Tim Burgess on “I Love the Sky”
Scaling New Peaks
Oct 23, 2020
Photography by Cat Stevens Issue #67 – Phoebe Bridgers and Moses Sumney
Despite 30 years in the game with The Charlatans and as a solo artist, Tim Burgess’ sense of wonder and enthusiasm for making and discovering new music remains undiminished. When we discuss the 5-star reviews for his latest solo album I Love the Sky, he’s full of gratitude. “Even The London Evening Standard gave five stars,” he recalls with genuine enthusiasm, “and they aren’t easy to impress.”
The album was slowly put together rather than Burgess cramming in solo projects between working with The Charlatans and touring. “This time I felt had all the time in the world,” he reflects. “It felt very natural and unrushed, almost casual but also thoughtful. I started just strumming away and began recording some voice memos.”
The first three songs Burgess wrote for the album—“Sweetheart Mercury,” “Empathy For the Devil,” and “Undertow”—are all very different from each other, but they did share the fact that they were originally composed on a guitar, and Burgess knew he wanted to record them on a piano. “When I had a clutch of songs I liked I started talking with Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan, and began sending ideas over and talked about my dad a lot who was very sick at the time,” Burgess says. His dad passed away in April, after the album was finished.
It’s an album that has an abiding sense of optimism and one that seems to have resonated with critics and fans alike during the lockdown. When asked about what inspired the album, Burgess’ love of music again shines through. “Everything and anything, I’m always listening,” he enthuses. “One minute it could be The Dead Kennedys’ Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, next up it could be Yes or anything in between. A record I played a lot around that time was Sad About the Times, a compilation on Mexican Summer,” Burgess says, referencing a collection of 1970s folk, soft rock, power pop, and late night jams.
Burgess says that touring with the London-based power pop/indie punk five-piece Average Sex last year in support of Independent Venue Week really inspired him. “If I hadn’t have done that I probably wouldn’t have realized that a solo album was the next thing up for me,” he says. “I’m inspired by everything, like Dexys, Ariel Pink, The Cure, Crass, Average Sex, but I don’t want to sound like anything!”
The release of I Love the Sky on Bella Union was pushed back by two months due to COVID-19, from March to May, but Burgess wasn’t keen to push it back any further. “I wanted people to have something to listen to,” he explains, “also I feel when you stop something it kind of loses something. Maybe it was destined to come out during a lockdown as part of a global pandemic.”
Burgess has never been the sort of person to sit back on his laurels and play the hits, he’s always looking forwards, be it releasing new artists (including Average Sex) on his own record label O Genesis Recordings, or his Tim Peaks Diner festival showcases that give young bands a platform at various festivals around the UK. When asked what keeps him going Burgess responds: “I’ve just always been into music, perhaps the only time I wasn’t into it was when was I was partying too much. I mean, I still liked it but my first love became having a good time. It’s a phase we all seem to go through, but maybe mine lasted too long. But music has always been the thing that makes me tick. I’m always looking for new music and I love sharing other people’s music, it makes you feel part of a big musical community.”
[Note: This article originally appeared as a bonus article in the digital version (for tablets and smart phones) of Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]