‘Songwriting? It’s a gift’ says Ossie-bound Graham Gouldman

Graham Gouldman and his band for Heart Full of Songs (Picture: Nick Oliver)
Graham Gouldman and his band for Heart Full of Songs (Picture: Nick Oliver)

IT started out almost as a bit of fun, a chance to play songs from his extensive back catalogue in an acoustic format.

But now Graham Gouldman has discovered that audiences love to hear the songs - and the stories behind them - just as much as the full band shows he does with 10cc.

“People are always fascinated about how a song was written and where it came from or what was the inspiration behind it,” said Graham. “With the Heart Full of Songs shows I have a chance to talk more about that.”

Graham will be bringing the show to Oswaldtwistle next Sunday night as part of 10-date tour.

“The shows are much more intimate than the 10cc shows,” he said. “I feel a lot closer to the audience and I really enjoy them. Then again I find that whatever I’m doing whether it’s recording, writing or doing 10cc or Heart Full of Songs – I feel that’s the best thing I should be doing and then I move on to the next thing and go ‘oh, maybe this is the best thing’. That’s a real luxury.

Lancashire Telegraph: Graham Gouldman
Lancashire Telegraph: Graham Gouldman

“I love doing these shows. If I stopped enjoying it, first of all there would be no reason to carry on and also I think that an audience can tell if someone is going through the motions.”

Graham is one of the country’s pre-eminent songwriters. While still a teenager he wrote some of the songs which defined the Sixties explosion including For Your Love recorded by the Yardbirds, Bus Stop recorded by The Hollies and No Milk Today, a hit for Herman’s Hermits.

He would go on to have success as an artist as part of 10cc with classics such as I’m Not in Love, Dreadlock Holiday and The Things We Do For Love.

Given that his back catalogue is so extensive, the question of what to include in Heart Full of Songs might cause a problem.

“I’m always aware that there are songs people will be expecting and why shouldn’t I do them?” he said. “It would be stupid not to. But say I’m doing songs from my last album which people might not be aware of, I’m conscious it must be the sort of song which people are going to get right away rather than it being a song which needs to or three listens. I don’t have that luxury when playing live.

“I always put myself in an audience when I’m going through a setlist thinking what I would want to hear and maybe what I wouldn’t want to hear as well. It seems to work out OK.”

In 2020, Graham released the album Modesty Forbids, his first solo work for eight years, and he revealed that he is already working on a new album which he hopes to have out by the end of the year.

“We released Modesty Forbids just as lockdown came in so that wasn’t great timing,” he laughed. “But I just carried on writing and I have ended up with a whole bunch of songs. What am I going to do with them? You have to record them don’t you?

“For artists like me I think you’d say songwriting can turn into an expensive hobby. I saw Colin Hay formerly of Men at Work playing live recently and he summed it up when he said songwriting was an act of supreme optimism.

“We’re not doing it to make money, I can tell you that, but we have to do it. The reward is in the writing and recording of the song and if someone is willing to buy it or download it then that’s great but we - acts of my generation - don’t expect to be up against Harry Styles or Beyonce, let’s put it that way.”

Graham laughs when I ask if there are any particular songs which he wished he had written.

“Oh, there’s thousands of them,” he said. “Every time I hear a good song I go ‘I should have done that’ or ask myself ‘why didn’t I write that?’ It’s a weird thing but when I hear a song for the first time, I know exactly what’s going to come.

“But that’s what being a songwriter is about. You instinctively know what’s right. There isn’t a book that tells you how to do it.

“People will say ‘oh, you’re very clever being able to write songs’. But it’s not clever at all; it’s just a gift and you’ve either got it or you haven’t got it. You can’t learn it.

“But then we’ve all got things that are a dark art to us; we can’t do everything.”

Graham Gouldman: A Heart Full of Songs, Oswaldtwistle Civic Arts Centre, Sunday, March 19. Details from www.civicartscentre.co.uk. He also plays The Lowry, Salford Quays on Thursday, March 23