I spoke to Northampton singer song writer Billy Lockett before his second last show at Southampton’s The Joiners of his biggest headline tour across UK & Ireland.
How are you feeling? It’s the penultimate show of your tour.
I’m feeling good. It’s literally like coming towards the end now, we’ve been going for about a month so I’m going to miss doing this tour; it’s been really really fun.
Can you tell me about The Cellar Session series you have on your YouTube channel?
The Cellar Session is basically me and my manager just came up with the idea about three years ago now actually. I rehearse, I do all of my work in my cellar so it’s coincidence. It’s literally just me doing my live tracks pretty stripped back, raw. Sometimes covers but sometimes even got a rapper in it but it’s just kind of supposed to be a bit like The Shed Sessions. It’s like that basically.
It’s like a homemade studio?
Exactly. It’s supposed to be really raw and basic but very real.
Without doubt, music is a great emotional outlet, for those creating or listening, so has music been a part of your life? Do you listen to a lot of different music? Going to festivals?
I’ve done the whole Reading Festival thing. It’s terrifying. I swore I never go back and I did stupidly next year but I’ve done that all. My dad brought me up on a lot of music and he was an artist so everything in my house was about bands and music. I used to jam with him and his band when I was a kid until I was old enough to kind of do it on my own.
Understandably, ‘Old Man’, a very special track very personal & close to the heart. Has what it meant to you changed at all since it’s been heard by others? Maybe due to someone else’s feedback of how they feel or it’s been a while since you’ve been playing it?
I don’t think they have changed. I’ve always written songs about myself and people around me. I basically just tell stories about what’s happened to me. I think recently there’s been a lot going on, especially around my dad so it just turns out most of my stuff at the moment is about him but it’s [his music]about various ex-girlfriends, and mess ups; I’ve got one about my parents splitting up, one about cancer, and everything. So it’s personal but at the same time I don’t wanna make it too personal.
So people can still relate to it.
Exactly, I want people to be able to relate and feel like it’s helping them as well as me.
I like you music videos, especially ‘Your Love Hurts’ and ‘Old Man’, it’s simple but it just gets across to people, to me at least! Did you come up with the ideas?
Yeah. ‘Old Man’ was originally gonna have my dad in it. And then he passed away pretty much just before we were gonna go into filming and so then I just thought “well, let’s not change the story, let’s not stop” ‘cause he wouldn’t have wanted me to stop. We just sort of laid it out with play dough and just turned the whole thing into a cartoon. I think it works really well, weirdly I think it works better now that we’ve done it that way.
What is the best bit about life on the road?
The best bit about being on the road for me personally is being able to firstly hang out with my team which are like my best friends, it’s great to spend time together just enjoying ourselves and obviously I love playing my set. I love the sound I’ve got at the moment. I love meeting all the fans. I love actually being busy and doing things. In music, 90 percent of the time when you’re starting up, it’s just sitting around waiting so now that things are moving, I’m always busy. If I’m not on tour, I’m in the studio, which is great! I think this is literally the best job in the world. It has been the worst job in the world for three or four years but you have to get through that to get the good bits.
Do you have a favourite show that you have played so far?
Yeah. I did Paris at The Olympia with Birdy. I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, I’ve always loved Birdy’s stuff as well, she’s incredible, she brought me on the whole tour, that was a specific show that I was looking forward to play.
And you are going on tour with Nina Nesbitt for the second time in December? What do you learn from going on tours with different people?
It depends on who it is. I learnt so much from Birdy, Birdy is the most talented musician I’ve ever met, she’s totally gifted and it’s amazing. Obviously Nina’s a really really good friend of mine, she’s also really talented and it’s great that she’s helped me out so much. She gave me my first ever tour, before that, I literally got no fans, nothing really, so she started everything. It’s nice to go back on tour with her now that we’re both doing well, in our own ways. KT Tunstall was a massive help as well, because she got me so many fans ‘cause it was such a big tour, and she’s always been a massive inspiration to me. One of the first albums I bought was her first album so for her to like my stuff and bring me as well that was great. Lana del Rey, I didn’t really get a chance to even see her [he laughs].
People say when you go travel, you learn something new about yourself, so did you learn anything new about yourself being on the road?
I’ve learnt so much in general from doing this. There’s so much to find out about yourself but in a way I kind of prefer to be at home when it comes to song writing. When you are on tour, you are in a bubble and it’s all happy land. There’re problems but at the same time everything’s nice and even if it doesn’t always work out, but it’s always good, it’s fun if it doesn’t. When you are at home, that’s when the emotional things start to happen, your family problems occur, girlfriends and all kind of things.
Being at home gives you time to think.
Exactly! That’s what gives you the materials, if I was on tour the whole time I just wouldn’t be able to write a good album, ‘cause there wouldn’t be enough crap happening in my life! [He laughs]
So do you keep gathering ideas along the way? Or you sit yourself down at some point?
No, I think it depends. Sometimes an idea would literally just come in two minutes, and sometimes I have an idea for a year and then just pick at it and work at it so it’s very up and down.
Do you find a harder to get your music across to people because you’re not with a label yet, you said the right label hasn’t come around yet?
It’s so hard. It’s so hard to get a record deal in general. It’s a bit of a nightmare but at the same time we haven’t signed because a lot of my friends had signed too early to the wrong person, I’ve seen it all go wrong, so many people.
It’s so frustrating, you fought for something and it’s just not what you wanted.
Exactly. It’s because they found themselves not ready, the label might not been like, all of these different reasons. So me and my manager wanna make sure that when it comes, it’s right, and as soon as we do sign, that’s it. But at the same time we are managing to do this, unsigned.
Do you think with the right social media, you think you can get yourself out there?
That’s the biggest help when you don’t have a record label, it’s Facebook and Twitter. I’m quite big on that. I got quite a lot of fans on there, that’s very very important. Especially now, when I instantly hear a band, I always check out how many Facebook likes they’ve got or [Twitter] followers and that would tell me whether they’re worth listening to. I know that’s the harsh reality.
Any song or anyone in particular you’ve been listening to recently?
I’m listening to a lot of Nothing But Thieves. They are really new, they are incredible. They are gonna be doing great things in like a year. I actually bumped into them at a service station the other day, they are on a same sort of tour. They are amazing, you should look them up. They are gonna be huge.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and early next year?
Gonna finish this tour. Go on tour with Nina Nesbitt in December. And then I am just working on the album, I’m gonna hide away. I’m not gonna do a tour as big as this for a long time. I’m just gonna need to write the album, I need to make it right and I need to sort of work on who’s gonna be the right record label for the job. So far, that’s what are sort of working on.