Interview: Dougie Crosbie

What better way to spend your Friday afternoon, after a long, pretty crap week at uni, than in a suntrap; listening to live, acoustic music? Thing is, this wasn’t somewhere tropical like Costa Rica it was in the QMU’s new Café Twenty2 where we are proud to be hosting the ‘Coffee House Sessions’, brilliantly compiled by Huw Stephens.

Today I was reviewing and interviewing Dougie Crosbie and they say don’t judge a book by its cover but I was taken aback by the black clad, inked Ayrshire boy that walked in. However, when Dougie started playing; the fluidity of his Americana voice, somehow full of grit definitely took me by surprise. When he opened with Justin Townes Earle’s ‘Slipping and Sliding’ I pictured him as a significant part of the soundtrack for the dusty, desert scenes in Breaking Bad, playing whislt Walt and Jesse take the campervan out for days on end for some homemade cooking (if you don’t know what I’m talking about – reconsider your life choices). Dougie perfectly represents the folk, country style; with a little bit of rough and tumble thrown in. His piercing twang was apparent as he played a six song set, with lyrically clever tracks from his brand new EP Choices and Ambitions. As Dougie ended his set with another handwritten surprise, the dusty Texan style continued with soft, melodic tones – similar to an American Jake Bugg. However, what was just lovely to see was Dougie’s genuine delight, with a toothy grin as he heard the crowd applauding him time after time. Definitely a keeper.

How do you feel about doing small, intimate venues like this coffee shop? Or would you rather perform in grimy bars and small clubs?

Both, both. You see in dark bars people are normally there to see that type of music and for a good time. They’re there to forget their weeks and get their knees up. I think with a smaller intimate crowd, they’re not really expecting anything which is a bonus. If you go and do a good job, then it’s a result. It’s hard to battle with the chitter chatter of clubs. I’m a guinea pig really with performing my own songs!

So you’re performing with the ‘Coffee House Sessions’; how did you get involved in that and how do you feel about Huw Stephens?

I’m really grateful to Huw Stephens, just that they’ve been able to put the gigs together alongside the media is really good. You can either do gigs and people get so drunk they don’t remember, or they’re so full of coffee they’re just shaking the whole time.

You gave out your CDs as well!

Well yeah, anybody who’s there and stayed throughout the whole set I just give out my CD, it has the website on as well so they can have a look at that if they want!

Could you name one song/band that inspired you to follow a career in music?

Oh wow. The first ever thing that I heard that was music to my ears and wasn’t nursery rhymes or ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’, I was five and I heard The Everly Brothers and that made me go “Woah” (wild hand gestures which indicated head exploding) , “What’s this?!” Even when I was a kid I’d rake through people’s CD collections and record collection just looking for stuff that was similar. Then when I was eight I heard Appetite for Destruction I suddenly wanted a guitar and started playing in rock bands.

What’s your biggest pet peeve in the music industry?

The marketing and mainstream media machine. It’s amazing how so many good songwriters and good artists are about that people just don’t know about. They spend all their time and money with the little label they’re with; gigging, travelling, and people love them. Whereas, with your Ben Howards and your Jake Buggs, I hear their name all the time. I mean Jake Bugg is fantastic, pooling from Jonny Cash, Buddy Holly, even some Hendrix as well! He’s brilliant and really quite encouraging. But the machine lets everyone knows about them, but with guys like me, you don’t have that on your side; you’re hoping somebody will say to others, “Listen to this guy” – but it is really difficult to find new music.

What’s your favourite song to cover and why?

At the minute it is Justin Townes Earl, ‘Slipping and Sliding’. I say it on the promo video for this tour, but the reason is because it’s one of those songs I wish I’d written! I’ve been close to that a few times! I had a thing called ‘Stick, Slip, Slide’ – it’s the same with Jake Bugg, I had a song called ‘Country Song’ about sitting down listening to country songs, listening to the rain outside but then I listened to him do it and he did it a tad better. But it’s amazing how people can go in with the same idea but some can do better with it. It’s good, it keeps you on your toes!

Which band or musician would you most like to have dinner with? You can resurrect someone too if you like.

Jim Morrison. Got to be the lizard king! God knows what would be for dinner but it should be good.

So you performed from your EP, Choices and Ambitions, how did that come about and how long did it take you to make?

When I decided I was going to go acoustic and solo. It was impossible to get a band together who wanted to dive in as much as I wanted to – I really cannot work 9-5 Monday to Friday and just play on the weekends! If you treat it like a hobby, you can’t expect to be in a band. I always had songs that suited the acoustic a bit more; then I did the first gig of this set on the 4th of January at the start of this year and started to plan a recording. A four track EP was as much as I could afford, I did it with Kevin Burleigh who worked with Glasvegas – I recorded it in the South of Glasgow with really great vintage gear. I spoke to Kevin about doing a performance capture, rather than a studio project – I avoided the autotune and too much production.

Is there anything your mum doesn’t know about from your time following a career in music?

See if she doesn’t even know it, she’s probably thought it. She’s thought the worst and knows fine well what I’m like; she knows me better than I know myself! I’m lucky, my mum’s really cool. When I started playing in bands when I was thirteen in pubs, I lied to the band and told them I was sixteen but I got away with it. However the school had an issue with it, so my mum used to go to the school and defend me. It was one of her friends actually that had Appetite for Destruction, I’d be sitting there as a little guy watching the Tokyo Dome gigs while my mate would be sitting there watching Axl and Slash!

So you said you were touring around St. Andrews, Dundee and Strathclyde – what’s next for you on the road after the ‘Coffee House Sessions’?

I don’t know after this, because before this came up I was thinking, “Recording, recording – get some new stuff happening.” The idea then was to do a four track EP every six months, I mean it’s impossible! It’s okay though as I’ve got more stuff than I’ve got recorded and it seems to always be that way. I’ve just started doing this style and I’m finding out a little bit more each time and discovering more about what I can do with my voice. It’s what I prefer, at the moment I’m only listening to what I think, keeping my eyes open and writing about it. I don’t want to start putting on a proper country accent, I love letting influences get under my skin and I’m influenced by everything – I’ve got a ridiculous punk attitude! I like The Sex Pistols, I supported The Damned. I’ve always been into The Misfits and The Dead Boys and I like rock ‘n’ roll punk but it’s the attitude, that’s what’s missing.

After the interview, Dougie then went on to show me his tattoo of Slash’s signature he got post a Velvet Revolver gig (it was on his shoulder, simmer). Moreover, have a hunt for his new EP Choices and Ambitions released earlier this year, chock full of acoustic, Americana talent. Dougie Crosbie, definitely more badass than you thought.

[Emmie Harrison]

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