Interview and (oh yea) a FREE album: Bill Coleman

Late last week we ran a competition to give away CDs of Bill Coleman’s excellent new album ‘You Can’t Buy Back Your Life’ with unique, hand made artwork (and congrats to our lucky winners!). But what we omitted to properly plug was the fact that Coleman is giving away the digital download of the album for free on his website. Yes, that’s FREE kids. And it’s an 11 track album. And it’s damn good stuff. Actually if you’re a lazy sort, you don’t even have to go to his website. You can just enter your email address into the handy little widget box thing-a-me-jig below and you’ll get sent a download link instantly. Nice.

To make up for our (okay my) incompetence here’s a lovely interview with the man hisself. He’s a nice chap isn’t he?

Culch: So, Bill, how is the promotion for the new album going? Has there been a good reaction so far?

Bill Coleman: Reaction has been immense so far, people seem to be well taken with the artwork, and people have been dancing at the gigs, which is definitely a good thing.

C: This is your second album and you’ve recorded and released several EPs also. Do you write songs all the time?

B C: Pretty much. I don’t sit down every day to write but any time I daydream lyrics or melodies I tend to record the idea and then over time come back to those to work on them.  Over time they’ll turn into finished tunes.

C: Will those familiar with your older music hear anything new in ‘You Can’t Buy Back Your Life’?

B C: Yep.  I only finished writing the last tune for the record just before we recorded it, so that’ll be fairly fresh on most people.  A lot of the tunes I’ve been playing live for a while now, but they’re slightly different animals when I play them because I have this one-man-band, laptop and loops setup. The album has more of a band thing going on, so there’ll be something new even for people who’ve heard a few gigs.

C: Were there any major influences in terms of the albums sound and direction?

B C: What I wanted was looking for was a melding of a folk feel with electronic influences.  Records like Fleet Foxes, The Shins – Wincing the Night Away, Bright Eyes – Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, were signposts for us in what we were aiming for.  I love all those records, how they sound and how they feel.

C: You recorded the album in a house in Wicklow – do you think the home studio versus pro studio environment effected the sound?

B C: We did record it in a house in Wicklow, but to call it a home studio is probably a little misleading, we had a lot of really nice gear making this record.  I don’t think we lost anything to a professional setup in terms of the gear that we were using.  I definitely think though that the environment was more comfortable  – I wouldn’t have been as relaxed in a studio.  The ‘control room’ was in the sitting room, which was part of an open plan kitchen/sitting-room area.  So while Ken (McHugh – Autamata, David Kitt, Dublin Gospel Choir) could be working on a mix I’d be in the kitchen, making sure the soup didn’t burn. The piano was just to the left of the kitchen, close to the open fire, which you can hear right at the end of ‘Your Hands Were Made for Working’.  I think the recordings have more of a personality because of all that.  They’re coloured by the sounds of the rooms that we were working in, more so than you’d ever get from using reverb no. 9 from the rack unit, or whatever…

C: Tell us what inspired your decision to hand-make all the artwork for this release?

B C: I’ve always had a bit of a hand-made spray-painted vibe going on with the EPs that I’ve released, so I wanted to continue with that only scale it up a bit.  I wanted to do something that was more personal than just a manufactured package for the album and make a bit of a statement about it in the process.  The thing about the artwork is that you can see there’s a lot of time gone into it – people are struck by the work involved – but it’s probably only a fraction of the time that went into writing and recording the record.

Bill Coleman

C: Are you a collector yourself? Do you own lots of box sets and vinyl?

B C: I unfortunately don’t have a turntable at the moment, so the only vinyl I have is the ‘You Kiss by the Book’ record.  It’s on the list though.  The turntable, I mean.  I still have a stack of music from back when I could afford to be buying them all the time, but I’ve gone very digital with the new music I’m listening to.  I’m all Spotifyed up to the max these days…

C: What happens if and when the 2,000 copies sell out? Will you make another batch? Will you do all the work yourself again or might you employ some worker monkeys?

B C: I’m more partial to the worker penguins myself.  I find they’re a bit better than the monkeys from an attention to detail point of view.  I won’t be making another batch though, if I do need more I’ll design a more standard package and get them manufactured.  Makes the initial run a little more special for me, that and I don’t think my back could take all the bending over again, that’s the only drawback with the penguins.  They don’t bend well from the waist…

C: You’re also giving away the digital download of the album for free which more and more bands now do. This is a freedom you have as an unsigned artist. Would signing to a label interest you or are you happy to keep DIY-ing it?

B C: It all depends on how that would work.  I’m happy doing my own thing, but I do at some point need to be making a few quid here and there and if a label would help me get to more ears, so I can continue to record and release stuff, then that might work.  I think we’re probably getting closer to the time where more and more labels are going to do the same thing with mp3s, let you download them for free in return for your email address.  You can still argue the toss over whether it works as a model though.  My feeling is that once people know the tunes a bit better they’re far more likely to come to a gig, buy a t-shirt, whatever.  But obviously it’s a bit of a nervous decision to make if you’ve spend millions on making a record.

C: You’re a Corkonian – does that make you feel like an outsider when you come to gig in Dublin? I’ve heard the Dublin music scene can be a bit clique-ish….

B C: Not because I’m from Cork particularly I don’t think. I’ve lived in Dublin for a long time, so I’ve a lot of friends there, and sher, most of the people in Dublin aren’t from there at all…  Go to Meath, now, that’s full of Dubs. So’s Louth actually…

C: You’re touring around Ireland to promote the new record. Any plans to go further afield?

B C: Definitely, once I find someone to buy the plane tickets.


Get the limited edition CD of ‘You Can’t Buy Back Your Life’ direct from Bill.

Coleman plays the following gigs around the country so catch em when he’s in your neck of the woods:

Oct 23rd – The Exchange, Dublin (Artwork Display) 7pm

Oct 27th – The Spirit Store, Dundalk (Downstairs) 8pm

Oct 28th – The Roisin Dubh, Galway (Upstairs) 8pm

Oct 29th – The Passionfruit Theatre, Athlone 8pm

Nov 4th – Mutant Cabaret, The Roundy (Upstairs), Castle Street, Cork 8pm

Nov 6th – Triskel/Plugd Records, Caroline Street, Cork 4pm

Nov 18th – Boyles, Slane 9pm


About Éilish Burke

Éilish writes the Ad Nauseam series of posts for Culch.ie as well as some other bit and bobs. She used to work in adland and still likes to dissect the advertising she comes across, though these days mainly from the comfort of her couch and in the form of angry tirades while her flatmate rolls her eyes to heaven. She secretly harbours smug feelings that instead of saving and putting a deposit on a house she spent all her life savings on extravagant holidays and has therefore escaped a lifetime in negative equity. She co-runs a company called Amp Music Marketing. You can get in touch with her at eilishburke{at}gmail{dot}com or follow her on Twitter.

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