What comes first, the music or the words? It is one of those “chicken-and-egg” questions, but Albert Man knows his answer:
“Lyrics are so important to me. I always have a theme I want to write about first and try to get a title. I then write the lyrics before I start adding any music or melody. I will re-write the lyrics so many times too until I get something I’m happy with.”
His new album, Cheap Suit, doesn’t disappoint and is a realization of his approach. A mix of quirkiness and pathos, the album provides social commentary viewed through the small stuff. Things that happen and thoughts that arise, unremarked and fleeting, are given a moment of deeper reflection, conjuring up a response of “Ah yes!” and “Me too!” For instance, the album’s chirpy, honky-tonk opener, “Don’t Be That Guy”, brings an Emperor’s New Clothes‘ perspective, seeing right through the high-rolling lifestyle “don’t be that guy with the hideous tie and the hair dye..and the trophy wife.” “What’s Your Name” broadens the critique of the material world, this time contrasting the bling “lipstick, high heels and Gucci shoes” with a less-attractive motivation “the fake fur is as real as her“.
Man also focuses his songwriting towards the introspective. The title track, “Cheap Suit“, with its slower pace and multi-layered arrangement, gives a voice to the man down on his luck, looking to blame something – his ex? his suit? – for the bad times. “Not Yet Just One More” is a testimony to peer pressure, with changes in pace and tone giving musical expression to the up-down-and-up-again of perpetual nights on the town and the morning after.
There are, of course, song of love and relationships. “Heartbeats” opens the theme of love lost. This is a full-on novel of a song, telling a life story in over four minutes and leaving time for some delicious piano solos too. The chirpy “I Think I Probably Really Like You” explores the blossoming of a new relationship and insecurity and anxiety that comes with it. The album’s closer, “Hold On To Your Love” oozes comfort like a pair of old slippers, speaking of easy love that doesn’t need big gestures, just safety in the knowledge that “I’ll love you til the end of time“.
Those are just my views of Cheap Suits, but best to hear from the Man himself about about his music, the album, and cheap suits.
Albert Man’s Thoughts about His Music & Cheap Suits
“Like most songwriters, I’m just trying to find a new angle on the universal themes that most songs are based around, such as love and relationships. Inspiration can come from anywhere and start off as just a title and I’d work from there.
“The first song on the album “Don’t Be That Guy“, which is about corrupt bankers, came to me after waking up one morning with the chorus in my head. Think I’d just seen The Wolf of Wall Street too so that probably helped.”
“There are songs that comment on social issues in our society such as our binge drinking culture in “Not Yet Just One More,” homelessness and living with addiction in “Cheap Suit” and “Angel With A Dirty Face“, socialites and their desire to use and target the rich for their own personal gain in “What’s Your Name?“‘
‘The song “Skimming Stones” is about how we don’t engage on a human level as much with each other anymore as we spend so much time on our phones. It was originally called “Information Overload” but again when looking for a different angle, I thought the act of skimming stones as a child gave the listener a more powerful image’.
‘Dotted in between these social commentaries are stories about personal relationship. “The Dream Team” is about a relationship that once was. Heartbeats” is about the end of a relationship due to death and the sadness that comes with it having to end, I Think I Probably Really Like You” is about the desire to find the one girl who came and went in an instant, “Meeting Your Mama” is a humorous take on how the mother in law is more of a liability than the song’s hell-raising protagonist and “Hold On To Your Love” is about a strong relationship and the desire to keep it‘
Moving on from the music, Albert told me a bit more about the man behind the songs:
What brought you into the music industry?
I love writing songs and after many years of writing songs and not performing them, at the beginning of 2014 I decided to go solo and get out there and play them. I’d been playing in a bands for a few years prior to me going solo which gave me the confidence to get on stage and perform but I ultimately wanted to do my own thing.
What does your mix of German and Mancunian heritage bring to your songs and/or your performance?
I did use to listen to quite a few Manchester-based bands especially Joy Division and The Stone Roses. Wasn’t a big fan of The Smiths before but they’ve grown on me more over the years. I went through a phase of listening to Tour de France Soundtracks a lot by Kraftwerk but that’s as far as the German connection ever went and not sure they ever influenced my sound at all. Because I play the stage piano live, I’m always sitting down so can’t really show off my Mancunian swagger unfortunately.
How would you describe your stage show?
I usually play solo with my keys but I enjoy collaborating with other musicians so whether it’s collaborating on songwriting or playing on stage together, hope to do this more in future.
What is your ambition with your music? eg where would you like to play?
For the immediate future, I’d love to just sell out smaller venues on a regular basis and build my fanbase. I’m also going to start doing more co-writing and write songs for other people. I would love to have some of my songs featured on TV and Film, and it would be great to get a publishing deal too.
I would love to play more festivals, just nice to enjoy the festival season and share my music in a festival environment. I’d like to play Glastonbury Pyramid Stage, with the crowd singing along. Think that would be the ultimate goal
What’s the most fun you have had at a gig?
I was recently on London Live on 15th April and just being on TV, in their studio and getting to know all the really nice people there was a fun and new experience for me. The team definitely made it a very memorable day. Was a bit nerve-racking playing on live TV but it was a buzz.
What is the most interesting fact about you?
Before Albert Man, I used to work for BBC Radio, and now as Albert Man, I’d liked to be played on BBC Radio
And, of course, I just had to ask…Have you ever had a cheap suit? If so, what was it like and did you enjoy wearing it?
I actually used to work on the men’s tailoring department of a well known department store for my first job and was surrounded by quite the opposite, really expensive suits! I did wear a terrible suit for my graduation ball at school, I remember the trousers and jacket didn’t match and the trousers were about 10 inches too big for me and the guy at the hire shop put a few stitches in it to stop them falling down. I think I thought I looked good at the time though, luckily it wasn’t caught on camera so I have only the memory of it now.
Catch Albert Man live through the summer – click here for his gig list.
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