“A lot of people who come and see me now wouldn’t necessarily be interested in Idlewild, or in a rock band,” says singer Roddy Woomble,
He’s still Idlewild’s lead singer after 27 years, but this month returns to rescheduled solo dates from before Covid.
“I’ve found that over the years, particularly when I started playing with more folk musicians, that opened my eyes,” he continues.
“Suddenly there was a whole new audience there, and a lot of them have stuck with me.”
Roddy’s solo work
His most recent solo works have been the 2020 EP Everyday Sun and last year’s Lo-Soul album, both of which were recorded with Dundonian musician Andrew Wasylyk (also a member of Idlewild, under his birth name of Andrew Mitchell).
Across his five other albums since 2006’s My Secret is My Silence, Woomble’s collaborators have included folk stalwarts like Phil Cunningham, Karine Polwart, Lau’s Aidan O’Rourke and Kris Drever, John McCusker and Dundee’s own Michael Marra.
“I really concentrated on (solo albums and gigs) when Idlewild stopped playing for five years,” says Woomble.
“We’ve stripped it right back in the past few years, it’s just myself and Andrew now. He’s a good pal and a great collaborator, I really enjoy working with him.
“I like the minimalism of it, just the two of us, and we’ve had to rearrange all the old songs that way.
Lo-Soul and Everyday Sun
“Lo-Soul and Everyday Sun were done with just Andrew and I, so they’re easy to bring to life.
“It’s mainly electronic, with lots of beats and different sounds, and Andrew’s great at that, so we’ve got his keyboard and laptop for that side of the show.
“Then when we approach Idlewild material or more folk-influenced stuff from My Secret is My Silence, we do it quite straight-up, he plays the piano and I play the acoustic guitar. It’s a varied show.”
Idlewild’s many milestones
Idlewild played their rescheduled 25th anniversary tour dates at large venues across Britain last autumn.
Later this year they celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album The Remote Part with more shows, including one at the revived Connect festival at Ingliston.
Yet as Woomble explains, this lower-key solo work is where his creative energy is going these days.
“Obviously a lot of Idlewild fans come to hear Idlewild songs (at the solo shows), and that’s great,” he says.
“The band is a big part of my life, I love it and the people in it, but there’s an element of nostalgia that creeps into it nowadays, and I’ve always been someone who’s interested in what I’m going to do next.
“Idlewild has been a slower thing over the past few years – well, every band has because of the pandemic – but we haven’t worked on any new material for years now, whereas I’m working on something constantly.
“In the past five years my own material is what I’ve been interested in doing creatively, and the band is this established, popular thing with a fanbase that can play big gigs.
“They’re different things in my mind, and I guess Idlewild’s not as creatively active as I feel I am on my own.”
In the rear-view mirror
He explains that Idlewild’s golden period is seen as roughly 1998 until 2003, and the further it slips into the rear-view mirror, the harder it is to work on music which is expected to compete with that period.
Yet there is the sense he knows how lucky he is – at once part of a much-loved and popular heritage rock act, and a songwriter and musician with enough of a cult following to allow him continued interest and complete creative freedom in his own work.
“I was always… not disappointed, but I wish some of my solo records weren’t as low-key, if you know what I mean?” he says.
“They were on small labels, there were never big budgets to market them, and I played a lot of gigs, but maybe they did deserve more attention.
New songs in the making
“There are so many records out there and I’ve been making them for quite a while, though, so I’m not being ungrateful.”
He’s writing new songs now, as he always is, although he has no idea what form they’ll take.
“Whether that’s going to be under my own name or whether I’ll try something different, I don’t know,” he says.
“I’m always open to new sounds and different ideas, so I’ll record them this year and see where they take me.”
- Roddy Woomble plays Dundee University Chaplaincy Centre on Sunday May 22. www.roddywoomble.net