4YE Exclusive: The Wearer of Many Hats: Johnny Partridge Talks About His Future

On the 17th September Johnny Partridge hosted his album launch for Dames, Dudes + Cowboys Too at The Borderline in London. I was lucky enough to attend, and even luckier to get an interview with the man himself, discussing the future for the triple threat performer.

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So first of all, I was wondering, where did the title of the album come from?

I did a one man show last year called ‘Dame’s and Dudes’ and it was at the Hippodrome Casino. I guess it was a nod to my music icons of “cool.” So from Bowie to Bush, from Streisand to Sinatra, I love it all and that’s really where the title came from. I love a bit of country and wanted to put some country tunes in there, and it was literally as simple as that. I wanted to rock a few country tunes and I thought, how am I going to work that in to my set? And when we came to make the record everybody was like “You’re gonna do a couple of country songs? How are you gonna make that work?” Country singers are so narrative, and all the songs I sing, all the songs on my record, and my original songs, it’s always about narrative for me. I like stories, I like beginnings, middles, and ends, and that’s what I tried to do, and country does that. There is a strong narrative through the songs so I think it all fit really well, and tonight just proves that I was right all along, so yay!

I probably know the answer to this, but how do you think it went tonight?

Do you know what, I’m not the sort of performer that gages something, I never really look out in to the crowd. I like the darkness, the blackness of it, and when you’re sort of producing a show, a record, there’s a lot that goes with that, so normally when I’m doing a show I’m sort of coming out as an artist with no responsibility. It’s different for me in that way now, so in doing this show tonight I’m thinking about, not just about me, I’m thinking about the band, I’m thinking about the sound, I’m thinking about you as an audience, so you don’t really enjoy that. You enjoy it afterwards when you understand that the audience have enjoyed it, so I’m enjoying it now it’s done. Something like this you grow in to it, you want it to build, you want to start off slow, and you want to bring people in. You want them to go home with a bounce in their step, and I think we achieved that.

Is this you now focusing more on the music side of things, rather than acting? Or is this just one of your many projects to come?

I think this is me being my own boss, whether that’s singing, or producing, or song writing. I will act, and I will do stage shows again, but I will probably produce them. I’ve been doing this 30 years now and I’ve had lots of amazing experiences, I’ve worked with lots of amazing people, and there comes a point where you wanna sort of put that in to practice, and see if you can use all the skills that you’ve picked up along the way and put them to better use. And I don’t necessarily mean that’s gonna be for me, maybe I’m gonna produce things not with me in mind, and maybe they will be for me in mind, but this really was a venture for me to see if I can do it. And also to see if I can enjoy it, and if other people appreciate it, so it’s really a learning curve for me.

How did it come about having quite a lot of covers on the album amongst just a few original tracks?

If you listen to a Jamie Cullum album for example, he’ll do say four originals, and six covers, and that’s kind of what we’ve done on this record. Lots of people know me for lots of different things, either you know me for being a West End star, or for giving you your lottery numbers, or you know me for wearing vests in Eastenders. I’m known for lots of things, but to come out as a singer song writer, that’s kind of a massive jump. I think in order to bridge that gap, in order to not alienate lots of people with a sort of style or a genre, if you sing some songs that people know, it brings them in slightly. And on my record, even though I’ve got covers on there, most people tonight have said “Which are the covers, and which are yours?” Because other than Jolene, they’re not necessarily songs that you would know. People don’t necessarily know Rufus Wainwright, or Nine Inch Nails, or Seth Glier, they’re not necessarily gonna know those songs, and that wasn’t intentional, I just picked those songs because I like them. We are doing a new record in the new year and that will all be original material. This was a way to sort of ease people in, and to not alienate them by thinking “Oh, Johnny Partridge is trying to be like a rock star.” I am not trying to be a rock star. I am not looking to dominate the itunes charts. What I am looking to do, is to grow my stage show in to a bigger brand, in a sense that I wanna take this show out on the road, start playing bigger venues, and who knows, maybe end up in Vegas.

Yes, the stage, in a good way, did not seem big enough for you tonight, it was such a performance.

I’m just a show off at heart, what can I say! But you know, this is about growing something, and also it is new for me. You want it to grow, you want it to feel organic, to have momentum, and you want to bring people along with you. So you want those people that have come here tonight, and probably go out and go “Oh my god I’ve seen that John Partridge last night and he was actually kinda good.” Then when we do the next gig you want it to grow naturally because it’s much a new thing for me as it is for anybody else. This venue that we‘re at tonight [London’s Borderline club] is a legendary venue, I mean everybody has played here. This in itself tonight has been an honour for me, to come to a venue like this and start something off.

I’m sure you don’t want people just to like it, just because of the other things that they’ve seen you in.

I want people to like this for this, I don’t want them to like it for any other reason. It’s actually not really about me if that makes sense? It’s about Johnny Partridge. Johnny Partridge is almost a new person. Johnny Partridge is not Christian from Eastenders, it’s a new thing, it’s a new beginning, and at 43, it feels great!

 

Johnny’s album Dames, Dudes + Cowboys Too is out now!

 

-Many thanks go to Johnny Partridge for the interview, and to Sunil Gangarh who assisted me in the process.

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