MY INSPIRATION: Wreckless Eric | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of a performance and reading of his new book, A Dysfunctional Success, at North Shields’ Engine Room on Saturday 1st June, much-loved songwriter and author Wreckless Eric tells a personal tale about the inspirations behind his creativity.

The inspiration for my previous three albums, amERICa (2016), Construction Time & Demolition (2018), and Transience (2019), came almost entirely from living and touring in America. Before the pandemic I spent a lot of time in England, mostly in the seaside town of Cromer in Norfolk.

I returned to the US days before the lockdown. I think I caught Covid going through immigration at JFK airport. I had it badly and almost died of complications. The recovery was long. So, while other artists performed Zoom concerts, or posted scintillating new tracks on an almost daily basis, I retired to my studio and pretty much lived in my head. I felt okay when I was recording – I could at least do it it sitting down. Singing was almost impossible to begin with so I recorded random sketches, instrumentals, songs without words, and backing tracks for songs I couldn’t yet sing.

I thought about my time in Cromer and my upbringing on the south coast just outside Brighton. I don’t know quite when it happened but somehow I invented a seaside town – Standing Water. It was inspired by Cromer, by Brighton in the sixties and early seventies, and by just about every British seaside town I’ve ever been to. The touristic view of seaside towns is that they boom, but the reality is more often than not quite grim: seasonal employment, regional poverty, and a housing shortage due to a massive increase in second home ownership and holiday rental accommodation.

Seaside towns never look pretty, that is they do from a distance, but never close up. It’s less obvious now with plastic replacement windows and heaven knows I’ve suffered the thin, single-glazed windows, vibrating in rotting, paint-flaked frames, but I still yearn for that particular seaside shabbiness. Now it’s down to the seagulls, airborne rats, pecking at bin liners, feasting on the remains of Kentucky Fried Chicken – yes, this really is a thing – the gutters are filled with chicken bones.

I returned to England when the restrictions were lifted and trawled through my collection of recordings. There was a lot. Some of it seemed nonsensical, but isn’t that the nature of these things? I carried on recording, working things out, building tracks, taking them apart, reconstructing and assembling, and suddenly I had an album. Leisureland.

We moved back to England, we being me and my wife, the singer, songwriter and artist, Amy Rigby. After thirteen years in upstate New York with it’s life-threatening weather – sub-zero winters and hot, humid summers – we love the temperate greyness. We put on our hats and raincoats and brave the promenade.

Wreckless Eric plays The Engine Room, North Shields on Saturday 1st June.


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