AFTER the success of their single, Rhythm…
many eyes and ears have turned the way of CC Smugglers. That song was picked up by BBC Radio 2 and BBC Radio 6 Music – the band played live sessions of the station. The boys have enjoyed sold-out shows across the U.K. and Europe; great festival appearances – including Latitude – and supporting the likes of Old Crow Medicine Show and Bruce Springsteen.
The new single, Dirty Money, is another huge track and one I was eager to find more out about. Richie from the band talks about their music and details of each member; how they all came together and what their diary is looking like – and, whether being a sextet is a benefit or quite unwieldy.
Hi. How are you? How has your week been?
I’m fine, thank you very much.
This week, we’ve just returned from three dates in Switzerland playing some great festivals - including Montreux Jazz Festival!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
We are a group of lads who play original music with a gung-ho attitude for cross-breeding influences, old and new, from around the world. We are very proud of our well-established reputation for absolute scorching live shows.
We use Folk instruments like fiddles, banjos; harmonicas, acoustic guitars - alongside electric guitars keyboard and full drum kits.
Did you catch Glastonbury? What was your opinion? Any performances stand out to you?
I caught bits and pieces but I don’t have a lot of time for telly really. I spent most of that weekend demoing a track I was writing – but I was aware it was on.
I do know Jamie Cullum was playing. I would have loved to have seen that live. I also watched Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on social media: that was quite interesting, I must say.
Dirty Money is the new track. What inspired the track and what can you reveal about it?
Being a musician in the music industry is hard: in the same way being a human in the 21st century is hard.
There’s always something just out of reach that will make us happy when we finally get it - and when we get it, there’s always something else… just out of reach. Money’s a bit like that. Doesn’t matter how much I earn: I’m always skint.
It’s taken me many years to realise that happiness isn’t a result from getting something, or having money or buying something. That stuff is fun, but fun isn’t happiness.
So, like many of my songs, they’re just notes to myself to remind myself of feelings - some of them we end up sharing with everyone – I think this one's relevant to most people.
Is there going to be more material coming soon? What can we expect later in the year?
We are toiling over some secret plans – just be patient, you cheeky rogues.
I am interested in the name, 'CC Smugglers' – sorry if you’ve been asked before – but where does that band name come from?
Yes, that is something we’ve been asked a few times…
Let’s just say ‘CC’ refers to the 125 C.C. motorbikes we used to ride when we were troublesome kids - riding across the fields in our home county.
You can just use your imagination for the 'smugglers' bit.
How did you guys all form in the first place? Was there an instant spark the first time you got into the studio?
I was doing stuff on my own for a few years and went into a studio to make a demo. When I made that demo the producer laid some double bass and electric guitar.
It was then that I sent those demos to my two friends Ryan and Dan - who were traveling Australia. The pair of them flew home and we started a band! We never really looked back after that!
I am interested in the six-piece – I do not see too many bands with that many members. Do you think having that strength in numbers heightens your sound and makes the creative process easier?
It has its strengths and weaknesses but, as far as being on stage, we are a force to be reckoned with - and that is because we are a large, strong; well-rehearsed team unit.
Who are the real ‘characters’/trouble-makers in ranks? Any one member the rest have to keep a cheeky eye out for?
Well, that’s a bit personal, isn’t it!?
We all have our own unique little niches:
Sam, our fiddle player: he’s the pretty boy; insists on getting his hair cut twice a month; is a front-runner in fashion and loves a bit of self- grooming.
Dan is the ladies’ favourite: tall, dark and handsome; has done a bit of modelling in the past - but is the ultimate gentleman and a real kind caring chap.
Ryan. He’s the quiet, surly one: absolutely on-point all the time - but just watch out for the quiet ones. He’s always one step ahead: captain cool.
Tom is a total gent, very stylish - and one of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with.
Iain a true Scot: can drink like a fish, tumble like a boulder and graft hard.
I’m the loudest and gobbiest. I’m a bit scatty but can, and have, talked us out of a pickle or two (I’m also damn good at driving in deep mud and snow - and have almost dangerous amounts of confidence on and off the road.)
So, there…you asked one simple question and you got a character reference of everyone. I told you I was gobby.
What has it been like getting attention from stations like BBC Radio 2 and '6 Music? They are quite diverse so it must mean you are doing something right!
It’s amazing, really.
If I could tell that funny, little loner twelve-year-old sitting in the field playing his guitar terribly (me-twelve) - or the angsty, spotty Slipknot hoody-wearing fifteen-year-old playing the school guitars in the music corridor at lunch time (me-fifteen); that, one, day he’ll be legging it round the world playing gigs and getting played on national radio station…it would have done my self-esteem the world of good.
It’s funny how things work out: it would never have happened without a huge team effort. Not only from my best mates in the band, but our families and friends - and all of the people who work with us because they believe in it.
I know you have some tour dates coming up in October. Which venues are you most looking forward to playing and are there towns/cities on the list you have not played before?
Oh, there’s loads!
The Cambridge Junction one is a biggy!
Also, London at the Union Chapel is a big old show.
What is touring like for the band? Is that a side of things you enjoy or can it be quite demanding?
That’s what I live for! It can be very demanding: long drives, short sleeps - especially when voices start getting tired - but I kind of see it; in a very pretentious and non-realistic way - like being a soldier.
We go out on tour with the squad and rough it; rely on each other; bond and get through it – it’s an absolute adventure where we get to see the world and we have moments of exhilarating adrenaline every night. That’s living!
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
My friends have formed a band called Funeral Shakes.
I have heard their stuff and heard the plan. When it drops it is going to drop-hot. They are quite heavy but so, so clever and artistic.
Trust me: it’s going to hit the ground running.
It’s not out yet, but, boy…when it comes…
If you had to select the album that means the most to you; which would it be and why?
For me, Jamie Cullum’s Twentysomething
It has been the soundtrack to every single one of my (blossoming) relationships and crushing breakups.
It introduced me to Jazz and Swing - and there is not a song on there that doesn’t remind me of someone or something.
I will always love that album.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Be different, be brave and never ever think you’ve done enough.
There will always be someone out there better than you: all you can do is do your best. The competition is high so work your fingers to the bone and always go the extra mile. You never know what may come of something so never make decisions out of fear.
Don’t think of reasons why not: think of ways to make things happen.
Finally, and for being good sports, you can each name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Richie: Leon Redbone – Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone
Dan: Aretha Franklin – Think
Ryan: Muddy Waters – I Want to Be Loved
Sam: John Mayer - Slow Dancing in a Burning Room (Live in L.A.)
Tom: Billy Joel - New York State of Mind
Iain: The Brandon Brown Collective (ft. KIKI KYTE) – Honey
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