Our interview with Eugene McGuinness

I like to elaborate upon a little tiny bit of truth and surround it by a load of glorious lies!”, Eugene McGuinness

Eugene McGuinness is a singer and songwriter who has been signed to Domino Records since 2008. He writes fantastically poetic words and sets them to bright, expansive tunes. If he had to explain what he did to an ancient aunt he’d say, “You know Oasis and The Beatles? I’m trying to do that. I try to make very honest, good time music…” Eugene played a handful of brilliant songs in the Spotify office this week and we spoke to him directly afterwards.

You’ve not played live – outside of your part in Miles Kane’s touring band – for nearly two years. Why not?
I wanted to allow myself to miss things, to miss the excitement of putting a record out. I could have done an album straight after the first record, but it would have sounded just like the first one.

While this one is quite different – it’s bigger, more expansive.
Well, there are things I can’t change about myself! There’s a lot more thought about this one. At the time of the first record I was just a snotty kid with a couple of tunes…

How did this new record begin?
I went out with (Domino boss) Lawrence (Bell) in Camden one night after the first album had been out a while. I said I wanted to do a pop album and we were laughing about it and what that really meant, but good pop is an amazing thing. I was thinking of Gnarls Barkley or Prince; big, modern-sounding, shiny pop, but I’m never far away from a surf guitar! I don’t like retro, which might sound odd coming from a man that dresses like me…

Like it’s 1961?
Quite. But new music is so exciting. In the studio you can do anything. I wanted this record to sound amazing in a car and a club. And not a, “cool’ club, a real club.

Where real people go.
That’s exactly it. Real people.

Tell me this Eugene, who are the Top Five Greatest Pop Stars Ever?
Easy. John Lennon. Marvin Gaye. David Bowie. Bob Dylan. Tina Turner.

What about the five records couldn’t you exist without?
OK, that’s quite easy. Beatles’ Sgt Pepper. Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. Stones’ Exile On Main St. The Strokes’ Is This It. Neil Young’s After The Goldrush. My dad would play me The Beatles and Neil Young and I have a lot of family in Ireland who would play me things like Chuck Berry. I was 16 or so when Is This It came out and that was a huge deal for me. Later I would hide my Eminem CDs from my mum and play them really carefully on the bus on my portable CD player. Dr Dre’s 2001 and D’Angelo’s Voodoo are both amazing records too.

Does the perfect song exist?
Oh yeah, there are loads! I wish I’d written Five Years by Bowie; that’s perfect, as is The Beach Boys’ In My Room. Then there’s Strawberry Fields Forever and I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Sinatra singing Send In The Clowns is perfect. I don’t like things that run out of steam, so Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades – that’s a perfect song!

How much do we learn about Eugene McGuinness by listening to Eugene McGuinness’ lyrics?
In a personal way? Maybe not so much. I like to elaborate upon a little tiny bit of truth and surround it by a load of glorious lies! It’s like Chinese Whispers. For instance, I met Eric Cantona in a bar in Paris the other day. We went over to get a photo and he spoke about four words to us – but I know that in a few years I’ll be telling people we got smashed together and went back to party in his hotel room.

What life lessons have you learnt being a professional musician?
You can’t take your eye off the ball. You’ll always be scrutinised, so get in there first. I used to think I was a bit special when I first got a deal, but now it’s all about honesty. Don’t go overboard and think everything you do is great, but try and write everyday. If you keep an eye on your creativity it stays open.

Easy final question – what’s your favourite noise?
Someone singing! I love a voice wafting in through an open window, that idea that singing is an entirely normal activity.