Moving back to London from a sun-soaked lifestyle of LA has revitalised Miles Kane.
The Rearrange star, who broke onto the scene with The Rascals before establishing himself as a solo artist and one half of Last Shadow Puppets with Arctic Monkeys pal Alex Turner, decided to move back to Blighty in 2018 and, in his words, get back to “reality’.
“It was really fun over there while it lasted”, Kane tells Daily Star. “While we were doing (Last Shadow) Puppets, it made sense.
“But getting back down to reality, when you pop that bubble, it was getting a bit of a lonely place. I felt like I had no worth there and it felt like it wasn’t home anymore. I was definitely ready to come back. It did me the world of good. Mentally and psychically.”
Settling in the “comfortable” surroundings of east London’s Bethnal Green, the 35-year-old threw himself into writing his fifth studio album, the follow-up to 2018’s top 10 album-charting Coup de Grace, taking inspiration from everything from Northern Soul and r&b to Motown and classic rock.
The result is Change the Show, a record born from a process that Kane describes as “free-flowing” and “therapeutic”, with songs that “were connecting with me and feeling new, free and exciting”.
“It was the most fun I’ve had making a record”, Kane says defiantly.
And it shows. Songs like the soaring anthem See Ya When I See Ya and the infectious, 60s-tinged soulful rock & roll album opener of Don’t Let It Get You Down, which features a brilliant cameo from Paul O'Grady as Lily Savage, are Kane at his confident and energetic best.
He gave fans a taste of what to come – and a few old favourites thrown in – at a handful of shows towards the end of summer, including a packed out, frenzied “mega” show at London’s Omeara.
“For me, I live to play gigs wherever it is”, Kane adds. “To feel that again it’s incredible. I just want more of it now, to be honest.”
And with a new, triumphant album under his belt, fans will be in for a treat when he returns with a UK tour at the beginning of 2022.
Daily Star’s Rory McKeown caught up with Kane to talk about Change the Show’s creation and influences, his move from LA to London, his evolution as an artist, and enjoying a natter with Paul O’Grady.
Hi Miles. How can you sum up the past year or so for you? Has it been a fruitful period? Any challenges along the way?
“Loads of challenges. Last year seems quite distant to where we are now but it was up and down like a yo-yo. Sometimes I was glad of the quiet and the stillness for a moment and then completely missed everything. I found it hard at times, like anyone. It was a rollercoaster of emotions.
“You’re used to highs and lows in life with the career I’ve had in music in general. It’s peaks and troughs. Your mind is wired to deal with it because you’ve been through it.”
It does seem to be getting back to some sense of normality now. I was at your Omeara show. It must be great to be back out there?
“That was a mega show. It was our fourth one. We’ve had a teaser of it. January is the next one.
"For me I live to play gigs wherever it is. To feel that again it’s incredible. I just want more of it now, to be honest.”
You return with your new album Change the Show in January. Tell me about its writing and recording process. When did it get underway?
“I did it last September/October. The writing of it has been over a two or three year period from my last album.
"With albums, you start with an idea before exploring different avenues. There were a bunch of songs that stuck out for me that were in contrast to the album before, which was glam rocky and heavier rock and roll. They were connecting with me and feeling new, free and exciting. They were still upbeat but still on that Motown tip.
"See Ya When I See Ya and Nothing’s Ever Gonna Be Good Enough were resonating with me. All the other songs fell into place around that. It was this natural process to make this quite grand, souly album. It was something I’d always wanted to do and it felt like the right move to go.”
How can you compare it to your previous albums?
“Every album you say it’s the most me, I’m trying to not say that! I guess there’s a certain thing that everyone does feel like that. You’re in it and whatever your latest thing is, that’s your obsession. It was the most I’ve enjoyed writing lyrics. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with writing lyrics over the years.
“Sometimes they flow out, sometimes it’s a real struggle. With this one, it was a flowing process. I’m not afraid to go inside and say it how it is. I don’t know if that comes a bit with age as well. It probably does. That has helped my songwriting, in a way. I’m quite matter of fact and I’m not afraid to say how I feel and say what I’ve been through. These songs really portray that picture of real life emotions.”
You’re quoted as saying the album was penned during an “intense period of self-reflection” through “unexpected time” on your hands, leading to songs about “big highs and lows”, daydreams, friendship and deep feelings, and the most “honest songs you’ve ever written”. As a songwriter, how did you get into the mindset to tap into these themes?
“I find a lot of these songs are if you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. We all have the devil and angel in our minds and sometimes those voices get really loud. It’s hard to take those things face on and challenge them and overcome them. It’s therapeutic.
"Emotions can be so extreme at times. Whether you’re doing therapy, talking to your mate at the pub, talking to your mum or writing songs, for me it’s black and white of how much I need it.
“Even now I love doing a gig. It’s the best thing ever. The fulfilment of an ego is the best feeling ever. I still get that high. Even going to the studio to put down a demo. You’ve got this new song and you’re walking home listening to it. It tops up your batteries . Putting fresh batteries in the remote each time you doing something creative.”
Were you consuming anything for inspiration – either personally or musically?
“I just write for me. This one’s not so much about relationships and stuff like that, it’s about dealing with the s*** things in life. It’s everything I go through in life. That’s what people will be able to pick up on.”
On Change the Show, you delve into classic rock, Motown, soul, 50s r&b and glam. What was it like seeing the record blossom? How did the experience compare to your previous releases?
