by JULIE-ANN SPENCE
THERE is always the fear when you interview a
musician you admire that they will be disappointing. Luckily,
when I interviewed singer songwriter Stephen Fretwell he was
anything but disappointing.
Stephen, who is looking forward to his visit
to Belfast in the New Year, was self-deprecating and witty, with
no apparent concept of his overwhelming musical talent.
Stephen's many local fans will have been
deeply disappointed when the Manchester singer cancelled his
Limelight gig earlier this year. Rest assured however, he had a
very good excuse.
"I got to Belfast, got to the hotel, got into
my room and went a bit delirious. I couldn't come round, it was
really bad. I've never cancelled a gig in my life."
So, having read that I'm sure his fans will
forgive him and look forward to 'Stephen Fretwell Plays Belfast
With characteristic modesty Stephen stated
simply about his pathway to musical success: "I was always into
guitars when I was a kid. I always liked music but then everyone
does don't they?"
But not everyone takes
that love of music and transforms it into a hit record and not
everyone is capable of following up that debut with an even more
accomplished second album.
Stephen's debut album Magpie was a phenomenal
success, the maturity and depth of which belies his tender
If you have never seen Stephen you would be
forgiven for thinking he was much older than his 26 years. But
it is even more shocking to learn that he penned Magpie when he
was just 18.
"I had my photograph taken the other day and
the photographer thought I was 46," joked Stephen. "I think I
write old man songs."
One of those 'old man songs' was 'What's That
You Say Little Girl'. "I always did write songs when I was a kid
but they weren't as good as the ones on Magpie.
"I wrote 'What's That You Say Little
Girl' and I thought 'that was alright, I could maybe do this is
if I worked hard. It was a real turning point for me.
"I never really know whether the songs are
good or not.
"I find the
songwriting process hard. I always think I'll never have another
"The songs just strike me, like a little
musical idea. The best ones are when you have really got
something to say, or if you are upset or happy about something.
"The tough one is when you know you have got to
write a few songs for an album and you worry that you're just
making it up." Stephen took some time out after the release of
Magpie and found himself visiting friends in New York. And
whilst there he recorded the notoriously difficult second album
'Man on the Roof'.
"I really hate bands that go to America to
record an album but now I can't say that because I did it too.
But it was just a natural thing that happened. People expect
there to be an American flavour to the album but there isn't.
"It's more of a British album because I could
see those idiosyncrasies from my childhood from being away.
There's a lot of colloquialisms in it."
When Stephen steps into the Limelight on
January 25 he will be all alone. But no doubt the Belfast crowd
will make him feel at home.
Looking forward to the show, Stephen said: "I
have never played in Northern Ireland, I've only played in
Dublin. I'm really looking forward to it a lot.
"Two guys from Elbow were my backing band but
they're busy and can't come with me so I'll be on my own.
"Bands don't always like playing old songs
but since I'll be on my own I can play all my old songs as well
as the new ones."
After his Belfast gig, Stephen will be
playing in Dublin, London and his hometown of Manchester before
taking a break from the live circuit.
Stephen's fans had to wait three years for
the follow up to Magpie but Stephen promises the third album
won't be long in hitting the shops.
"I am going to do a new record in February so
it's just a case of getting songs written. I am going to try to
get that out by the sum- mer, he promises.
And if you can't wait that long for a new
tune, check out
www.stephenfretwell.com where you can download an mp3 of 'Oh
Stephen Fretwell will be taking to the stage
of the Limelight on Friday January 25. Tickets are on sale now
from all usual Ticketmaster outlets.