I’d been a fan of the band for awhile at that point, and it was surprising to hear the song playing on the sound system when you were shopping in certain stores, not to mention the ton of airplay that it got on radio.
It was one of those songs that just infected that whole area of mainstream music broadcasting in the States. For years we were given awards like for having the tenth most played record on American radio by a British writer, and all that kind of stuff. We celebrate that fact that it did well at radio, because as the songwriter, that song bought my house. So I’m not moaning about it. I put it on Twisted because I thought we needed a pop thing on there. I’m not one of these people who bemoan having a hit, that’s for sure. I’m really glad it was a hit. It’s not the best song I’ve ever written, but I understand the appeal.
Let’s talk about your new album. As you indicated, Del Amitri was a band known for guitars and drums, but this album is more acoustic, and includes strings. There’s a real homegrown feel to it.
I intended it to be a really sparsely produced thing, and I think I ended up perhaps not really achieving that. It became a little more lush than it should have been. But the idea for the sound of it was based on the first John Lennon solo record, which is a very stripped down kind of record. I wanted to try something, especially because Del Amitri were always overdub addicts. I wanted to get away from that. My responsibility as a solo artist … I wanted people just to hear me as a writer on his own. But of course I didn’t really follow that through. When you start with a very strict set of criteria for an album, you very quickly abandon them.
The original idea was to have no drums, just a little bit of acoustic guitar, and strings. That was what the whole record was supposed to sound like. It didn’t work out that way.
To me it still sounds pretty basic. It sounds like something you could have made in your living room. It has that sort of intimacy.
Well it was made in my living room. On the whole I did it by myself, with a drummer, in the house. He just did some drum tracks, and then I stuck some strings on top. There were a couple of tracks with a band.
The songs themselves seem to indicate that this is a breakup album in the tradition of Blood On The Tracks. Is that the case?
I suppose it is. That’s one of these things I’ve heard music journalists say about things like Tunnel Of Love or Blood On The Tracks. Those are albums that I particularly like. I think there’s a reason for that. Maybe if you’ve been in a band all of your life, and there’s a nice kind of resonance that when you break out of that relationship with a band, maybe it makes sense to be singing songs about coming out of relationships.
I just knew I wanted all of the songs to be very frank, and I wanted them all to be very honest love songs on the whole. I guess those things tend to be breakup songs. But I wasn’t deliberately trying to make a breakup record, although I like very few records that are made by people in bands who then make solo records, and the few that I do like tend to be breakup albums.
Originally the album was going to be called Rebound. There seem to be some obvious reasons for that. Why did you change the title?
Rebound had existed as a finished album, mastered and completed, for about a year and a half before it was released. One of the chief guys at Warner, who own Ryko, a guy called Jac Holtzman, was quite adamant that because at his behest I changed a couple of the tracks around, and I’d re-sequenced the album, that we change the title. He wanted to call it after the track, “What Is Love For” and I was really adamant that he was wrong, that it was cloying and sentimental. He put up a very good argument, and eventually he won the argument. I usually like to make my own mistakes, but I was persuaded by a very senior A&R advisor. I’m kind of glad I was. As soon as it was over, I e-mailed him and told him he was right. I would just rather that it was my idea. But it wasn’t.
Rebound was a great title for the original album. The album then changed slightly. Three songs moved off, and two songs moved on. The album did feel different. What Is Love For is a much better title for this record than Rebound.
What’s next for you after this tour?
I’m going to stay in Los Angeles at the end of the tour and try to pick up a few more shows. I’ve got more writing to do. I’d like to maybe finish another record before the end of the year. It depends how much writing I get done in L.A. I’ve got some festivals to do over the summer here. The main thing for me now is to write songs that lead me in a different direction from this first album. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, so I need to write another bunch of songs that drive me in one direction, because I don’t want to make another record like this. I think you can only get away with making one dour and rather tragic mess like this, and I don’t want to rub people’s faces in it.
Justin Currie released his first solo album, What Is Love For, in late 2007. He will be appearing at the House of Blues in Atlantic City on April 25, and at Joe’s Pub in New York City on April 26.