With an ambitious ‘#OneSongaWeek’ project in which he wrote, recorded and released a song a week for an entire year, and an EP recorded on the London Eye with a string quartet in the time it takes to go round once (28 minutes), Frank Hamilton is not one for doing things the easy way.
Ahead of the launch of his new album later this year (Songs to Make Life Slightly Less Awkward, out September – see website for more details), Sync caught up with Frank to find out more about his inventive – and very personal – brand of creativity…
SYNC: For those who are not aware, what was the background to #OneSongaWeek – and what made you want to tackle such a tough creative challenge?
FRANK HAMILTON: Truthfully, there wasn’t much forethought at all, which was probably for the best or I might have talked myself out of it! I had the idea on January 2nd and released the first song on January 6th. Everything happened so quickly and most people were sceptical about it, which only made me more determined.
As for the why, I suppose it was a mixture of ambition and desperation. I’d tried and failed to land a ‘proper record deal’ (whatever that is) and I didn’t want to be another one of the thousands of artists who just plods along releasing EP after EP.
I always had faith in myself and the way I write songs but I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of doubt and worry surrounding the project. It wasn’t until week 30 or so that I realised it was actually a good idea!
SYNC: Your material comes across as ‘soul-bearing’. Is that how it feels for you, and how crucial is that aspect in making your songs work as well as they do?
FH: I was asked to describe my music in three words once and all I could think of was ‘far too honest’, which I guess could be construed as ‘soul-bearing’? I’ve always been a bit embarrassed by the hyperbole that goes along with that because I feel like being honest should be a given for artists, but you only have to take a quick look/listen to radio and the charts to know that it isn’t. At the end of the day, I’m just a bloke who feels things and writes about them… and maybe I take that to the extreme sometimes but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
SYNC: Your career to date could be described as somewhat ‘unconventional’ (whatever ‘conventional’ is supposed to be!). It sounds like the new album still follows the DIY style but have you changed your approach to the process both in terms of ideas for songs and the actual recording aspect?
FH: In terms of ideas for the songs, not much has changed. I’m still the same person (sometimes confident, sometimes insecure, always over-thinking) and the approach is no different – I just write about whatever things happen to be floating around my noggin. Circumstances change though, and the last few years have seen me grow up a bit and look beyond trying to find a pretty girl to hang out with. Don’t get me wrong there are still love songs on the new record, but it also tackles themes like depression, addiction and existentialism which are things I never really thought about back in the day.
In terms of the sonics and recording, I didn’t set out with a plan but the songs I was writing seemed to lend themselves to a different, more upbeat style of production. Also prior to #OneSongaWeek I’d never produced anything and naturally I’ve learnt a lot since then. If I’d tried making a record with drum machines and lo-fi electric guitars four years ago I wouldn’t have known where to start but this time I was more confident in being able to capture the noises in my head on record.
Also I’ve always wanted to be in a pop-punk / indie band, so once I started going down that route I didn’t need much encouragement to carry on. It feels a bit like the record I’ve always wanted to make, if that makes sense.
SYNC: What other artists out there are you currently enjoying at the moment?
FH: I’m a big fan of Vant, although I’ve only heard a few songs. I don’t know how they write but I’d be surprised if they weren’t mostly down to the singer. The lyrics and concepts stand head and shoulders above similar sounding indie bands, which makes me think he stays up until 4am overthinking things in the same way I do.
SYNC: Are you a festival kind of person or do you prefer your own shows? What have been your live show career highlights so far?
FH: Festivals are great but unless you’re Ed Sheeran or Coldplay (by that I mean everyone’s heard of you and knows your songs) they can also be hit and miss. The banter’s great, it’s a nice day out and I enjoy the challenge of winning over a bunch of people who had no idea I existed until 10 minutes ago, but if I had to choose I’d always pick headline shows.
The fact that people spend money and leave their houses to come and see little old me play some songs I wrote in my bedroom still blows my mind. There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on a stage in front of those people, seeing the joy in their eyes and hearing them sing along to every word as they smile and hug the person next to them. I know every artist says it but I really do feel like I have the best fans in the world… and I also feel really lucky to have sold enough records to be able to experience that properly – most artists don’t ever get to.
SYNC: What plans do you have to get on the road and tour the new album? And – early days yet we know! – are there any plans you can reveal yet for this year’s Christmas show?
FH: I can actually answer both these questions in one! This December will be the first time ‘Crikey, It’s Christmas’ (my annual Christmas show) goes on the road – London, Manchester and Bristol.
As for the album, who knows! I’ll do something but it might not be a conventional tour so to speak. As always I’ve got some ideas. We’ll see what happens!