How long have you been working on Fight Strong?
I was in a project called Beech. We were signed to Universal and promised the world. We did a bunch of stuff in Germany and Europe but the record never came out in the UK, which was disappointing for me. Me and Oliver (who was in Beech) were both going in different directions. I wanted to go back into folky, guitar-driven music; Oliver was into more electronic sounding stuff. Beech was a mash up of the two, but we hit a wall with the label. I just started writing again on my own, there was no contact with the label for a while. I didn’t want to be waiting on someone else to tell me when I can do something or wait for the next record so I thought I’d start doing it.
I made the decision to leave, and started to write some of the songs that are on Fight Strong. I found out from my music lawyer I was finally able to put music out, so it was a bit of a rush. I had all these songs I had written on my own, but I didn’t know which ones I should put on an EP. I just chose the songs that had similar stories, but the vibes were all quite different. Now I can test the water as to what people respond to, so theres a folky track, a more rocky track, more of a ballad, and an acoustic song; so thats what Fight Strong is. I ended up doing the whole thing in a week. I had an idea of how I wanted it to be, but I didn’t know how it was going to sound, but I love how the record came out.
People had been promised a record in the UK with Beech, but it never came out, so for me this is what people had been waiting for two years. I got these songs so thought “fuck it, I’m just going to put it out and be honest.” Have I put my whole life into these tracks? No. It’s music from the heart and it’s here now.
Do you think your fans from Beech have transferred over to your personal work?
I think some have. A lot of the Beech fans were fans of what I was doing before anyway with other music projects. I just want to put music and have a good time and show whats going on in my life through songs and stuff.
How much creative input did you have in your Fight Strong video?
Going back to what I said about putting songs together really fast, I didn’t want the music video to be fast. The second the song was finished I started talking to music video directors and coming up with concepts on my own. With the Beech project all those music videos I had been one of the directors on. My wife had directed one but I was the co-director, Joe Hunt had directed one but I was the other director. I always had a big input. I have a very specific style of what I like in a music video, so I wanted to find the right director with the right ideas. We would talk about it and say if I didn’t like something, but I didn’t give him too many ideas either. He got inside my head and said this is what we’re going to do and this is how its going to look like, I thought thats cool.
You’ve recently had some intimate gigs in London and Rome, talk us through those.
Well last time I played in London was at KOKO, which was a massive gig. There’s just something really cool about playing in a pub, especially when you’re starting again and I’m all about independent music right now. To go and do a big support right now or play in a big venue in a club night wouldn’t have been right. I just wanted people to see me as raw as they could, invite all my friends and music industry people down; put 250 people in a room and have a massive party.
You’ve had a very successful modelling career, do you think that can go hand in hand with your music work?
My focus has always been on music. I remember being a really small boy and dreaming about playing music, this was before I knew about being in a band. As I teenager I was rebelling, starting punk and metal bands and doing bits of touring; just fun stuff. I was playing at a festival with my punk band and Sherrill Smith (who is still my agent to this day) asked if I was a model. I thought it was the most ridiculous thing ever: at the time I had flesh tunnels in my ears, I had a shaved head, a couple of piercings. I felt I was very tattooed but nothing like I am now, but people just weren’t then. I thought it was a bit of a joke, we exchanged numbers and she called me for about two months. My family convinced me to go in to the agency, saying it could help fund my music. I went in and ended up doing the Burberry campaign like a week later. My modelling career took off straight away.For years rather than using the modelling to help my music, I was embarrassed as a musician that I did modelling so I tried to hide it; which you just can’t do. My face was on buses, on trains. I would play a gig and these kids said “oh you’re really great”, we’d get on a train and they’d be a picture of me on it. Only in the last year I thought those two things together are great, they help each other. You name an iconic musician or band that isn’t part of the fashion industry. You look at the Sex Pistols that was basically a fashion band. Vivienne Westwood was making all their clothes and they looked badass but their music is fucking terrible. You listen back to it now and think it’s cool because it was then, but no one would buy it now. Nirvana, their whole image was that they didn’t have an image, but that was a fucking image. Aerosmith looked fucking ridiculous but it was all fashion-based. Now I’m using the modelling, the modelling is using the music and everything is crossing over, I’m happy with that. I’m really lucky to be in that position.
What’s your dream now, what are you aiming towards?
My goal has always been if I can make my main income be from music, then I’m happy. It has been for the last couple of years because I’ve been with Universal. Now I’ve gone independent I need to do the modelling again to help fund what I’m doing, if I want to do it well. If I can continue to have a career in music thats all my goal is. I want people to hear my songs, thats it.