BACK in the Orange Juice days, Edwyn Collins was a regular in Liverpool. Playing Eric’s and frequenting the arts scene, he found a favourite hotel away from the city bustle.
“I used to always stay in The New Manx Hotel, I think it was in Toxteth,” says Edwyn, 53.
“We were the first group to stay there. After us, lots of bands stayed there, he had photos all over the walls. Ian McCulloch from Echo and the Bunnymen lived in Liverpool, but once he found out you could get a breakfast whatever time you woke up and it was only a fiver a night he started staying there too.
“There was a shower in the middle of the room I used to stay in – not in the modern sense where you get that as a design feature. It was just there because that was the easiest place for it.
“Jim, the man who owned it, we used to call him Santa. He used to answer the children’s Christmas letters. It was a brilliant place. I always think about it every time anyone mentions Liverpool.”
Edwyn will be back in the city next month, playing songs from his new record – Understated. His eighth solo album will be released through his own AED label this coming Monday.
All songs were written by Edwyn, except Love’s Been Good To Me, a Rod McKuen cover.
The 11-track album features the musicians Barrie Cadogan (Little Barrie, Primal Scream), James Walbourne (The Pretenders, Ray Davies, Pernice Brothers, Dead Flamingoes), Carwyn Ellis (Colorama, The Pretenders), Sean Read (The Rockingbirds, Dexys), David Ruffy (The Ruts, Dexys) and Paul Cook (The Sex Pistols).
It was self-produced with his long time studio partner Seb Lewsley. Standout tracks include the autobiographical 31 Years, which chronicles his days in rock and roll.
Edwyn formed the musical group Nu-Sonics in 1976, which later became Orange Juice.
“We played Eric’s back in the Orange Juice days and it was a great place,” he says. “I’ve always felt an affinity for Liverpool, and for Manchester.
“I know there is some Liverpool – Manchester rivalry, but I’ve always liked both cities. Back when we couldn’t get a gig in Glasgow they were the cities that supported us. I’d go around the country, but I always looked forward to coming back to Liverpool.”
Orange Juice had a hit single with Rip It Up, before disbanding in 1985. Edwyn began his solo career a year later after signing with the Elevation subsidiary of Creation Records.
Edwyn released a 1994 single, A Girl Like You, which was a hit in both the UK and America. It featured in the films Empire Records, The Secretary and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.
He built his own recording studio in 1994 and produced his own third solo album, Gorgeous George.
He has also worked extensively as a record producer with other artists, including The Proclaimers, Vic Godard, A House, Space, Robert Forster, The Cribs, and Little Barrie. In 2005, he produced the album The New Fellas recorded by The Cribs.
His life changed in 2006 when in a BBC 6 Music radio interview he felt unwell, but put the nausea and vertigo down to food poisoning.
Two days later, he was admitted to intensive care after apparently suffering a major cerebral haemorrhage.
After suffering a second haemorrhage he had an operation and a lengthy programme of neurological rehabilitation.
He has continued to record and tour. In May 2009, he won the Ivor Novello Inspiration Award.
He refuses to be someone defined by a single, unfortunate event – but rather as an artist who is still producing his best work.
“I’m so happy to be alive,” he declares on Forsooth.
Against the odds, his voice is still all here, that baritone at its best on the chorus of the opening track of the album, Down The Line, when he sings “Just understand I’ve lost some ground. I’m down the line…” The only other singer you could imagine carrying off the song would have been Johnny Cash.
There is no hint of ego in the Scottish singer – he refuses to conform to the stereotype of the musician who won’t play his hits.
“I’m an entertainer,” he says, simply.
“I play what people want to hear. So when I play the Philharmonic Hall I’ll play A Girl Like You.
“I’ll play the Orange Juice stuff. Really I’ll play whatever people want to hear, because that’s what I’m there to do.
“I don’t like it when I go and see a band and they won’t play the songs I like them for. Yes, it’s good to hear some new material, but really you want to hear the hits, don’t you?”
His frankness and his obvious love of doing what he does best hint at where Edwyn is at these days as a producer, singer and songwriter: one of our very best – still making music, and still relishing that creative challenge. He says it best in his songwriting.
“What the heck,” he concludes on 31 Years, looking back at what has passed. “I’m living now.”
Edwyn Collins plays the Philharmonic Hall on Saturday April 20. Tickets £17.50 and £23.50 from www.liverpoolphil.com and 0151 709 3789.