You’ve always been considered an honest artist, but this album has got to be the next level!
With my last record, and the EP before that, [with] any questions [about a song’s meaning] I’d be like, “Yeah. This is what it’s about. These are the series of events that led to the genesis of the song.” On this record, there are maybe one or two songs that I’m like, “I’m just going to leave that one for myself.” I don’t know if it’s being more honest, or just being more vulnerable, but there is a definite change in that way.
The other thing that’s become mega clear is that you are a love song professional. Do you think of yourself as such?
I once spoke to some friends of mine about the death of the love song, and we were saying that these days you don’t really see the direct love song happening anymore. Like, if you think back to I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton, or even My Heart Will Go On, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, all those sorts of tunes, they don’t really happen anymore. Shallow is the biggest love song of today, but it’s super indirect.
Maybe we’ve become afraid of being earnest – we are in the Age of Irony, after all.
Totally – there’s a real stigma around it. Which is weird, if you think about it: the early 2000s was the dawn of sarcasm, and then onto irony and meme culture, and now we’re sort of in this sad boy/sad girl kind of phase where it’s ironic. But then, a lot of SoundCloud rap and that sort of rap, it’s very sad, but it’s perceived as being ironically so, and then these artists are like, “No. I’m actually really sad”, you know? So, it’s kind of nice to be really direct and upfront with that sort of stuff and be like, “No. No. This is how it is.” I love the love songs of your Carole Kings and Burt Bacharachs, which are actually really upbeat – not every love song has to be a ballad – and that’s something that I’m interested in exploring, as a songwriter.
You’ve also been very direct on Interior Demeanour. Do you think stigma around psychotherapy has diminished?
It’s really funny: you go back to different times, and – from what I’ve seen on Sex and the City and Seinfeld and that sort of thing – isn’t the whole gag that everyone has a shrink? It’s almost like a sign of status, and [it’s shifted to] being this shamed thing.
One of my closest friends is very passionate about men’s mental health awareness, and he’s a real advocate for just going and checking in every now and then. Because you know, especially for a young man, it’s his belief (and my own) that you don’t even think to talk about things, or even think to think about certain things, until you’re prompted by someone else, and when you’re in a comfortable environment with someone that you trust. It’s a sort of meditative and cathartic thing to do.
Isabella is a stand-out. How many Isabellas – these awesomely powerful, warm women – have you known in your life?
Well… I wasn’t sure if I wanted to like talk about it with press, but I will. This song was kind of –
You can say it off the record!
No, no, no! I’ll say it. There’s a popular clitoral vibrator on the market named Izzy, and as a joke – like, it was a dare – someone said to me, “You should write a song about Izzy.” So I wrote a song, and I’ve personified Izzy as Isabella, and that’s what the song’s about.
Is that an elaborate lie to cover up the more vulnerable truth?
No! It’s true.
Lastly, you’ve come back to your first instrumental love in Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself – it has a mental saxophone solo in it. Do you ever use saxophone when writing? How did it end up in there?
I never use it for writing. The story with that solo is: I co-produced [the record] with an amazing producer and engineer named Catherine Marks, and we essentially made the whole record together. With the exception of the drums, it was just her and I in a room making this album. I played everything on it, which meant that I also had to bring everything that we used. I was sort of going through my house, bringing things. I was like, “I’ll bring the sax and we’ll see what happens.” And so she knew that it was there, and then when we got to that part of the song she was like, “What do you think about doing a saxophone solo?” I was like, “Well, I guess it’s here, so…!”
I think she didn’t realise that I actually did play the saxophone; I think she just thought that I owned one. So she’s like, “Give me Kenny G,” and I gave her a Kenny G-style solo, and she’s in the control room crying with laughter. She’s like, “I did not anticipate this happening, so just keep going. Just keep going.” There’s footage of me playing the saxophone with one hand, and giving her the finger through the glass. It kind of was a bit of a joke, but then became very legit.
The Best Of Luck Club is out May 17 via Caroline.
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