Guy Garvey: ‘I’ve gone back to playing Lego fanatically’

The musician, 45, talks about his five sisters and two-year-old son, streakers on stage, worrying about songwriting and earning accolades from Paul McCartney

We’ve only ever had one streaker, two years ago in Bristol. God knows how he got past security. My first thoughts were for his safety, so I decided the best thing was to dance with him and cop a feel of his bum for the audience’s amusement.

I grew up with five older sisters, a younger brother and a wonderful mother. We boys were spoilt rotten by the girls. I lost my dad last year. My eldest sister and her partner nursed him to his death in their house, so he was surrounded by people singing and joking. He said he’d never felt so loved. It was sad, remarkable and lovely all at the same time.

You think of yourself as your own man until you’re a dad. I met my wife Rachael [Stirling] in 2015, and became a dad to our wonderful son Jack at 43. Before then, I worked the triangle between the recording studio, house and pub. Now I’ve gone back to playing Lego fanatically. Fatherhood has made me realise that death is part of things, not the end. The last song on the new record is a song to my son about my dad.

We used to think it was part of the job to have a drink with the audience afterwards. I can’t remember an entire tour of America in 2002. We were once racing bar stools across the student union in Southampton, and I was particularly good at it. Every time I won, I had a shot of Jägermeister. I was found, very happy, asleep in a bush at 1am. I don’t go for it before a show like I used to, but I’ve still not walked the boards without a drink, else my voice would vibrate like a chipmunk.

I’ve always wanted to be on stage and to show off. I’m not a naturally gifted songwriter. I have to work very hard at it. Somewhere in the mid-90s the words became the most important thing.

You couldn’t really live on the money you’d make from an album these days. It’s lucky there are so many festivals. If you like Cajun and Zydeco music, you’ll probably still find five or six festivals. Festivals are something we should be proud of as a country – we do them so well.

The way people listen to music these days means there’s no such thing as a contemporary sound. There’s never been a better time for music in that respect. There’s no genre to fulfil. You can pull it in from anywhere and mix it up.

It’s fantastic when you find out that people you really admire are into your music. Paul McCartney wrote us an email after hearing Magnificent. He said he’d been dropping off his grandkids at school and had to sit in the car until it finished to find out who it was. That’s like: “My work here is done,” and Elbow disappearing in a puff of purple smoke.

Elbow’s Giants of All Sizes is out now. The band tours the UK in April 2020


Rich Pelley

The GuardianTramp

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