Best known for being the bassist and vocalist in Wet Wet Wet…
The world didn’t know what had hit it when Wet Wet Wet stormed the music scene in the 80s and with a string of hits such as Wishing I was Lucky, Angel Eyes Sweet Little Mystery and the likes.
But does the world know what they’re about to get after the famous Graeme Clark tweet that he’s going solo last year?
Now there’s a sweet little mystery…
In an upbeat Italian eatery on a sunny Maida Vale early in October 2012 Graeme joined me to chat about his life, thoughts and what he’s been up to these days.
His tousled blonde grey locks, boyish charm and humble mannerisms are far from some of the two-minute wonder boys we get in the charts these days… He orders a simple scrambled egg on toast breakfast with a large coffee whilst I indulge in a luxurious Italian hot chocolate…
Q. How do you feel about being a solo act since you announced your departure from one of the world’s most famous bands of the 80s and 90s?
A. Well, you know I’m a musician first and so it’s a natural thing. I’m really enjoying it. I love playing live.
Q. How do you feel before you go out on stage?
A. Ahhh do get stage nerves. Every time I go on I get stage nerves.
Q. So how do you deal with it?
A. I just have to manage it… But once I play the first two songs… I get a lot of gratification out of it, a lot of erm satisfaction. Job satisfaction. I’m kind of seeing something that is erm fulfilling.
‘Before getting on stage, I ask myself, why am I doing this? But then after the second song I get comfortable.’
Q. What’s you favourite way of conversing with your fans?
A. I love gigging… I was playing in Belfast recently and I played ‘See you Everywhere I Go’ and found that it was good to play acoustically and put things together differently.’
Q. You’re a small outfit now, how do you manage with the rigs?
A. It’s provided for by the places I go. It’s going back to basics but it’s far more exclusive…I’ve been lucky enough to play all over the world to very appreciative audiences’
‘I would say you need more skills for a small environment… I should be more nervous in a big arena but it’s more nerve racking with a smaller audience… because maybe people can see what you’re doing… ‘
He believes that people are ‘sick and tired’ of going into an arena… ‘it’s so 90s man’… so rather than most of an arena audience looking at a big screen and wondering if that’s who I’ve paid to see, they’d rather go to a smaller gig and get a more intimate and personal experience… people like George `Michael would probably be more happy playing in a smaller environment.’
‘There’s a value with a wider audience but that is not to my taste.’
Q. Mr. Understanding is your first album, do you have some fave tracks?
A. When I’m Away with You, Kiss of Life and When I’m Away from You.
When I’m Away from You is an old Frankie Miller tune and I found that I had to change key which changed the whole timbre of the song. That made it interesting.
Q. Where did you get the mid-Atlantic accent from Me and The Devil Inside?
A. Ochhh, Graeme chuckles, that’s from the Wet side.
Q. Do you find that you get compared with Marti and Wet Wet Wet often?
A. Ochhh, all the time (he chuckles…)
Graeme is very conscious of bringing in his old band colleagues onto his album. Marti Pellow has his magic on songs and the other band members do too but ultimately, ‘I have to separate that all out because otherwise it becomes a big mess’.
Q. Where do you get inspiration for you songs?
A. From all sources… I’m always looking for a song… When I was thirteen my father died. A part of my mourning, I did through a musical instrument (guitar) and I did a lot of grieving. At that time you didn’t really know how to deal with things like that. I was a wee teenager, so I had no idea how to do that so basically it became a very natural thing for me.
I don’t really have ideas musically, I have ideas lyrically’.
I’ve got an iPhone and it’s got a great built in app, which allows me to quickly write down my thoughts for songs. I also have a couple of other software tools that are handy when writing songs.
The way we are today is like I need it now! But writing a song, takes time to develop and shape and that’s ‘my belief and it works’ with my ideas on songs.
Even with the Wets – some ideas were kind of like a red herring and some weren’t so that’s my idea of writing songs. Some you start writing and they take you somewhere and others are like red herrings…
‘If I write something nice, the melodies just follow the chords in the right sense’.
‘I like songs that have melodic substance that speaks to me.’
If you get this right : ‘The right melody, over the right words, over the right music, then you can really connect with people but you gotta get the three right and that’s my goal, every time I write a song!
Initially the album was intended to be an EP but as I went on I found that it was developing into much more than a six-track compilation.
Q. What’s your take on reality tv shows like X Factor and the likes?
A. Don’t watch ‘em. If you don’t watch ‘em then you wont get hooked… its not the place it used to be like 25 years ago… Just look at Opportunity Knocks. You know people like Lenny Henry.
The pressures of getting an advance to make hit songs makes me think…why would you want to do that?
‘I’ve no desire to be Gary Barlow or be on the X Factor or anything like that… Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a money making machine… we had all that… it never changed me… not to the extent that I felt I was on a different planet’.
Nuff said there!
Q. What bands do you like?
A. I’m a big fan of The Beatles, George Harrison, John Lennon…
Q. Who would you like to work with?
A. I like great acoustic singer songwriters so people like Nick Lowe and Neil Finn. I would love to do some stuff with them. These are real songwriters.
On the music front:
I’d love to aspire to be a jazz musician… but I’m always deeply aware that I’m not a jazz musician… I know a lot of jazz musicians who are really poor… that’s the way of the world… people don’t understand jazz in the way they understand pop culture.’ And of course when your uncle is the great Jimmy Mullen then that would be a hard act to follow.
But? I’m a bit of a cowboy musician. I love Fleetwood Mac and Rumours and the likes of Lindsey Buckingham but ‘I don’t play for four or five hours’.
Q. Would you consider yourself a spiritual type of chap?
He chuckles as he says, ‘I was brought up as a West Scotland, working class kind of guy… Music speaks to me… I’m not spiritual as such… you know, it’s easy to be spiritual when you’ve got a few bob in your pocket’.
‘I know a guy who’s a multi-millionaire, multi-billionaire almost…and he said to me, you wrote a song and it touched people, now that to me is spirituality’.
That’s a pretty deep reference from a wee chap from West Scotland, fiercely proud of his roots and a passion for music at its purist level…from the heart.
Graeme Clark was talking to Lisa Kalloo