Me and my friend Ali Stafford managed to get an interview with the amazing Lancashiran Roo Walker, after he played a gig at the Mad Ferret pub in Preston. This guy has more stage presence than two fat ladies fighting over the last slice of chocolate cake. This guy is different. This guy is what music is all about…
How did you first become interested in music?
My older brother started playing the guitar when I was about 11. He used to blast Guns ‘n’ Roses, Oasis and Green Day out of his bedroom and I wanted to get in to all of that. My dad also played the guitar every now and then, much against my mum’s intentions! I followed his musical influences as well, and he was a fan of the Beatles and progressive rock.
As a youngster did you want to be a musician?
Well I played a lot of Sunday League football when I was younger, and always thought that was what I was going to do as a career. I played the guitar as a hobby and practiced with a guy called Alex Platt. He’s an amazing musician that I met at school who played the drums, and he said we should start our own band.
How did the band progress from there?
I stopped playing football and we (me and Alex) practiced every Sunday for quite a while in an industrial mill. Not only were we really good friends but we were always trying to better each other, so we had a really healthy competitive spirit going on. We just wanted to be the best we could possibly be. It was at this point when I started writing material, which was just mainly instrumental stuff with Alex. We kept the band going for quite a while and we had different members come and go. The band finished and we went our different ways when I was 15 or 16. Alex is now based in Manchester and I love his music.
When did you first start gigging?
The first gig I had was in Preston in the pub car park of ‘The Fighting Cock’, which has since been demolished for student accommodation. I was playing guitar and singing for a band and was only about 15 at the time. There we met a singer called Ric Birtill, and he became our singer for quite a while as we played lots of gigs around Preston, under the name of ‘Pseudo Ailment’. After the band split me and Ric done an acoustic thing for a while, and now he’s in an acoustic folk band called the Changing Horses.
What’s been your most embarrassing moment on stage?
I don’t think my pants have fallen down or anything like that, but I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes on stage! There was one gig when we were really young where we had a stage for the first time, which was a massive deal to me because I thought I could crowd surf! So I jumped when there wasn’t a crowd there and ended up hurting my hand and wrist so bad that I couldn’t play guitar! Another funny one was where I threw a drumstick in to the crowd, and when someone threw it back it hit me in the face!
What was the BBC Talent competition you were involved in back in 2008?
Well while I was in another band we had a drummer called Pedro, and he told me about this talent competition he thought I should enter. I had to enter a song really quickly as it was only a couple of the days before the deadline, and I wasn’t sure what I should give them. In the end I gave them a song about Preston, which was called ‘Proud Preston’ and basically just took the Mickey out of the weather. I got a call a few weeks later and they told me that out of over 20,000 entries they’d boiled it down to 60 finalists, and I was one of them!
What was your reward as a finalist?
We were invited to attend one of the three regional finals; London, Manchester and the one I went to in Bristol. There were loads of seminars given from different producers and mentors who had all had different hit songs. Sacha Skarbek gave a seminar. He’s worked with James Blunt and is a really good songwriter, and we were also made to do loads of other cool stuff related to song writing. One of the songs I wrote was about Radio 2 and Terry Wogan, and apparently one of the producers passed it on to him for him to listen to! I don’t think he ever played it on one of his shows and I didn’t win the competition overall, but I wasn’t bothered as it was just a great experience and I met loads of great people.
Do you thinking getting so far in the competition helped you and your career?
It certainly gave me a lot of encouragement! It’s really hard to know whether you’re any good and I’m always having that battle inside my brain. If you don’t think your any good then you think to yourself why bother even trying, but if you do think you’re good it might encourage you to get out there. It also helped me to define what I am as a musician. The whole competition proved really helpful, although I haven’t taken much of their advice yet!
How would you define yourself music-wise?
I don’t know. I really don’t know. I think sometimes I’m just a songwriter and other times I’ve got a sort of crazy side. I’ve tried to be the serious songwriter but every time I try, some clown from within just wants to come out! I’ll end up making a song up about cheese or something that’s been said in the audience! Somebody like Rae Morris just has an audience locked with her voice and her songs, but as soon as you put me in front of a punch of people I just can’t help going a bit silly!
Who would you say are your musical influences?
Obviously my brother and dad influenced me when I was younger, but there are loads of people which inspire me now musically wise. I love people like Rufus Wainwright, Bryan Adams, Jeff Buckley and Frank Zappa. I also like John Mayer, even though most people think he’s an arse hole!
What was the process behind making your first EP last year, Positive Minds?
I done all the recording side of things myself, which was good financially but also meant I had all the time in the world to do it. It’s not like it took 2 years to record it, but I was recording on and off and writing/rewriting things over the 2 years, which made it a lengthy process. I definitely don’t want to do that again. The guy who played drums for me is Sam Hocking. He also mixed the EP, mastered it and also added some synth to one of the tracks. He’s a great friend and had quite a big part to play in making it sound good!
Has the reaction from the first EP been successful?
Yeah it really has! It’s not all been amazing but I’ve had so many people saying they really liked it. I’ve also been able to pinpoint the songs which have worked the best not just for the people but for me as well. I now know which songs kind of suit me and my voice, which luckily have coincided with the ones which the people seem to favour most of the time. The song styles on there are quite different and it’s a kind of mismatch of all my different stuff. I done that on purpose because I thought it would be a good idea, because I thought I didn’t want to be known for having just one sound.
Do you have plans for any more recordings?
Yeah definitely! I was told to do an album but I didn’t want to do one that wasn’t going to be commercially released so that’s why I done the EP and waited to see if I’d get signed up. Now I don’t know if I care anymore about that, and think it’s more important just to throw it out there. Whether loads of people will listen to it or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s more important just to get on with it which I’m definitely looking forward to. I might do two CD’s this year, or maybe I’ll do three. I just don’t know. I’ll keep myself busy and keep doing it, because you only live once!
Any music plans for the summer?
There are a few festivals happening which the management have been trying to get involved with, although I’m not sure. I’ve never even been to Glastonbury so it would be great to play at Glastonbury and just be there. I’d also like to play the Greenbelt festival maybe some of the folk festivals too.
What other things have you got planned in the future?
I’m definitely looking forward to recording new material. There’s also some pretty big stuff coming up where I’m playing on tour with other artists, but my current band is the band for me. I’ve been trying to find the right players with the right enthusiasm and it can be really difficult. Now I think I’ve found that I might try to focus as much as I can and do as many gigs as I can with them. I’m also getting married in October so that’s going to take up some time so I might not be able to do that much gigging for a while. Once the marriage is out of way though I’ll be ready to leave the wife at home and go on a world tour!
[IMAGES ARE FROM ROO WALKER’S FACEBOOK PAGE]