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Roachford: ‘We need to help these independent music venues thrive’

If you were around in the late ’80s, chances are you’ll be instantly familiar with Roachford’s best-known hit and now, thanks to a very entertaining film from 10 years ago featuring comedian Steve Coogan’s most popular comic creation, lots of younger people are too.

Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill
Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill

The song of course is Cuddly Toy and the film is Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa. Memorably used in the opening sequence as Alan is driving to work (“Your fog lamps are on, there’s no fog!”), singer Andrew Roachford MBE, who lent his name to the band, reveals that it wasn’t originally intended for that part of the movie.

“That was a lot later on – fast forward a few decades and then I get a phone call from Steve Coogan’s people saying is it OK to put it in the end credits of his film because he loves it,” he recalls, “and I was like, ‘Yeah, of course, I’m a big Steve Coogan fan’.

“Then I get another call saying, ‘Well actually now he wants to write it into a scene in the film’ and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of cool too’. Who would say no to that? And I felt like, well it’s brought a whole other generation of people awareness to my music. It was something that was new to a lot of people because I got teenagers coming up to me saying, ‘Oh, we love that movie and that song’.”

Roachford’s tour throughout February and March is in support of Independent Music Venues, to help bring attention to its latest campaign #OwnOurVenues, which encourages the local music community to buy shares in owning its music venue.

This is something the singer is very passionate about. “Definitely, I always will be,” says Andrew, a patron for the Music Venue Trust. “I remember coming up doing gigs with my uncle and how exciting it was that there were venues that you could play.

“Even if they were small, you could play – and just seeing and going to these venues, hearing music that you had no idea existed and that’s kind of what it’s about. I’m really baffled when the UK powers-that-be don’t put enough support into these venues to keep them going, because obviously since the pandemic a lot of them are in danger of closing.”

Andrew, whose family are “generations deep” in music (he started performing on the club circuit at around 14 years old), adds: “New talent’s always being born, and where it’s being nurtured is often in these small venues where these people are cutting their teeth.

“But you don’t always get to hear that because it’s only a small amount of people that’s going to make it to mainstream radio and big venues, so you’ve got to sometimes look for the stuff – it’s out there, though.”

So which modern-day artists does Andrew admire? “I was talking about Lewis Capaldi,” he replies, “who I think is equally as talented as a singer as he is as a comedian. He’s quite funny, but then when he sings and his songwriting... and he’s very honest.

“That’s what I like about him; he’s very transparent in a way and I think that’s why he’s able to write such great, heart-wrenching songs because he’s not afraid of being vulnerable.”

Roachford tour poster
Roachford tour poster

The upcoming dates are billed as ‘An Evening with Roachford’ and the Cambridge gig falls on March 9. The tour follows the band’s acclaimed 2020 album Twice in a Lifetime, which landed an impressive five weeks of Radio 2 A-list airplay for the song High on Love and further support for singles Love Remedy and Gonna Be the One. The LP itself was also crowned Radio 2 Album of the Week.

Andrew, one of the most compelling and consistent rock and soul artists the UK has ever produced, has released 11 studio albums and several greatest hits collections, been sought after as a songwriter by the likes of Michael Jackson, Joss Stone and Chaka Khan, and consistently toured on his own and with contemporaries including Terence Trent D’Arby and The Christians.

“Supporting Terence was amazing,” remembers Andrew. “The first day’s soundcheck he turned up and was like, ‘Listen, I love what you do, you’re not supporting me – I’m going to put you up on the billing on the front of the venues. I’ve insisted that your name is up there next to mine’.

“He was showing me so much respect and love, that I loved it. And he was huge at the time, and it was mostly females in the audience, which at that time I didn’t mind – I wasn’t complaining! But it was kind of crazy because you’d go out on stage and see young girls fainting.

“They used to ‘fake-faint’ as well so that people would carry them out on a stretcher and they could get backstage, then all of a sudden they would be miraculously healed! It was kind of nuts. That was a whole other world for me.”

Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill
Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill

Roachford’s former guitarist Hawi Gondwe went on to work with Amy Winehouse, who “worked with a lot of musicians that worked with me,” notes Andrew, “I was kind of going, ‘Is she just working with musicians that worked with me?!’ It was a weird coincidence.”

Further cementing that connection, Twice in a Lifetime – which also includes a duet with UK queen of soul Beverley Knight – was produced by Jimmy Hogarth, who also collaborated with Winehouse, co-producing her debut album Frank. Several members of the late singer’s band also feature on Roachford’s most recent effort.

“It’s weird because the drummer who played on this album, Troy, he played with me before Amy Winehouse,” says Andrew, “and here we were working together again – it was like full-circle. Troy Miller, I used to call him ‘Cuddly Troy!’

“Then when I was on tour before I made the album, I was bumping into members of Amy Winehouse’s band because they were doing a tribute tour called Remembering Amy, and then we ended up in the studio together again. And I knew Amy – I met her before she blew up, when she was just starting out. She came up to me – she was a massive fan – and I remember saying to my brother, ‘She’s going to be something special, I can see it’.

As well as his work with Roachford, for the past 13 years Andrew has also been part of the highly successful supergroup Mike + The Mechanics, recording with Mike Rutherford’s post-Genesis band and playing live with them across the world, including an upcoming show at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in May.

“I know, I don’t stop, do I?” says Andrew. “I finish my own tour – and touring is full-on anyway but I love it – and then I go straight into rehearsals with Mike, and then we come back to Cambridge and do it all again.

“I’ve done Cambridge with Mike on a few occasions – we’ve done the Corn Exchange I think two or three times – so that’s going to be fun. It’s a very different thing than my tour, so I say to the fans out there it’s definitely worth checking both if you can, because they’re completely different.

“I do Cuddly Toy as well in the setlist with Mike, of course, so there’s some Roachford moments but it’s a very different thing.”

Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill
Roachford. Picture: Andy Cotterill

[Read more: Review: H.e.a.t turn on the heat at Cambridge Junction, Cambridge Junction receives £461,678 from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme]

See Roachford, with support from New Orleans-born (now London-based) soul artist Acantha Lang, who has been given equal billing, on Thursday, March 9, at Cambridge Junction (J1). Tickets, priced £25.50, are available at junction.co.uk. For more on Roachford, go to roachford.co.uk.

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