Interview: Andrew Cushin

Propelled by organic home-town momentum and a growing catalogue of pop belters, Newcastle's Andrew Cushin has been making seismic waves in the industry and beyond. At just twenty-years-old, the rising star fuses candid, musing lyricism with seasoned guitar flair - the rousing single Where’s My Family Gone being the latest glittering fruits of his labour. Harvey Brown caught up with Cushin to explore his journey so far, and ambitions for the future.

At just twenty, Newcastle singer/songwriter, Andrew Cushin, is defying all lockdown limitations by soaring through the indie-scene with not least a shining endorsement, but a collaborative effort with none other than self-acclaimed and NME certified God-like genius, Noel Gallagher.

Andrew's latest single, now available on all streaming platforms, Where’s My Family Gone has been a part of the rising star’s catalogue for some time now; yet, to conclude what has been one of the most turbulent years since the birth of pop music, his release feels evermore universally poignant. Many would consider BRIT nominee, Sam Fender, as a representative for the modern sound of Newcastle, but with three singles under his belt and a record deal with Virgin, there’s a new kid in Toon.

H: Andrew, congratulations on your latest single. I think it’s fair to say your rise within the music scene has been quite unconventional. Looking back, was there a specific moment for you that felt like the start of your career?

A: I suppose the moment was when I got the first email back from Noel. I was only doing gigs as I had no money, and my manager Lee sent a video of my second single, Waiting For The Rain to Noel, to which he replied “That kid’s got a great natural voice.” I suppose those are the words any young artist wants to hear.

H: How did you get signed to Virgin Records?

A: I had only done three gigs before. At that time I relied on a songbook with all my lyrics in, so I could get through a set. A week before heading to the audition I sat down and polished up the tracks. I was skint at that point, I hadn’t a pot to piss in - I dived into my savings for the train journey there. I’ll never forget walking into this big studio room, there was this huge plaque on the wall signed by all the greats, from Liam Gallagher to Mick Jagger, Elton John, Amy Winehouse... Gibson hummingbirds, J200’s, 335’s, all on the wall, a massive grand piano.

The president [of Virgin Records] then got everyone from his team to come down and watch. So there were these fifteen f***ing big cheeses in the room. They asked what I wanted to get out of this, and I replied that I just wanted to make eough money so I can get some more trainers.

“To be honest, I reminded myself that if Noel Gallagher thinks I’ve got something, then that’s pretty special.”

H: That must have been nerve-wracking?

A: It was, but I took a guitar with me that had a lot of sentimental value and to be honest, I reminded myself that if Noel Gallagher thinks I’ve got something, then that’s pretty special. After the audition, it took about six weeks to hear back from them and they offered me a development deal. After that, This Feeling (a London promotion company) got in touch, and Mickey has been a massive help getting me on TV, Soccer AM, etc. Without Mickey from This Feeling, I wouldn’t be who I am on stage now, and without Noel, music wouldn’t be my full-time job.

Funnily enough, I prefer to play in front of people I don't know. Like when I played my sold-out show at The Cluny, about three-hundred and fifty people were there. All of my family, friends and people I have met along the way showed up. Personally, that’s ten times more nerve-wracking - it was like a homecoming gig.

H: First Sam Fender and now you, is Newcastle becoming the new Manchester?

A: Sam Fender is definitely the trailblazer. The music scene in Newcastle is really starting to pick up. You see more and more studios getting built, and more and more up-and-coming local artists trying to do that Sam Fender thing - you know, which basically means get a sh*t ton of money and make a number one album.

The main issue, for now, is making sure that venues survive. Newcastle is a big city, and for the size of it, the amount of venues we have is disgraceful. I think the second biggest before the arena now is the O2 Academy and that’s not great. The thing with Manchester is, especially back then with the likes of Oasis and The Smiths etc, there were so many bars and clubs for these new artists to play. I mean, the venue that Oasis are famous for playing in Newcastle back in ‘95/96 was the biggest music venue in the city, but it's long closed down. So, without these historic big venues, it makes things a lot harder for artists to break out.

H: Over on your Twitter, you've been quite vocal about supporting local businesses during lockdown. Is this something quite close to your heart?

