Since he first emerged as an artist 47 years ago, British singer/songwriter Paul Carrack has had a legendary career as a lead vocalist, songwriter and musician. He has written several classic hit songs, and he has been the vocalist on many UK and worldwide hits.
He first made an impact with his soul/rock band, Ace, and he wrote & sang their hit, “How Long.” From there he built a successful solo career, and he was a member of the hit UK bands Squeeze and Mike & The Mechanics. Notably, he has also collaborated with Eric Clapton, Roger Waters and Roxy Music.
Currently, Carrack has released his new solo album, One on One, which is his first album release in three years. It’s a strong collection of mostly original songs that he wrote and produced during the Covid lockdown. Impressively, Carrack played almost all the instruments (vocals, guitar, keyboard, drums) on the album at his recording studio in London.
The album contains 10 songs, with nine new songs written by Carrack, plus a cover version of the classic hit, “Behind Closed Doors” (made famous by Charlie Rich). The songs range from bluesy soul to funky R&B, to elegant ballads. The highlights include the beautiful, heartfelt ballad “You’re Not Alone,” the fun, upbeat “Lighten Up Your Mood,” and “Good and Ready,” the uptempo blues/pop song that opens the album.
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Carrack, who discusses his new album and his great career. But before we get started, here’s a rundown of his extensive and varied credits.
Back in 1974, Carrack was the lead singer & songwriter for the pub-rock band, Ace, and they quickly had an international hit with their single, “How Long.” A few years later, Carrack played keyboards with legendary band Roxy Music, and contributed to three of their albums: Manifesto, Flesh and Blood and Avalon.
Here’s the video of Paul Carrack’s new song, “You’re Not Alone.”
Then in 1981, Carrack joined the band Squeeze, and sang lead vocals on their classic hit, “Tempted.” The success of “Tempted” and “How Long” established him as a promising young artist, and he became known for his distinctive, soulful voice. As a result, Carrack was able to launch his solo career, and in the ‘80s he had the hits “Don’t Shed a Tear,” “I Need You,” “One Good Reason” and “I Live By The Groove.”
In the late ‘80s, while he continued to record & release solo albums, he joined the platinum group Mike & The Mechanics, which was led by Mike Rutherford of Genesis. Carrack subsequently sang lead vocals on their big hits “Silent Running” and “The Living Years.” In addition, he co-wrote the band’s UK hit, “Over My Shoulder.”
Also in the late ‘80s, Carrack worked with Pink Floyd legend Roger Waters on his solo album, Radio K.A.O.S., and sang on the song, “The Powers That Be.”
Then in 1994, Carrack added to his songwriting credits by co-writing “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” which became a hit for the Eagles and was sung by Timothy B. Schmit. This song remains a key song in the Eagles’ live shows.
In 2000, Carrack decided to form his own record label, called Carrack-UK. Since then, he has released several albums including Satisfy My Soul (2000), It Ain’t Over (2003), I Know That Name (2008), A Different Hat (2010), Good Feeling (2012), Rain or Shine (2013), Soul Shadow (2016), These Days (2018) and One on One (2021).
Currently, with artists being able to perform live and tour again, Carrack and his band will be playing shows later this month. Then in early 2022, he will launch his major Good And Ready Tour, where Carrack and his band will play shows in the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium.
Here’s our interview with Paul Carrack:
Here’s the video of Paul Carrack’s new song, “Good and Ready.”
DK: I read that you recorded your new album, One on One, during the lockdown. Can you talk about writing & recording the songs for this album?
Paul Carrack: Before the lockdown, I wasn’t intending to do any recording last year.
I had a full itinerary of touring with my own band and also playing with Eric Clapton. We had done about 30 shows up to that point in the UK. But when we got to middle of March (2020), everything was suddenly shut down. Initially, I didn’t think it was going to be a lengthy shutdown, so I was coming to my studio to keep things going. But then it became apparent that it was going to be a lot longer than that. So I would go to my studio, writing to keep myself as occupied and as anxiety-free (laughs) as possible.
DK: I looked at your album credits—you wrote most of the songs by yourself, and you played most of the instruments on your album.
Carrack: Yeah, I play a bit of everything, and it’s not unusual for me to record tracks by myself, or at least make demos. So I started doing that, and it evolved into an album. I find sometimes that I can focus better by myself because I’m very easily swayed by other people’s opinions (laughs). And I can be a bit passive. But if I’m doing it by myself, I have to focus and hone in.
