INTERVIEW: Our Man In The Field | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Saltburn-born/London-based Americana artist Our Man In The Field (AKA Alex Ellis) recently dropped his third album Gold On The Horizon, a gorgeous collection of songs that reflect his many years spent as an actor developing an understanding of people. “I am interested in people who’ve got vocations and do things that I couldn’t do, and that the validation for those kinds of people isn’t a financial reward or celebrity.”

Playing music casually since he was 16, Ellis’ emergence as a serious musician came about through a random performance to an actor friend that eventually kickstarted his career. “I was playing one night and he was like, ‘that’s pretty good, you should record it’. So we did a basic recording and he sent it off to BBC Introducing, and Tom Robinson played it on his show that night.”

The instant recognition paired with a change in outlook that came from being hospitalised to treat a tumour a decade ago, instilled a drive and determination to carve out a career as a musician. “You’ve got to be honest with yourself. And was I taking the easy road or was I getting distracted because, you know, there was a comfortable version of the life I could have happening…It did make me sit up and go, ‘right, I need to push myself a bit harder’.”

I am interested in people who’ve got vocations and do things that I couldn’t do

The result was Our Man In The Field. Inspired by the journalistic writings of Steinbeck and Kerouac and acknowledging our biased media, the artist finds himself deep within the situations his music paints and in turn offers listeners a fuller picture. “I thought of Our Man In The Field as one of those kind of correspondents who could try and get to the place where the people involved are, and write about their experience. So it’s not really supposed to be about me. It’s supposed to be this person bringing you something that you might not have thought about, even though you might know about the situation.”

Sonically, the album is warm, atmospheric and driven by Ellis’ intricate guitar style and soulful vocal (which contains flickers of David Gray, Damien Rice and Ryan Adams), adorned with evocative instrumental and vocal arrangements reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or Michael Kiwanuka, to create scope and space for the lyrics to flourish.

It was produced by Tucker Martine (The National, Modest Mouse), whose passion for the project, as Ellis explains, was there from the off. “I’d sent each of the producers their own Soundcloud link so I could see who was listening to what. And some of them came back and they hadn’t listened, as far as I could tell… Whereas Tucker had listened to it hundreds of times. Whenever I spoke to him on the phone, it was like his enthusiasm and his level of detail was light years ahead. So it was a really easy decision.”

The tour supporting the album sees Our Man In The Field return to his native North East, with gigs at The Cluny 2 and Saltburn Theatre. And for those worried that the lushness of the album won’t translate live, then have no fear. “We’ve got a proper four-part harmony going on. And we’ve managed to get the live arrangements… There’s a really full sound.”

Our Man In The Field plays The Cluny 2, Newcastle on Saturday 17th and Saltburn Theatre on Sunday 18th February.

 

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