OF ALL the creative roles for which Ben Watt is known – writer, DJ, producer, running his own record label – solo singer/songwriter is not the one which springs most readily to mind.
He is probably still best known as one half of Everything But The Girl but, prior to forming the band with his partner Tracey Thorn in the early 1980s, Watt had been signed as a teenager, and it is to solo work that he has chosen to return since parking his label and DJ-ing gigs earlier this year.
Having documented his battle with the life-threatening Churg-Strauss syndrome in his book Patient, Watt has now completed another autobiographical tome, Romany And Tom, about his parents, the working class Glasgow-born jazz bandleader Tommy Watt – described by his son as “a big character, very charismatic and opinionated, a socialist and an atheist of very strong convictions, who spared nobody’s feelings but also could be incredibly charming” – and his mother, the privately educated actress-turned-journalist Romany Bain.
“My parents came together like colliding trains. They were chalk and cheese in many ways,” says Watt. “A lot of the research and the thinking I did about that stirred up a lot of silt and stuff from the bottom if you like. That’s probably where some of the songs have bubbled up from as well.
“Then I found that I wanted to go back and listen to my early stuff again. There was a sort of vitality to it that I was really attracted to and I thought I’d like to capture that. I’m not saying that the music is similar, just that the desire to stand up and sing these songs to people has come back.”
Watt plans to release an album in the spring but rather than wait to share his wares, he has begun gigging already, undertaking his first ever solo tour in the company of a new sparring partner, former Suede guitarist-turned-producer Bernard Butler, whose burnished, dramatic playing complements Watt’s soft, mellow folk style. “It’s almost as if the two of us have come around this mountain of the last ten years from different sides to this point,” says Watt. “Let’s face it, DJ-ing is a young man’s game.”
• Ben Watt plays Oran Mor, Glasgow tonight. benwatt.com