Jon Windle made his name as the frontman of Sheffield’s indie scenesters Little Man Tate, who gained a staunch following before they went their separate ways in 2007. Now, back with his own solo material Jon is taking on the music industry once again! We caught up with him for a chat in Firebug before his gig at The Soundhouse to discuss his career highlights and plans for the future.
“I thought I’d had enough of touring after Little Man Tate, but I just got the bug for it and really missed it. I thought it’d be a good plan to put a band together with my friends and just go out and enjoy it. I didn’t stop enjoying being in Little Man Tate, but it’s good going out doing this without the pressure.” So was it always Jon’s intention to go solo or did things just happen? “It’s funny really, I remember doing an interview after LMT split and said no way, never would I do solo material and if I did I certainly wouldn’t use my own name! So it was never planned. It really just came from recording songs with other people and thinking, you know these aren’t bad we could do something with these!”
Little Man Tate had a very loyal fan base in their time, those who followed them up and down the country, is it the same fans that are still getting to gigs now? “I’d say it’s a mix of 3, I’ve kept some fans, I’ve definitely made some new fans and I’ve definitely lost some LMT fans too along the way. I mean we had the LMT mailing list and out of 22,000 only about 100 said they wanted removed so I guess that isn’t so bad.”
“The festivals were always a real highlight for us so we’ve got an agent now and I’m hoping we can get onto a few of those next summer. The chance to do Leeds/Reading and T in the Park again would be incredible.”
Having achieved some great heights during the Little Man Tate days what were the other highlights? “Yeh, I mean the last shows with LMT were great with sold out Academy shows, but I wouldn’t really call them highlights because in the end it was all quite sad. I’d probably have to say playing the Main Stage at Leeds, that was hard to top. The sun beating down, people for miles and seeing my nephew on my mate’s shoulders, just totally surreal. Other than that the highlights were probably the singles. I remember all getting together to listen in to the radio, we’d had a few beers and hearing that Sexy In Latin had charted at number 20. It was mental. We all went out in Sheffield and had a fucking great night with everyone. So, there were loads of highlights, but I guess you do look back on it with rose tinted glasses and forget the bad bits. Not that there were many bad bits, what can be bad about playing in a band with your mates and being moderately successful?”
For anyone who has heard Jon Windle’s solo debut, Step Out The Man, you’ll know that there is a slight change in style from his LMT days, but what about those who aren’t familiar with the new material? “I guess Step Out The Man was a bit mish-mashy as some songs were originally written for other people, whereas the new album which is out in the next few months is much more on the same track all the way through. To be honest the new album really has a 60s pop, doo-wop vibe to it. I actually played it to someone the other day who used to follow LMT all over the country and he was pretty surprised at how different it is to what I’ve done before. I do think it’s the best album I’ve written, I’d say it’s lyrically very Little Man Tate, but musically quite different. It’s still guitar music, it’s still pop music, almost like B-52s meet The Shadows, in a way.” * laughing *
It’s no secret that the music industry isn’t always easy, with now being a family man we asked how Jon’s opinions and attitude had changed towards it. “I suppose before I thought you had to be grateful of everything you got, which is true to a certain extent. Whilst we were appreciative of what we had the record companies would sometimes make you feel like it was a total privilege for you to be there. Ok, yes it was but in doing that there were kind of manipulated situations in that if we didn’t do what they wanted then we had no say or control. Now I’ve realized that yes we were lucky to be there, but we worked really hard to be there too. We were important to the label too because we sold records and gigs. I look back now and think there were LMT b-sides that should be have been singles and album tracks that should have been b-sides, and I guess a lot of decisions like that are what led towards the band splitting up.” Seeking more independence and control in his solo work, Jon is now on his own record label, “It’s great having the freedom now to do what I want to with my music. I’ve got other artists signed up my label too, but we’re really careful to say look we’ll support you but you tell us where you see the music going and what tracks you want on the album. At the end of the day it’s about having fun! If you love football you might be making £100k per week playing for Chelsea but if you weren’t you’d still be playing in the park on a Sunday morning. It’s just the same with music, if you weren’t making money from it you’d still be doing it because you love it.”
As the conversation carried on we got on to the subject of Jon’s other writing skills, comedy. Not something he’s ever really publically spoken about he filled us in on his other passion. “I was writing a comedy musical with another comedy writer. We’d been throwing ideas around for a while and I was going to be writing the songs throughout it, but then this started taking off and it got put on the back burner. It is still going on and it’s something we’re going to do but we just need to get around to it. He’s got stuff on BBC3 and other shows on so it’s just finding the time. The ideas we had are pretty cool but we didn’t want to do it in a half-arsed way so I thought let’s get the 2nd album out of the way and then go back to it. “
So with so much stuff in the pipeline where do you go from here and what have we got to look forward to? “Hopefully a single early next year, single tour, album out and an album tour, then hit the festivals. Then obviously we’ll be writing a super massive hit comedy musical! Watch this space!”
Interview by Gabby Miller and Dave Moore.