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Adam Masterson

Some people write songs because they've got a record company schedule to meet. Others write for the money. Some write because they want to be famous. And a few write songs because they have something to say that demands to be heard. Adam Masterson is firmly in the latter category. He doesn't really know where his songs come from. He doesn't know what makes him write them. All he knows is that he has to sing them "One Tale Too Many" is a debut album to restore your faith in the art of great songwriting. It is a pop album - in the way that Neil Finn once defined pop as "an appreciation of simple, elegant melodies over interesting chords". But it's also a timeless record. Adam stands in a tradition that unites songwriters who have followed their muse regardless of fad and fashion or the demand for hit singles. Songs that could be dropped down in any time or place and which would strike a deep and resonant chord. It seems extraordinary that a record as mature, natural and deeply romantic as "One Tale Too Many" can arrive as if out of nowhere. It hasn't quite of course. But at the age of 22 the Adam Masterson story is only just beginning. He grew up in West London and learnt the flute at school. When he couldn't have piano lessons because the waiting list was too long, he taught himself, working out the chords and improvising. While all his friends were listening to Britpop, the record that made him want to play guitar was a blues compilation he got free from a magazine when he was 14.

He was entranced by the rawness of Robert Johnson's singing and playing. The next record he bought was The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. It was followed by After The Goldrush and Harvest by Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. "They might have been made before I was born, but they were records that created their own world and there was a real romance to them." By the time he was 16, he had started writing his own songs and put a band together, playing the usual round of pub gigs. A small label called Volume Records helped him cut a demo of his songs. It came to nothing for they really wanted him to write singles which wasn't his intention and led to his first crisis of confidence. "When you start out, you hear the records that you like. Then you hear the records that are currently popular and in the charts and I found there was no connection. There didn't seem to be anybody doing what I wanted to do and I was wondering if you could do the music I wanted to do any more." But he now had a demo to pass around. It landed in the hands of his current management and instead of trying to mould him into something different, they encouraged him to do exactly what he wanted to do.

At the same time, the success of people like Ryan Adams made him realise there was a resurgence of interest in real songs again. Although still without a deal, he was packed off to America to support Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics, then taking time out from the band to play a series of solo shows. Masterson's second ever gig as a solo artist was at the Irving Plaza in New York. When the tour was over, it was back home and "getting used to playing for five people down the Dog and Duck again," as he puts it. There was the occasional bigger gig, like supporting Tori Amos at London's Union Chapel. But he needed to make a living and registered for temping work with an employment agency. As luck would have it, they got him a job in the post room of a London record company. It wasn't quite the entry to the music industry he had been looking for. But he has no regrets. "I'm glad it worked out that way. It kept my feet on the ground. And playing those little gigs is character building. It made me tougher. I was prepared to go away and work at it for however many years it took until I had the songs." Fate intervened when his original demos reached BMG's Nick Stewart, who immediately signed Masterson to the Gravity label. He went into the studio last summer with veteran producer Mick Glossop, a long-standing Van Morrison acolyte.

Glossop put together a crack team of sympathetic musicians that included other Morrison alumni in Kate St John (oboe/cor anglais) and Johnny Scott (guitars) plus Richie Buckley (flute/sax), Liam Genochey (drums), George Hall (keyboards) and Dudley Phillips (bass). Like so many great records, One Tale Too Many is not the product of months spent labouring and fretting in the studio but was recorded in four days. "The arrangements weren't really worked out. We just played through the songs spontaneously. That was how I hoped it would turn out. I wanted that freshness and to let the songs speak for themselves". The result is as memorable a debut album as you've heard in a very long time. It's one hell of an achievement, but Adam Masterson is in it for the long haul. "I just want to carry on writing more songs," he says. "I wouldn't want to rush into putting a band together to make the sound bigger, even though that might be easier. I'd rather go out on my own and let the songs work through. I want to grow as a songwriter and a performer. I've got my own stories to tell".

(biog facts provided by artists or representative - correct as released for City Showcase September 2003)

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