West Sussex’s very own Michael Ball will be on the road with an album full of huge personal significance – not least because he has penned some of the tracks himself.
Coming Home To You was released on March 22 on Decca Records,. He plays The Brighton Centre on May 8; The Guildhall, Southampton on May 10; and The Guildhall, Portsmouth on May 17.
His first solo album for more than four years, the release follows the phenomenal success of Michael’s last two albums with fellow singer Alfie Boe, which saw two Classic Brit Awards and more than a million album sales.
Michael, who lived for many years near Chichester and is currently “gravitating towards Angmering”, says the album began on a rather frustrating holiday in Mauritius.
“Cath got the flu and it rained continuously. We were stuck in the room. It started me thinking about songs that I loved listening to when I was younger, that style of music.”
The thoughts crystallised when they got back to the UK, especially when Michael started writing his own songs. It then became a matter of finding other songs that would fit around them.
The co-writes emerged: the title track Home To You, already a classic with its easy-rolling, country-tinged rhythm; Tennessee Dreams, Michael’s tribute to the greats in country music; and All Dance Together, a singalong track, sure to be a live favourite. They now feature alongside such hits as Elvis Presley’s I Just Can’t Help Believin’, Dolly Parton’s whimsical Love Is Like A Butterfly on which Michael harmonises with himself and Cliff Richard’s plaintive Miss You Nights, all personal favourites of Michael’s.
“I always wanted to record Butterflies. I used to watch the TV sitcom, and it was the theme tune, and then I found out that Dolly Parton had written. I love Dolly and I had met her a couple of times. I thought it would be lovely to do the song, using my own voice to multi-track.”
As for the Elvis song, Michael had been doing it with Alfie. It occurred to him to strip it back. Also on there is Bright Eyes, in tribute to a favourite dog Michael had lost. As Kathy said, part of the attraction was that it was a song that hadn’t been covered before. And there they are alongside Michael’s own compositions: “I haven’t written much in the past, just a couple of songs here and there, but I have never done it properly or taken it seriously. Historically I have always recorded songs by other people, but I thought it would be nice to see if I could find my own voice. The whole feel of the album is West coast of America, Americana slightly, a country, rootsy vibe. Things are changing. The music business is a difficult business. People aren’t buying records any more, but this is something that I would really like people to listen to all the way through rather than pick and choose. I know I am really proud of it. I have never been so deeply involved in every aspect of an album. It is very personal. The album means an awful lot to me..”
Oddly, the hardest part was the ordering of the songs: “It is so important. You agonise over it, but I don’t think we could have done a better order with them than we have done. It boils down to instinct – to instinct and to not assuming. You just assume that this song will be the opening song for the album and then you think again and something works better…”