Rob Heron has a new album coming out this week.
Rob Heron has a new baby.
Rob Heron has a new tour.
Many new things happening at the same time for Rob Heron; but not necessarily in the order you might think.
First came the tour dates.
At the end of last year, Rob’s agent suggested the Tea Pad Orchestra get some dates on the calendar. Mainly weekend dates in October and November of 2022.
Then Rob decided he better record a new album for the tour, so he booked studio time in May with only one song written.
‘I need a deadline to work to’ Rob tells me. ‘So starting in January of this year I set aside every Thursday to write or finish a song.’
Clearly his plan worked.
With the help of collaborator and engineer John Martindale and his long time band of university brothers aka The Tea Pad Orchestra, they recorded the album in just three days.
June brought an event that had its own schedule – baby Oscar.
Some festival dates had to be cancelled.
‘I needed to be home in June for the baby but I’ve told my agent to book as many festivals as possible for next year. I just love playing out to the crowd, everyone there to enjoy the music’.
He’s beyond the camping days of festival going so he’s looking forward to putting it all out there on stage and then going back to the hotel.
Spoken like a new father.
Along with tour dates in the UK, Rob is hoping to take the new album to places they have played in the past such as the Netherlands and Germany.
‘We did a couple of short trips over after Brexit and didn’t really find any major issues, but I don’t think we’re at a level where it would really be a problem. We don’t have masses of kit or merchandise so it wasn’t too bad. And the turnout was really good, especially in Germany where they just come out for live music.’
He tells me the British audiences are a bit harder to convince and with touring the way it is at the moment post-pandemic and heading full-tilt into a recession, aiming for Thursday to Sunday means a better chance of a weekend crowd and gives him the weekdays for essential family time.
I asked Rob about his new album, especially the zydeco sound he’s captured on a couple of tracks, such as Snip Snap.
‘We just enjoyed adding those sounds to the record.’
Rob loves old styles. Two artists he mentions are CW Stoneking and The Wiyos. Modern artists who sound like they came from a time gone by.
‘A Call To Mother’s Arms’ is probably one of my favourite songs on the album,’ Rob offers. ‘It’s quite different to all of the other tracks. We put a (penny) whistle on it because the song just seemed to be calling out for it. So we did it and it sounded great.’
Those who know Rob, know he is a massive collector and audiophile with many hundreds, perhaps thousands of 45s and LPs.
It’s not hard to see where he gets his ideas and inspiration.
I asked Rob of his greatest single find and he told me ‘that’s impossible to answer because I have one of those every week. Last week I found BB King’s version of ’16 Tons’ and I was really excited because I love that version of that song and it’s hard to find.’
When I asked how he got into listening to music he credited hanging out with his dad as a kid, listening to folk and going around to festivals.
‘I knew since I was a young kid (growing up in Cumbria) I wanted to do something in music and I got my first guitar when I was about 10. When I decided to study music (folk music and performance in Newcastle), I knew that I would be working in music. In fact most of my band I met in school. Three of us still play so we work together really well.’
Rob told me as he was writing, he sent sound recordings from his phone to the guys so they would have an idea of what to expect when recording time rolled around.
And then, as time is money and their drummer lives in Bristol, they booked a day of rehearsal and three days in the studio to do all the tracking.
‘John has worked with me on our previous albums so I can tell him what I have in mind for a song and he can usually get the result I’m looking for’. The only song that was already written was the title track ‘The Party’s Over’ which Rob released to Bandcamp as part of a ‘lockdown’ EP.
‘That song was recorded on two track and sounded pretty rough and ready but I liked it and felt the song had evolved in its meaning, represented where we were now, especially with two of us in the band expecting children, as in the party IS over. How we’ve been doing it isn’t going to be how we do it from now on. No more coming in at 5am, more like waking up at 5am with the baby.’
Clearly with new families on board, focus has to shift a bit and touring, recording, etc. needs to be handled in a more family-centric way.
Finally I asked Rob, aside from the influences of old time American music, what did he listen to that is current? He mentioned Daniel Romano and Sierra Farrell (who they had the chance to support in their hometown).
‘I loved it, it was such a great night of music, one of the best in recent times’.
Discovery and inspiration are great things to Rob, the man with a thousand records. (And I think the new album explores both of these things really well.)
‘Our records, if you listen to them in order, show how we’ve evolved.’ Rob was very clear about one crucial detail. ‘We’re not trying to BE an American band. I am greatly influenced by what I love to listen to, but I am British and I write from my point of view and perspective, I just happen to include some of these great sounds I’ve heard throughout my whole life.’
I’ll leave you with this thought from Rob who loves finding ‘the next thing’.
‘You buy the record, great now what’s next? The best music is the music you haven’t heard yet’.
Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra’s new album ‘The Party’s Over’ is out on September 30 and their first single, ‘She Hypnotised Me’ (which puts me in mind of Jake Bugg meets Morphine with a voodoo vibe), is out now.
Catch them on tour throughout the UK in October and November.
Interview by Kris Wilkinson