A: I’m a big darts fan, and in one of my local clubs where I play, the landlord, Paul, was nice enough to give me his upstairs office as a rehearsal room in exchange for a couple of gigs for the locals. They were meant to be going ahead this month and they had all sold out within an hour. Rehearsing rooms aren't easy to come by or cheap, so it's been great.

H: Do you have any plans to increase the ensemble on stage when you play live?

A: Yeah, I think lockdown has worked out to be good for that. I have a mate who plays the bass down the road, and found a drummer in London - we’ve been able to rehearse and get a few songs ramped up a bit. My single has got a really big chorus, and it sounds mega now with the other guys playing on the track. It’s made me start to write with them in mind. I think for the smaller gigs it will just be me, as I want to keep it intimate, but looking ahead, it will be great to have these lads on the road.

“For me, the best songs just fall from the sky, I can’t plan it.”

H: Having Noel Gallagher on board at such an early stage is an incredible accomplishment, but does it add some looming pressure or inspire you further?

A: Well, since the moment I wrote my first song I was eternally f**ked you know? I’m constantly writing trying to top the previous one. It’s not good if I go a week without writing something. I am definitely more inspired now though. My motivation comes from not having to wake up at 6am in the morning and go to work. I am in such a privileged position now; I can say music is my full-time job and hopefully it will be for the foreseeable future.

So I’m not going to take weeks off because I can’t write, or I want to sit at home and be a miserable f**k, you know what I mean? I’ve got the best job in the world. So I can’t take my foot off the gas, I just think about how there are probably millions of other guys who want to do what I do but are sitting in the pouring rain on a building site.

H: When do you find yourself to be most creative, especially currently where every day can feel like a Sunday?

A: I’ve got five guitars in the rehearsal room: three upstairs at home, a mic’d up amp, two acoustics and an electric - I'm always prepared for when inspiration strikes. But for me, the best songs just fall from the sky, I can’t plan it. I can come home from nights out with my mates, and if there’s a guitar lying around I’ll spend a while in the early hours laying down the track.

H: There’s a video on YouTube where you visit your old primary school after being signed. Did any of your teachers or friends growing up help shape your music taste into what it is now?

A: Funnily enough, I was never into playing instruments back then, I was always into my P.E. Anyone that played an instrument back then I always thought was a bit questionable. Obviously, I don’t think that now, it was incredible to go back and see that all these young kids were playing the guitar, piano, trumpet, flute… I think everyone is influenced by music now, we need it more than ever.

For me though, it was when I was 16, getting my first guitar made me really tune in to music and be interested in who was playing what and the history of bands. I have always been into Oasis, The Jam, The Who, but I just liked tunes - it took for me to start playing and writing myself to really get turned on by it all.

H: One of your first gigs was supporting a band who were all bankers. If you could pick a dream line up of musicians (dead or alive) to play in your band, who would you choose?

A: On drums it would have to be Gary Powell (The Libertines) - I’d love to have a crazy drummer, so definitely him. On bass I would really like Iwan Gronow (Johnny Marr), I think he looks really cool and compliments Marr when they play live. On guitar I think you’d have to go Hendrix, as long as he stands behind the amps - you don’t want a stage-hogger.

“Noel has turned my ‘melodic poem’, as it was, into an anthem.”

H: Your new single is Where’s My Family Gone? - produced and featuring Noel Gallagher on guitar and backing vocals. What can you tell us about the recording sessions?

A: I’d spoken to Noel on the phone before heading to the studio. It would be the first time I’d record to a click track, even little things like that were something I wasn’t used to. After three or four days in the studio, it became quickly apparent of what sound we were going for. Noel laid down this really funky bass line that had such a hook; it was impossible not to enjoy the song we were making. Then, when Jeremy Stacey did the drums on it, it really started to sound like something from Chasing Yesterday's (Noel’s sophomore release).

It has become a great song, really different from how I originally envisioned. Noel has definitely turned my ‘melodic poem’, as it was, into an anthem. It screams Noel, obviously, it's my song, my words, my melody, but there’s this really special moment where Noel’s solo comes in. If the lyrics don’t do it for people, then the Oasis-style solo will a hundred percent.

Andrew Cushin’s new single Where’s My Family Gone? produced by Noel Gallagher is available to stream now.

Written by: Harvey Brown

Edited by: Louise Dugan