Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Talking Shop: Starsailor


Watch a clip of Starsailor's latest single Tell Me It's Not Over

British indie band Starsailor are back with a new album, their fourth, which they say is a return to their original sensitive, soulful sound.

Ronnie Wood agreed to play guitar on title track All the Plans after the band supported the Rolling Stones on tour, while The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers has sung on an unreleased version of lead single Tell Me It's Not Over.

All the Plans came out on Monday after being moved back a week to avoid clashing with U2's latest release.

Singer James Walsh explains why he wanted to give U2 a clear run, and why their last album was not up to scratch.

Ronnie Wood
Starsailor became friends with Wood after supporting the Rolling Stones

Did Ronnie Wood ask if he could play on your album, or did you ask him?

We asked him. Ronnie was by far the most approachable of the Stones and we were aware he was up for collaborations. All The Plans seemed suitable for his woozy blues style of playing.

It's the ultimate validation. It's easy to say 'I really love your band' and I'm sure a lot of the time people are just being polite. But to actually play on the record is more concrete - he genuinely does like what we do and is happy to put his name on our album.

How did the Brandon Flowers collaboration come about?

A mutual friend, [superstar producer] Stuart Price, was doing a remix of one of our songs and I bumped into Brandon at a Killers gig. He said 'Stuart's played me this track and I think it's great and can't stop singing it'.

I love The Killers and I love his voice, so he contributed some vocals after we'd finished the track and it sounds great. The unfortunate thing is that for some legal reasonů something to do with record company and managementů I'm not sure if it's going to see the light of day. It's a real shame.

You wrote on MySpace that you tossed a coin with Bono to decide whose band should move their album release date. Is that true?

Not really. U2's album was definitely a factor in us moving. We left a message for him saying 'We're moving to 9 March, is that all right?' He didn't get back to us so we presumed it was fine. I think they would have struggled if we'd released our album on the same day.

Is this album back to basics - back to the sound you had when you first broke through?

Starsailor's first two albums both reached number two in tne UK charts

Definitely. Sometimes when you're writing songs it's a bit like the emperor's new clothes. If the songs aren't strong enough, you try to dress them up too much - put a bit of reverb here, or make this a dance song. You're disguising the fact that the songs aren't solid enough.

On this album, like the first album, we didn't need to do any of that. The lyrics and melodies are strong enough to stand up on their own.

Did the songs come more easily this time?

Yeah. We felt a real need to prove something on the last album. We'd come in for criticism on the second album and wanted to dispel a lot of myths on the third.

Although we're proud of what we achieved on that record, we should have taken a step back and realised that some of the things people criticise us for are equally the things that people love us for. When you've got that strength you should hone it and develop it instead of avoiding it.

Which new songs are you most proud of and where did they come from?

We live in a fairly modest three-bedroom house - it's not rock 'n' roll at all
James Walsh

Neon Sky was written when I'd got back off tour and it had been quite tense and frantic.

It put a bit of a strain on my relationship to be honest, being in that world for so long, with my wife and daughter living a completely different life. And then getting home and the immense sense of relief of getting back to normality and realising the things that mattered.

It's one of the things I pride myself on - my life is quite normal. I do the shopping and change nappies. We live in a fairly modest three-bedroom house. It's not rock 'n' roll at all.

Another song I'm proud of is Boy In Waiting. It was really easy to write, almost subconscious. I didn't really know what I was singing and what it meant. It's about a young film-maker going to Hollywood, trying to make it and achieving the initial plaudits, and then it not quite happening on a big scale. I guess there are a lot of parallels with my career there.

You worked with Phil Spector on your second album - did he come across as a mad professor?

It was a tale of two characters. We spent a week with him and it went brilliant - we recorded two amazing tracks that we were really pleased with.

But it was stressful at times. I think something happened in his brain and he got quite listless and he went into another world. He was hard to communicate with. He changed his medication and just got really difficult.

James Walsh was talking to BBC News music reporter Ian Youngs.

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