Interview with Paul Carrack

Accomplished musician Paul Carrack took time out before a sold-out concert to talk to us about his long and illustrious career in music.

Usually, when I get an opportunity to interview an artist of the calibre of Paul Carrack, I will be met by his manager, or PR, who will usher me up to the Star’s dressing room, and carefully watch the clock as the allotted interview time ticks away. Not so with Mr. Carrack, who comes to the stage door entrance to meet me himself, warmly shakes my hand, and immediately dispenses with any airs and pretensions some stars might display. What you see, is very much what you get with Paul Carrack, an open and very honest chat with the man who despite being the voice behind million-selling records and working with some of the biggest names in music, remains totally grounded, focused on his music, and a delight to be with.

FT:  Busy time for you Paul.  New album due out soon and a run of gigs up to Christmas?

PC:  Well, I have to have a little operation on my shoulder, and that’s going to put me out for a few weeks, then I’ve got a couple of shows in Germany, that’s with the big band

FT:   So you are on hiatus for a time. Literally ‘Over your Shoulder’, as the song goes?

PC:  (Laughs). I had the other one done some years ago, and it was pretty sore for a while, so I don’t what I do for a while. I might just put my feet up!

FT:  You’ve been labelled the man with the golden voice. Is that a blessing or a curse?

PC:  We made this little documentary thing, and they wanted to put it on the BBC, I wanted to call it ‘How long has this been going on’, but they suggested ‘The man with the golden voice’.

FT:  And it stuck!

PC:  It could be worse! (Laughs) I mean it’s a bit embarrassing really because I would never say anything like that because there are a million great singers out there, but it’s not a bad little handle. Until you turn up at a gig with a cold, and you sound like Paul Robeson 2.00

FT:  In terms of the people you have worked with, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Ringo Starr, the list goes on and on. Is there anyone you still like to work with?

PC:  Not really. For whatever time I have left, I want to try and get as much stuff of my own as I can down and recorded, and continue to do the gigs. I’m very grateful to have had a career and to have played with such amazing people, it’s amazing, I can’t believe it myself really. At this point in my career, every story I come out with, sounds like a name-drop, but there is nobody I dying to work with. There are loads of people I love and admire, but as I say, whatever time I got

FT:  You come across as very self–depreciating.

PC:  I’m from Sheffield mate! They don’t like people who get above their station. I get my self-deprecation in, before anybody else does!

FT:  People will recognise the voice, but some may not come up with your name.  In terms of the amazing career you’ve had, do you think in some ways that in diluting it, if I can put it that way, your career between Ace, Mike and The Mechanics, Squeeze, touring with Eric Clapton, etc, is a reason that your name isn’t as well-known as it might be/should be?

PC:  Possible. It probably wasn’t the best way to have a career, but I’m just glad to have had a career. You could say, I should have stuck to my guns; I don’t really look at it like that, unless I get out of the wrong side of the bed, and think, coulda, woulda, shoulda, but the fact is, it turned out way better than I could have dreamed of. I’ve been grateful to have the work, and I’m a better singer, and writer-performer because of it. I know plenty of people who’ve struggled to get the work so, I’m grateful. There’s a part of me that thinks I could have done this, but you don’t know, it could have been 10 times worse.

I think I would have struggled with fame. Even now I have imposter syndrome, as they call it, and I found they got a name for it, my condition. When you don’t think you’re worthy. But you know, billions of people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, so…I’m good where I am. I’m in a beautiful place. I’ve got a great family, kids, grandkids, a nice house, and a missus who loves me and me her. Health seems to be okay, touch wood. I got my band, I got my music, I can make my records in my little studio, and life’s not too shabby.

FT:  You’re very much your own man now, making records on your own label, 12/13 albums in 20 years, or so? You’re working at your own pace?

PC:  Something like that. My dad was a painter and decorator, with the ladders on a roof rack of the car, my mum ran a little paint shop, and that’s where I grew up, so it’s a bit like that now. You don’t forget your roots; it’s a bit like that corner shop mentality.

I mean the Eric (Clapton) thing is big time, it’s another world. I don’t think I could have fitted into that world at all, to be honest. I probably would have ended up killing myself with drugs or something.

FT:  You’ve covered most genres of music in your career, Rock, Soul, pop, and Blues, and on the most recent album, there’s a splendid cover of Charlie Rich’s country classic, ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Is that a route you might pursue?

PC:  I want to make a country album one day.

FT:  Now that would be great. Do you think it would be covers or originals?

PC:  I think it would probably be covers. There are just so many great songs.

FT:  Some songs are just classics and loved by all, like ‘How Long’ and ‘Tempted’ and two such songs. But there are songs that become very personal to people. ‘The Living Years’, means so much to so many people, and they feel the song is theirs, because of the emotion behind it. Obviously, with your father passing away when you were 12 or 13, it comes from the heart when you sing it. But what it’s like to be the custodian of a song that means so much to so many? It’s your voice and your song.

PC:  Well they don’t. That’s the kind of the story of my life, is that people don’t necessarily. If you say to someone in the streets, ‘Paul Carrack’, they would say, ‘Never heard of him’. If you say ‘Mike and The Mechanics’, they’d say ‘Oh yeah! If I say ‘I sang that’, They’d say ‘Are you sure? (Laughs)

I was very disappointed that they re-recorded it with Andrew Roachford singing. He’s a great singer, I’m a fan of his, but I thought that wasn’t fair. When he (Mike Rutherford), put the new line-up together, and they released a greatest hits, with one new track on it, and all the photos were of this new line-up, I thought that wasn’t very fair.

FT:  When you tried to put out a greatest hits yourself, did he try and hold one of the tracks back? Was it ‘Over My Shoulder’?

PC:  Well somebody did (laughs).

FT:  I thought that was really bad form. This was a retrospective of your work and your career. It seemed a bit petty.

PC:  Yeah I know. I’m not pointing the finger of blame at him, necessarily, I don’t know, but the truth of the matter is, they wouldn’t license it to me, when it was on other compilations and what have you. They could have had their good reasons for it. They just sold the Genesis catalogue for a gazillion quid, so I don’t know.

It’s interesting that say that, that you think of it as my song. I can go down that route, I can say woe is me, I sang that fucking song, and nobody knows I did it, and these bands with their brands benefitted from it. But you know, I benefited from it as well, so you know, you don’t look for fairness.

FT:  But people coming up to you after the gig, they will tell you how special that song is to them?

PC:  Yeah, Even on my own level, it’s good to have a few songs like that. A lot of people coming in are surprised by the number of songs they know. But it’s no good worrying about it, I made the decision 20 years ago to start my own little label, and do things that way,  I could have sat back home and played the victim, but I’m very proud of what I’ve done.

FT:  Paul, it’s been a real treat talking with you, Good luck with the new album, and the show.

PC:  Yeah, about the gig review tonight, I’m a bit short of cash at the minute.

FT:  (Laughs) I don’t think you need to worry about any reviews, good luck, but you won’t need it!

PC:  Thanks, but you always need it mate! See you again.