We caught up with Our Man In The Field following the release of his new E.P. to find out more about his journey. Here is what he had to say!
Ok so let's kick off with how you started out, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your musical journey so far? Our Man In The Field - Alright, well I grew up in a little town called Saltburn, which is on the north-east coast of England, about 15 minutes down the road from Middlesbrough. I played a few instruments growing up; clarinet, saxophone and piano; but then picked up the guitar a bit later and basically taught myself. I've always made my own tunes based on what I liked the sound of, rather than learning other people's stuff so much; probably because I didn't have lessons. I'd never thought about playing anything I'd written to anyone else until a friend heard something I'd recorded on my mobile and really pushed me to finish it. Once I did, I sent it to Tom Robinson, who then played it on his BBC Introducing Mixtape show. Another friend, Rami Radi, who runs a night called "Laid Bare", offered me a slot on one of his nights. That was in December 2013 and I've not looked back. Rami produced my first EP which we released in September 2014 and another which we've just put out called "And Now Over To...Our Man In The Field".
We love your name - 'Our Man In The Field'! Where did it come from? Our Man In The Field - I like being a little bit anonymous. Hopefully it means folks will give the songs a chance before deciding if they like/agree with who I am and what I have to say about things. I had the image of a journalist in my head, more of a correspondent I suppose, in the Hunter S Thompson/Jack Kerouac mould. Someone telling you about something while actually being there experiencing it, rather than relaying a message second-hand. The stuff I tend to write about might sometimes feel political, but I always try to make it about people.
What's your process for writing a song? Our Man In The Field - I'll have a few ideas I'm working on all the time. At the moment I can think of about 5 songs that are at various stages of completion. When I have a clear understanding on what the song is about, I can get it down really quickly. For example, I've got one that's set in the not too distant future when the NHS has been completely privatised; it's the resignation letter of a disillusioned doctor. It took no time at all to write and if anything, it's going to take me longer to cut down all the lyrics I've got into a song that's not too long. When it's a less specifically motivated subject, I need to take more time. The music comes first and I need to understand what I'm feeling to get it to work, but again once I know it's usually quite quick.
How do you deal with the tension between creating music that means something to you and creating music that will be popular? Our Man In The Field - I don't worry about it at all. I've got no illusions of grandeur and I'm always going to write music that expresses how I feel; if other people get it, then great, but if not that's fine. I've got plenty of very honest people around me who help filter the best songs and I think, if you're honest with yourself when writing and singing, people respond well regardless of genre.
Tell us a bit about the story behind the track 'I Remember You' Our Man In The Field - This one's about a friend I met when I first moved to London a long time ago. He's from Glasgow and we were both in London for the first time. We went through a lot together and maybe we didn't always make the best decisions, but looking at that time I wouldn't change anything. He left London a few years ago, but we've stayed close and one day I'm sure he'll be back - that's kind of what the song's about, the expectation of a return.
So what can we expect from your new EP? Our Man In The Field - There's quite a bit of variation on this one – some songs are stripped back acoustic and there are a couple of bigger songs as well. There's a bit of a bluesy vibe on one or two songs, particularly on "I Like You So I'll Kill You Last" which I really enjoy playing and I'll definitely be exploring that more.
Do you have a favourite track on the EP? Our Man In The Field - That's difficult! I really like "Oh No", Simon Raymonde played an early version recorded on my phone on his radio show and this version has already had play on BBC Introducing Tees and Juice FM in Brighton, which is a good sign I guess. It's a tough one to do live because I need a second vocalist for the harmonies, so don't get to do it often. "Neon lights" is probably my favourite though, it's pretty simple, but has a kind of 70's low fi drive to it that makes it stand out to me.
How does it feel to perform your music live? What have been some highlights for you so far? Our Man In The Field - Performing live is why I've kept doing this. I can't explain it, but there's something about the risk that you have to take when singing your own songs to others that I find addictive. Highlights would include the gig I played at Bush Hall, I was supporting Anika Moa who's massive in New Zealand and I was 1st support. The promoter warned me that Kiwi audiences are notoriously noisy, that they don't listen to the support and to not be put off by the noise of them chatting and general rowdiness. When I went on, it was packed full so I just went for it and the whole lot of them listened in silence to my whole set, I even did an encore! That promoter has since booked me a few times and recommended me to the Blissfields Festival folks who booked me. I played Blissfields on the 4th of July and it was a total pleasure!
Wow that sounds incredible! What would you say you enjoy the most about making music? Our Man In The Field - Meeting and working with passionate creative people is always great. I've met some really cool generous folks so far. Also I love it when a new song is ready to play. It takes a lot of time to perfect each one and I'll often record them on my phone several times, but when I've got a new one that I know is half decent, I take a lot of pleasure playing it. The feeling you get going off stage when the show went really well is indescribable, a natural high that can't be faked.
And what frustrates you the most? Our Man In The Field - Time, and the lack of it. I have to do a lot of admin in order to keep pushing things forward. There's so much work involved in keeping your social media profile up to date, recording new work and rehearsing, I have to be constantly on top of it all. Also it's clear to me that money well spent goes a long way and more money well spent goes even further, so unfortunately like anything else, it can be frustrating at times when budgets are tight.
So what do you do when you're not making music? Our Man In The Field - I've had all sorts of jobs to be honest. I'm also an actor and sometimes that can overlap with the music. I was recently in a play and the director used one of my songs (Oh No from the new EP) in the production.
What do you think of the music industry at the moment? What would you change if you could? Our Man In The Field - I'm still pretty new, so I'm not sure if I can say that I'd change too much. I'm getting to play in some really nice venues and getting a lot of pleasure out of it. Although I can see that there isn't enough investment in the venues to make it possible to pay acts very often. A lot of venues are closing which is a shame.
What have you learnt along the way that you wish you knew starting out? Our Man In The Field - Good question, where do I start?! I've learned a lot, from becoming a better musician in general to stage craft and also mastering social media promotion (I've not mastered it by any stretch). I just wish I'd started playing live sooner. One thing's for certain, you have to be as honest as possible with the songs. There's a different kind of energy from certain performers, the ones who take risks and show you something about themselves you might not have expected. That's exciting and for me, what live music is all about.
What are some of your favourite songs at the moment? Our Man In The Field - I'm a massive Beirut fan so the new album is a must listen. It's out in September but the track "No No No" is out now so give it a go.
Finally what's next for you? Our Man In The Field - I'll be playing some really nice shows; at the Lights Of Soho at the end of July, Fu Manchu in Clapham on August the 13th and Brixton East in September. The play I was in which uses my song "Oh No", has a run at the Bussy Building in Peckham at the end of August and I've also got another exciting gig that I'm not allowed to talk about yet coming up...!
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