Over a decade ago, with two albums and a wealth of support from the likes of Liam Fray and Guy Garvey behind him, singer songwriter Stephen Fretwell put down his guitar and bid his career a farewell to take care of his family. Fourteen years since the release of his second album, Man on the Roof, Stephen’s made his triumphant return to the spotlight with its follow up, Busy Guy.
There’s been a huge amount of anticipation surrounding Busy Guy since it was announced back in March, alongside the album’s leading single, ‘Oval’ – driven by soft guitar and haunting vocals, ‘Oval’ is a beautiful track that Fretwell’s stated to be about marriage; “the actuality of it, the responsibility of it, and the gamble”. ‘The Long Water’ was next to be dropped, with its melodic nature perfectly matching Fretwell’s dulcet tones.
Remarkably, Fretwell recorded his parts during an afternoon in a London studio with producer, Dan Carey – Carey was then responsible for the addition of bass, cello and other subtle instrumentation. The strength and emotional depth of Fretwell’s vocals alone make it almost impossible to believe that they were recorded in just a couple of hours – it’s not a method that a lot of artists would or could use, but for Fretwell, it’s perfect.
Busy Guy possess a level of maturity that a lot of songwriters would dream of reaching, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t display a layer of wit – for example, the title itself is somewhat of an in-joke at how long he’s been away. During his sabbatical, Fretwell’s been living in Brighton, so it’s not surprising to see that the coast has had an influence on the album – from the way that Fretwell’s relaxed tone is accompanied by Spanish guitar reminiscent of past holidays in ‘Almond’, to the lyrics of ‘Copper’; “the sun shines, but it can’t get through”.
Without the pressure from a major label to be writing and releasing hit singles, Fretwell’s been able to craft a simple record that oozes with honesty and vulnerability – not only does Busy Guy demand the recognition that Fretwell deserves as a singer-songwriter, but it’s a comeback album that his long-time fans will welcome with open arms.