Having stormed the stages of Folk on the Dock Fest, Kendal Calling, Green
Meadows and many more in 2016, Alex Hulme comes banging on our door in early
2017 with his latest single, ‘Family Tree’. We spoke to Alex about his new song and began by asking him the most crucial question…
Your bio mentions you wear odd socks. What’s behind that?
That came about entirely by accident when I was starting off when I was 16 or 17 years old. I was playing in a lot of bars or clubs where they weren’t necessarily up for acoustic music and I was playing in one that was particularly empty and a big hen party came in and they immediately came in and there was this lone person, playing guitar. The club was empty as it was quite early in the evening and they turned round to leave and they’d all had a fair few to drink and one of them turned around and said ‘look, he’s wearing odd socks’ [after] which] they stayed for one song and then the entire night. So I thought if it was going to work once it was going to work again! I’ve worn them ever since.
Your new single is called ‘Family Tree’. How would you describe it?
It comes out at the end of this month, this Friday. It’ll be available on Spotify and all those sort of places. The track is in the indie-folk / new-folk bracket. I’m really into bands like Seafret, Kodaline, and Bears Den, it’s all in that similar vibe. It’s slightly more left-field than straight singer-songwriter pop like Ed Sheeran, but not as far as alternative as real proper traditional folk.
Lyrically it’s quite a personal song; was it difficult for you to write and perform?
Yeah, [and] it still is. A lot of the tracks on the EP coming out next month (Family Tree is the title track) are revolving around my nephew, who sadly passed away when he was only four. It took me a while to finish the song. I tend to write the guitar and melody first and add the lyrics later, but this song felt like it was the right vibe and feel to talk about the topic. It was hard and it is still hard playing [it] now. I have three or four songs that revolve around a similar topic and even though I’ve performed them a lot they’re still hard to sing at times, but I feel that’s what a good song should be, from experience and from the heart. I hope people can connect with it in some way or another.
The single is taken from an EP; when is that out?
The EP is called the Leaves EP – you can see the link with trees and leaves (I’m a big fan of trees) – and that’s out on the last Friday of May. ‘Family Tree’ is the title track of the EP and there are another three tracks on it, all of which will be coming out as singles over the next two or three months. It’s all really exciting! We’re just in the middle of the regional tour at the moment, now in the last week of the North West in the UK. Over the next couple of months we’re jetting around the rest of the UK which should be really exciting!
The video is out now and is very dramatic in its use of light; was it fun to be involved with that?
It was wonderful! A couple of my old family friends – the Pace Brothers – are now professional wildlife photographers: they work for the BBC; they travel around the globe – they’ve just been up in Norway doing a documentary on the fjords. They said that they want to get into the music video game and whether I’d mind being their guinea pig, to which I said ‘yes please!’. Both of them are ex-army and we went really far into the Northern Highlands, up towards Angus county. We went on a two-day hardcore off-road video shoot, and they had me up at 4 in the morning and threw me in the sea in October in Northern Scotland! There are some dolphins in the video that we came across. We went on a two-day hike essentially and we were dragged through streams and scrounged for food. It was a crazy experience but wonderful and brilliant to be part of!
It’s even been picked up by the local tourist board; do you think it will be encouraging people to visit?
That was fantastic and really good to be part of. I’m getting messages from people asking where it was shot as the locations look so ridiculous. If you’ve never ventured up, it’s worth [going].
You did lots of festival stages last year; what was that experience like?
It was a really good experience. I’ve loved doing the festival circuit for the last couple of years. Normally we’d do a set of festivals then take a break for a year, alternating year-on-year. I’ve got some good ones in the pipeline, in Liverpool, Stoke on the Dock, which is an awesome festival. I should be down at Green Meadows in Peterborough later this year. I do quite a bit of touring over the Isle of Man as I was fortunate to make a connection over there. They’ve got a big festival over there in August that I should be a part of.
How’s the current tour going?
It’s been really, really good fun. This month has been my home and regional tour so I’ve been doing a lot of the venues that I’ve done over the past few years. There’ve been some really good turns up. I’ve been blessed to have a really strong and committed fan base who come to a lot of gigs and they get a lot of EPs and know all the words. I tend to do a lot of singing at my gigs; I’m a big fan of sing-a-longs!
How would you describe your live sound?
It’s often very hard to capture what you do live on the recording. I’m a loop station artist; I don’t have a full band with me. I do everything vocally and on guitar. I have a stomp box which is essentially a giant piece of wood that I stamp on as a bass drum, and I do a lot of live layering and looping, so it’s all very loud, and pretty much what you hear on the record, except instead of drums it’s guitar beats. I tend to use the guitar to fill out the other parts like the banjo as sadly I can’t do both at the same time, as cool as that would be! My show is similar but not with a full band. The aim will be at some point towards the end of the year to get a band together to do a short set of gigs, which the full sound of the records. I love doing the tour with just me; I get to meet other people and make lots of noise!
What are your future musical plans?
I’ve yet to do my debut album yet. That’s something I’m hoping to get round to doing, finishing recording it at the end of this year, and then that’ll be released next year. Basically my aim this year is to get as many singles and tracks out there as physically possible so there will be definitely another couple of singles after this EP towards end of the summertime and the autumn. I’ve got a backlog of songs now that I’m dying to get used, and if I don’t use them now they’ll get buried under new ones, so I want to get them recorded and get them out there! There’s plenty of new music coming from me in the next six months.
Finally what are your big ambitions for the rest of 2017?
Just more touring and gigs really. I’m desperate to gig as much as physically possible this year. I’ve had an eight or nine month break from heavy gigging whilst I’ve been recording all these tracks. I’ve been dying to play them live, and that’s probably my favourite part of the job. I want to get out to as many places as possible and travel the full length of the UK. I do a lot of jumping between London and the North West, that I tend to miss out the midlands, though not on purpose! I’ve just not been able to find as many connections there, so my aim is to hit every major city across the UK. That would be awesome!