I was interested finding out about the creator of…
the album, Before the Grey. Angus Powell explains how the songs came together at various times – documenting the times and experiences at different intervals in his life. I ask which song Powell thinks defines the album; the themes that run through the album – and whether there are any tour dates on the horizon.
Music from Angus Powell has been played on big U.S. shows like Bones. He explains how that kind of exposure feels and what it has been like growing up in Mid-Wales – and whether that sense of isolation and detachment helped his creative process or not.
Hi, Angus. How are you? How has your week been?
Hello. I'm good. My week has been great, thank you.
I’m in Wales at the moment working on a couple of new tracks
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure. I'm Angus - writer, traveller and dog-lover.
Tell me about your debut album, Before the Grey. What inspired it and what kind of stories/situations go into the songs?
Before the Grey is a collection of songs that I’ve written at different stages of my life. Some are pretty old and have evolved over the years – but the roots stay the same. People ask me what ‘before the grey' means? The ‘grey’ is the unknown. I think everyone has a grey place: a place we’d all rather didn’t exist. For me, I can go dark sometimes - turn in on myself. When I’m there; nothing very productive happens.
These days, I know when I’m on that road - so I can usually turn it around before it's too late (‘before the grey’).
Is there a particular song from that album that stands out in the mind or is particularly personal?
All the songs on the album are pretty personal: most on levels I’ll probably never explain - but Passenger is a song that I feel quite close too. I guess it's about my journey really: keeping a focus when everything around you feels like it's crumbling.
You were born in England but grew up in Mid-Wales. What was it like living in a derelict mill-house? Did the mountains and the nature around you inspire you to write and pursue music?
Totally. I had a great childhood; we had so many adventures. It was safe back then. You could go anywhere and, as long as you were back for meal-times, nobody worried. I write a lot with these memories in mind: the freedom and the openness.
I like to think that song the productions reflect this: wide open spaces, lush textures and ever-changing colours.
How important was your time at a Welsh bilingual school?
I think the Welsh language is beautiful.
At the time, that schooling was the only option - so it was taken for granted. There a certain melodic quality to Welsh words and phrasing…like a poem.
I wish I got the chance to use it more in life – it’s slipped away from me, a bit.
I know, as a child, you would listen to your parents’ record collection and obsesses over certain artists/songs. Which albums did you bond with and were there particular songs that struck a chord?
They had such a mixed collection…
One album that I still have and still look at regularly is Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds. I was listening to this long before I even knew what a horror film was - I was totally captivated. The record artwork pulled me in: in fact, it scared the hell out of me. Every now and then, I put it on sometimes in the car – I still know it word-for-word. It's funny. Going back to it now, with an understanding of composition and production…it’s a masterpiece; a world of sound with so much detail.
Jeff Wayne sucks you into his world.
You have spent time in Wales and London. There have been hard times and adventures. How many of the songs on Before the Grey are inspired by your travels and relocation?
All of them, I guess, has elements from those things. I’m not someone who can wake up and say “I'm going to write a song today”. Ideas start and develop over time. I mentioned before; I travel a lot - and so do these ideas. I wrote most of Shiver and Lines whilst travelling through Indonesia. The ideas were there before I left the U.K. - but the songs changed throughout my time away. I love that.
Every time I play them, I go back to a beach in Lombok where I'm sat with my baby, Taylor, at sundown watching the fishermen – better than any photo!
Tell me how you came to meet Danny Benair and have your music used in T.V. and film?
It’s a long story…
I spent a long time researching music supervisors: who worked on what; watching T.V. shows and listening, specifically, to the music - then jumping to the credits. I sent out so many emails; staying up through the night to try and be in-line with L.A.-time. I kept on hitting the same wall: ‘We don’t accept unsolicited emails or submissions’. I ended up creating a manager and company name - and tried again. I got in touch with Danny, who was really supportive from the start. We spoke on the phone (where I came clean about the ‘pseudo-manager’) and things evolved from there. Experience has taught me that there are many sharks in every ocean: Danny is one of the good guys.
I feel really lucky to have him onboard.
How does it feel hearing your music in big shows like Bones? What are your favourite memories of hearing your music on the screen?
It's rather surreal; especially as I recorded a lot of the songs in my bedroom with a pretty basic kit - I had no idea where they would, ultimately, end up. Watching Elementary was pretty unbelievable - Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller, actors I'd been watching all my life, with my song playing in the background...
Your music has been streamed over two-million times on Spotify. How important are sites like Spotify and getting your music to so many people?
I’ve seen a huge shift from downloads to streaming.
Spotify and other sites like it make music so accessible. It's all about playlists. As a listener; I’ve discovered some gems through listening to other people’s playlists.
What tour dates are coming up? Where can we come and see you play?
I’m in talks with a couple of promoters at the moment.
We are planning some gigs from later in the year - and some select festivals next year. It’s important to get the venue right because the songs are atmospheric and emotive. The stage needs to match.
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
I'm mainly listening to playlists of lots of different acts at the moment - so can't really put my finger on anything specific.
There are lots....
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?
All of these three affected me in different ways, and still do in some ways…just because they do!
Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman
Dido - No Angel
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged in New York
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
I'd say just keep hold of ‘you’. Don’t be afraid to take dents: make mistakes and be confident in who you are.
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).
Nelly Furtado – Try (not what you were expecting, right?!).
I first heard this when I was driving. I had to pull over – everything about this song is stunning
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