Originally written and published in Coventry Telegraph May 2016.
I’m no stranger to interviews before a tour, it’s standard practice for any musician heading out, except usually I’m the person being asked the questions rather than the person asking them.
Interviewing world renowned artists it turns out is actually quite tricky, maybe trickier than giving the answers, but later this month Peter Doherty will be taking to the stage in Coventry for the second time this year. Most people know Pete from the Libertines, his band which sold out The Empire in under twenty minutes in January and played a storming set to a stunned capacity crowd. Having spent the last year working hard to get The Empire up and running I wanted to know what Pete thought of Coventry’s newest music venue and what we can expect from his latest tour.
Speaking on the phone from Barcelona, Peter tells me he’s surrounded by musicians including Babyshambles bass player Drew McConnell.
“It’s great having Drew here because he speaks Spanish,” says Pete.
However, Drew is there to do more than just translate. Pete Doherty is rehearsing, which he’s not famous for, and who can blame him? Rehearsing is the tedious bit of the job that we musicians hate because there are no crowds to feed our fragile ego’s, no lavish riders and no aftershow parties. It’s the graft you only do when you’re serious about a tour and so it appears that Pete Doherty is really serious about this tour.
He’s in a good place too, excited about the new record.
“Originally this started as eight acoustic tracks and that’s all it was going to be but I left it with a producer in Hamburg and when I came back to it there were basslines and it was becoming a whole record”.
The entire project seems much more purposeful than ever before.
“In the past I’ve leaked songs prematurely but this time I wanted them to be prepared”.
Pete tells me that amongst the musicians with him is his violin player from Paris, I can tell you from personal experience that strings make things complicated. This tour certainly doesn’t sound like Pete’s planning to rock up and busk some songs with just an acoustic guitar, this is a real tour by a real artist who is control of his creativity, putting together something that should appeal to more than just the die hard Doherty fans.
Impressively the driving force behind this considered and prepared approach seems to be Doherty himself, rather than being the product of a huge record label’s well oiled machine.
“The music industry can be a conveyor belt, what you make can get swallowed up by the monsters and demons, and sometimes you have to let it, whilst at the same time trying protect it’s integrity.
“It forces introvert people to be extrovert, I remember reading comments on YouTube and thinking ‘people just don’t get it’.”
Pete told me how hard he’d had to fight to get the music industry to realise the potential of the song ‘For Lovers’. If you’re not familiar with the song, it charted at number seven, which is impressive considering he had to fight to get it released in the first place. It’s a beautifully simple song that transcends genres and will be remembered as far more than just an indie classic. It’s an iconic, now critically acclaimed piece of music which echoes the conveyor belt he’s discussing and the industries need for songs to be “on brand”.
I can believe his fight though, I remember doing the same for songs on our debut, not all of them made it either. It’s always a fight, right now though it’s a fight that Pete is winning.
Doherty’s composed state of mind and sure-footed approach to this solo record seems like it’s going to make for more than compelling performances later this month, not least in Coventry. Peter’s affinity with Coventry dates back to his teenage years.
“I moved to Coventry when I was 15,” says Pete. “It was the first time I felt a sense of freedom. I got in trouble but I made some life long friendships.”
Coventry seems to have a habit of adopting aspiring teenage musicians and nurturing them into internationally acclaimed artists. Playing at the Empire will be familiar too since Pete was there at the beginning of the year fronting The Libertines.
“There’s always the danger in smaller venues because you’re so close to the crowd that you catch someones’ eye and completely forget what you’re singing, then you have to pretend the microphone is faulty until you find yourself again.”
That’s what makes seeing artists like Pete Doherty in an intimate setting so special – and why we’ve worked so hard to bring Coventry a purpose built music venue that can host them.
On May 27, Pete will come to Coventry Empire and, for me, that’s an opportunity to see an artist in his stride return to a city where he came of age and play a venue in it’s infancy.
These moments don’t come along all that often, but luckily, there are still a few tickets left.