Having recently released his third single, ‘Where’s My Family Gone?’, Newcastle’s Andrew Cushin is quickly becoming the talk of the toon’. The confidence fostered by his hometown momentum, combined with his penchant for earnest songwriting and a prestigious feature from Noel Gallagher, has resulted in a track that oozes with personality and melodic charm. So, I caught up with Cushin to discuss the new track, his songwriting process, Noel Gallagher, and what the future holds.
The new single had only just come out when we spoke, “I’m pleased because it’s been a long process from recording it to getting it out”. The track, written almost nine months before its release, is one on which Cushin ventures out from his previous acoustic-centric success, adopting a much bigger soundscape. Noting his relief at its release, Cushin explained: “I’ve done my bit and it’s up to everybody else to see if they like it or not,” but also expressed his humble concern at how “it is a bit more stressful, because it’s when all the haters and that sort of bollocks comes out”.
‘Wheres My Family Gone?’ is a continuation of the lyrical content fans have become accustomed to from Cushin. Never deceitful, the track sees him open up about a time in his life, at the start of the year, where the relentless gigging was starting to do more damage than good.
“I was in a really dark place, I wasn’t speaking to my mum, I had virtually no family to turn to, and cos the gigs were starting to build up, it was just a case of going from city to city and living out of a suitcase.”
With visits home to see his family and girlfriend few and far between, Cushin commented on how important his guitar and songwriting was to him whilst on the road, with this track being born out of that mobile seclusion. “There’s a line in the song: ‘The only friend I have is here, he’s built with strings and listening ears,’ which is a reflection of the guitar being virtually the only thing that I could put any kind of emotion or attachment into at that point.”
“It got to the point where the only person who really knew who I was, as daft as it sounds, was the guitar,” he said.
It is clear that the process of songwriting is a cathartic experience for Cushin. He assured me he never writes for the sake of putting something out: “I don’t write songs so I’ve got something to play on stage, I don’t write songs for money or for any of that bollocks.” Instead, he highlighted, the process is intrinsically linked with his personal experience, a way of helping him through.
“I write songs as a way of therapy, so if I’m feeling shit, the last thing I wanna do is go and talk to someone, it’s just the person I am, so writing songs is basically a way of coping with the shit that I’m feeling inside.”
As his songs do come from places of struggle, it was hard not to mention lockdown and whether or not this writing process was one that relieved the monotony. “Being in the house didn’t bother us too much,” he said, pointing out the welcome break lockdown gave him from his busy schedule, “it was more the frustration of everything getting cancelled.
“I was meant to have 30 odd festivals in the lockdown period – Leeds, Isle of Wight, Boardmasters, Victorious – I was on with Sam Fender and Gerry Cinnamon, I was doing festivals on the same day as Stormzy, it was absolutely ridiculous. I wouldn’t have imagined in a thousand years I’d be playing those festivals, so when they got cancelled it became more of a case of just writing to keep myself occupied.”
But for Cushin, writing about the pandemic was never on the cards: “Artists, in particular in lockdown, were just writing about Covid and how lockdown is affecting them, it was the same sort of things as the Instagram lives, it was great up until week three.” He said for him, he’s always wanted to stand out and write about something different, commenting again that he went, as he has always done, inwards for inspiration.
“I just wrote about, again, the stuff I was feeling inside, the topics that maybe other people would see as a bit callous or a bit morbid, but, it’s set me out from the crowd, you know what I mean?”
When we moved back onto the single, I couldn’t not mention the influence of a certain Manchester legend. Speaking on Noel Gallagher’s input in the studio, Cushin stated: “It is still very much my composition, but what did change was the song didn’t originally have a middle eight. So where you hear Noel’s guitar solo now, that was never there originally.”
The Gallagher brother had a big impact with filling out the sound, adding synthesised embellishments and a hook-line bass. “It’s been taken from what I would say was a low key ballad, and has been turned into an anthem.” He also mused on the attention he paid to “every finger movement” Noel made during his solo.
“I’m not the best electric guitar player in the world, but now I’ve mastered it, and when we rehearse it with the band and the electric its sounds so, so big, which is definitely down to the production that’s been put into it.”
However, it was not just production that Gallagher has assisted with, the help he’s given Cushin in getting into the tight-knit music community was something he paid repeated tribute to: “I spoke to him last night and I said, listen, you’ve given me a head start of a lifetime and an opportunity to change my life. I’m fortunate enough now that I see Noel Gallagher as a friend, someone I can text on a regular basis if I’m struggling with my music or even if I just can’t use an amp or something.”
Gallagher has been in Cushin’s corner from pretty much the get-go, showcasing him to Virgin EMI, and into the radar of Ted Cockle (the guy who signed Amy Winehouse, Lewis Capaldi, and Jake Bugg to name a few), who Cushin had nothing but admiration for. “The fact that they’re there makes it a hell of a lot easier, and saves so much time in not having to play, you know, dust bin clubs to five or ten people who don’t have a clue who you are.
“This year in particular I owe my life really, and I certainly owe the start of my career both Ted and Noel.”
On the topic of what’s next, Cushin exhibited the same uncertainty as most. With a run of gigs at a local social club where he frequently plays darts – “I’m gonna sound like a little old man here, but I fucking love darts” – being cancelled for the second time. It is clear that the suffering silence of no return to live music is something seeping through to every crevasse of the industry, without end in sight.
“I’ve got gigs in the new year for like March time, and they’re booked in and getting announced very soon, but we’ve also got backup dates booked already, for next September.
“It’s such a frustrating time for every person y’know, no just artists but everyone, I think we’re all in the same boat this year, but hopefully this song can keep people positive and maybe build some momentum for my gigs in the future.”
Andrew Cushins latest single ‘Where’s My Family Gone?’ is out now on all streaming platforms.