East Midlands' singer-songwriter Michael Upton is now signed to PHB Music, the same label Prime (UK Band) have graced with 2 album releases. Talented and "arrogant" in equal measure - ask some Derbyshire based musos their opinion - he spoke to Lee about his upcoming album, his controversial persona and plans for his post-Lockdown direction.
LEE HEIR: So, Mr Upton, it's been a long time! I'd like to welcome to this interview and also - after this weekend's announcement - you will be joining my band Prime and others in the PHB stable of musicians... so welcome to that! How's life in Lockdown been for someone who's used to being out there gigging 4 or 5 times a week?
MICHAEL UPTON: Will I be able to correct you grammatically, or will you edit that yourself? I'd like to welcome you*... Anyway, thanks for the chat... Lockdown suits me just fine. Gigging is amazing, but when 3/4 a week is covers to please the masses, it gets rather boring!
LH: Yeah thanks for that Mike... I had seen that you wanted to branch out into a mainly originals set... but why did it take you so long? To be honest I always liked your cover versions.
MU: The money loss for stopping cover gigs is a bit gulp-worthy! I'm glad you like my versions, I had to change the covers slightly, otherwise I'd fall asleep during gigs. I like a few of them still: for example, 'Duality' (by Slipknot) acoustic.
LH: Well you might have not enjoyed the gigs but at least you got paid which is more than some. What caused the spark that made you want to change direction?
MU: I corrected myself first! You better not take credit for that one! Yeah, I'm good at it, but lots of "musicians" get paid for cover gigs, and quite frankly, I think, how? The change has been a slow process over quite a few months after feeling mentally drained doing requests, and not playing what I want.
LH: Now I was just going to touch on this, but I had seen that you had had a lot of flack in online social media fights about this very subject so I may as well mention it now... What do you feel constitutes a "musician"? Don't you feel that anyone out there entertaining the public has the right to be lauded? Don't get me wrong, you've played some of my shows and know that I promote only originals artists, yet you must also see the other side of the coin, the "fun for all the family" approach?
MU: There is a place for it, it definitely should be a thing. Live music is food for the soul, in any form. This is my journey to realise what gigs I want to play. A musician can be as simple as playing a few chords, it can be a loose term. A "professional musician" I would suggest, should involve a bit more variety and adaptability, in which many lack. Where I lay flat is, a huge percentage of the audience don't notice a s*** musician and a talented musician. As long as they can sing the greats vaguely correctly, they're happy. So in hindsight, they do a better job than me on that front!
LH: I completely get that, and your original material - I really liked your first EP by the way and I'm looking to see what you create on the second one - is too accomplished to get caught up in the 'Wonderwall' and 'Sex On Fire' crowd... Would you say the kind of gigs you've done over the last few years have done your music a disservice?
MU: In short, yes. I built up a fan base based mainly on my ability to adapt and recreate covers and entertain people at clubs and pubs with an energetic performance of the songs they already love. I'm now left with my favourite supporters, like your good self, that like my original material and that eggs me on. So you could say this transition has chosen quality in fans (loosely put) as opposed to quantity, and I've grown to like that.
LH: As the singer of Prime (UK Band) over the last 5 years, I must say that every audience is relevant... But when I started in bands in my late teens and then getting up on stage I would demand that the audience liked it... and that didn't always happen! And I pissed a lot of people off on the local music scene with my actions or big mouth, ha ha! That remind you of somebody? I always thought I was good enough, and deserved the attention. And I think I ended up proving that to a degree!
MU: I never demand the audience like it, as long as I'm jamming, I'm good. I'll always be a big mouth. The music scene is full of egos that I like to put pins into it. Have you noticed them get personal as opposed to dissing my music? Funny that. Yeah, your stage presence in Prime gives an audience a vibe almost irrelevant to their musical tastes.
LH: Oh dear that reminds me of when Prime did a cracking gig at the o2 in Sheffield supporting Electric 6 and someone who knew my friends said: "Your singer is really arrogant isn't he"... Of course I took that as a compliment!... So anyway, getting away from flat audiences, tell me more about your latest release? Of course, the PHB team is delighted to have you and your excellent music on board, even if they're concerned about your 'reputation'! This should be about music and other stuff should be left at the door in my opinion. What's the likely release date and what can we expect musically, as your music has encompassed blues, prog, smooth acoustic vibes, and some very creative musical formations within the tracks...
MU: Nicely described... "The worst reputations get the furthest" - Michael Upton 13/7/20
Speak your mind, reap the consequences.
So, new music! I'm excited for sure and the release of 'No Offence Bob' was fun, but separate to what is to come. Got some great feedback in the single, but next is MY FIRST EVER ALBUM. The artwork is done, the songs chosen, the release date is gonna be latter end of autumn. That's all I got on that front. I'm also feeling really positive working with PHB Music.
LH: Well, whatever we may have discussed in the past or if we have different ideas of how to approach things in general, I personally as a musician want to be associated with some of the most creative people around... and you fall into that bracket. And PHB Music is excited to have you on board, I know that for a fact. So how would you say the new music on the album can be compared with your last EP stylistically?
