Irish singer-songwriter Andy White plays The Greys in Brighton on Monday, November 21 in support of the release of his box set Studio Albums 1986-2016, a collection of all 12 of his studio albums including new album Imaginary Lovers (also available separately).
Half of the albums are pre his move to Australia; half are post, though he prefers to see each album as a separate chapter in its own right.
“The first one is about growing up in Ireland,” he explains. “It is not all about politics though much of it is. The second is about going outside Ireland for the first time. The third one is back living in the countryside and not having the pressure of the record label. The fourth is about eastern Europe. The fifth is about having a baby. The fifth is post-ALT (a trio with Tim Finn of Split Enz and Liam Ó Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers)… So no, I don’t really see the difference between the first half and the second half.”
But certainly there is an element of drawing a line in bringing them all together in this way.
“People are still just about buying CDs, and this seemed like another watershed moment. It is 30 years since my first album came out, and in many ways that is quite a big deal. 30 years since that first one is a big anniversary. I have sold out of four or five of them, and it seemed better to just make them all again rather than ordering separate ones.”
As a teenager in the Belfast portrayed in indie film Good Vibrations, listening to punk, folk, and Beatles albums, Andy grew up writing poetry and playing bass. He picked up the guitar when a friend threw a 12-string out of the window of a first-floor flat in University Street, and recorded Religious Persuasion in a field in County Antrim with school friend Rod McVey.
Stiff Records released the Religious Persuasion EP during the 80s acoustic revival spearheaded by The Pogues. The Whistle Test and Janice Long championed Andy as he started playing shows in the UK. When Stiff bit the dust, he was signed by London Records who released Rave On Andy White in October 1986. Melody Maker pronounced “Yer Man’s Brilliant!”, Andy opened for Van Morrison on tour, and then Billy Bragg with whom he shared UK manager Peter Jenner.
Andy has been in Australia for about 12 years now: “I have spent a long time on tour until the past couple of years, but this is definitely home now. This is my base. It seemed like the right time to change. You have got to reinvent yourself as an artist. You have got to do it creatively and you have got to do it in your life if you are lucky enough to have the chance to do so.
“There are as many people in Melbourne as there are in Ireland, and it has got a really good indie scene and a really good acoustic scene. And there is space. I have got a studio here. It is really great place to be.
“But I will always be Irish. My identity is as an Irishman, and within myself I have always been examining the identity of somebody from the north of Ireland, though I had never thought about it in global terms. But I am lucky that the Irish identity is a musical identity and that means that you can travel anywhere.”
Andy reckons he gets to play the UK every 18 months or so, and he is delighted to be including The Greys on the current tour: “The Greys is somewhere I have played for a long, long time under the various characters that have owned it. It seems to me that the constant at The Greys is the beautiful room that you play in. Usually the atmosphere there is just fantastic.”
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