IAIN HORNAL | INTERVIEW
Iain Hornal, musician with classic pop bands including 10cc and ELO, has spent lockdown very wisely: creating his greatest collection of original songs to date. He tells John-Paul Davies where the inspiration for Fly Away Home came from.
Was this album planned or the product of idle hands?
Well, it started out as a need to spend my time doing something creative – and it surpassed all my expectations. It was quite a practical starting point: all my work’s gone and I’ve got to do something about it! But because I hadn’t initially thought I’d be doing this, I was looking at old songs, things that I haven’t even considered looking at, from my teenage years, and thinking, “What could I put on this album? What could fit this general theme I’ve got going on?”
Then, as it grew, I thought, “Well, I love the melody from that, or the lyric from that, but not the other parts. So I’m going to have to rework these songs.” It was like I was collaborating with my younger self. There was something about what my younger self had done that I liked – and some things I didn’t like. So some of the songs have the complete lyric from when I was 16 but I’ve written new music for it. And then there’s some, like The One To Blame, where I’ve kept all the chords. Even though it’s not something I’d write anymore, I found it interesting. So I wrote a completely new set of lyrics – the only original lyrics I kept were The One To Blame.
And to completely change it, I worked on the melody and thought it would sound really cool to try a Simon & Garfunkel thing – moments when the [melody and harmony lines] get nice and close, and moments when they do their own thing. It was something that I hadn’t done before – something new… for me! Simon & Garfunkel are from 1965. It couldn’t be less new!
Well it’s new to you, so it’ll sound fresh to the audience too. For those who don’t know 2017’s The Game Begins With The Lights Out, how do the two albums compare?
It’s the same core team that made them: both albums were written mostly by myself with a few co-writes, and both were produced by myself and Jo Webb, my bandmate in Jeff Lynne’s ELO, who also mixed them both. In terms of approach and attitude, Fly Away Home is a very different beast – it was recorded completely remotely, so no two people were in the same room at the same time. Jo and I already knew how each other worked, and to a large extent what the other would want to hear when we laid our parts down. We also used a small trusted team of friends – part of a larger network of musicians which I like to call The Hornal Family – that we knew would know exactly the types of parts we would want them to play, so there was very little revision and files going back and forth. It was actually pretty slick!
In terms of the vibe of the album, I’d say this one is less sprawling and ambitious. It’s more focused and the songs themselves are the star of the show. It’s a more personal record with extremely honest lyrics. I focused on sounding more like ‘myself’ than I ever have before – I’ve always worn my influences on my sleeve in the past. You get the real me this time.
That’ll be a real treat for the thousands who know you as a touring member of Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Yes and as part of Graham Gouldman’s 10cc. Do you find fans of the bands you work with engage with your solo material, or is promoting it like starting from scratch?
I crowdfunded for this album using the Indiegogo platform and it was encouraging to see how many fans of those bands contributed. All my promo efforts have been through social media and most people who engaged with the project discovered more about me through Facebook, Insta etc. I can’t overstate how positive it has been for me to have played with such legendary artists, and it has certainly given me a small amount of visibility and therefore half a chance of people being interested in what I can come up with myself.
So how do you feel playing with these bands has informed the making of this album?
Jeff and Graham are incredible songwriters, so hopefully some genius will rub off! Graham and I have written a number of songs together and Graham even included our epic Say The Word [from The Game Begins…] in the 10cc set last time we toured. His positive energy and love for the craft of songwriting is infectious.
Listening to Jeff deliver his songs every night on tour has taught me about economy – singing just the right amount. Depping on two tours for my pal Lee Pomeroy on bass and backing vocals for Yes featuring ARW was like a teenage dream come true, and the ultimate bass gig as far as my personal style and ambitions are concerned. It was a great honour to sing the Chris Squire parts along with Jon Anderson, and just such fun playing some of my favourite progressive music ever made.
Now that the album is ready, how can people still get involved? How do you promote an album during lockdown?
Stream some tracks from my page on Bandcamp, and if you like them you can pre-order the album on there (CD or digital) or from the iTunes Store.
I’m really looking forward to the virtual launch on Tue 6 Apr. I made the whole album completely remotely and the promotion seems to be heading in the same direction! I’ll also celebrate the album with a real-life gig once they’re allowed. I want to go out and play.
words JOHN-PAUL DAVIES photos LUKE ROBERTS