When you hear Alex Clare singing Why Don’t Ya, you wonder why he ever went away. You listen to this startling piece of music – a raw and wracked soul song, timeless in its construction and in the power of Clare’s voice, but given the deftest and most sympathetic digital production – and ponder the madness of a music industry that didn’t fight to keep a talent like this at work.
It’s nine years since Clare had a huge global hit with Too Close, one of those songs so inescapable it seems to define its year – the kind of song you hear in motorway service stations and in cafes and in shops for months on end; the kind that burns itself indelibly into your consciousness – and five since he last released an album of new songs, Tail of Lions. It’s not that he stopped writing music in that time; he wrote plenty. It was just that he wasn’t writing with hits in mind. He was writing snippets of songs, and recording them in his home studio. He was recording what was on his mind, not what he expected the world to want.
“I was writing not for pleasure, but for expression,” he says. “Sometimes it can be quite painful. Performing songs you have written can be painful. A lot of the songs I have written come from a very personal place, and when you perform them it’s not a cathartic experience – you just relive the mindset you were in when you created that piece.”