In Conversation With: Crawford Mack

Glasgow multi-talented musican Crawford Mack has released his brooding new single ‘A Love I Can’t Live Up To‘; a confessional ‘how-not-to’ guide to happiness; with elegant elements of orchestral strings and warm vocals.

The offering is the third to be released from Crawford’s debut album ‘Bread and Circuses’; which is available to stream now. On the album, the composer says: “I hope the new album will illustrate the conviction of an individual confronting their internal struggles, wrestling them to the ground but all the while waving a white flag of surrender.”

Hey Crawford, welcome to BBM. How are you?

Thank you! I’m well thanks, how’s yourself?

That’s good! We’re not bad thanks! It’s been a strange year, especially for those in the creative industries. How have you managed to keep your creativity flowing during this ongoing pandemic?

I keep trying to set myself new parameters within my songwriting, such as only using a certain harmonic device or a particular type of rhyming structure. I find that wee challenges like that help to bring out the best in me. I’m a big believer in doing morning pages as well, writing in a stream of consciousness first thing every morning to see what comes out. And of course, I do the normal things of listening to music across the genres, reading, taking long walks and runs.

What can you tell BBM about your new single ‘A Love I Can’t Live Up To’?

The track is about the different personas we adopt at the start of relationships and what happens when we can no longer live up to these more perfect, intense versions of ourselves.

I started writing the song about three years ago whilst messing about with Nick Drake/John Martyn guitar tunings. It’s gone through several revisions and, if I’m being honest, the emotions it evokes in me have changed significantly since I first started writing it. It used to have a heavily metaphorical bridge but at my producer Jamie’s behest, I canned it. It was good advice as this makes the thread of the story of the song far more digestible.

The irony is that the song was started with that middle eight bridge that was canned. That came about because I was on a writing course led by Sir Ray Davies (of The Kinks) and he set a task to write a song where the bridge would be the explanation for the rest of song, presumably as a device to draw out creativity. He pulled me aside and advised me to re-purpose some old instrumentals I’d shown him with lyrics written from a perspective gained since their creation. It’s a very exposing song, and I’m genuinely curious to see what people think of it. At some point down the line, I may re-record the original, much longer version of the track because it moves between genres, perhaps putting it out as an album track. I really like both versions.

 

That’s cool! So, does writing songs come easily to you?

It’s definitely the activity I enjoy the most. I’m prepared to work on the craft of it all the time and it follows that, because I’m constantly writing, it can sometimes flow very easily, especially when I’m hyper-focused and in tune with a train of thought. Developing the initial ideas and experimenting with a song that I’ve finished writing is where I really enjoy pushing myself. Also one of the best parts of wiring is getting to write with other people on the same wavelength as myself, which is what I enjoyed most about working with Jamie Evans on this record, as well as working with Richard Rayner, Blake Densmore and Daisy Chute on the track ‘Depends On Where You Stand.’

Your music combines different genres, including jazz, alt-folk and pop. How would you describe your sound in three words?

Always In Flux.

What’s the furthest you’ve traveled to attend somebody else’s gig?

Two particular gigs come to mind. I once went from London to Bergen op Zoom in The Netherlands via Antwerp in order to see the Belgian band Dead Man Ray, and it was well worth it. The other gig story involves a really complicated journey. I was determined to see one of my favourite artists, Gabriel Kahane, on his European tour. However, I didn’t know if I’d be able to make any of the shows because I was trying to coordinate the schedules and commitments of everyone that I needed to record my album. So I bought tickets to see him in Glasgow, London, and Genk but in the event had to give them all away to friends.

I was gutted. Then I discovered that he was playing a free show at the AB in Brussels, which was only forty-five minutes away from Antwerp where we were recording the album. So the band took the night off and we went to see him. It was jaw-dropping and I was really pleased to be able to have a chat and a beer with him. I’m so glad that it all worked out in the end. I’d been prepared to travel from Antwerp straight after we’d finished our recording schedule to see him play in Nantes, so I was pretty determined.

That’s a pretty big commitment! Do you remember the first record you brought?

I think it was Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled first album, with money borrowed from my parents. The first record I bought with my own money was probably their second record ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’. As you’ll have gathered, I was completely obsessed with their music at the time.

If you were forming a supergroup, who would you want to be in it?

First of all, I’d say that I’d always want Richard Rayner (Drums) and Jack Tustin (Bass) to be in any band I’m part of as I love their playing and they’ve been with me from the very start.

However, if I had to pick other musicians, I’d probably pick a band of Matt Johnson – Drums, Chris Thile – various stringed instruments, Larry Carlton – Guitar, and Freddie Washington – Bass. Then do a Travelling Wilbury’s vibe and pick other songwriters to work with that band, if I restrict myself to people who are still alive, I’d choose Madison Cunningham, Father John Misty, Gabriel Kahane, and Thom Yorke.

What would you like to achieve next in your career? What’s on the bucket list?

With all the uncertainty surrounding the music industry and arts in general I think that getting to a point where I can achieve a sustainable career solely from making and playing my music would be a hell of an achievement. There are of course particular venues I’d love to be able to play under my own name at some point. The Barrowlands in Glasgow is the one that immediately springs to mind because of its legendary status and because I grew up going to see big gigs there. Touring sustainably and traveling as part of the job is what I’d relish the most, even if the reality is seeing the inside of a lot of different hotel rooms. I think it’s the people you meet along the way that makes it worthwhile.

Bread and Circuses out now.