DK: One of my favorite songs on your album is the ballad, “You’re Not Alone.” What inspired you to write this song?
Carrack: Basically, I have an easier time writing melodies than I do with lyrics. I usually come in and sit at the piano, or pick up the guitar and sing something, and I had this melody. Then one day, I was listening to a chat show on the radio, and I heard somebody say, “Well, if you think the world is going crazy, you’re not alone.” So I started to piece something together, and I think where it comes from subconsciously, is that there were a couple people I knew who were having a hard time with anxiety issues. So that was in the back of my mind, and that’s how it came together. It’s kind of the idea of a message of support. I’m trying to speak to a couple people I know, that they’re not alone.
Here’s the video Paul Carrack performing his classic Ace hit,
DK: Besides that song, what are your favorite songs on your album?
Carrack: As for favorites, I like ‘em all. I think it’s a solid album. It’s a good representation of me and what I’m about. There’s a song called “Shame On You, Shame On Me” that I like; I think it’s a pretty cool song. I also like “Lighten Up Your Mood.” Basically, although this is a lockdown album, it’s not like its head in hands, woe is me. I think half the time when I was in the studio, I was still thinking of being back on the road soon with my band. So it’s a band-sounding record.
DK: I want to ask you about the classic hit songs you’ve written or performed. First, can you talk about your band, Ace, and writing your hit, “How Long”? It still sounds great 47 years later.
Carrack: It’s scary how that song has endured (laughs). It’s a simple song. It’s got a verse and a chorus, and a big ‘ol hook that just stuck. We were just a bar band. We got together for fun to play in pubs and clubs across London. It was post the progressive-rock era. The progressive thing had taken itself much too seriously and gotten silly. Then people started saying, “Let’s just play some rock & roll for fun.” And so we formed this little band and there was this scene called pub-rock. And suddenly, some of the bands were getting signed by proper labels. We were probably the last one to get signed. I had written this song “How Long,” which we were doing in our set, and I think that helped to swing the deal. I mean, when I say a record deal, the label gave us a few quid to go in the studio for a couple weeks and basically record our live set, which is what we did.
With “How Long,” it’s supposed to sound like a love song. But actually, it was about another band that was friends of ours and they were trying to take our bass player. They were doing better than us, and they borrowed our bass player for a few shows. And unbeknownst to us, while he was in their camp, they were trying to persuade him to leave us and join them (laughs). We were this tight little band, we were great mates and we loved our bass player, and it would have been a major blow if he joined this other band. But he didn’t—he stuck with us and we got a song out of it (laughs).
Here’s the original video of Squeeze’s classic hit, “Tempted.”
DK: After Ace, you joined the band, Squeeze. How did you join that band, and sing the hit, “Tempted”?
Carrack: Well, Ace kind of fizzled out. We had that one big hit and we never really followed it up for whatever reason. We came back to the UK after living in the U.S. for a year, and things had drastically changed. Suddenly, we didn’t fit what was going on. Punk rock and new wave was happening in London, and we thought, “Well that’s that…we’re finished.” So I started playing sessions, trying to improve as a keyboard player. I played with Roxy Music—I played on a couple albums and toured with them as a sideman.
Then came this band, Squeeze, who had a run of singles success in the UK, and unbeknownst to me, had quite a cult following in the U.S. One of their main players, Jools Holland, the keyboard player, left. So Squeeze tried to replace him…they tried a lot of people. Then an old friend of mine, Jake Riviera, called. He was the founder of Stiff Records, he had discovered Elvis Costello and was old friends with Nick Lowe. He’d taken on Squeeze, and he said to them, “Why don’t you try Paul Carrack? He’s been back in town; he’s playing with Roxy Music. We’ll get him to shave his beard off and cut his hair” (laughs). So I went down and tried out and they said, “Well we’re making an album next week. Do you want to come on board?” And I said “Yeah, okay.” I didn’t know I was joining the band; I thought I was just there to make an album. And I got to sing “Tempted”, which is a great song written by Glenn (Tilbrook) & Chris (Difford). Elvis Costello, who was producing the album, suggested that I sing “Tempted,” because it was in a different style to what Squeeze had done before. So that’s how that came about.
DK: Also in the ‘80s, you developed your solo career and had hits with “Don’t Shed A Tear” and “I Need You.” How did it feel to launch your solo career and become known as an artist?
Carrack: Well, it’s been a very up-and-down career. I had left Squeeze, and I wanted to work with Nick Lowe. So I started to work with Nick, and he produced an album for me called Suburban Voodoo (in 1982). And on that album was “I Need You.”
Here’s the video of Paul Carrack’s hit, “Don’t Shed A Tear.”
I had a band with Nick, and we did a lot of roadwork, either playing as Paul Carrack Band or Nick Lowe Band. It all meandered for a little while…we were having fun, and we didn’t know that time was slipping by. That fizzled out, and then to cut a long story short, I wound up singing on an album that was being made by Mike Rutherford, who’s the guitar player in Genesis. He cleverly decided to give it a band name, and he called it Mike & The Mechanics. So on the first album, myself and Paul Young became the designated singers, and the first song I sang on was called “Silent Running.” It became a big hit, and Mike was in a position to put the band together to become a touring entity
That was going pretty well, then Mike went back to Genesis for a little while, and meanwhile I got a record contract on the strength of the success of Mike & The Mechanics. And Chris Neil, the producer for Mike & The Mechanics, got the job producing a solo album for me called One Good Reason. It had my one-and-only Top 10 solo smash, “Don’t Shed A Tear,” and that was quite exciting. I came over to the States and toured with my band. Unfortunately, my wife was ill and I had to return home. And we had a young family at the time, with three kids at that point. So I had to concentrate on that side of things, and I lost a bit of momentum. But anyway, we’re still going.
DK: On Mike & The Mechanics’ second album, you sang the big hit, “The Living Years.” What was that like, to have that hit with Mike & the Mechanics?
Carrack: Well, it was number one pretty much all over the world, except it was #2 in the UK. And we were nominated for all kinds of Grammy Awards, for Best Song and Best Vocal. We didn’t get it, but we performed live at the Grammys, and that was something special.
DK: Another song I like that you co-wrote is “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” which became a hit for the Eagles. How did you write this song, and how did the Eagles decide to record it?
Here’s the video of Mike & The Mechanics’ #1 hit, “The
Carrack: It was in the mid-‘90s, when the Eagles weren’t together at that time, and I got a phone call from Don Felder of the Eagles. I didn’t know Don, but I knew Timothy B. Schmit from the days when he was in the band Poco and I was in Ace. When we were touring America in 1975, Timothy and Don Henley would come to my shows. Anyway, I got a call from Don Felder, and he said they wanted to [start a new project], make a record and tour. It would be Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit and Max Carl of the band, 38 Special. Don asked me if I wanted to go over and write some songs and see what happened. So I did, and I went over several times and spent time staying with Don.
One of the songs that I took with me was “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” that I wrote with Jim Capaldi and Peter Vale, with this project in mind. So we recorded it with this band— Don Felder, Timothy B. Schmit and Max Carl of the band 38 Special—and I sang lead vocals on it. And things were getting quite interesting and we had a lot of interest. But in the meantime, the Eagles had decided to settle their differences and get back together. So that project was nipped in the bud. But as the Eagles reformed, Timothy called me up and said he needed a song to sing on their album, and would I mind if the Eagles did “Love Will Keep Us Alive”? And I said, “Of course not. That would be fantastic.” So they did it, and later on I wrote another song for the Eables called “I Don’t Want To Hear Anymore.”
DK: As a solo artist, you’ve recorded a large number of albums. So for newer fans who want to explore your older albums, which albums should they check out?
Carrack: As you say, I’ve made several albums with different record companies. But in the year 2000, I started to record at home and release the solo stuff on my own independent label. I think any albums from 2000 onward on the Carrack-UK label, from the album called Satisfy My Soul…anything from there on is the best stuff. And there’s another album I’m quite fond of, called I Know That Name. And I like my current album, One on One.
Here’s a video of the Eagles performing their hit “Love Will Keep
Us Alive,” which was co-written by Paul Carrack.
DK: I read that you and your new band will be launching a new tour soon. How does it feel to be playing live again in front of fans?
Carrack: It’s gonna be great. We have three theater shows in October which are rescheduled, and then next year from January onwards, we’re out there full-scale. So we’re really looking forward to it.
Also, I’ve been in the U.S., on tour playing with Eric Clapton. I’ve been playing organ in his band for 10 years now. We did about a dozen shows in Texas, Florida, Nashville and New Orleans ,and those places were full and people were really excited for it and enjoyed it.