Spend an hour in Andy Burrows’ company and you’ll find your faith in music rapidly restored. Admittedly that’s a lofty claim, but it’s true. An artist who seemingly mainlines from music’s wellspring, Burrows is that rarest of breeds – a non-cynical true believer in the redemptive power of the song.
If you’re still not sure what I’m talking about, spend just forty minutes in the company of Andy Burrows’ second solo album, Fall Together Again. By the time the last track fades, you’ll understand exactly what I mean.
Brilliantly, unashamedly melodic, Fall Together Again is the kind of record where the earworms patiently queue up to present themselves one after the other; where songs open out into soaring choruses that soon give way to brighter and ever bolder hooks. It’s a record imbued with the spirit of early McCartney solo albums and sunroof-down daydream soul. It’s shot through with the kind of sun-dappled soft rock that used to radiate from American FM radios in mid-’70s.
So how did a musician who rose to public prominence drumming for Razorlight at the point they went properly supernova end up making a solo record that’s so effortless, so addictive?
“I had a real determination to become a drummer from a really young age,” says Burrows, “And that desire seemed to supersede the fact that I was completely obsessed with classic pop music – the Beatles, Squeeze, Graham Parker – as well as proper showtunes from musicals. The first bands I played in as a drummer were brass bands in my hometown Winchester; the music we played was totally dominated by melody. All the music I loved growing up was.”
The effects of Burrows’ formative musical years are as obvious on the first song he wrote and recorded (Razorlight’s America, that band’s only UK number 1 single) as they are across each release from his incredibly prolific solo career: The Colour Of My Dreams (2008); Sun Comes Up Again (2010, released under the name I Am Arrows); Funny Looking Angels (2011, with Editors’ Tom Smith) and 2012’s Company. Amidst this, Burrows spent two years living in New York and drumming with We Are Scientists, with whom he made two further albums, and so we find him now, remarkably already at the point at which he is about to release his tenth album.
Although confidence has grown with each of these records, Burrows hasn’t been immune to a little self-doubt once in a while. “Making music is definitely far more natural and instinctive than I ever thought it would be,” he says, “But sometimes I worry that the last thing anyone needs is another singer songwriter making an album. But then I always come round to the idea that music is floating around all of us… sometimes great ideas fall into your lap and you just know immediately what to do with them. When those ideas play out, the results hopefully affect people in a moving way. And sometimes it just so happens that a few million people feel that effect. So get your head down and work knowing that the music you make will resonate with people. It has to.”
While Burrows’ solo records have garnered more support with each release – all four singles off Company made the Radio 2 A List – it’s perhaps his BAFTA nominated 2012 collaboration with composer Ilan Eshkeri that resonated the most. By scoring The Snowman and The Snowdog – Channel 4’s sequel to Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman – Burrows and Eshkeri found themselves responsible for soundtracking people’s Christmas Eves the whole country over.
“I can’t express enough gratitude for having been allowed to do that,” he says. “What a huge boost of confidence it was to be entrusted to do that by Ilan and Channel 4. There were lists of people who could have done it, I went in and met them and we got on and the next thing I was working on the songs. It was an amazing bit of faith to have instilled in you – that was a hell of a legacy to be tinkering with!”
At the end of 2013, Burrows devised a series of sold-out “live to picture” shows with an orchestra at London’s Union Chapel at which the film was followed by a snug and inspired selection of Christmas songs. Following those shows, Burrows booked himself into North Wales’ famously isolated residential studio Bryn Derwen to get to work.
“The Snowman really was the bridge between making a solo record in my bedroom (Company) and making this record,” says Burrows. “I suffered a slight block at the start of the record. I had about half a record. The track Watch Me Fall was there but it wasn’t quite right so Tom (Smith, Editors) helped me knock it into shape. I knew at Christmas time after those gigs that I needed to get in the studio to make an album even though I didn’t have the whole thing ready – I just knew it would come together.”
While a typically North Walian winter raged outside, in the studio Burrows and his band – a group he’s loyally worked with since their days as Razorlight road crew – channelled warmer climes. From the chain gang chant of first single As Good As Gone to the Lindsey Buckingham-esque Who Are You Now? via the freewheelin’ City To Coast, Fall Together Again has all the bliss and brightness of an open coast road in summer. It’s the record that will put Andy Burrows’ past way behind him and should see him recognised as one of our boldest and most consistent songwriters – not something he’s about to take for granted.
“I know we’re not in an easy time for music,” he says. “People aren’t giving out record or publishing deals all over the place, I’m very, very lucky to be allowed to make the records I want to make and I love doing this more than anything, it’s like being allowed to be a kid all of the time. I fucking love what I’m doing; I genuinely cannot wait for this record to be out as I couldn’t be prouder.”
Fall Together Again’s 11 songs begin resonating this autumn.
Time, then, to hail the return of the melody maker.