Yorkshireman Michael Chapman is back in town this month. The folk figurehead is a finger-picker of fluency and finesse who has found himself flavour of the month once again… fifty years into his career. What a player. What a story. What a life. By Alan O’Hare.
“Roger McGough should be poet laureate.” Michael Chapman, legendary guitarist and songwriter, is talking about Liverpool. “I really enjoyed playing the Phil’ last year, but there was nowhere to park my car and I had to be out of the hotel at half past six… things like that tend to stick in your mind!”
Chapman’s music has stuck in the minds of fans for over fifty years. Alongside the likes of Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Davey Graham and Ralph McTell, the six string stylist is one of the best finger-pickers to ever grab a guitar. He’s never not been cool, but just recently a whole new wave of gunslingers have turned to the folk and roots godfather for inspiration. Turns out they’ve inspired Chapman, too: “Steve Gunn, William Tyler, Mike Taylor, Ryley Walker… they’re all my children and I relate hugely to them,” he says of the current crop of acoustic and electric innovators. “I’ve toured with them all at sometime or other over the past ten years and I seem to be their good luck charm because they’ve all risen in profile and success since.”
The Yorkshireman’s profile has held hard and true over the last few years, too. 2017’s ’50’ was one of the best reviewed albums of his career and Chapman has toured constantly since. He’s back on the road this spring and returns to The Music Room on Hope Street this month.
What chord do you play when you first pick up the guitar?
Impossible to say. It depends which guitar I pick up and what it’s tuned to!
That’ll learn me! ’50’ is a great record, what was the catalyst for it?
Probably one of the things was that, after a five or six year hiatus, I’d started writing songs again. There are three brand new songs on that album which hadn’t happened for a long time and to be honest I thought might not ever happen again…
I thought the tank was drained on the writing front. But I’d always wanted to make an album in America and thankfully I got the chance.
Tell me about working with Steve Gunn et al...
I’ve been involved with Steve and the other guys for quite some time and especially followed Steve’s rise and promoted him to anyone who would listen. Ten years ago, Steve was opening shows for me and now I’m opening shows for him and there’s a certain justice in that. Working with them in the studio was great fun and the end product speaks for itself.
How are you feeling about the songs from it now they’ve been on the road?
My set list changes all the time – probably because there isn’t a set set list if you see what I mean – but I enjoy doing a couple of the new songs.
Talk to me about Liverpool…
I met Andy Roberts recently and it was really great to catch up with him. And, like I said, Roger McGough should be poet laureate.
Let’s finish on guitarists. Who are your favourites?
Wes Montgomery, Jim Hall, Grant Green and Bill Frisell.
Because they are instantly recognisable. Django Reinhardt, BB King, Joe Walsh… all these guys can play just one note and you know immediately who it is. I’d love to think that my playing is like that, but I wouldn’t be so bold.
Michael Chapman with special guest Nick Ellis
Thursday April 26th 2018, 8pm
The Music Room, Sugnall Street, Liverpool
Pic by Carol Kershaw