UK-based singer-songwriter Mick Shepherd, the former frontman for the jangle-pop/indie 90s band Big Red Bus has recently put out the track ‘Tomorrow Will Be Fine’, the follow-up to his last release of ‘Loneliest State Of Mind’. Shepherd can be found performing at The Continental in Preston on St Patricks Day, March 17.
Your most recent release is the sweetly melodic ‘Tomorrow Will Be Fine’. Could you tell our readers a bit about this song? What went into writing it, the story behind it?
I wrote the song about my eldest son. He headed off to New Zealand last year as there were very few opportunities for him here. I wanted to capture how he must’ve been feeling about the long journey, the uncertainty of what he’d find when he got there and his reasons for leaving. I sent him a copy and it seemed to resonate with him which was good. He also played it to friends out there who’d been through a similar rite of passage and it chimed with them as well which I was delighted about.
You’ll be performing with Oskar’s Drum and Drahla on March 17th at The Continental in Preston. What do you have in-store for gig-goers?
I’m really excited about the gig as I’m going to be joined by two old friends who will be very familiar to many around Preston. Tim Kelly from Barge Calm, Young Men In Spats and 4NT fame is playing guitar on a few tracks and Scrub (Roland Jones) is joining us on drums. Scrub and I played in Big Red Bus together and before that Dance Hall Giants. The set will be a mix of solo acoustic with the second half performed as a trio.
Who are some of your main inspirations, whether musically or in other forms such as film and literature?
That’s a tough one! So many varied influences over the years. Lyrically there’s references to the Kitchen Sink films of the 60s, all set in the north of England. I listen to a wide range of music and currently Damien Jurado, Tallest Man On Earth, Fleet Foxes and José González are never far from reach. I guess I’m leaning towards a more melodic, folky, acoustic sound, although some tracks I’m recording for the new album deviate from that genre with more prominent electric guitar and keyboards.
You were the lead singer for indie band Big Red Bus. Now, as a huge Stone Roses fan, I have to ask. What was it like opening for them? What do you remember about that time?
I’ve got some fantastic memories of those days and loved every minute of it. There was a definite buzz about The Stone Roses, you could feel electricity in the air at those early gigs, as if you were on the edge of something. When it really exploded and became that huge scene I don’t think any of us were surprised, we were all riding along on the crest of the wave. The shows were more of an event and we were all big fans so fully embraced those occasions. There were some amazing nights, Preston Guildhall, Birmingham Irish Centre, Manchester International– each show was special and there was such a strong vibe at the time, a real identity and a level of eagerness and enthusiasm that I haven’t seen since. I remember our single ‘All I Need’ being played on the radio between ‘She Bangs The Drum‘ and The Go- Betweens ‘Streets Of Your Town‘ and thinking, this’ll do for me!
What originally inspired your love of music? Is there a specific memory you have that’s led you here?
My earliest memories of seeing as opposed to hearing music are T. Rex and Slade on Top Of The Pops, I guess. Punk was the real call to arms though, Sex Pistols, Ramones, The Clash. It encouraged you to get out there and have a go. I also loved the Northern Soul scene and went to Wigan Casino as a teenager. Listening to John Peel, searching out new music, uncovering old, rare sounds on obscure American labels, I think that’s where the real passion came from. Once I was in bands I looked for inspiration from those who were out there on the circuit at the time, bands we saw live who were at the top of their game; early Echo & The Bunnymen, The Chameleons and Teardrop Explodes, then later with Big Red Bus, The LAs, The Stone Roses and other notable North West bands like Rain and The Real People. Bands like The Go-Betweens and The Triffids were also a big influence on my songwriting back then.
Are there any local bands or artists that have caught your interest?
At the risk of familial bias (son’s band) The Room Upstairs are writing very catchy, melodious music inspired by 60s garage bands, which I really like. I know Mark (Whiteside) from back in the days when Big Red Bus and Dreamland were gigging a lot and venturing to Norway for shows- his new project One Sided Horse is really interesting and seems to be gathering momentum.
What are your future plans? An EP or album to go along with ‘Tomorrow Will Be Fine’? Future dates, perhaps?
An album release in the summer is planned tentatively titled ‘Truths And Heartache’ featuring 14 new tracks that I’ve been recording for the last twelve months on and off. I’m also working on a project with Tim (Kelly) under the name Works Unit Only. We’re working on material for that currently. I’m back at the Conti for the Mayday festival Rico is putting together and then looking towards some festivals over the summer.
Are there any questions I didn’t ask that you would’ve liked me to? Anything you’d like to add for our readers?
I’m massively impressed with the enthusiasm of people like Tuff Life Boogie and They Eat Culture-live music is a lifeblood to many of us but without the unconditional support of promoters the venues to keep flying the flag we’d all be in a poorer state. There really is no substitute for the live experience, get out there and support your local bands and venues!!
Photo credits: Ewan Shepherd