Chris Townsend Interview September 2011

Catherine May


Having first caught my attention many years ago on Myspace, Chris Townsend recently appeared on my Twitter timeline sharing the link for his Pledgemusic fund. With a debut that I’d loved I wanted to find out more about what he’s currently up to and how Pledgemusic works…

MTTM: Can you briefly tell us about your sound and your story?

Chris Townsend: My parents sent me for piano lessons from a very early age and I began learning the acoustic guitar when I was 17 during the school holidays.  From the moment I picked up the guitar I was hooked!  I learnt a whole load of songs in one summer and also began writing and recording my own stuff on an old tape machine.

My music and individual sound then evolved over about 3-4 years.  I was writing more and more songs and I began playing at open mic. nights whilst I was at University.

In around 2006 I decided to upload some demos onto Myspace.com.  These began to get quite a lot of hits so I decided to record some of them properly in the studio and sell them.  I began playing more and more gigs in different cities around the UK and everything kind of took off from there.

My sound has evolved from my early influences that used to play on my parents stereo such as The Beatles, Crowded House and James Taylor to modern artists such as John Mayer, The Dave Matthews Band, The Verve and Howie Day.

MTTM: What made you choose to use the fan-funding service Pledgemusic?

CT: I decided to partner up with Pledgemusic.com to fund my new EP because like many other independent artists I was struggling to find enough money upfront to meet the high costs involved in recording and releasing new material.

Pledgemusic is great as it allows artists and their fans to join their efforts together as one to produce and release new music.  It is a highly interactive platform where fans can be fully involved in the recording process and works in everyone’s interest.

MTTM: What made you choose to give a percentage of the funds to charity?

CT: I think that it is important to remember that whilst some people are buying and listening to music other people in the world are struggling just to stay alive in their environment.  The charity option on Pledgemusic.com therefore provides a further outlet for good because as well as getting new music recorded and released people are also giving a percentage of their donation to those who really need help in their lives.

MTTM: Have you already written the songs for the EP?

CT: Over the last four years since my debut album Copenhagen was released, I’ve been touring and playing shows so I have been stockpiling new songs and writing all of the time. I do have a collection of songs ready to be recorded for the new EP.  However, I am still writing all of the time so perhaps there is still an unwritten gem which will make it onto the EP. It all depends on what direction we go in the studio, what sound we go for and which songs work together well as to what the final tracklisting will be.

MTTM: How will it be different to Copenhagen?

CT: Copenhagen was deliberately made as a very commercial sounding record to try and reach the masses with lots of instrumentation and a very polished blended sound.

My aim with the new EP is to try and keep the feel of the songs more organic and sparse.  I’m looking for that difficult to achieve less is more kind of effect where all the individual instruments are clearly audible and doing something fantastic to make the songs stand out from the rest of the crowd.

MTTM: Copenhagen seemed to be filled with optimism (Direction, Stay Positive…), is this something that you’ll be carrying forward?

CT: Yes, I think I naturally tend to write with optimism and many of new songs have a feeling of hope about them.  I guess my personal theory is that music should uplift and inspire people in their lives rather than depress them by being too dark and introspective.

MTTM: You’ve been using social media to help promote your music since the days of Myspace, do you feel it’s been influential in your career?

CT: As I’ve already said, getting a reaction from people on the internet listening to my music has always been the driver in me writing new songs and releasing music commercially.  I love the way the internet opens up a whole world of people who are able to find and listen to my music and how through sites like Myspace, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook I can connect, promote and interact with people that enjoy listening to my songs.

MTTM: You were recently asking your fans about their favourite concerts ever, what would be yours?

CT: The first proper concert I ever went to was Paul McCartney’s Back in the World tour in Dublin.  I was only around 16 at the time and went with my parents.  It is still the most incredible show I have ever seen with Paul playing hit after hit and it was after this concert that I decided that I wanted to be a musician and started to learn guitar.

Since then, there have been many many other artists I have really enjoyed live including the Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer, Gavin Degraw, James Taylor, Tina Dico and most recently a Danish singer/songwriter called Mads Langer.

MTTM: What’s your stance on singing competitions such as The X Factor? Have you ever been remotely tempted?

CT: My main problem with singing competitions such as The X Factor is that as an artist you totally lose control of your identity and destiny.  The exposure you get to impress people and let them hear you sing is great but the likelihood that you will be able to write, record and release the type of music you want to is slim.

As a songwriter I think I would find this too difficult to come to terms with and for that reason I don’t think I’ll ever put myself forward for one of these shows unless I was given creative control over my image and what I could sing and release.  I also hate singing without playing my guitar and so that would be very hard for me!

MTTM: Where do people go to pledge and what’s in it for them?

CT: To make a pledge and be a part of the creation of my new EP all you need to do is visit my Pledgemusic page here.

Essentially it is just like a pre-order system.  If you would just like the digital download or an autographed CD then you can pre-order these for £8 or £9 respectively.

However, if you would like something more “exclusive” then you can check out the other options on offer on the right hand side of my page which range from my iPod with loads of music and demos on it to a dinner cooked by me at my house or a one day songwriting session!

If I hit my target I am hoping to head into the studio in early October and then release the EP to the world in early November.   Pledgers will receive the EP a few weeks before it is officially released on iTunes and other online stores.

www.christownsendmusic.com