Interview Roddy Woomble: ‘Idlewild Fell Into A Creative Rut’

Roddy Woomble speaks to Alice Williams about his old band and new solo record.

Roddy Woomble, lead singer of Scottish stalwarts Idlewild, speaks to Alice Williams about his new solo record ‘The Impossible Songs and Other Songs’, and how folk writing and collaboration just came naturally.

‘The Impossible Song & Other Songs’ was released last week, how are you feeling about the new album?
I feel good about it! I wasn’t really planning on making another solo record but sometimes, when things happen naturally and they’re not over-thought, they turn out much better than expected. I’m really happy with the way we’ve written and recorded it in a very collaborative way. We recorded it up here at the Arts Centre and we were able to make a very eclectic sound with all kinds of musicians.

So continuing on from that collaborative effort, you’ve worked with a lot of people including Kate Rusby, Drever and McCusker. After this album, who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I don’t really think about it in terms of a wish list because a lot of the people I’ve been lucky enough to write or play with have happened naturally. McCusker is a big friend of mine. He was working on Kate’s stuff and then he ended up producing my first record. I really enjoy doing stuff with other people, and the work of other people in that world of ‘folk’.
Working with Edwin Morgan, he was the Scottish Poet Laureate, we did a record together called ‘The Ballads Of The Book’; it was a compilation of Scottish poets writing lyrics for Scottish bands. All that just pulled from knowing people’s story. Scotland is very good for that. I think it’s small enough that we’re all quite personable. Everyone gets to know each other. There are lots of quite creative people with similar tastes in music.

When you released ‘Queen Of The Troubled Teens’ [Idlewild’s debut single], could you have imagined 14 years later you’d be releasing a folk record?
A couple of nights ago someone sent me a link to a YouTube clip of Idlewild playing at the NME Brat Awards in 1998. It was quite exciting actually - it was total chaos on stage and off! I remember that time very fondly, but when you’re that age you don’t really think about how you approach music. Now it’s more to do with song-writing, which is what I’ve done for most of my life really.
Some people thought that one of our records was quite folky anyway; ‘Warnings/Promises’ was quieter and slower than some of the others. I thought that was a really good way for us to be a bit more melodic with harmonies and melodies and stuff. A lot of the reaction to that was why I continued doing it on my own. I wanted to continue being a traditional Scottish folk song-writer and that wasn’t what the rest of the band wanted, so I said I’d go and do it on a solo record then.
That’s what opened up the flood gates of thinking ‘well, I think I should just carry on doing more stuff.’ I can still play in the group and we did, we went on to make some more straight forward rock records. But then again, after that it did feel like everyone got a bit lazy. We fell into a creative rut. There was a certain feeling that we needed to take a step back.

How have Idlewild fans responded to your new role?
People kind of know me through the band and I’m proud of all of that. But it is a bit like ‘that was me then, this is me now.’ We were a rock band and a very good one, but my solo music is more the music that I like.
With ‘The Impossible Song & Other Songs’ it’s more to do with song-writing, and my relationship with song-writing, and the whole idea of documenting your life, which is what I’ve done so far really. There’s always another song that you can write and work on.
It does really feel like I’m moving in a new direction. I’m playing with my little wee band and we’re going to be on the road as much as we can over the summer, so you’ll see us at festivals and things.

And finally, just to satisfy the ‘die-hard’ Idlewild fan within, will you be getting back together with the band in the near future?
It’s quite difficult to pre-plan things… we certainly won’t be writing songs together but we might be doing some gigs.

Photo by Nick Bonetti

‘The Impossible Song & Other Songs’ is out now.

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