Ned Roberts / by E

Catch up with singer-songwriter Ned Roberts and watch the video for the first single "Lights On The River" off his forthcoming album Outside My Mind, out March 24th on Aveline Records.

What got you interested in music?

Ned: I just became a massive Bob Dylan fan back when I was 14/15 years old. I listened to all that early folk stuff like The Freewheelin' and The Times They Are a-Changin' and Electric Stuff and I just wanted to play some of those songs. So I picked up a song and started trying to play some of them and learned "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and songs like that and that's how it all began.

Do you remember the first song you learned on guitar?

It was either "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" or "As I Went Out One Morning" which was one of the tracks from John Wesley Harding. That was a long time ago. I learned all sorts of things. I think, once I picked up the guitar, I realized that I picked it up every single day for like 3 years whilst I was learning and playing, just playing as much as possible.

Which other musicians would you say you've been influenced by?

I really like all the '60s/'70s songwriters like Nick Drake and Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. More recently I've started listening to some Bert Jansch. Anaïs Mitchell, I went on tour with her a couple of years ago and I just love her songwriting. 

Is there anyone you'd recommend everyone take a listen to?

I've been into this record for a while but I don't think many people know about it and it's pretty wild, it's from 1971 and it's called Time of the Last Persecution by a chap called Bill Fay. It's just really good. It's pretty out there. But he was a London-based singer-songwriter and I think after that record came out, the record label just - I think it was too weird for them - and they dropped him; then in the last 10/15 years he's sort of been rediscovered a little bit. So I'd recommend that record.

How would you describe your sound to someone who hadn't heard your music?

I always find that to be quite a difficult question. It's kind of mellow, folk-influenced, singer-songwriter stuff, really. I know that's awfully vague. The songs are bittersweet often and they're in that folk Americana sort of sound.

What were your inspirations behind your new single and the music video for "Lights On The River"?

The song itself for that is a classic break-up song, really, and it's probably the song on the record that has the least filter on it; it's the most honest, in a way. I'm often a little wary of writing like that too much, but in this case I just started to roll with it. 

The video was put together by a friend of mine called Barnaby Sax, he directed it and we just came up with the idea together. We wanted, obviously, to go with the idea of some sort of parting but also, as it shows in the scene with the friends, an idea that people were moving on, as well. It's the countryside because I grew up in the countryside, so that always feels like home to me.

Could you tell us more about your album Outside My Mind?

Yeah. I recorded it out in LA with a producer friend of mine called Luther Russell, he's recorded a lot of great people over the years. I went out there quite a while ago now and I had sent him some looped acoustic guitar demos and we recorded it pretty quickly; the bulk of it was done in about five days and we cut it mainly live, so even the drum track mainly all went down live. I really like recording like that because it keeps everything pretty fresh and inventive and nothing gets too stale. I think we recorded 15 tracks in total and we whittled it down to 10. As opposed to my first album, which was principally an acoustic record, we wanted to instrument this one a bit more 'cause it was pretty fun just deciding how to do that, which songs to strip back and which songs to build up. I knew I wanted this record to expand in its sound on the first one. I'd quite like to do a purely acoustic record again but, for this album, I definitely wanted to experiment with just building the sound up. Some tracks on this record we stripped right back and it's just a guitar with maybe a touch of piano and then some of the others are like the single with a more full-on band. The record was basically done with 3 people: it was me, my producer Luther Russell, and the engineer Jason Hiller. They're both really good session guys and Jason can play bass and Luther can play piano and drums and electric guitar, so it came out of that. That was how the record came about [laughs].

Is there a track off this record you're most excited to release?

The whole album, really, is quite a departure for me from the previous album I did. Many songs for many reasons, but maybe "Angel Station" simply because it's one of the more lighthearted tracks on the record and it's possibly the biggest departure in sound from the first album so it's quite exciting for people to hear that.

What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?

I hope they very much enjoy it and press play the moment they finish it, really. I wanted it to be sort of like classic songwriting, like the great '60s/'70s guys; I'll be happy if this album was half as regarded as some of those albums. 

Is there anything you want to add?

I hope at some point in the not too distant future I'll be out in the States for some gigs. And that the third album will not be so long away from the first one. I hope to get some new music out in, instead of two and a half years, maybe a year and a bit.

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