ANDREW MONTGOMERY – THE PICTORIAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY.
Following the release of his stirring debut album ‘Ruled by Dreams’, critically acclaimed ex Geneva vocalist Andrew Montgomery writes candidly on the highs & lows of his musical journey exclusively for Splendid Berlin Magazine in this pictorial autobiographical piece.
‘My long march from late Britpop to debut solo album’
WORDS AND PHOTOS – ANDREW MONTGOMERY
Images treated and edited by Mark Fernyhough
It’s strange and even a little exhilarating to finally be releasing my debut solo album ‘Ruled by Dreams’, 14 years after Geneva, the band I sang in, put out our sophomore and final LP, ‘Weather Underground’.
I mean, on the eve of its October 5th release, there are all sorts of questions/observations pinging round my brain:
and, at the forefront of all these thoughts:
HOW COME THIS TOOK SO LONG? WHERE DID MY LIFE GO?!!
Maybe I should answer those last two questions first…
‘Difficult second album syndrome’
I’m not sure if the words ‘difficult second album’ are in the Oxford English Dictionary, but perhaps they should be. The music industry is littered with examples of bands whose first record has seemed to herald years of splendour, before the process of following up initial success intervenes and leaves them in ruins.
You can probably add Geneva to that list, even though I’d like to think that ‘Weather Underground’ was still a good album, although it didn’t have the cohesion of ‘Further’, our debut LP which got into the UK Top 20 and whose four singles all went Top 40. We had been tipped for the top.
But when you have nigh on three years slogging away on the next batch of songs, when the record company is in financial turmoil and the band’s mental fabric is being stretched to its maximum by songwriting anxiety and differing goals, then sooner or later something has to give. And it was the band that gave (up).
By the time we unveiled our bold new direction (in reality the only partly convincing addition of electronic colours to our existing palette), we’d worked in ten different studios with three separate teams of producers, seen Sony withdraw its funding of Nude Records, seen most touring and promo for our new album collapse and momentarily gone on unemployment benefit. Cue one stillborn album…and a quiet, exhausted, almost unspoken decision to discontinue Geneva.
As if denying it all, I fell in love with a US girl, moved to NYC to be with her, only to see that dream bite the dust not eight months later. After that, reality set in and my confidence took a major knock.
No girl, no band, no job…
‘You can’t eat your dreams’…
As my debut solo album title says I’m ‘Ruled by Dreams’, but the truth is, unless you’re a celebrity chef, you can’t eat your dreams. So I bit the bullet and took on a succession of jobs to try and support my musical habit.
(I know, I’m just like many of other good creative folks – we may self-describe as singer/painter/actor, etc. but we all know that society doesn’t place a high premium on what we do).
In the end, the day-job stuff took precedence and started sapping my energy. Doing music got more and more difficult.
I even got married, in a whirlwind sorta way, to someone who I knew from Geneva days and who had suddenly reappeared in my life in what at the time seemed like some sort of fairytale romance deliverance from the past, but, just four years later, really didn’t work out that way.
Music seemed very far away at this point…
‘In praise of Myspace!’
Myspace. Much maligned Myspace. So much to thank it for! Who knew?! If it hadn’t been for this now marginalised example of music streaming, I wouldn’t have received a message in late 2007 from a guy called Sean McGhee, the man who would produce and co-write this album with me.
Sean believed in me, told me my voice should be heard and so we started writing songs. Very slowly at first – I was going through a divorce, trying to hold things down, while Sean was working on various projects, including his band Artmagic, a joint endeavour with Suede guitarist Richard Oakes (check out their album ‘Become the one you love’).
But the songs gradually yet truly came together, and we pieced together an album which was a real story of my intense, strange few years. An album I had to make to bring meaning and (hopefully you’ll agree) some beauty from all that hurt.
Finally, late last year, we finished it!
And what is it? It’s New Orleans funeral blues, it’s smouldering torch songs, it’s bittersweet indie pop and it’s space gospel. It’s ‘Ruled by Dreams’…
‘Always be ruled by dreams’
And now I’m sitting here writing to you on the eve of the release of my debut solo album. You who include lovely people like Mark Fernyhough and Heike Schneider-Matzigkeit from Splendid Berlin, who sent words of encouragement and support to me during my journey (to answer those earlier questions: seems like people DO remember and they DO care).
So, while the music industry may have changed unrecognisably since my heyday, while digital promo may or may not be a winning formula, the wonder of music and its power to transcend our emotions remains.
That’s why I’m doing this. That’s why, whatever lies ahead, I’ll keep making music.
That’s why I’ll ‘always be ruled by dreams’.
I hope whatever you’re doing and creating, you will be, too.
Watch Andrew’s latest video ‘Sorry Someday’ here –