. I was actually classically trained as a kid on the piano. I was a musician and someone who loved to sing and I always had this urge to put feeling and emotion into music. It wasn’t really normal for a kid to be really emotionally connected to music, but I was.”
That emotional connection has served him well during his career, gaining him fans across the globe, including some pretty well-known names.
“I went to school in South London,” says Roachford. “I was a big fan of a reggae artist called Dennis Brown. When I did an MTV interview, he was there, and he was talking about me and… seeing me in my video. I wouldn’t have dreamed that would ever happen! When you get acknowledgement from artists you grew up listening to, you kind of go, is that actually happening?”
On another occasion, during his first ever visit to the USA, he remembers getting a big surprise at the start of his set.
“When we went on stage and the curtains went back, there was the Jackson family! Someone told me that Michael Jackson was a massive fan of my music and I just couldn’t get my head around that. A kid from South London… it was nuts!”
And he still hasn’t finished with the name-dropping…
“Opening for INXS at Wembley Stadium knowing that Elton John was in the audience and that he was raving about me. They’re just moments that you never forget. They’re quite touching and it’s quite moving.”
His career, it seems, is brimming with highlights, including one very special visit to Buckingham Palace in 2019 when he was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for his services to music, by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.
“Going to Buckingham Palace and being given the MBE award… my mother and my brother were there. It was a very poignant and emotional moment. A big highlight and very surreal. Princess Anne was lovely, she was really quite down to earth… and engaging.”
Bearing in mind Roachford’s recent collaboration with Beverley Knight, I’m curious to know if he’s written songs for any other artists, or if his songwriting is usually reserved for himself and his own bands only.
“I don’t have a written rule with that, no pun intended. With the Beverly Knight thing, I was asked if I would and I was like, yeah, of course. If I feel like I can bring something to that artist… I would do it. Back in the day, I remember being approached by Joss Stone’s management when she was trying to find her sound. I was like, yeah, I’ll do that. It was a pleasure to do that.”
He continues: “I was in America and there were lots of artists over there that were looking for songs. There’s a lot more singers than there are songwriters so I’m definitely into that… I’m getting more into it as I go on.”
What about future collaborations? Anyone in mind?
“Later this year I’m going off to Nashville, of all places. It’s an experiment for me, it’s something that I’ve always been curious about. And I realised that it’s not too far from Memphis… where Al Green is based. He still preaches every Sunday at his church. I would love to write with/for/whatever with him… just sit in a room and make music with Al Green, that would definitely be on my bucket list.”
As for singing and performing, does he prefer solo stage appearances or the reassurance of having other band members beside him?
“I love performing, first and foremost, my songs with my band. As much as I like writing and co-writing… the stuff I did with Beverly Knight was a blast and it was an honour. And working with Mike and the Mechanics, it’s been 12 years now, they’re like my other family. It’s such an honour and pleasure to do that. So really, I love them all. But when I get on the stage with my band, it’s a different thing. This is home.”
I get the feeling, though, that as long as he’s making music, regardless of who it’s with, Roachford is happy.
“As a kid, I always knew I was going to be in music for my whole life, it’s who I am. I’ll always be writing songs… I have so many ideas it’s ridiculous – gigs and gigs and gigs of ideas! So I think as long as I’m inspired to make music, I’ll always be in the music industry.”
He appreciates, however, that he can’t do this without his fans.
“There will always be an audience for me. I’ve got core fans that are there and I appreciate them with all my heart. I think they’ll always be there for me.”
One thing’s for sure, there’ll be plenty of his fans at St Luke’s on 17th December, including a brand new fan – me!
“Have you ever been to a Roachford gig?” he asks me.
I admit that I haven’t.
“You’re going to have fun,” he promises, in that beguiling voice of his, “let’s put it that way.”
I can’t wait!
For tickets visit: www.stlukesglasgow.com/events/roachford/