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Interview with Guy Garvey

Elbow's frontman talks to Danny Moran about acting like Elton John

Published on October 22nd 2008.


Interview with Guy Garvey

If ever a man was high on life, full of the joys, brimful with bonhomie and in the midst of a seeming masterclass in level-headedness, then that man was Mercury Music Prize winner Guy Garvey.

You heard about the Mercury Music Prize thing, we take it?

So a quick phoner with Elbow’s cherubic lyre-plucker, ahead of this week's Apollo shows, offers the chance to check on the halo.

You must be getting appallingly big for your boots by now, as we put it to him.

“I am, yeah. We did the London show and I was in this bar with a bunch of mates. They closed the bar, and I was going to my manager [affects a nonchalant menace]: ‘I can get another drink if I want. I’m Elton John. Tell ‘em Elton John wants another drink.’

“Well it turns out the walls of the place were plastered with pictures of Elton John,” he continues. “It hadn’t registered. So I looked a bit of a prat, really.”

Ah yes, that self-deprecation. A good third of the reason Garvey is where he is (the other two parts being talent and hard work in heroic measure) is because he does ‘selfless’ and ‘self-deprecating’ like few others.

In fact, as an object lesson in how to get ahead by putting others first, the Bury boy is something of a paradigm. Whether it’s the eradication of those nasty landmines, the remembrance of absent friends, the saving of maternity wards or the straightforward espousal of raffish good manners, the Garvey brand has seemingly been built on a stout community ideal.

But what strikes you from just a brief stint in the Garvey penumbra is that the man is genuinely concerned – fearful even – that all that hard work and talent could be so easily undone. The Buddhists call it ‘mindfulness’. The proud classes call it ‘remembering where you’re from’.

It’s the art of keeping your feet on the ground so as not to lose what you have – and it can be a full-time concern.

Indeed, as we natter about the current tour – Glasgow last night, Gateshead this evening – Garvey recalls a rare mis-step in his own back yard. Again, it isn’t so much the story itself (which is fairly innocuous) as the way the handset goes colder as he chortles through it – the lonely crane operator recalling the time he tried the wrong lever and got a sense of what it would be like to drop the load.

“We were playing Manchester, and I was trying to think of things to say between songs, as you do, and I remembered that United had won that day. And I thought, ‘Well, we’re in Manchester, that’s something to mention.’

“So I said, ‘Oh, congratulations, I see United won again…’

“There was an immediate cheer – and then the most rapid-response ‘boo hiss’ I’ve ever heard. I’ve never felt that…noise. It was horrible. A proper football crowd hiss.

“I looked at Mark and Mark was absolutely horrified.”

Word has it that the Elbow guitarist made a rare intervention with his lead singer following the gig, and as a consequence football has never been mentioned since.

So if not a football phone-in, what can we look forward to at the Apollo shows?

“Well it’s a really well-paced set that we’re doing. We’ve got a healthy amount of songs from all four records. Both the Apollo shows sold out before we won the Mercu…”

He trails off. Drummer Jupp can be heard in the background.

“Eh? Oh is there not? Not one? Oh right, no we’re not playing anything from Cast of Thousands.”

There’s a brief pause.

“No, don’t print that. ‘Cos I’m going to remedy that. We can’t have that. No.”

And what of the children's album which has been spoken of as a next step for the band?

“Well, we’re still looking for the right story, to be honest. Toying with the ideas of who we might want to be involved, and looking at different styles of animation [an accompanying film has been mooted].

“We’re due a writing holiday, I think we’re going to go away together. You know, we spend a lot of time in each others’ company, but it’s a different kettle of fish when it's just us on our own.”

Elbow play Manchester Apollo on 23 and 30 October. Both dates are sold out.

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DigOctober 22nd 2008.

The greatest band walking the Earth today. The recent show in Liverpool was top notch. Not as good as the Leaders of The Free World gig a few years back tho. Totally agree with JulieF. The banter is great. He is a funny guy.(no pun intended). I think I really annoyed the couple in front of me on the balcony. I sang at the top of my voice from start to finish. The next album and tour can't come soon enough for me. For now I'll have to do with Squire Weller and The Zutons.

AnonymousOctober 22nd 2008.

Went to see them on 23/10 at Apollo. In my top ten gigs of all time and at 60 plus I've been to a lot of gigs.

juliefOctober 22nd 2008.

Manchester are in for a real treat. Saw Elbow last night in Liverpool - awesome from start to finish. Guy's voice was amazing and the band fabulous. Lots of banter from Guy and sing-a-longs from the audience. Wish I was going again tonight.

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