Tab Interview: Liam Bailey and Alice Gold

TABATHA LEGGETT and THOMAS WILLS talk to two musicians raring to go for 2011, ALICE GOLD and LIAM BAILEY. You heard of them here first…

Alice Gold Athlete Becks chase and staus Liam Bailey nottingham Poker Tabatha Leggett The Junction Thomas Wills

Alice Gold and Liam Bailey both played at The Junction last term, supporting Athlete and Chase & Status respectively. The two emerging musicians have been predicted great success for 2011.

Alice Gold

Ever wondered what a pop star keeps in her dressing room? No? Well, I’ll tell you anyway: bananas, Doritos and beer. Naturally. When I walked into Alice Gold’s dressing room at The Junction last term, I was instantly greeted by hugs and kisses from a stupidly pretty girl dressed from head to toe in Topshop‘s winter collection, and a musty sort of smell.

‘Do you want a beer?’ Alice asks me.

I hate beer.

‘I’m alright, thanks,’ I reply.

‘Don’t be silly; I know the look of a girl who wants a beer!‘ Alice replies, grinning like a Cheshire Cat and handing me a bottle of Becks.

For the record, Alice does NOT know the look of a girl who wants a beer. Nonetheless, Becks in hand, the interview began.

‘I’ve performed in Cambridge before,’ Alice told me. ‘And I used to come here for day trips in the summer when I was younger. I remember finding this really nice tree to jump off, and I used to go swimming in the lake.’

So, she forces beer upon unsuspecting victims and she can’t tell the difference between rivers and lakes. Not a great start. Luckily for Alice, she’s got some pretty interesting stories. ‘The Sagittarian in me has definitely got a travelling bug,’ she explains. ‘I have a sort of wanderlust.’ And that, she certainly does. You see, when Alice started to gain notoriety, she was on a spontaneous road trip around North America in a 1978 Winnebago that she won in a round of poker.

‘I was working in London as an assistant in a photography studio,’ Alice began. ‘I was working way too much and I just wasn’t happy. I needed a break, and I had some savings, so I got a one-way ticket to Nashville because I knew there was music stuff going on there.

‘I met some people, did a lot of gigs and had a wonderful encounter with a guy who lent me his Winnebago. We we’re playing cards, but I think he let me win, and he ended up giving me a temporary loan of this amazing motorhome.’

She continued: ‘I spent a lot of my time playing songs in pubs here [in London] and there; people talking over you gets tiring after a while. In Nashville, people take it more seriously; they really listen.’

And so, Alice went to America and rediscovered her love of music. But, how did she make her first record? ‘I hounded my producer!’ she tells me. ‘I had nothing: I had no record company. I was broke. But, I was really persistent. He gave me two weeks one summer to make an album, then his manager from New York heard it and liked it, so I got more time to finish it off. And then, I finally got a record deal!’

It’s certainly an inspiring story.   Alice is a bit pretentious (her stories are littered by statements like: ‘I’m not really a water person; I’m a land person,’ and ‘I’m influenced mainly by soulful psychedelia,’) but, she admits it: ‘I was definitely quite a precocious eight-year-old. I remember telling family friends that I was going to be a pop star. It’s very cringe, thinking about it now.’

On the other hand, she’s got big ambitions and won’t let anything stand in her way. ‘My dream would be to play at the Roundhouse with a big, soulful band,’ she tells me. ‘Although, I always think it’s hard to be a woman in music. I’m scared of being categorised and falling into the same pot and all the other female artists… but I think the trick is just to stay true to yourself and work hard.’

‘My mum died seven or eight years ago, which had a huge impact on my life. But, your experiences make you who you are. Because of my mum, a lot of my lyrics are drenched in a bit of sadness.’

And how does Alice Gold describe her own sound? ‘It’s not too cool, but it’s cool enough,’ she says. And I think that sums Alice up perfectly. Thankfully, she isn’t just a mass of blonde curls and a collection of tales from the American roads.

Liam Bailey

From the moment he invites me into his dressing room and playfully orders his backing band out into the corridor, Liam Bailey is mellow, introspective and earnest – all traits that he shares with his brand of soulful, acoustic pop. His music doesn’t obviously fit with the breathless drum and bass of Chase & Status. ‘We’ve had to mix it up and put some upbeat bits in there,’ he chuckles, acknowledging the genre-clash. ‘The crowd are pissed already, but there’s always going to be some guys in there that appreciate good singing.’

This odd situation owes to Blind Faith, the Chase & Status single to which Bailey contributes his distinctive vocals. But, he wants to make clear he is not some sort of voice-for-hire. ‘The thing with that Chase & Status song is, I was sent it, I liked it, I wrote something for it, and I felt stoked to do it. But, I’m not going to be dropping vocals down for tracks left right and centre. If the strength of your own music is enough then that’s how you’ll prevail as an artist.’

Liam is poised for the release of his debut album in the spring of 2011. He grew up in Nottingham with his mum’s LP collection of vintage soul and ’80s pop on the radio, he discovered Britpop in the mid-’90s and bought a guitar. ‘I loved singing Michael Jackson,’ he reminisces, ‘I’d just copy the way he sang. Then I learnt to play the guitar after I got into Oasis, at the age of fourteen. Before that, I’d be listening to The Beatles’ Penny Lane; afterwards I started to get my head around all my Jimi Hendrix LPs.’

So far, so routine for a singer-songwriter from the North. However, Bailey’s singing tramples any expectations. It’s rich and mournful, a far remove from his flat Nottingham accent. ‘I just sing naturally. I’m a product of my environment; when you grow up listening to old school soul it just comes out that way.’  His unfussy approach is refreshing, and rather than cracking out shiny soundbites, Liam is given to stilted introspection.

He’s especially illuminating when I ask him about his song writing process. ‘I just write and then go into the studio. I’ve never really thought of writing songs specifically for a band. I only ever write when I feel compelled to do it. I sit down, with my guitar. If I were to analyse it, it’s some sort of release. I work better when I’m able to breathe, so I don’t believe in getting all James Brown on the guys in my band, start docking their pay and all.”

He also has a surprisingly wide-angled view of what he wants from his music. ‘What I’d like to have done is albums that people always go back to as examples of some of the best British music of the last 10 or 20 years. I don’t want to be a hounded star.’

‘I’ve got a friend who’s in a band called Gomez: he’s got a nice life, two beautiful kids, a house in Brighton, he’s doing a solo album. He’s got food on the table and is still selling out venues on the Blues circuit in the States. I’d be happy with that. I’ll always be playing music, even if I get dropped. I’ll just get a job. That’s what you do. Pay the bills, find a nice bird.’

Later that evening, sandwiched between a dubstep DJ and Chase & Status, Liam Bailey manages to silence the throngs of psyched-up kids. It’s a brief interlude before the beats start up again, but you can’t help but feel that it’s something of a triumph.