FOR A man about to embark on not one, not two, but three separate tours between now and Christmas, Steve Cradock is remarkably relaxed.
During a break in rehearsals at the Attic in Torquay, Steve is enjoying the warm reception his new solo album is receiving, and looking forward to taking its songs out on the road.
Advance reviews of Travel Wild-Travel Free have been universally good, and songs like Sheer Inertia and Street Fire sound fresh as paint as he and his band prepare them on the darkened stage of the daytime-deserted harbourside venue.
“I’m really looking forward to touring,” he says. “I’m not very good at being at home. I like being out on the road!”
Torquay-based Steve begins a tour in his long-standing role as part of Paul Weller’s band on October 7, and prepares for Christmas by fronting Ocean Colour Scene on a British tour.
But in between, he squeezes in eight dates with his own band, culminating in the only West Country date, on board the converted cargo ship Thekla in the centre of Bristol on November 8.
It’s not that he wouldn’t love to be playing closer to home, and he hasn’t ruled out a last-minute warm-up gig somewhere nearer Torquay.
But he has been frustrated by the lack of venues and opportunities in South Devon.
“I don’t know what it is,” he says. “I don’t think people really know what to do with us.”
There was one local pre-tour gig in August, when Paignton Regatta revellers had a sneak preview of songs from the new album as Steve and his band played a free open-air gig on the Green. The tour band will be almost identical to that which kicked off the regatta’s fireworks night.
Steve’s wife Sally will be part of the band, and plays a major role on the new album.
In fact it’s a real family affair, with nine-year-old son Cassius playing the flute on one track, and 10-year-old daughter Sunny reading a poem on another.
“They’re always with us,” said Steve. “So it just seemed natural to have them involved in the album.
“Cassius was just playing a melody on the flute, just picking out the notes himself.
“So we had a whole session in the studio with him. He was really professional, and he’s really proud of the song on the album.”
Like his previous solo outing, Travel Wild-Travel Free was recorded at Fred Ansell’s Deep Litter Studio in the South Hams. This time, however, it was recorded in the warmth of summer rather than the depths of an icy winter which formed the backdrop to the recording of Peace City West.
“It was a great experience, and a bit warmer than it was last time we were down there recording!” said Steve.
“We had a bit more time with this one. It evolved over a longer period and we had a bit more thinking time.
“When you mix an album like this, that’s when it starts to contain its own DNA.”
The finished songs were then mixed and mastered at Paul Weller’s Black Barn studio in Surrey.
The result is an album packed with great tunes and surprises.
Sheer Inertia is a radio-friendly stomper that sounds even better played live than it does on record.
“It’s the first single from the album,” says Steve.
“It’s kind of a pop song, with a middle-eight reminiscent of Roy Wood and a bit of French radio coming through from somewhere.”
Opening track Anyway The Wind Blows sets the scene beautifully, while the exuberant Doodle Book appears in a different version from the one on the latest OCS album.
The title track could and should be the second single; Running Isn’t Funny Anymore is a feast of swirling psychedelia just made for playing loud in cars, and 10,000 Times is a delightful duet, co-written with another great English songwriter, Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze.
“Rehearsals have been going really well,” says Steve.
“The Attic is an amazing venue to rehearse in. It’s perfect.
“A few more days and we’ll be ready to take the new songs out on the road.
“I can’t wait!”
Travel Wild-Travel Free is out on Monday September 30.