Earlier this year, cult singer-songwriter Ian Prowse released Here I Lie, his first album of original material in five years.
Since 2014’s Who Loves Ya Baby? there’s been a covers album (Companeros), and 25th anniversary re-releases and accompanying tours for his brace of albums with beloved celtic indie-rock band Pele.
But as Ian explains, this was all part of his masterplan.
‘Part of doing the two Pele re-releases was to get to this point, and that’s why the album cover of Here I Lie is done by the same French painter, Paul Delaroche, long dead, who did the (1992 Pele debut) Fireworks cover, so it’s connected.
‘One of the reasons was that we knew behind the scenes that we were making a really strong record while we did the two re-releases and tours, so the idea was to reinvigorate all of the old Pele fans and to get them all back on board.
‘Then, when it came to the new record, it would go to as many people as possible and we stood as good a chance to say: “Listen, I know that was 25 years ago, but we think if anything, we’ve bettered ourselves with this”.’
And the cover’s not the only way it harks back to the Liverpool band.
‘The opening track, Joseph, could have been on Fireworks, and that was deliberate – it was saying this has got the same sort of energy and melodic angle that I’ve always had, and the horns blaring, and the fiddles and flutes going off.’
But that’s not to say Ian’s wallowing in nostalgia with the new album.
‘When we play Joseph live, it just fits right in – we’ve been getting immense feedback and people telling me they consider it part of the pantheon of my better songs. So a) it’s a massive relief, because when you’re putting new music out, people have the right to say: “No, I don’t like that”, and you’ve got to take it on the chin.
‘And b) it’s a really lovely feeling to be 50 and getting such a positive reaction to the new music you’re making. Not many artists get to say that, a lot of them live off former glories, which is fair enough, they did it, like if you’re the Stone Roses and you release one great album and live off that for the rest of your life, you can’t take that away from them!
‘But the artists I like, and Springsteen is a key one, are the ones who take you on a journey throughout their whole lives. I’m at a loss to understand why any artist or musician wouldn’t want to do that. Why wouldn’t you want to carry on and take people on that journey with you?’
There's even a sort-of-sequel to Pele’s first ever single, Raid The Palace on there in the shape of All The Royal Houses.
‘The first thing the world ever heard from me as a singer-songwriter was Raid The Palace, so it was almost like reaffiming the pledge – to say Raid The Palace wasn’t just the affectation of an angry young man. It wasn’t just like The Sex Pistols yelling God Save the Queen and then they end up selling butter or John Lydon suporting Trump or whatever.
‘When I wrote All The Royal Houses I wanted to say: “I still believe this as a philosophy”. It wasn’t just a throwaway angry young man thing. I’m as upset and angry now as I was as when I wrote that. And in 20 more years I might write another one!’
He's also written a couple of songs for his daughter Rosalita.
‘In Don McLean’s song American Pie there’s a line I’ve always loved: “Can music save your mortal soul.”
‘I love that he gave music that power, so I thought I’m going to write Here I Lie, almost as a functional song for way off into the future. If Rosie’s having a bad day and her husband or partner’s annoying her, or her job or boss, she can come to wherever they put me and sit down and talk to me and tell me about it.
‘It’s not just for me though, it’s for you and all of us, giving music the power to defeat even death itself. Saying: “I can still reach back to you,” is a pretty grand thing to bestow upon music!
‘There’s also a song called Rebel Girl on the album and I always say to her: “Rebel Girl is about you, but Here I Lie is for you”, and she hasn’t got a clue what I’m talking about!
‘But she’s seven,’ he laughs, ‘so she won’t get it until she’s grown up.’
A keen historical scholar, Ian often draws on figures from the past for inspiration, and this album is no different. Album closer Ned Maddrell is named after the last native speaker of Manx, the indigenous language of the Isle of Man.
Ned was mentioned almost as an aside at a talk Ian was at back in 2016 about the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising in Ireland.
‘I thought this was fascinating and incredibly sad and powerful.
‘They said his name, so I thought: “Whoever he is deserves a song”, so I went off and researched him.
‘He knew he was the last Manx speaker, so he used to get free ale in all of the pubs – he used to cash in his fame as everyone knew who he was on the island.
‘We have a special connection to the Isle of Man here in Liverpool as we go on holiday there. And the only job I’ve ever had was on the Isle of Man! When I left school, I couldn’t really tell my mum and dad I was going to be a musician – I think they expected me to go and work in one of the factories, so I had to blag them that I was going into higher education, but I really needed money for an amp. So I went to work in the summer season on a bouncy castle on the Isle of Man.
‘And when I got £310, enough for a Laney K50B amp, it took me about nine weeks, I came home, bought the amp and I’ve never had a job since
‘So it has a special significance in my life, so I thought the island and Ned deserved a song.’
A true romantic at heart – Ian remains in thrall to that power music has over all of us.
‘Those great songs give purpose and structure to your life. Never mind me playing and writing it, but as a listener, you wonder where you’d be sometimes without them.
‘It’s the one thing that will never let you down. Your football team will let you down, your family let you down, your partner lets you down, your favourite curry house lets you down – but music never lets you down does it?’
The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea
Saturday, September 21