Interview: Simon McBride

Simon McBride

Simon McBride - Credit: Archant

From Rory Gallagher to the late Gary Moore, Ireland has produced a long-line of blues/rock guitarists. The latest exciting fans is Simon McBride, who visits in Norwich next week. SIMON PARKIN reports.

Hailed as the next Irish blues guitar hero in the footsteps of Rory Gallagher and the late Gary Moore, Simon McBride has undeniable guitar artistry combined with a fine blues/rock voice and a real knack for creating memorable hooks and melodies.

The former Young Guitarist of the Year has been tipped to make a big breakthrough in 2013 and he arrives in Norwich next week as part of a 21-date tour of the UK, Belgium and Holland and having just released his epic track One More Try, taken from his album Crossing The Line, as a single to coincide with the tour.

McBride turned professional at age 16 as a guitarist-for-hire and toured the world with acts as diverse as Vivian Campbell's Sweet Savage and ex-Commitments star Andrew Strong.

Having now stepped out on his own he is playing the music he loves, a fusion of blues and rock. It may not be revolutionary — or particularly musically groundbreaking — but Crossing The Line does deliver a fiery amalgam of guitar skills, songcraft and character-soaked vocals, spinning tales of girls, gambling and corporate avarice.

Recorded partly in Northern Ireland, partly in America, mixing of the album was placed in the experienced hands of New York-based Peter Denenberg, the veteran producer and engineer whose CV takes in everyone from Deep Purple to the Spin Doctors and Robert Cray.

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An American magazine recently said that you are on the verge of joining Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher and Gary Moore as an icon of Irish rock 'n roll. That's high praise. How does that make you feel?

Very flattered! Though, I think it's perhaps a bit premature. I released my first album five years ago. Those guys have 40+ years behind them! And in the case of Van Morrison, the man is a songwriting mountain. I have a lot of work to do to match him.

Crossing The Line has gained a lot of attention — what about the record do you think has resonated with critics and music fans?

It depends on whether you are listening to it as a lover of songs and melodies, or as a guitarist. I have been known as a guitarist but a lot of people have responded to the songs, their lyrics and melodies. I write what I feel and people seem to have picked up on this. Also, with this album I concentrated on my singing and delivery a lot more than in the past.

What was your main goal with this new album?

I wanted to do an album with a retro feel, taking influences from the great guitar and vocal-led bands of the late sixties such as Free and Led Zeppelin, and blending that vibe with song themes that are important to me. Plus I wanted to get some killer guitar tones down on tape – that's the guitarist in me!

Is there one song off the album that is especially important to you?

No Room To Breathe was hugely emotional to record. It's about being trapped in a house fire eight years ago with my girlfriend [now wife]. We narrowly escaped with our lives and spent a lot of time in hospital. The song unlocked a lot of emotions about that experience and when my wife heard the song for the first time she burst into tears. I always get a lump in my throat when I perform it.

You started in the music professional at the age of 16 as a guitarist for hire. Knowing what you do now, would you have done it any differently?

I don't think so. I learnt a lot about being on the road and being in a band, which has proved invaluable. What I also learnt is that there is very little opportunity to be a solo artist simply as a guitarist, no matter how good you are. If you want to connect with more than just other guitarists, then you have to be able to sing and to deliver a song with power and emotion. It might seem like a statement of the obvious but there are a lot of wannabe young guitar slingers out there who need to figure that one out.

After this UK tour, where to next?

I have some shows to do in Holland, then Denmark, and then through the summer I will be doing a few festivals and shows in the UK and around Europe. Fatherhood beckons - my wife and I are expecting our first child in April (soon after the tour finishes!), so I am not taking on too many commitments. In terms of where I am aiming to be longer term, touring the USA is the next frontier! I have done some guest spots in the US with other bands but touring my own show is the plan.

t Simon McBride plays Norwich Arts centre on March 19

t Crossing The Line is out now

t Further listening: