Music Q&A:
Marcus Bonfanti

With three albums behind him the blues singer, songwriter and guitarist plays the Atkinson, Southport, 2 March

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What informs your music and songwriting?
I try and let a lot of things affect what I do creatively. I always like it when the process is natural and unforced. Maybe that’s why it takes me quite a long time to write a song. I like the process to feel as though the song was already there, existing somewhere and I worked out how to pull it out of the air.

Living in London right now, there is a lot of things going on both positive and negative that all us musicians talk about when we get together. There’s a lot to write about at the moment. We are constantly told that it’s a bad time to be alive but I think if we can pull some great creativity out of the current situation then we are moving in the right direction, towards the good times on the horizon.

I always feel like the audience knows when the sentiment of a song is from a real part of the performer – whether the song is totally fictional or not that doesn’t matter – so as long as there is genuine heart and sentiment on the song, the audience can feel something. They always know. So I try and approach songs that way.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
I look back on my early work and I can’t remember the guy who wrote those songs and produced those albums. Not because I don’t think they sound any good – quite the opposite. I am really proud of all three of my records but they really capture very specific moments of my life and my growing up. When I listen back to them I hear elements of naivety that I wish I still had and also elements of inexperience that I’m glad I don’t have anymore. Surely the goal is to constantly evolve as a musician and the last record you make to be your best. Otherwise what are we doing this for?

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I am writing and recording my new album, which will be released in 2019 and we are gearing up for the debut album release from my other project, Jawbone. The album will be out in September and we have some heavy touring around that. Before then I still have a lot of shows with Ten Years After over the summer and a big European tour at the end of the year as well as a new record to write and produce with them for next year. I constantly play in and around London as much as I can with different musicians, most nights of the week. I have a few other small projects I am doing with friends that I am very excited about. It’s going to be a good year, this one.

What’s on your rider?
Mainly whisky. To be honest these days it’s just a bottle of whisky. I don’t eat much on the road as I don’t like playing when I’m full. I had to take the beer off the rider because if I hadn’t eaten all day and then drank a crate of beer I got way too drunk. It’s a tough balance, touring! I’ve just got it down to the things I really need now – whisky and cigarettes. It’s taken a lot of trial and even more error.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I’ve had a lot of experiences that could be seen as surreal – music is good for giving you a lot of those. In January Jawbone were asked to back Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Tom Jones and Paul Jones at a charity concert. Standing two feet away from Eric Clapton playing guitar behind his solos felt quite unreal, but we knew we were playing that show in advance so we had prepared for it. I think the most surreal night was a few years ago when we played a show with Phil Manzanera. At the beginning of the second set I came back to the stage, looked to my right and Dave Gilmour was tuning up – he hadn’t been there in the first set. I turned around to Evan, Jawbone’s drummer, to show him what I’d seen and Bill Bruford was sat at the drums in his place. To my left were some guys from Roxy Music, it was pretty mindblowing and a total surprise. I didn’t know what else to do so I just counted off the first song and we went for it. It was a really great night.

What song do you wish you’d written?
I think I used to say May You Never by John Martyn. That is still true but I’ll add Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen as well because lyrically it is untouchable.

What’s your worst lyric?
Who knows? I tend not to listen to things I did in the past very much. Those songs capture a particular moment in time so I don’t see what is to gain from going back over old material and labeling bits best and worst. I also don’t like being that definite about something as subjective as lyrics. Some songs that do nothing for me lyrically bring other people to tears and vice versa. My six year old daughter listens to Little Mix and then sings all the words to Josh White, Billy Bragg and Steven Stills songs and gets equal enjoyment out of both. How can anything be best or worst in that situation?

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