25-year-old Perth musician, Chris Small, has played on a number of releases that have been favourably reviewed within the pages of Small City, Big Personality. Most recently he was part of Running wi' Scissors, a folk and roots outfit whose album of skilful covers and original material really impressed me (you can read my review here). For years Chris played with home town favourites, Red Pine Timber Company, including on their crowd-funded single 'Hollow Tree' and the subsequent album, 'Sorry For The Good Times'.
Now Chris is embarking on a solo career, with a single of his own entitled 'The Good Times'. This time, no apologies are needed as the single is a smoking hot slice of R n' B soul. The first thing that jumped out at me on first listen was the amazing horn part. It's an amazing arrangement that just pushes an already well-crafted song over the edge. Chris actually wrote, arranged and recorded the brass himself and it gives the single a real high energy, almost Stax records feel. The song opens with a cracking upbeat guitar riff that, to my ears, is reminiscent of blues axeman Albert Collins. Smalls also hit it out of the park with his first lead vocal and though he keeps it light with the songs lyric, it is both positive and life-affirming. The whole affair has a bustling, Sam and Dave kind of vibe. It's a tremendous first single and I can't wait to hear Chris's EP later this year.
Ahead of the release of the single I chatted with Chris about his hopes and plans for his solo career.
Your debut single is a really strong statement. What are your hopes for the future of the band? Is there going to be a longer release later in the year or a tour possibly?
I’m planning to release a 5 track EP in the Summer which will include ‘The Good Times’. The goal is to begin life as a trio, focussing on supporting other artists and small festival slots, eventually growing to a slightly larger 5-piece once people are more familiar with my music. A proper tour is a while away as I’m still in the infancy of both the trio and my music. I want to grow and learn naturally as a new artist.
I love the horn section on The Good Times, who wrote and arranged the brass part?
Thanks! I arranged and recorded the horns myself. I’m a big fan of horn section such as The Phenix Horns, who were the primary horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire, Phil Collins and Genesis. The horn sections in Tower of Power and The Blues Brothers are also legendary. They’ve always been big influences on my playing, so expect even more horns on the EP!
Where was the single recorded?
I recorded it in my home studio in Perth. I have the fortune of knowing some of the most talented musicians in Scotland, who I’ve utilised to help me get the EP recorded. John Harcus, a local Audio Engineer, mixed and mastered the track and I couldn’t be happier with how he made it sound. The man’s a genius!
You've played in a number of bands before, but this is your first time as a frontman. What's it like being in the limelight?
It’s a thrill! Playing with so many great bands over the years has taught me a lot about stage etiquette and how to engage an audience. My focus is to remove all ego from the equation and create an honest and genuine connection with the audience. I want the music to do most of the talking, whilst letting those attending know that I appreciate them and want them to have the best time.
Can you tell me a little bit about how The Chris Small Trio came to be?
The trio is made up of Dave Shaw on bass and Ivan Sveda on drums/percussion. I’ve known Dave and Ivan for years, having played with them in Red Pine Timber Co. I was due to play an acoustic show in The Old Mill Inn in Pitlochry last November with a couple of friends but one had to pull out last minute. I called up Dave who was free and Ivan was already due to play. We played a night of covers and had the best time.
Once I left Red Pine at the start of the year I approached them both to ask if they wanted to make the trio an official thing. Luckily for me, they both said yes. I trust them both implicitly, which I think is very important in music and can sometimes be overlooked. They understand their instruments beautifully and I’m lucky to have them on board.
Do you have any festival performances planned?
We don’t anything booked in at the moment, as unfortunately when festival booking season was underway, I had nothing to show prospective promoters what the trio could do. Next year, however, I want to try and book as many as I can!
What are your musical influences?
It’s unashamedly and unnecessarily varied! I love anything that is either simple but speaks from the soul or is intricate and grounded. Anything from Sting/The Police, Blood, Sweat & Tears (another amazing horn section!) and The Band to Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones and Quincy Jones. This bit could go on for a while so I’ll leave it at that!
What question that I haven't asked you would you like to be asked and what is the answer?
I’d have to say: Which Friends character are you most like? And yes Colin you’re absolutely right, I’m a total Rachel.