INTERVIEW: Crawford Mack

Hi Crawford, welcome to VENTS! How have you been? 

I’m grand, thank you! I hope you’re well yourself. 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single ‘The Last Perfect Day On Earth’?

It’s a track about the environment. I’m releasing it to coincide with the run up to the COP 26 Climate Conference which is happening in Glasgow, my home city, at the start of November. I began to write it in early 2020 but I was already scheduled to release my first album which featured another track about the environment called ‘The Story Is No Longer Available’. So I held off and waited until now to put it out there. In that short space of time, people across the world have been increasingly and disastrously affected by epic flooding, record temperatures, wildfires, stark warnings of collapsing icesheets, vanishing glaciers and monumental biodiversity loss.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Primarily it was the horror of the Australian bushfires, not least because I have a good mate who was directly affected. Jamie Evans, my great friend and co-writer, and I just got to talking about the brutality of it all. I was also working on a video for the aforementioned “The Story Is No Longer Available’ so the impact of catastrophic climate change was very much at the forefront of my mind. I’m really hoping that I can play my part in propelling attention towards this critical issue. 

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track? 

I’ll be releasing a music video of myself and the band jamming along to the track whilst data and quotations from a study into the life-cycle environmental impacts of food and drink products by the University of Oxford and from reports commissioned by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scroll on screen. It may sound strange to say but I’m really happy to be able to cite the information that is shared on the video: it’s a statement of where I stand but I’m also really keen to promote expert opinion at a time when it struggles to find a platform against a tide of misinformation and misdirection. Here’s a link to view the IPCC reports if you don’t mind including it in this article.

How was the recording and writing process? 

The writing process was cathartic: I’ve been building up a lot of anger around these issues and the lack of willingness so many people have to making reasonable changes to their consumption habits. 

Recording it was slightly different to the normal process, not least because of course we had to do what we could to mitigate the Covid risk. In fact, I recorded the string parts during a session in 2020, at the same time as I was recording the strings for the track ‘Siriously’ (sic). Perhaps not surprisingly we had to adapt the outcome of that session as the track changed in-between times. It was produced by my best pal and flatmate Richard Rayner, who has played drums in bands and projects with me since I first moved to London nine years ago. I started playing the riffs of the song on his brother Peter’s old three-quarter length classical guitar, just because it was lying to hand. Something in me really liked the tone of it, so I’m now also the owner of a proper classical guitar and have been using it a lot since. 

What role does Glasgow play in your music? 

Glasgow shaped a lot of the music I listened to growing up, and I am still influenced by many of our great Scottish bands, such as Franz Ferdinand, The Fratellis and Belle & Sebastian, as well as artists like the inimitable John Martyn.
More than anything Glasgow has played a huge part in developing my social conscience. The city was at the heart of the Trade Union movement in the UK and has a long history of all kinds of activism. Those influences are still, I believe, apparent. The thing I treasure most about where I grew up is that, by and large, people feel a great deal of solidarity with one another and the level of political engagement and activism both nationally and at grassroots level is unlike anywhere else I’ve experienced: people really don’t shy away from voicing their opinion and debate is usually respected. 

Yet Glasgow is also a city of contradictions. While it is known for its solidarity, openness, friendliness and egalitarianism, it is also a city where great historic wealth came from Empire and the slave trade. Poverty and violence still underpin some neighbourhoods, but in those same neighbourhoods you will find great generosity and community spirit. There remains a potent sectarian divide that some would seek to dismiss but is in fact a form of racism. I think growing up in Glasgow teaches you to try to walk in another’s shoes, to try to look at things from all sides before passing judgement. 

Does the new single mean we can expect new material – how’s that coming along?

This year I’ve released singles roughly every six weeks, with the intention of bringing them together into an album at the end of the year: this is the seventh track I’ve released so far this year and I plan to combine them with a couple of acoustic tracks. I’ve lots more in the pipeline for next year too. It’s been a practical strategy as it kept me productive and focused during the second lockdown, with the overall aim of growing my audience as much as possible before live events get back into full flow. Keeping up that momentum at a time when areas of our lives were paused has been crucial to being able to book new shows. 

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

Early December I hope, assuming everything goes to plan and the universe doesn’t throw us any other curved balls. ‘Twenty20wan’ has been the working title, which started out as a joke holding position until I found something better. Inevitably it will end up being the title!

What else is happening next in Crawford Mack’s world? 

I’ve got an acoustic show at The Water Rats in Kings Cross on November 4th, supporting my pal Daisy Chute, before we both play at The Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and The Blue Lamp in Aberdeen on the 5th and 6th of February. After that I’m playing a headline show at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow with my full band on March 4th. There are also more London gigs in the pipeline that I can’t confirm just yet and some shows in the northeast of England are planned for March as well. 

I’m also finalising production on a couple of singles for release early next year, and I’m working on another project with a friend. But for much of December I take time out to work for a charity called KidsOut. As you might guess from the name, the charity ensures that disadvantaged kids get taken out to have fun, perhaps to a theme park, a zoo, a cinema, the theatre, and so on. At Christmas, it’s panto! But we also organise an enormous UK-wide Christmas Giving Tree, where the generous staff of companies and other organisations up and down the country donate brand new toys and we then collect, process and distribute them. We ensure that each child in refuge has the opportunity to receive a special Christmas Toy Box, as well as working with many local charities, social services, schools, etc., to try to make sure that under-privileged and disadvantaged children and young people are able to get a Christmas gift. What I really like about it is that KidsOut insists that the children do not know that they are receiving from a charity: the gifts are given to the parents or carers so that the dignity and privacy of that struggling family is protected as much as possible. It takes a lot of organisational and physical effort but is so worthwhile. Please take a squint at to find out more!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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