Bury Met bound Roachford on mission to save music venues

Andrew Roachford
Andrew Roachford

It may be 35 years since the song which remains his biggest hit was released but Andrew Roachford is convinced that audiences who come to see him perform today are getting the best version of himself.

“Not all bands and artists grow as they go through their career,” he said, “but fortunately I’m one of those who has.

“I love what I’ve done, I loved doing Top of the Pops but when I look back at some of the earlier stuff, I feel that I’m so much better now. I can’t do what I did back then because I’m not that person any more. Both as an artist and as a singer I’ve grown. Your voice matures anyway and I feel more comfortable in my skin.”

Audiences are currently getting the chance to see Andrew doing what he loves, performing live, as he’s on a UK tour which will visit both King George’s Hall, Blackburn, and Bury Met next week.

Bury Times: Andrew RoachFord
Bury Times: Andrew RoachFord

“I have heard a number of people saying after a gig ‘I didn’t expect it to be that good’ which is a bit weird although it is also a complement,” he said. “But as a performer you do want people to come along and go ‘I need to come back and see this guy again’.”

Singles such as Cuddly Toy and Family Man first brought Roachford to the public’s attention at the end of the Eighties and he’s never stopped working since. Now 11 albums into his career - his most recent Twice in a Lifetime was released in 2020 just as the pandemic struck - he is equally at home in the worlds of soul and rock.

“I think I bridge that gap between the two styles,” he said. “Even when I was at school and everyone was in their little pockets liking one type of music or another I was the uncool one as I liked both kinds of music.

“Now I think I write somewhere which shows the two worlds not as far apart as people tend to think.

“If it moves me, I don’t care if I’m not supposed to like it. If it moves me I’m all for it.”

As well as his own career Andrew is also an established part of Mike and the Mechanics.

“I think it’s coming up to 12 years now that I’ve been involved. I’m no longer the new boy, I’m a fully-fledged Mechanic now,” he laughed.

His work with former Genesis guitarist Mike Rutherford has brought a whole new audience to Roachford shows.

“Possibly a lot of people came to Mike and the Mechanics gigs wouldn’t have previously gone to a Roachford show and were pleasantly surprised,” he said. “Certainly I have started to see a Mechanics crowd in my gigs, there are quite a few Mike and the Mechanics T-shirts in the crowd.

“But that’s what you have to do, you have to get out in front of an audience, show them what you can do and hopefully they will become fans. It’s happened to me over the years when I’ve seen someone live and I’ve been sold on them.”

Twice in a Lifetime, released in lockdown, proved to be Andrew’s most successful album in years.

“The timing of the release wasn’t great,” he said. “We were all set to take it on tour and then everything stopped. But it did get a lot of exposure on the radio.”

Andrew also turned to technology to do concerts during the pandemic.

“It was a case of having to,” he said. “I had an album out, I couldn’t tour. I had to catch up with putting stuff out on Zoom. It was quite tough at the beginning. It showed me how much you feed off the energy of a crowd and then you give it back to them. When that’s not coming through because you’re online that’s a bit scary.

“It really was a case of having to learn a whole new way to perform as you have to generate all the excitement yourself, you can’t see, hear or experience a crowd online.”

The relationship between artist and audience is something that Andrew is passionate about. He is a patron for the Music Venues Trust, a charity which backs independent music venues, and his current tour is playing at smaller venues around the country.

“At the shows we have done already, people have been so vocal and so passionate about the importance of their local venue,” he said. “It’s so important that they stay open, they are such a big part of the culture of a town.

“They are so important especially for new and up-and-coming acts who are talented. Where will they play? If there is a void between nothing and Wembley Arena you are in trouble.

“The UK has such a rich history when it comes to music and long may it continue. If we lose smaller venues which help nurture artists and are somewhere people can cut their teeth, what they are they going to do.

“Also audiences need venues too, Lockdown showed us that we are social animals, we need to get together in a room to enjoy music. It plays a pivotal role in mental health. Music is such a big part of human life and you can’t underestimate its importance.

“That’s why we must support our smaller venues.

“I didn’t think that I could appreciate the live gig experience more than I already had but going back out on the road and getting that feeling from a crowd is amazing.

“It means more when you have had it taken away from you and we definitely don’t want that to happen again.”

Roachford, King George’s Hall, Blackburn, Wednesday, March 1 and Bury Met, Thursday, March 2. Details from www.bwdvenues.com and www.themet.org.uk