Q&A with vibrant blues band The Heavy North

Image credit: Blue22 Photography

Humble and independent, The Heavy North is still going strong since receiving the stamp of approval from the beloved and late Janice Long from BBC Radio 1. The band is known for their vibrant blues-rock flair and have much to offer with their badass sound and lively performances. Their latest album Electric Soul Machine is a clear indication of this, will its feel-good mood and soul-infused melodies. Consisting of band members Kenny Stuart , Jose Ibanez , Andrew Horrocks , Ste Penn and Mark Rice, the guys know how to work together well. We had an insightful chat with the guys below.

Album track Satisfy You’ features on INDIE_GROUND.fm

Looking back, what were some of your earliest entries into music appreciation? And music production?

All six of us were introduced to music at a relatively young age, but music wasn’t the first choice for all of us! 

Kenny Stuart (singer), Jose Ibanez (guitar/producer), and Jack Birch (guitar) have all played together in previous bands over the years, and Ste Penn (keyboard player) was with Kenny in one of his first bands as a teenager. Andrew (bass player) was a singer and guitarist in his own band when he was younger before moving on to play bass. Drummer Mark Rice has been in a handful of bands as well as being an experienced session player.

Take us through your songwriting process. Are there any particular steps you take when putting music together?

Most of the tracks on our debut album Electric Soul Machine were written and recording during 2020-2021 at Jose’s (guitarist/producer) recording studio in Liverpool. The songs tend to start with an idea – whether that’s from Kenny’s (vocalist) lyrics or from a guitar riff or melody. From there, each band member introduces their own section of a track. 

The Heavy North’s sound has been described as “dive bar blues”, despite our heavy blues-soul sound. Lots of our songs often start on an acoustic guitar and the sound develops once we’re in the studio. 

The Electric Soul Machine album was finished in August 2021, and we’re now working on new material for the follow-up. It’s exciting to see our newer tracks come together.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Each of us can often find inspiration and motivation from all sorts of places! Some of our songs, including some of the album tracks from Electric Soul Machine have been written about our own experiences – whether that’s people we know, people we’ve met over the years, or how our relationships and experiences have developed. 

Musically, once we’re all in Jose’s record studio (3rd Planet Recording Studio, Liverpool) the creative juices come quite naturally – whether we’re rehearsing older materials or working on new music.

As a musician, it becomes apparent that there is a huge difference between the art and the business. Is there anything about the music scene that you would personally change?

Since The Heavy North started out in Summer 2018, we’ve continued to be relatively self-sufficient and independent. It can often be difficult to balance the creative and artistic side of the music, whilst also maintaining the business’ side of things, such as touring, merchandise, social media, and licenses. As a band, the six of us have different responsibilities and strengths and it tends to work quite well! 

If The Heavy North were to change something about the music industry, it would be to try and ensure independent artists are heard and judged by their music – as opposed to how many followers or subscribers they have. 

We’ve been extremely grateful for some incredible fans, followers, and supporters over the years that we’ve built organically. However, as we’re an independent band with no label or financial backing, we can often miss out on opportunities. We’re incredibly grateful to those loyal followers who have stuck with us as well as new listeners who are just discovering The Heavy North for the first time!

Studio work and music creation or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?

As a band, we do genuinely enjoy the songwriting and recording process – however, nothing quite beats playing live, especially to an engaging and responsive audience! We’ve been fortunate to play in some fantastic cities and venues in the short time we’ve been performing, and we’re looking forward to getting back out there and playing live over the summer. Especially for our upcoming UK headline tour in September

What is the most memorable response you have had to your music?

We’re grateful for some incredible responses to our music, and recently we were described as a “top, top band” by acting royalty and new music champion Robert Carlyle OBE

However, one of the memorable responses that means a lot to us is the late Janice Long who was a big supporter of our music. Janice invited us on her show during the first lockdown, and she described The Heavy North’s sound as “stunning, absolutely stunning”. We were so sorry to hear the sad news of Janice’s passing on Boxing Day 2021.

What’s on your current playlist?

Between the six band members, we’ve got quite an eclectic taste in music, but we do have some common ground which has helped shape the sound of The Heavy North. 

Artists like The Black Keys, Jack White, Rival Sons, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of the Stone Age are never off our playlists. Also some classic bands like Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones.

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you in the near future?

Following the release of our debut album Electric Soul Machine, we’ve got a handful of shows happening summer, including a couple of UK festivals, but we’re really looking forward to our own headline tour in September 2022. This includes a big hometown show in Liverpool when we’re planning to play the album in full with some guest musicians. 

After the September headline tour, we’ll be looking at releasing some new music in early 2023!

Famous last words?

“After food, air, water, and warmth, music is the next necessity of life.” –  Keith Richards

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