GET TO KNOW: Al Shalliker
Having spent the last few months building up to the release of his highly-anticipated debut album 'Silver Linings', which is due out on the 26th April, Plymouth-based singer and songwriter Al Shalliker has now unveiled his newest gem 'Where All The Music Comes From'.
Bringing in a diverse mix of heartfelt songwriting and laid-back production, 'Where All The Music Comes From' makes for a wonderfully joyous listen. Marked as the opener to his forthcoming full-length, this sweeping swoon lets us into his world and gives us a light and uplifting insight into what we can expect from his new LP.
So with the new single out now, we caught up with him to find out more about his influences and inspirations over the years.
What was the first instrument you learned to play?
The first instrument I learned to play was the guitar. My dad had left a 1940s Zenith jazz band guitar hanging on the wall. It had been up there for years but I took it down and gave it a strum, I was about fourteen.
What was the first album you remember owning?
The first album I owned was ‘The Muppet Show’, the soundtrack album from the original TV series. As it turned out that was kind of oddly prophetic. I got it for Christmas some time in the late 1970s and used to play it constantly on a Sony radio/cassette player. It’s packed with quality tunes including ‘Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear’, ‘Mr Bassman’ and ‘Cottleston Pie’.
Did you ever form a band when you were younger and if so, what did they sound like?
Yes I formed a band pretty much as soon as I could play the guitar. A mate had got himself an electric guitar with an amplifier that had a distortion circuit, so we were just like ‘right yes, let’s go’. The band ‘HBBH’ only had the two of us in it and was a strange take on the punk and new wave we were listening to at the time. We were writing our own songs from the get go but that was largely because we weren’t capable of playing anyone else’s. We even got hold of a really terrible sounding Bontempi Organ that wouldn’t have serviced a village fete but were somehow knocking out heavily political, anti-nuclear rants against the system. There was no ‘Garage Band’ in those days and we used to record to an old tape deck. It was very lo-fi and pretty bizarre but great fun. The key to it was we knew we were ridiculous. Thinking back we were also fairly anti USA which was odd as I was big fan of cowboy films and The Rockford Files at the time.
The two of us were in a proper indie band a few years later called The Bernhardts, named after the one legged French actress. It wasn’t a bad group and we even met the late great John Peel at a benefit gig we did for the Labour Party. Unfortunately there was a power cut half way through our set but I don’t think anyone was too upset. I certainly don’t remember any of The Bernhardts being too bothered. I can remember us turning up to gigs with us and all our kit in a three wheeled Reliant Robin. We were just glad to be alive.
What is a song you wish you had written yourself?
Probably one of Dylan’s but there are so many to choose from. Maybe ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ or for pure, brilliant energy ‘Like a Rolling Stone’. For me the man’s a true genius and an inspirational creative force. I would consider him in those terms across all the fields of art and to me he represents a genre of music in his own right. When I was around thirteen I found the original early 60s vinyl copies of ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ and ‘The Times They Are A-Changing’ in a draw. I used to play them constantly and was always a big fan, but it took me a few years to find anyone else who was.
What has been the most thrilling moment about creating your own music?
I guess the most thrilling part as a writer is the moment when you know the essence of a decent, new song is with you. It may not be complete but you know it’s there and it’s something you want to hang on to. It may be the distillation of ideas you have creatively stockpiled for many years previously, be it consciously or unconsciously, so yes it can be a really good moment. Getting those songs recorded and presented to the world is of course the goal but not every recording delivers the vision. With ‘Silver Linings’ I feel I was able to capture the individual expression of those songs and I feel every song also sits comfortably in its place on the record. It takes a while to know how happy you are but I know I’m happy with ‘Silver Linings’ so yes that is certainly a thrill too.
And what about the most frustrating part?
I’ve loved playing and recording in bands and I enjoyed being part of Plymouth band Watershed for many years. I’m proud to have played music with those people. For me there is no single frustrating part to creating music but recording in a band environment generally has to be more formulaic by default. Everyone’s vision of a song is different so with a solo project there is less compromise to be made on the initial vision of the song. There was certainly a lot more freedom in terms of tempo, rhythm and mood in producing ‘Silver Linings’.
Which artist would you most love to share a stage with?
I would probably have Bob Dylan on there but I’d like John Cooper Clarke to join him to recite ‘Forever Young’ during the all-star singalong at the end. Maybe Paulo Nutini and Nora Jones, with Zakir Hussain also making an appearance too. French African reggae star Alpha Blondy would be welcome. Would have been great if The Dubliners could have shown up too.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I hope to have written, recorded and released another two solo albums within the next five years. I feel free to write again now ‘Silver Linings’ is complete, those songs felt like they were burning a hole in my pocket. I am up and running and have written a couple of new songs in the last few weeks.
I’d also like to see myself out and about playing live nationally and hopefully internationally in the next few years. I haven’t quite got a pewter tankard and a pheasant hanging from my belt yet but I guess I’m falling into the alt-folk/indie folk category these days so would like to tap into the folk festival scene if I can.
Al Shalliker's new album 'Silver Linings' is available to stream from the 26th April. Check out the new single 'Where All The Music Comes From' below.