MU: The 'Citalopramic Oceans' EP is two years old this month, and that's a long time for me as I'm changing constantly. My writing style has been wonderfully crafted through life lessons and the correct people in my life. The songs are that of self-growth with touches of musical politics and equality. I've paid massive attention to detail on when to be raspy, when to be soft. The songs chosen have been hand selected from dozens of songs I've written over the past four years. Also the recording style and what I want to incorporate is a lot different.
LH: Do you think that this new decision to go in a more challenging direction has made the music lighter than your early work or has the work got both elements, that general 'shade-of-grey' that life offers us? Do you think your music is now more human and playful and a bit less analytical?
MU: Time has created the album sound. Adapting, gaining more dynamical levels. Confidence in my skill made the single for example humorous and playful, but I'm still in a rather serious mode in writing style, hence why the single was separate to the album. Some songs will match my earlier work and I'm hoping those creature comfort tracks will suit the 'Citalopramic Oceans' fans.
LH: I'm not sure "dynamical" is even a word, but if it isn't it should be ha ha. I did wonder about the single 'No Offense Bob' because it reminded me of the Oasis track 'Married With Children' which of course was the perfect closer to their album Definitely Maybe.
MU: It's a word! (I just checked) Oh right, don't know it, haven't really explored oasis, one of many bands that commit meh feelings into me.
LH: Oh, Definitely Maybe is a fabulous album. Check out 'Slide Away' and 'Up In The Sky', they're fantastic tunes.
MU: Mind if I don't?
LH: Come on Mikey boy, not only will I offer you life advice I will give you a musical education too ha ha. So, we talked about time giving you a new sound, if time gave you the ideal scenario for your musical circumstances in 3 years time, what would those circumstances be?
MU: Some parts of music I'd rather not be educated on. Lovely gesture though, thank you! Gig my music full time is the ultimate aim. I'm a full time musician, but as soon as government decide that freedom exists, I'll need more income from elsewhere, and that won't be cover gigs anymore. So I want my music to inspire and tickle people's ears, so they'll pay to see it live. Which may I add, sounds not too dissimilar to hearing it recorded.
LH: Prime were never like that, our sound on our final recordings always has a lot of beef and slicker production, but live it was anything goes, even though we still had the chops that we did on the recordings. I'm proud to be like the Sex Pistols in that way, even though not as rich ... We even had a "Winterland" moment in that our last ever gig was a complete mess in front of many hundreds of people! If your career trajectory was similar to one artist when you finally hang up your guitar in years to come, who would that be?
MU: Music is to be played with feeling and structure can taint that, so I respect that. If Donald Trump was a musician then that's the aim. I'll build walls between me and fake musicians and make Upton Towers. I can see it now.
LH: Haha maybe they can make a theme park where people can pay to be on a rollercoaster with you while you play 'Wonderwall'?
MU: Maybe they can fuck off?
LH: Ahaha! So, whats the running length of the new album release? I joined the listening party of your new single 'No Offence Bob' as obviously I'm a nosey b*****d and wanted to check out my new label-mate, and of course the new music. I heard some very creative stuff in there, and am excited to hear the release...
MU: The album will be 13 songs (was 12, but wrote a corker) won't add anymore! It's gonna be an LP that takes you on a journey. Hopefully some of the hatred towards my way of thinking will be understood more.
LH: Thirteen, lucky for some. Last time I checked your facebook number you had 666 followers too... Are you trying to tell us something? Just kidding, Mike! In relation to the new album, what are the standout tracks that individually represent this new direction?
MU: My favourite tracks are the simplest to play with the most feeling. Look out for 'No Vacation' & 'Meet in The Middle' and for some classic Michael riffs, 'This Time or Never' and 'He's Gotta Motive'.
LH: Anyway, I'm sure it's not hatred. Social media has become a bit of a playground and personally I think you're too good a musician to get swept up in that, it doesn't do you any favours. You have the music that can speak for itself...
MU: Never swept up, always one step ahead of most. That's the problem sometimes, I think I'm too good and it comes across to other musicians unchivalrous, and well, tough, get over it.
You're gonna hear Drop C (CGCFAD).
You're gonna hear soft gravel tones.
You're gonna hear big choruses.
You're gonna hate to love it.
Michael Upton's latest single 'No Offence Bob' is out now on Spotify and all streaming avenues
and he celebrates 2 years of his Citalopramic Oceans release on Fri 31st July here on facebook live.
Prime UK Band - 'Art / Facts' compilation is out now on digipak (with extra tracks) and the usual streaming sites.
Michael Upton can be found at:
www.facebook.com/muacoustic/ / Instagram - @muacoustic / Twitter - @muacoustic
'No Offence Bob' Link:
Lee Heir of Prime UK Band is online at:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ukprime + Twitter / Instagram: @primeukband + Youtube: @badfridaypictures
Spotify 'Art Facts' Link: