Interview: Axel Loughrey

Raised in Paris, but cutting his musical teeth in Norwich, blues-inspired alternative artist Axel Loughrey is unique. He has been described by fans and fellow musicians alike as out of the ordinary, and is tipped for big things. SIMON PARKIN spoke to him ahead of the release of his latest EP.

He's got a cool name, sexy voice, raw songs and impressive rock'n'roll quiff. Axel Loughrey certainly looks the part and is being now being tipped for breakthrough success.

Born and raised in the artistic quarter of Paris the singer-songwriter picked up his first guitar at the tender age of eight, completed his first songs at 14 and hasn't looked back since.

He eventually packed up his guitar and moved to Norfolk. He was the main man in the now defunct Norwich band Ruby Red Lips before stepping out with his own solo material.

With a voice and music style as velvet as Lou Reed's Underground, Axel certainly has the style, the look, and most importantly the songs. Two self released EPs, the beautiful Small Town, Small People and the invoking Galloway Hill, and plaudits on the live scene created a buzz. Now he is about to release his third highly anticipated release a darker side of the blues, the Love Thing EP on Norwich-based All Sorted Records.

With a myriad of high profile gigs and festival appearances already secured, and a wide range of music industry gurus keen to see and hear more this could be a big year.

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What can you tell us about the new EP Love Thing?

This is my first EP on All Sorted, so it's my first proper release as opposed to doing it all DIY. It has all been pretty hectic. The two previous EPs were more acoustic based, this one is more band related. I've been using session musicians and we really got to experiment which was cool. In terms of the sound it's a lot fuller than the pre-vious EPs. It's all building up to the album which I'm hoping to release at the end of the year or early 2012. We recorded it at Leeders Farm, which is a really great studio. I'm hoping to do the album there as well.

How does the sound differ from your two previous EPs?

The sound is different. I wouldn't say pop, but I've given it a bit more thought in terms of the catchiness of the choruses and the production side of things. The engineer I worked with, Owen, who hopefully I'll get to work with on the album, was absolutely fantastic. He completely understood my sound and what I was trying to achieve.

How would you describe your sound?

That's a tough question. I'd say in terms of inspiration people like Dylan and Lou Reed, but I've kind of mixed a bit of blues, jazz and rock'n'roll together with a bit of indie, but tried to give it a twist too, a more modern feel. I've been labelled blues a lot which I don't really take a shine to because what I do is not your straightforward 12-bar blues or anything like that. It's got those elements in there but it's a new twist to it in terms of offbeat time signatures instead of straight 4-4 kind of sound.

Why did you choose to sign to All Sorted?

I'm signed to All Sorted for three years. I'm really pleased to be working with them. They're good buys, Dudley [Garner, label director] is a really good bloke and in terms of support I couldn't ask for more. They've also got some great connections. I think that hopefully as a label it will keep rising because they've got some definite talent on it.

You grew up in Paris, on the back streets according to your PR?

That sounds a bit glamorised. I grew up in Montmartre which is the artistic part of Paris. We were around the corner from Picasso's workshop and it's actually a really nice area. I spent 14 years of my life there before my parents decided to move to England because, being part British, they wanted me and my family to speak the language. It's not something I regret at all because I cannot imagine singing in French.

You don't see yourself as the new Serge Gainsbourg then?

No. I lost my accent quite quickly. The younger you are the more you lose your accent. My mother has still got hers, even though none of us are French.

Why did you chose to relocate to Norwich?

I think because its quite a secluded area. My dad's a writer and I think he wanted to be in the middle of nowhere. However Norwich has got a lot going on for the size of place that it is. When I've travelled across the UK I think that Norwich is quite out there in comparison.

You were in Ruby Red Lips before going solo. How do you find the Norwich music scene?

I think it's got an incredible music scene. There is such a mix and there is so much of it. There is an increasing amount of bands and artists, which is good in many ways but it means it can be difficult to get gigs and some artists get very frustrated by it. There are some areas that are a bit niche, but I think its down to the amount of work you put in. If you work at it then gigs roll in.

Will your upcoming live dates include your new full band?

Yes, and we've got extra musicians too just to give a fuller sound. We've been rehearsing with drummer, bassist and I've brought a keyboard player in, a backing singer and a trumpet player. For some of the newer material, I've been working a lot with jazz and stuff. So they'll be some nice vintage mute on the trumpet to give it that swing sound. All the dates I'm doing will be with those guys, including the Art Love World at the Arts Centre on May 20 as part of the Norwich Fringe Festival.

Your on the bill of Play Fest too?

I'm really looking forward to that. I think for Norfolk its really great that there is finally something happening to that scale, its something that has been missing. In terms of local bands, Play Fest has been really supportive. And for their first festival I think the line-up is incredible.

n Axel Loughrey plays EP launch party at Project on May 14, Norwich Arts Centre on May 20 and Play Fest on May 28/29.

n Love Thing EP is out on May 16.

n Further listening: