With his second album released, we got the chance to talk to Ian Skelly about all things music!
The Coral’s Ian Skelly delivered us laidback summer vibes last month with the release of his second solo album titled ‘Drifters Skyline’.
The record features 12 sunny country-psych tracks that are written to be played as a two-part story. The album’s opening half is light and hazy then the tracks grow darker as the album progresses and the keyboard is introduced.
I caught up with Ian for a chat about all things lockdown, recording overseas and what influenced the album.
EE: Hi Ian, how are you doing? How are you holding up since lockdown?
IS: “Not too bad. Just like everyone else I’ve probably been doing a bit too much drinking in the house just trying to get through it.”
EE: Congratulations on the album! As it’s your second solo album you certainly seem to have avoided the dreaded second album curse. ‘Drifters Skyline’ covers a lot of ground musically from folk to country to rock to psychedelia; what artists would you say influenced you most on this record?
IS: “I wasn’t really listening to anyone in particular at the time, it’s just a sort of minefield of everything I’ve ever listened to really. It’s all just in there, you can definitely hear the influences across the album but it wasn’t really intentional. It was just a case of I’d grab that instrument or jump on that keyboard, it was just more of a spontaneous thing.”
EE: If you had to recommend one song for people to listen to off ‘Drifters Skyline’ which one would it be?
IS: “Probably the title track ‘Drifters Skyline’. I’d say it’s probably the bridge between the two sides of the album, between the sort of more major chord melancholic side and the more aggressive side of the album. I think you get a good feel for both sides in that song.”
EE: So, it was recorded in Berlin, what was it like recording overseas? What made you choose Germany?
IS: “It was good. It was really refreshing and exciting to go somewhere new. I think that energy of being in a new place really carried through to the recording process due to the speed that we recorded it in as well. It was nine tracks done in two and a half days and then the rest of the tracks were finished in Liverpool and that took about two or three days. We chose Germany because the lad that I was working with and writing songs with called Phil McKinnell suggested it. He had a friend in Berlin with a studio and he just said ‘lets go over there and try something’. I’d previously had a follow up to ‘Cut from a Star’ that I was going to release, it was recorded quite low-fi in The Coral’s rehearsal room but it just didn’t feel right at the time to go with it. It felt like it was too much of a heavy mood. So, Phil suggested that we just go over for a laugh and we just did it off the cuff. Basically, I had a week to write all of the songs and I thought I’d best not waste the opportunity so I got as much done as I could.”
EE: What was your song writing process like for the new album?
IS: “It was really free flowing; I didn’t have enough time to even think about what I was writing about. Most of it was personal stuff and there’s the odd little story in there but most of it was about me and my life at that point but it wasn’t a conscious thing. It was all subconscious, it just poured out.”
EE: Has your attitude or approach to song writing changed at all since you started in 1996?
IS: “Yeah it has changed. The more you do it the more you learn and the more you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and try different things.”
EE: The album seems to depict your reaction to grief and how you deal with that, what really struck me was how the record comes off as warm and happy. How do you stay positive when you go through difficult periods in your life?
IS: “There’s only so long you can sort of wallow in it. I think that’s the reason why the album that I had that I was going to bring out didn’t happen, it just had a darker mood and I wasn’t feeling it. Like anyone who experiences grief and loss you just want to remember the good times and stay positive really. I think that’s why the songs sort of came out that way. Phil that I was working with is a positive force and he was showing me little guitar things that were sending me on different paths.”
EE: What inspired the lyrics to ‘Captain Caveman’?
IS: “It’s coming up to the 20th anniversary of The Coral’s first album and I was sort of feeling like I’d come full circle, I hadn’t even thought about that time for years, you just keep moving don’t you. Then I started thinking back about that time and that’s where the first line came from, “morning comes and I go tripping with my friends / its so easy to pretend that this dream will never end”, that’s kind of what it was like back then. It was like this is going to go on forever, we’re always going to be mates, and you know life gets in the way. The stream of consciousness in the chorus came about from when we’d be on the bus and people would be skinning up and you’d just be singing daft little songs, it came about from that mood and that time in my life.”
EE: You’ve got a lot of experience as an accomplished musician and songwriter since kicking off; what has been the highlight of your music career so far?
IS: “There’s been so many I couldn’t really put it down to one. Releasing that first album was a big deal, but every record that you put out at the time is the biggest deal of your life.”
EE: Is there anything else you want to accomplish in your music career?
IS: “Just longevity is something I’d want to accomplish. Musically I’ve accomplished most of the things I want to do, I’m getting to the point now you know how many albums I’ve been involved with and things that I’ve produced as well so yeah, just longevity really would be the main thing.”
EE: What would you say is the best live gig that you’ve ever played?
IS: “I recently saw one that someone posted on YouTube and it was The Coral at Glastonbury I think from around the time we put out ‘Roots and Echoes’. Looking back at that I thought ‘Jesus, we were pretty good then’.”
EE: Do you have any plans to make any new music in the near future?
IS: “Yeah I think I’m still looking to maybe do another record at some point and just hopefully see how it goes next year, I think The Coral will be back doing something.”
EE: Okay I’ve got one last question for you. If you could travel back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?”
IS: “That’s a good question. That’s tough because me talking to my younger self, he probably wouldn’t listen anyway so I’d rather save my breath!”