Michele Stodart, bass player with The Magic Numbers, released her debut solo album, Wide Eyed Crossing, last week on her own label Keepsake Records. The album has a very country and blues feel to it and it features Michele on vocals, guitars, double bass, drums, banjo, xylophones and percussion with guest vocals from Conor O'Brien of Villagers on Invitation To The Blues.
We spoke to Michele in a pub in Ealing about the new record, her touring plans and what's happening with The Magic Numbers.
The record has been three years in the making, being recorded around commitments with the band and wasn't initially intended for release.
Michele explains. It's been a long time in my head, probably 2009, around the time The Runaway (the third Magic Numbers album) came out when I went into the studio we were building and started recording whilst on tour with the band, and then grabbing the odd day here and there to finish it, well start it really, demoing different things.
I wasn't even thinking about releasing anything at that point. I'd talked to people about it. It's been ready about a year, and I decided I wanted to put it out and do it independently, start gigging it and get a band together. So for the last year, I've been playing gigs and doing support slots.
The songs are autobiographical and very personal to Michele and she initially had some reservations about laying them bare for everyone to listen to. She has however recently been displaying handwritten lyrics to the songs on her facebook page.
The songs for me are about particular times in my life, like growing up. That's why I called it Wide Eyed Crossing, something that's kind of naive and then at the same time about being young.
The oldest song, You've Got A Hold Of My Heart, was written a long time ago and songs like Too Much Too Late which are quite recent. They're songs about me, maybe not at this particular time, so going back they're quite hard to sing sometimes. You always go back to a particular place when you hear the words.
I wanted to do something with the lyrics. They're quite personal to me and I think that's why it took so long for me to release the record. It was more something that I was doing that I didn't want to share with anyone, but it actually turned out alright.
When playing live with the Magic Numbers, Michele's stage persona catches the eye as she rocks out, hair flying across her face. The music on the new album, where she takes to the acoustic stage, is very different.
I figured it would give people the best of both worlds. With the band, it's rocking out on the bass and on my record, it's more from a singer-songwriter point of view. It's how I wrote them so that's how it's come out. I'm thinking of doing another record and going in with the band and recording it live so it's more of a band kind of record.
Michele is about to embark on her debut solo tour in November and has put together a group of friends to perform with her.
The band is Matt, my boyfriend, who plays guitar, Steve Duffy, who plays drums, Andy Nelson, who plays bass, and Maddy who plays violin. It's nice that it's friends basically, I wanted to do it that way really.
We're going out on the road in November, with the band, which is quite exciting really. This is the first time we'll have been out on tour as a band and we've got some cool support bands. It's quite scary as well, doing the thing you're supposed to do when a record comes out.
The venues are much smaller than I'm used to, but I really wanted to start from scratch. It's been nice playing to people so far who haven't heard the band and to spread the word that way really. Doing the support slots with Duke Special and Slow Club, that's been a real eye-opener for me, not having a dressing room or a rider, back to the basics.
Michele is releasing the album through traditional channels, but is aware of the importance of independent music stores to artists like her.
It's coming out through the big stores like HMV, Amazon and I-Tunes. I want to get it into independent stores and do some in-stores. I've got a few already, one in Union in Lewes on the day of the Brighton gig and I'd love to do some more during the tour. But there doesn't seem to be so many around these days.
Whilst most artists would be concentrating on their debut album on such a tour, Michele plans to introduce another batch of new songs into the setlist.
I've got so many songs that I've written now that I'd like to try and release a second album next year if it doesn't clash with anything. In the live shows, we'll be doing lots of new stuff really and those songs are a little more upbeat.
There's almost two sides to what I do, I could do a whole gig with strings (Maddy, and Leo from Good Books on Cello) and it'd be nice to do a bit of that on tour. It'll be a really long set.
Despite the solo album coming out now, Michele has also been hard at work with The Magic Numbers and there should be some activity on that front early next year too.
We're at the moment mixing our fourth record which is sounding really great. We want to try and put it out early next year, in March time. The guys have been really supportive.
Romeo has been the one who said we should do it, right back from the days we had Take Me Or Leave Me on the second album, we knew it was something I wanted to do. It's a bit weird seeing them out in the audience though.
Wide Eyed Crossing is out now on Keepsake Records and can be streamed in full at Soundcloud here (though not as a set).
Michele Stodart has her own website and can be found in all the usual places online such as Facebook, Twitter and on Youtube.