AS the weather gets colder and more wintery…
it seems only appropriate I arrive at the foot of Winter Mountain. I speak to the talented songwriter about his latest track, Platinum & Gold, and what it is like being lauded by the likes of BBC Radio 2. I Swear I Flew, his album, was released last year – this is where Platinum & Gold comes from. I ask whether there is going to be more material and what the album was inspired by; the artists, new and old, that inspire his sound – and what 2018 has in store.
I discover what one can expect from a Winter Mountain gig and how he got into music; what he is up to this Christmas; being inspired by the Irish countryside; singing alongside Seth Lakeman; advice he would give to new artists – and why Bruce Springsteen is such an important artist.
Hi, Winter Mountain. How are you? How has your week been?
It’s been wonderful, thank you. I’ve just completed a U.K. tour with the band. It’s been incredible fun.
Looking forward to chilling out now.
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Joseph Francis - and my stage-name Winter Mountain. Winter Mountain began life as a duo after me and the Irish songwriter Marty Syth met on a train heading southbound from Chicago to Memphis. We wrote, recorded and toured for a few years. We got signed to Cara Dillon’s indie label and released an album.
Shortly afterwards; Marty split and I’ve carried on solo.
Platinum & Gold is your new release. Can you tell me about the background to the track?
It’s about making a choice between love and fear. It’s about growth and determination - recognising your faults and harnessing the powers we possess within for making our world a better place.
It’s about not backing down...
It features backing vocals by Seth Lakeman. How did you come to meet him?! What do you think he brings to the song?
Seth is a great friend...
We first met through his brother Sam - who was managing Winter Mountain at the time. He’s been kind enough to invite me to open shows for him a lot in recent years; we’ve collaborated on a few different things now.
Your album, I Swear I Flew, gained rave reviews and kudos. Was it quite a surprise seeing such a huge and positive reaction?
The response has been great.
When you have your head and heart so deeply into your creativity and art; it’s impossible to know how anyone else may feel about it…so I’m very pleased.
The record was written and recorded between Ireland; the wild and beautiful north coast of Cornwall and across a stark, awe-inspiring winter spent in the French Alps. How important was the scenery in regards your inspiration and writing?
Natural imagery plays a huge part in my lyrics.
It’s not so much a stylistic choice as an honest representation of the world around me. I grew up walking the beaches, the coast path; the woodlands of Cornwall. As an adult, I spent five years living in Ireland. There’s not a more magical place on Earth. Also, when you’re surrounded by that scenery - as beautiful and wild as those places possess - your imagination is free to soar.
It seems like you take a lot of guidance from Ireland and its music. What is it about the music/country that compels you?
Ireland has a soul that is deep and dark and ancient. There is nowhere else on Earth where you can feel, at once, so close to both the divine and the primal.
It’s magical. The people are poets and warriors.
Are there going to be more singles from the album? Are you working on new material?
I’m working on new material at the moment. I can’t wait to get out there! I’ve spent a year touring I Swear I Flew – so; the time is right to start cultivating the new music.
Your music draws inspiration from the likes of Bruce Springsteen. Is he a hero of yours? What sort of music were you raised on?
Sure. I love The Boss. He’s a phenomenal songwriter and he has a wonderful, passionate and old-school work ethic when it comes to performing live - that I take a great deal of inspiration from.
My parents raised me on contemporary Pop (it was the 1980s, so we’re talking: The Police, David Bowie; Dire Straits, Don Henley; Stevie Nicks, Peter Gabriel...) and, at the same time, the Folk revival/singer-songwriter movement of the late-sixties/seventies (Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens; James Taylor, Joni Mitchell; Bob Dylan, Neil Young; Simon & Garfunkel… and the greatest band of all time, The Beatles!). I’m also pretty crazy about The Waterboys and Led Zeppelin.
The list is endless...
IN THIS PHOTO: Lianne La Havas/PHOTO CREDIT: Alex Lentati
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
IN THIS PHOTO: William The Conqueror
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan; Abbey Road by The Beatles and Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen.
I could write page after page about why I love these records but the best thing to do is take them out and take a lesson. You’ll get it!
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Do it because you love it. Be prepared to work very hard and to be skint for longer than you may think. Keep moving, keep reading; keep watching, keep travelling. You need to keep that creativity alive...
Also; if there is an artist or band on stage in the same room as you, then don’t talk throughout the set.
You are touring at the moment. What have been your highlights so far? Have you got any more dates for next year?
The travelling and tour van banter with the band is always so much fun. Selling out gigs is a good feeling - and we’ve done that a couple of times on this tour.
It seems your live shows are something else! Do you feel at your peak on the stage?
Thank you! I love it. I’ve had lots of practice and the band and I work hard to make sure every show is special and full of heart and soul.
Christmas is not too far away. Do you have plans already - or will you be busy working?
I’m having my tonsils out today, so wish me luck! Might be on the jelly an ice cream over Christmas!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Heroes by David Bowie, please!
Follow Winter Mountain