“The first one was the tune for Tell Me What You’re Feeling. We made it a full on Northern Soul tune. It was like ‘oh my god!’. You don’t want to be a pastiche. There are so many retro-sounding bands. I don’t want to be that and I don’t think I am that. But if you set out to make a Motown album, you’re already putting yourself in that bracket. I’m very conscious that I don’t want it to be the case in my thing.
"It’s about making it as exciting as possible. That music is what I listen to and what turns me on. It opens on a melancholic note and it’s quite a slow tune. I wanted that to set the scene.
"Lyrically, I think it’s really strong. It’s a pretty upbeat album. When we were recording it, it was so pleasurable. It was the most fun I’ve had making a record. It was me and the lads. It kept flowing. ‘Let’s try that, let’s try that’. There was this consistency and energy that brought it all together. You can hear that. I’d say this one is the most consistent of being in one little world.”
Do you think that enjoyment has come with experience?
“There’s a never ending surge or enjoyment to making music. It’s what you hold dearly. It’s exhausting at times but it’s what keeps you going. There’s never a pinnacle when you sit back and think ‘I’m done now’.
"With age, as soon as I hit 30, I’m 35 now, you give less f***s than what people think, you’re not searching to please anyone else. You get to the place in life where this is who you are. You know who more of who you are and who you want to be. When you feel that in your life, it transcends that in your music. That’s all I try to do, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do, and it’s what I’ll continue trying to do.”
You team up with Corinne Bailey Rae for the special duet Nothing’s Ever Gonna Be Good Enough. What was it like working with her? Did you set out to have a feature on the album at the beginning of the process?
“She’s an old friend of mine. She’s mega. She sang on my first album. We’ve always flirted with the idea of writing together but it’s never really transcended.
“We were having a bit of back and forth, sending each other new songs and demos. She said she was obsessed with this tune. I was like ‘we could make the into a duet if you fancy it’.
"Lyrically I wanted to do a Tina Turner, River Deep Mountain High thing. It’s back and forth. It’s not a duet where someone is singing on the chorus. In the verses you’re singing to each other. I’ve always had that obsession.
"We worked on the verses and redid new lyrics and made it into this amazing duet. It feels like a duet and sounds like a duet. I’m so excited for that one to come out and for people to hear it. Fingers crossed, I’ve got a good feeling about that tune. There’s something special about that.”
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I love the addition of Paul O’Grady’s Lily Savage line on the album. Turns out he nailed it first time, didn’t he?
“Originally, it was a Lily Savage sample. In the studio I was getting inspiration watching Lily Savage outtakes. It’s a mad idea but that line is topical, it’s very in the moment. For some reason, I was imagining that quote opening a gig or an album or song. Cut the story short, we ended up sticking it on Don’t Let It Get You Down.
"The management were like ‘obviously we’re getting rid of that sample’. I was like ‘no, no, no, this has become the creation of this whole thing’. In my head, people may think I’m absolutely psychotic but it makes perfect sense.
"We couldn’t get the rights. We contacted him and it turns out he’s a big fan of mine and has got all my albums. Me and him had this hour long conversation on the phone. I was p***ing myself on the phone for an hour. He’s such a lovely guy. He was like ‘I’ll rerecord it for you before my radio show’. He did it for me and all I can say is what a lovely geezer. An absolute legend.”
You moved back from LA to Bethnal Green back in 2018. What is the biggest difference between the two? Do you think either has an effect on you creatively? Is there a contrast on how you feel in each place?
“100%. Moving back to London, around here the energy and the people remind me of back home. My work and my thing is here. It was really fun over there while it lasted.
"While we were doing (Last Shadow) Puppets, it made sense. But getting back down to reality, when you pop that bubble, it was getting a bit of a lonely place. I felt like I had no worth there and it felt like it wasn’t home anymore. I was definitely ready to come back. It did me the world of good. Mentally and psychically. Hands down.”
London is one of music capitals. There’s so much going on and to see…
“For me it still feels good. I feel comfortable. I wasn’t feeling comfortable over there back then. When you get like that, it’s quite a weird place to be in.”
Although the album isn’t out yet, will you take anything from this process going on to your next material/projects? Are you already thinking ahead?
“I am, to be honest. I’m writing songs, I’ve got a couple of decent ones. I haven’t quite got a full vision for it but I’m at this place now where I just want undeniably great songs. Whether it’s more soul, rock or whatever it may be, I don’t think it really matters. That’s all my focus is on at the minute. I want to have blinkers on and see if I can keep topping my previous thing.”
Looking back on your career, from The Rascals to your solo career and Last Shadow Puppets, moving to LA and back to the UK, how do you think you’ve evolved as an artist? What stage do you think you’re at right now?
“When you say it like that, it has been some kind of journey. In Rascals, I was 18. It’s over 15 years. You could write a f****** trilogy film about it! I feel like I’m nowhere close to being where I want to be. I still feel how I feel on my first record in a mad way in terms of that drive, fire, that mix of emotions inside you, it’s pretty prominent.
“It’s hard at times. You think ‘it’s not going to be good enough’ at times. It hasn’t been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination. We’re going to keep on going.”
We mentioned the Omeara show earlier. You must be really eager to get back out there?
“The album’s out end of Jan and the tour for that is Jan/Feb. With those gigs, the Omeara one and some of little festivals, you have the carrot dangled. When you’ve got a couple of months, you try and keep busy writing and stuff.
"We’ve got a couple of songs to drop, like the Corrine duet and See You When I See You, that will be exciting for people to listen to it and I hope they dig it. Gigs-wise, I can’t wait for next year.”
Miles Kane’s Change the Show is out on January 21 via BMG
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