Offstage | Chris Belson

Tuesday, February 23, 2016 0 Comments A+ a-

This guy is not only super talented and the owner of an incredible deep soothing voice, but also a genuinely nice soul. And that is reflected in his music. After launching his first EP with a gig at Upstairs At The Ritzy, Chris Belson talks to us about Moon Songs, his influences and gives an insight on his song-writing process. We're also proud to premiere this beautiful take on Children, recorded as part of Ont'Sofa sessions, at the YouTube Space London. Watch the video below. And, if you're in London, make sure not to miss Chris' gig on April 21st, supporting Laish (31-35 Sebright Arms, E2 9AG).

♯ What's your first music related memory and how did it become such a big part of your life?
I have a misty patchwork of different music memories, any of which could be the first, it’s hard to tell. Being given a penny-whistle at the Cambridge Folk Festival, listening to an old record with fairytales and nursery rhymes - I remember it having a beautiful fold-out cover - small plastic toy records on my fischer-price record player... I used to sit in the evening, with my headphones on, working my way through my parents music collection. I had a hunger to listen to everything. Then my parents brought me an old Spanish guitar and I started to play with a pianist friend in the school music rooms. I started writing and performing, began going to see friend's bands and recording, slowly weaving music into my life in lots of different ways until it couldn’t be unpicked.

Chris playing back in January at Upstairs At The Ritzy, during Moon Songs launch. Photo by Zaira.

♯ Which was the first album you ever bought? 
Robbie Williams - Millenium. That’s the first album I remember buying with my own money, from Woolworths. It's a great album, I'm not ashamed to say that it.

♯ Who are you biggest influences and who have you come across most recently who also had an impact in your music?
It’s hard to pick-out my biggest influences. I think influences all go into a big pot and stew. Then, at various times, different flavours and scents become more prominent. Tom Waits, The Magnetic Fields, Randy Newman, Belle & Sebastian, The Divine Comedy, Rufus Wainwright, Feist - they’re all musicians I admire a great deal. Most recently, Space Bomb Records have had a big impact on me. Natalie Prass’ debut album and Matthew E White’s records are stunning.

♯ Your lyrics and melodies are very introspective, can you give us an insight on your song-writing process? 
I think a lot of my songs initially come from language. A phrase or strings of words that interest me. I think I use the songwriting process to explore them and pull them apart to see what they’re all about. Emotion, biography, narrative... Then it tends to build up around these initial seeds. It’s not always the case, but I think it’s a good account of what often happens.

♯ Can you share with us a story behind a song?
I over heard a friend ask another friend: “Why do dogs howl at the moon?”. I thought it was an interesting question and started to think about its meaning. I’m sure that there’s a very clear scientific reason for it, but I started to think about it in a more symbolic way. I think we have a strange need to project human qualities onto animals - but whether it’s to make animals feel more like us in our eyes, or us more like animals I’m not sure. Dogs Are Howling At The Moon is a song that tussles with the line between the two maybe.

♯ If you could pick anyone, dead or alive, who would you like to collaborate with and who would you like to share the stage with?
I’d collaborate with Sufjan Stevens - I just think he’s incredibly innovative and exciting. He can pull apart right down to an intimate simple guitar and vocal track, and build up these vast complex and unexpected arrangements. In terms of sharing a stage, probably something really social and folk based - maybe The McGarrigle Family or The Unthanks.

♯ What's your favourite song to play live and why?
Without You Again. It’s quite a slow song, so I have time to really take in and enjoy the notes and the relationship between the guitar and vocals. Plus the subject and lyrics are very personal to me. It almost feels like a little prayer or mantra.

♯ Have you thought of recording any covers as a b-side and, if so, which one and why? 
I’d love to record a cover. At the moment, I’d really like to do a version of Shake It Off, by Taylor Swift. Whenever I listen to it, I keep hearing a really cool - possibly even sad - side to the song underneath all of the gumph.

♯ What's the best gig you've been to and who you haven't seen live yet but would love to?
Best gig - The Unthanks at The Stables, in Milton Keynes. Incredible heart-breaking voices. I’d love to see Tom Waits. I’m not sure why he never plays in the UK. Maybe one day I’ll make it over to Europe to see him there.

♯ When not playing music, what are you usually up to?
Reading detective novels. Baking bread. Drawing animals.

* Don't forget to check the full review of Moon Songs here and if you want to see photos of the EP launch gig check our Facebook album here.

** For more about Ont'Sofa, visit their website or check their YouTube channel. They release a video a day and have an incredible selection of stunning upcoming artists.

*** Chris will be supporting Laish's EP Song For Everything launch, at the Sebright Arms. Check event details here