Robert James Selby was on verge of the big time with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Pete Doherty and Jarvis Cocker, when his guitarist fell seriously ill. The band return from a two year hiatus this weekend at the Hospital Club where they unveil a host of new songs, alongside old favourites, there might even be the odd celebrity popping in to join the fun. Let him re-ignite the flame inside of you, if you are quick you can register for free tickets here: http://www.thehospitalclub.com/events/view/17-12-16-hclub-live-budapest-xchange/public/
Robert James Selby – tell us the story so far…..
Right now, it’s a case of Robert James Selby the band take two. In 2014, following the album ‘Scrap Book Ballads’ which was positively received and led to lots of label interest, we were working with producer Alan Smyth (Richard Hawley, Reverend and the Makers, Arctic Monkeys). We were performing in Sheffield and (lead guitarist) David Seal slipped on some ice, was taken to hospital and discovered that he was seriously. As a result the band has been on hiatus while David underwent treatment. Since David has recovered and we’re back together and optimistic about 2017.
What do you have planned for the Hospital Club gig?
Our full line-up is drums, bass guitar, two guitars, vocals and violin. We’ve been rehearsing this week and the sound is great already. Miki Beavis (longtime Libertines / Babyshambles collaborator) also performs with the band on and off and Whisky Nichols from The Pogues might well be making a guest appearance with his mandolin.
What kind of subjects do you like to discuss in your lyrics?
I like to romanticize things, to see beauty in the everyday, rather than projecting all this male bravado. Like the song ‘Hyacinth Flowers,’ which is about The Bluebell Woods in Sheffield in springtime. They come alive with a carpet of Hyacinth and bluebells, you can go there and really lose yourself.
What/who was your very first musical love?
When I was younger I used to hang out with people who were older than me, so was introduced to bands like The Stone Roses, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.
The day I found a guitar I was possessed by it. I locked myself in a room and wrote songs and learnt to play guitar for about two weeks – and will be writing songs until the day I am 70.
Tell us about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve done to date?
Village Underground in Shoreditch is one, where the train runs on top of the venue. Jarvis Cocker put on a three day event there and there were trapeze artists, book readings. He’s also from Sheffield and was complimentary about us.
The best gigs are ones when things have taken off, simple gigs like at Camden Proud when it is rammed and it all comes together and the crowd are joining in and singing along to the lyrics.
You’ve supported some big names like Libertines, Dirty Pretty Things – who would your dream support slot be with?
Van Morrison, Bob Dylan… all the big writers would be the dream. If you are going to learn anything you might as well learn from the best. Shane McGowan is the big poet for me – ‘Fairy Tale in New York’ will last forever, that is pure poetry. I was having a drink with him and said, “you are the most pure poet” and he hated being called a poet but then true geniuses are the most modest.
You live in London now but you’re from Sheffield originally. What effect has Sheffield had on your music and general outlook on life?
Yorkshire had wide-open fields and there are rappers and white rap artists that think they live in ghettos or New York, but mate you are surrounded by fields and cow fields and sheep fields and woodlands. Being surrounded by open space is the best place to romanticize and get your dreams together.
With 2016 drawing to a close, what were your high and low points (professionally and personally)?
Lowest point was having to give my mother a cup of water while she died in my arms. She gave me my life, I owe her everything and she died in my arms, you cannot get lower than that.
The highest point is my son being born – me and his mum aren’t together right now. I was heartbroken, she is a great mum, a lovely girl and my son is beautiful.
And knowing that I can still wake-up every morning and no-one can take away writing songs or playing guitar, no matter how skint you are, how many girls you fall out with, no-one can take that away,
What does 2017 hold for Robert James Shelby?
Something to be proud of at the end of it. Learn something new and spiritually develop, get our mind focused on what is real and the good things in life. Make someone else fall in love, play cupid. If I write a song and someone fell in love because of it, hat would make my year.
Which other acts would you tip for success in 2017?
I met Shaun Ryder at Portmerion and he’s back with Happy Mondays and has some good stuff coming out, keep an eye out for it. My favourite is a good friend of mine, Peter Perrett from The Only Ones, I love him to bits, he is a mentor of mine, the most beautiful person I know. He has a new solo album, I have heard in the studio a couple of times, before mastering and post-mastering, and it’s the best album coming out in 2017 that I’ve heard so far. He is a genius.