Michele Stodart, bass player with The Magic Numbers, released her debut solo album, Wide Eyed Crossing, last week on her own label Keepsake Records. The album has a very country and blues feel to it and it features Michele on vocals, guitars, double bass, drums, banjo, xylophones and percussion with guest vocals from Conor OâBrien of Villagers on Invitation To The Blues.
Dave Brown from Louder Than War spoke to Michele in a pub in Ealing about the new record, her touring plans and whatâs happening with The Magic Numbers.
The record has been three years in the making, being recorded around commitments with the band and wasnât initially intended for release.
Itâs been a long time in my head, probably 2009, around the time The Runaway (the third Magic Numbers album) came out when I went into the studio we were building and started recording whilst on tour with the band, and then grabbing the odd day here and there to finish it, well start it really, demoing different things. I wasnât even thinking about releasing anything at that point. Iâd talked to people about it. Itâs been ready about a year, and I decided I wanted to put it out and do it independently, start gigging it and get a band together. So for the last year, Iâve been playing gigs and doing support slots.
The songs are autobiographical and very personal to Michele and she initially had some reservations about laying them bare for everyone to listen to. She has however recently been displaying handwritten lyrics to the songs on her facebook page.
The songs for me are about particular times in my life, like growing up. Thatâs why I called it Wide Eyed Crossing, something thatâs kind of naÃ¯ve and then at the same time about being young.
The oldest song, Youâve Got A Hold Of My Heart, was written a long time ago and songs like Too Much Too Late which are quite recent. Theyâre songs about me, maybe not at this particular time, so going back theyâre quite hard to sing sometimes. You always go back to a particular place when you hear the words.
I wanted to do something with the lyrics. Theyâre quite personal to me and I think thatâs why it took so long for me to release the record. It was more something that I was doing that I didnât want to share with anyone, but it actually turned out alright.
When playing live with the Magic Numbers, Micheleâs stage persona catches the eye as she rocks out, hair flying across her face. The music on the new album, where she takes to the acoustic stage, is very different.
I figured it would give people the best of both worlds. With the band, itâs rocking out on the bass and on my record, itâs more from a singer-songwriter point of view. Itâs how I wrote them so thatâs how itâs come out. Iâm thinking of doing another record and going in with the band and recording it live so itâs more of a band kind of record.
Michele is about to embark on her debut solo tour in November and has put together a group of friends to perform with her.
The band is Matt, my boyfriend, who plays guitar, Steve Duffy, who plays drums, Andy Nelson, who plays bass, and Maddy who plays violin. Itâs nice that itâs friends basically, I wanted to do it that way really.
Weâre going out on the road in November, with the band, which is quite exciting really. This is the first time weâll have been out on tour as a band and weâve got some cool support bands. Itâs quite scary as well, doing the thing youâre supposed to do when a record comes out. The venues are much smaller than Iâm used to, but I really wanted to start from scratch. Itâs been nice playing to people so far who havenât heard the band and to spread the word that way really. Doing the support slots with Duke Special and Slow Club, thatâs been a real eye-opener for me, not having a dressing room or a rider, back to the basics.
Michele is releasing the album through traditional channels, but is aware of the importance of independent music stores to artists like her.
Itâs coming out through the big stores like HMV, Amazon and I-Tunes. I want to get it into independent stores and do some in-stores. Iâve got a few already, one in Union in Lewes on the day of the Brighton gig and Iâd love to do some more during the tour. But there doesnât seem to be so many around these days.
Whilst most artists would be concentrating on their debut album on such a tour, Michele plans to introduce another batch of new songs into the setlist.
Iâve got so many songs that Iâve written now that Iâd like to try and release a second album next year if it doesnât clash with anything. In the live shows, weâll be doing lots of new stuff really and those songs are a little more upbeat. Thereâs almost two sides to what I do, I could do a whole gig with strings (Maddy, and Leo from Good Books on Cello) and itâd be nice to do a bit of that on tour. Itâll be a really long set.
Despite the solo album coming out now, Michele has also been hard at work with The Magic Numbers and there should be some activity on that front early next year too.
Weâre at the moment mixing our fourth record which is sounding really great. We want to try and put it out early next year, in March time. The guys have been really supportive. Romeo has been the one who said we should do it, right back from the days we had Take Me Or Leave Me on the second album, we knew it was something I wanted to do. Itâs a bit weird seeing them out in the audience though.
Wide Eyed Crossing is out now on Keepsake Records and can be streamed in full at Soundcloud here (though not as a set).
The tour starts on November 15 in Manchester and takes in the following venues :
Thursday 15 November â Manchester Black Rooms
Friday 16 November â Leeds Cockpit 3
Saturday 17 November â Sunderland Independent
Monday 19 November â Edinburgh Electric Circus
Tuesday 20 November â Belfast McHughs
Wednesday 21 November â Dublin Academy 2
Friday 23 November â Cardiff Ifor Bach
Saturday 24 November â London Monto Water Rats
Wednesday 28 November â Brighton The Hope
Thursday 29 November â Oxford Jericho
Friday 30 November â Nottingham Bodega Social Club
Sunday 2 December â Bristol The Thunderbolt
All words by david Brown. More work by David on Louder Than War can be found here.