Monday, 28 November 2016

INTERVIEW Glenn Tilbrook

HE’S only recently stepped off a plane from America following a tour over there but already Glenn Tilbrook is back on the road in the UK.
This time though he’s without his long term friend, collaborator and fellow Squeeze band mate Chris Difford and instead heading off solo armed only with his guitar, mic and iPad, with his The Best Of Times show.
This tour takes in 42 dates in venues that criss cross the country and in a chat ahead of a stop at Blackheath Halls on December X the Charlton-based singer songwriter tells me it’s an aptly titled show.
“Yeah, life is good,” he says. “I’m in a good place at the moment, Chris and I are great, Squeeze is back together and we are being really creative, writing and recording new stuff which is fantastic. Not only that people still want to see us play live which is fantastic so we are still touring, selling tickets to shows and having a great time while we are on stage.
“Life is good and I’m very happy.”
His enthusiasm and bonne viveur is not only infectious but is clearly the real deal as throughout our chat he is full of wit and warmth and eager to talk about what he’s been up to in the past couple of years and what’s to come.
And, clearly not one to sit about and rest on his laurels, he says he’s looking forward to being back on home turf and entertaining the South London crowds in his own inimitable style.
“I’m a few weeks into the tour and it’s going great actually,” he says warmly. “I had three days off when we got back from America and then it was straight back out on the road. 
“I’m not one for sitting still,” he laughs. “It’s all a bit mental but I thrive on unpredictability and this sort of thing.
“Besides I love it. There is nothing better than looking out and seeing everyone in front going bonkers and having a good time.
“That’s what is great about Squeeze at the moment - as well as all those who’ve followed us for years we are getting all these kids coming to our gigs, going mad for the music - to see them having the best time is fantastic and so inspiring for us.
“We did Glastonbury last year. It was our first time on the main stage and it was mental! Just looking out on to that sea of faces and hearing them sing the songs back at us, it was one of the best gigs of my life.
“Home is definitely South London for me though, it always has been, so Blackheath will be special as it will be the home gig and I’m really looking forward to it.
“The Halls is such a great venue and I’ve played there many times - but it was once almost lost to the area.
“I’m old enough to remember when it was derelict and was closed for a good while. I’m so glad it was saved though. It is a great thing to have there, it’s such a beautiful building and it’s brilliant to see it the way it is now.
“So I’m excited to be back and seeing all those familiar faces and all those different generations - it’s these gigs that are the ones you cherish.”
The tour will he says be bit different from previous ones in that he doesn’t have any new solo material. Instead it will be a celebration of his songwriting prowess and will include as many of the hits as he can.
And if audiences shout out requests, so much the better - he says he’s prepared for anything, even any obscure requests from his extensive canon of work.
“One of the things that marks out my solo gigs is that I don’t work with a set list - it’s just me, my guitar and my iPad so I’m open to requests,” he says cheerfully.
“I get asked to play Tempted a lot but normally there is a really good mix of older and more recent stuff.
“If there are songs that I only half remember or if I get obscure requests I’ve got my iPad to help me so I can scroll through!
“It’s fun because I always have a go and it’s nice to ring the changes, and it means that no two gigs are the same. 
“With a Squeeze set it’s much more strict with a set list but I like the unpredictability of working on my own so it’s going to be a great night at Blackheath.
“I don’t have any new solo material as my attention at the moment is now back with Squeeze,” he adds. 
“I’m proud of all my solo work and there are some great songs but I’m equally proud of being back with the band and being creative with them - rather than being a tribute band to ourselves!”
And it’s clear throughout our chat that being back working with his fellow Squeeze band mates is something he’s delighted about.
Glenn and Chris got together in Deptford in 1973 and as Squeeze, made their recording debut with the Packet Of Three EP in 1977.
Since then with a few changes in personnel, not to mention acrimonious breakups, getting back together a few times, and surviving the ever changing musical landscape, the band has recorded and released more than 30 albums and sold millions worldwide.
They have also been responsible for some of the most enduring and catchy pop songs of the past 40 years including Tempted, Cool For Cats and Up The Junction and Glenn and Chris’s songwriting partnership has been compared to that of Lennon and McCartney.
And as well as his work with the band, Glenn, who has lived in South London his entire life, has enjoyed huge success as a solo artist and as a duo with Chris.
Following the release of Glenn’s solo album Happy Ending in 2014, he and Chris embarked on the critically acclaimed At Odds Couple acoustic tours in both the UK and America and a year later, with their Squeeze bandmates, they wrote, recorded and released their first album of new material in 18 years.
Crade To The Grave was written for the BBC drama of the same name and was inspired by Going To Sea in A Sieve, the memoirs of their friend and broadcaster Danny Baker. 
“Chris and I were in different spaces at the time and actually it took making this record, to focus and work on something creative, to force us to do something together again,” says Glenn.
“We had gone our separate ways and it was acrimonious for a while which was a shame.
“I think in the 90s Squeeze had got a bit lazy, a bit too comfortable and we didn’t push ourselves hard enough. 
“That was back then and we’re in a different place now fortunately and when the opportunity came to make this record it was absolutely right.
“It’s from Danny Baker’s book about his childhood,” he adds. “Chris and Danny went to school together and we are all about the same age so it was like reading about our childhood too in many ways.
“We knew each other growing up and I’d met Danny when I was in my teens so I knew him from then, albeit vaguely.
“I read his book when it came out and it was amazing. It was all about South East London and so it was all so familiar to me. I rang him up and he said he was working on a TV series and so we met and were there right from the beginning really. 
“It meant we could tailor our songs around it. It was great fun and really good for us.
“They are talking about a sequel so who knows, maybe we’ll get asked back!”
In the meantime, he says the tour comes first and then it’s all about Squeeze, promising a batch of new material when they get back into the studios in Charlton in January.
“There will definitely be a new album out,” he enthuses. “We are already writing for it which is exciting. It’s great to get the creative juices again and we’re going great guns at the moment.
“We have a brilliant band who are all so talented and all local to the area - we are just enjoying it all again.”

Glenn Tilbrook, The Best Of Times, is at Blackheath Halls, on Sunday, December 11. Tickets cost £23. Visit or call the box office on 020 8463 0100.

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