INTERVIEW: Sweet Baboo | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Like many natives of the North Wales countryside Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo, has a knack for creating idiosyncratic tunes that shimmer with sparkling, infectious melodies and an often piercingly witty, sometimes self-deprecating lyrical turn. It’s any wonder that Black has managed to release his latest album The Boombox Ballads, as he’s also been working with an increasingly large roster of artists (including Cate Le Bon, H Hawkline and Slow Club, as well as performing with and producing Euros Childs, The Pictish Trail and Gruff Rhys). On the LP though, Black channels latter day Scott Walker on what might be his best solo effort yet.

Ahead of his gig at The Cluny this week, I had a quick chat to Stephen about The Boombox Ballads, Christmas songs and his love of Bamburgh.

Your new album The Boombox Ballads has finally been released. There seems to be a real romantic flavour to it, has much changed since the recording of Ships?

I’m an old romantic at heart and wanted to make an overtly positive record. My outlook on life must have changed a bit since Ships. I have less to moan about, although anyone who knows me may disagree.

At the same time the album seems to flit around a variety of genres, did the music inspire the lyrics or vice versa?

A bit of both I guess. I tend to get stuck on a phrase and repeat it endlessly until I realise I need more than two lines to finish the song. With the Boombox Ballads I’ve had to force myself to sit down and write, edit, go back and take the woe is me bits, and then do it all over again. It was a lot easier when I was younger but I’m pretty proud of the lyrics on this album.

On the theme of the album, is there a story behind the track Two Magpies?

It’s about holidaying in West Wales.

“I’m an old romantic at heart and wanted to make an overtly positive record”

Harking back to the Motorhome Songs EP, You Are The Best Beach I Know is about Bamburgh, any plans to visit there when you’re on tour and why is it the best beach?

Unfortunately not, it’s a whistle stop tour of the North East this time round. We always try and encourage a day off to explore a bit of Northumberland if we can while on tour.

Does this love of Bamburgh lead to an equal fondness of the North East?

Yes, I love everything about the North East.

You seem to be constantly on tour, whether it be your own shows or with others. Does life on the road influence your music?

Not really, I guess the people I’m traveling with do but I tend to write mostly when I have a bit of time at home.

For someone on tour all of the time do you find it difficult to get time to record?

For anyone who knows me, I like to be incredibly organised so no it hasn’t been difficult so far. We have written a Christmas song that’s only half recorded and so will need to sneak a day in mid tour somewhere if we can.

Speaking of tours, what can we expect of your upcoming dates, will this be a solo tour, three piece or an even bigger band?

There’s five of us now (six including Oli the sound man) We’ve doubled in size. We thought we’d blow the budget for this one. Expect pyrotechnics.

Do you find there is a big difference when you play solo to when you play with a band? Does it change?

It’s a lonelier Travelodge experience when you play on your own. I’ve not toured Sweet Baboo with a band for ages so am really excited to try and recreate the new record live.

Sweet Baboo plays at the Cluny 2 on Friday 25th September.

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