Miles Hunt, the singer and songwriter with The Wonder Stuff, returns to Liverpool next month. The indie hero is touring solo with just an acoustic guitar and his back catalogue for company. But there’s more to this project than hits and giggles… he means it, man. By Alan O’Hare.
“It’s my first solo album – just me and my guitar for thirty songs.” Miles Hunt is telling me about his new record, ‘The Custodian’, and talking about bringing the concept to town next month. “Liverpool has so much great music and such enthusiastic audiences – I love the place!”
I’ve heard that before. You get it a lot in this game. But, with The Wonder Stuff singer and arse-kicker, you believe every word. He doesn’t beat around the bush, Miles. Hunt has told it like it is for over thirty years and it has never mattered if he’s shouting from an NME cover story, screaming into a mic in front of thousands of fans or talking an intimate gathering through the stories of one of his acclaimed ‘The Wonder Stuff Diaries’, the songwriter thinks out loud. It’s refreshing and a trait that has thankfully leaked into his work.
‘The Custodian’, then, is a record and tour that will take fans back to to the very start with just the singer and a selection of his songs for company. The album finds Hunt recording alone – just an acoustic guitar and his back catalogue – whilst the imminent tour will provide something similar (some dates are already sold-out). “The idea was partially inspired by a conversation I had with Tom Robinson in New York a few years ago,” Hunt reveals. “I was invited to guest at his solo show. Tom has long been an inspiration to me and given the opportunity to perform with him… well, let’s just say I couldn’t polish my boots quick enough. During our brief rehearsal together on the afternoon of the show, Tom asked me who I felt now owned the songs that I have written over all these years. I answered that whoever the publishing company I signed with probably did, but ultimately, I did. Tom was quick to correct me pointing out that all of my songs now belonged to my audience… going on to explain that the songs I have written have been part of the soundtrack to thousands of lives and it is those people that now truly own them.”
It’s true, that. Songwriters whose work connects with a large audience have to be careful. The punters that come with a hit as big as, say, ‘Size Of A Cow’, will be transient in nature. Sure, they’ll come… but they’ll go just as easily, too. But songs such as ‘Mission Drive’ and ‘Golden Green’ can sustain an artist through a working life rich with rewards and renown. “Tom also said that my position was now of ‘the custodian’,” Hunt tells me. “The person whose job it is to see that the songs are treated and performed with the respect the audiences deserve.”
That conversation really was a catalyst, then?
It was an incredibly important thing to have said to me and something I have not and will not ever forget. The album’s also partially inspired by Richard Thompson’s ‘Acoustic Classics’ releases.
You’ve written a lot of hits and fan-favourites. How hard was it to whittle the songs down to the ones you recorded for the album?
Let’s just say that social media was very helpful indeed. Thankfully it would appear that me and my audience are pretty much on the same page.
Anything popular miss the cut that you might play live on the tour?
There’ll be variations in the set list each night. I’ve done acoustic versions of ‘Ruby Horse’ and ‘Who Wants To Be The Disco King?’ on previous releases, but neither appear on the new album…
… they’re always in the back pocket, though?
I pull them out of the bag every now and then.
What has this record got that your others haven’t?
Like I said, it’s my first genuinely solo album. Nobody else appears on it.
You’ll be on-stage completely solo, too… exciting or daunting?
Neither… just something different. I’m lucky; I have full band shows, duo shows with Erica Nockalls, spoken word shows based around my three books and now solo acoustic shows. It never gets dull ’round these parts.
Speaking of Erica, your last duo record was fantastic and sits as the perfect anomaly in your back catalogue…
… I’m still extremely happy with ‘We Came Here To Work’. It was written and recorded at lightening speed: I wrote a song a day and then handed the reigns over to Erica to do whatever she liked with them. I’ve never made a record that way before and I think because of the way we worked, the songs all very much sound like they belong together.
What’s happening with The Wonder Stuff?
I’m writing the next album, due for a release toward the back end of 2019, and I have ten songs written and demoed already.
Happy with them?
I’m loving what we have so far!
‘The Wonder Stuff Diaries’ were a success, any more planned?
I’ve no plans to write any more of them at this point in time. I do have a novel I’ve made a pretty decent start at, but I think that’s gonna’ take a good while yet before I’m satisfied with it… I’m leaning toward music over words these days.
The Music Room, Sugnall Street, Liverpool
Thursday 11th October 2018, 8pm
‘The Custodian’ is out October 5th 2018 and available for pre-order now
Pic courtesy Good Deeds