Dirty Dozen: Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire

If the Scots slang – which gives Roddy Hart & the Lonesome Fire’s “Swithering” its name – suggests any sort of indecisiveness at play, then it’s one that the band whole-heartedly embraced to help push the boundaries of what it felt capable of creating.  From the very beginning, this was a group of players eager to change how they approached making a record.  Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, the band (Scott Clark, Roddy Hart, Andy Lucas, Scott Mackay, John Martin, Geoff Martyn, and Gordon Turner) formed naturally over a number of years as Hart’s own evolution as an artist and songwriter progressed.

Tell us about yourselves and what you do?

We’re a band from Glasgow, Scotland who have been making music together – properly – since about 2011, after I’d released some self-produced solo records.

How did you get together/start out?

I was always far more interested in being part of a band of players, but somehow – and almost accidentally – had started as a solo artist.  Gradually we met through friends and acquaintances on the music scene, in bars and gig venues, and discovered a shared love of the same kind of music: everything from Dylan to The National.  We became a tight unit and didn’t really look back.

What is your current release?

Our second album is called Swithering (out on Middle of Nowhere Recordings), which is one of my favourite words.  It means to be uncertain, and as well as being mentioned in one of the key songs on the record (“Sliding”) it also completely sums up how we felt about our songwriting relationship going in to the album.  I used to write everything myself, but this was the first time I’d taken half finished songs and ideas into the room not knowing how they’d evolve.  It was a leap of faith, but completely exhilarating.  The album moves restlessly from place to place, and that’s its charm I think.  A big wash of sounds and ideas and influences, and our best record yet.

What is the best part of being in a band/song writer?

For me, it’s getting to share experiences as a group of friends and musicians.  We’ve had lots of exciting times together, and lots of moments of self-doubt and reflection as to the best road to travel.  But they fact we’ve done it as a unit – on whatever scale of success that might be – has been more valuable to me than anything else.

What is your most significant moment yet?

I suppose being asked to play 5 nights on The Late Late Show for CBS American TV is pretty hard to beat.  One of our videos was spotted in 2014 by Craig Ferguson, who was hosting the show at the time, and he invited us over to perform.  It was a magical experience making our US TV debut with even one song, but having the producers call us in to request we stay for another week was like a dream.  It was a time in LA that I’ll treasure forever, and something that doesn’t happen often for independent bands.

What are your biggest musical influences?

We’re influenced by everything from Dylan, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen through to The National, War On Drugs, and Wilco.  If the song is good, if the lyrics and the sonics speak to us, then we’ll love it.

What venue/gig do you most want to play?

I got to play the Royal Albert Hall in London with Kris Kristofferson years ago, which was one for the Bucket List, and I’ve been fortunate enough to play some other pretty cool places.  But the one that has eluded me is the Glasgow Barrowlands, which has been the venue for some of the best gigs I’ve ever been at in my life.  It has an atmosphere and mystique hard to match, and I hope we’ll get there one day.

What is your best/favourite song you have written?

There’s a song on the new album called “I Thought I Could Change Your Mind” that I’m proud of: it has the right mix of the poetic, the every-day, and a that sense of intrigue that I’m always searching for in my songs.  I love the way the recording came together too, and I especially loved doing my vocal takes for it in the middle of the night, resulting in something hushed and fragile.  Ask me again tomorrow and I might tell you a different song, though.

What is your favourite album of this year?

I liked the Case/Lang/Veirs album: I’m a sucker for supergroups, and a collection of songs showcasing the differences that each writer might bring to an album.  For those same reasons I loved the return of Teenage Fanclub with “Here” too. “Schmilco” from Wilco has shades of their magnificent Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and I’m currently deep in the world of the new Okkervil River album which has some lovely moments on it.

What does the next six months have in store for you?

Rehearsing for our “Roaming Roots Revue” – a show we curate each year for Celtic Connections featuring some of our favourite artists from around the world showcasing their own songs and singing some choice covers.  We also want to get out and play the new album live as much as we possibly can, because it’s a collection of songs that really feel good to play as a group.  We might write a follow-up sooner rather than later too.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Happy and still making music, hopefully.

 

Author: Rudie Humphrey

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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