Interview: Modest hero Paul Carrack loves Harrogate's Royal Hall

Singer Paul Carrack, left, in his days with Mike and the Mechanics.
Singer Paul Carrack, left, in his days with Mike and the Mechanics.

“Can I call you back in five minutes? Ken Bruce is going to play my new single on Radio 2.”

Dubbed the “man with the golden voice” by the BBC, Paul Carrack, who enjoyed his first hit back in 1975, is talking to me at the age of 64 like an excited schoolboy, writes Graham Chalmers.
Hugely talented with a CV including Squeeze, Mike & The Mechanics, Roxy Music, The Smiths (yes, it’s true) and Eric Clapton (who he’s played with recently), Paul is forever on the cusp of becoming a household name.
Perhaps, the reason why it’s never quite come to pass is Paul’s own likable modesty.

Need evidence? Here’s what Sheffield-born Paul tells me about playing in front of a crowd of 250,000 people in Berlin as part of historic The Wall Live concert in 1990.
“Roger Waters rang and said to me that I wasn’t really famous enough to appear but did I have Huey Lewis’s number?
“Ten days before the show I got a call from Roger again asking me whether I fancied singing Hey You!”
"He flew me across two days before the show. It was great but nerve-wracking playing in front of a quarter of a million people. The figure has grown over the years to half a million. Some people now say it was a million!".
Music fans will get the chance to enjoy a cross-section of gems from his wide and varied career when Paul plays Harrogate’s glittering Royal Hall later this month.
It's a location this self-deprecating family man knows well, having played there in various guises over the decades.
"It's become a staple on my tours. I love it. I heard at one point it was getting old and in need of repair. So do I!"
He interrupts me again when he hears the door bell going. "Our central heating's broken. I've got to let them in in case it's the plumber," he says.
Incredibly, this workaholic’s latest solo album, Soul Shadows, is his 18th to date.
Ace songwriter (literally so, if you know your pop history and remember the song How Long?), versatile to a fault and blessed with a warm, soulful voice to die for, Paul knew he was destined for music from an early age.
“As a kid I loved the Everly Brothers and The Shadows. But when I heard the Merseybeat bands I was a goner. I was in. I knew that was all I wanted to do.”
Despite lengthy spells leading 1970s chart band Ace and popular 80s combo Mike & The Mechanics along with Mike Rutherford, scoring major hits such as Silent Running, The Living Years and Over My Shoulder, Paul has never been tabloid fodder.
He always seems to put doing good things first, good things like raising a family.
"With Roxy Music I was just the side guy learning my trade, with other bands I've just been a long for the ride. I saw doing sessions as a rite of passage on my way to becoming a decent musician.
"I think of myself as a singer-songwriter first. I'm not saying it's all been a cakewalk. At times I thought my career was over. It hasn't come on a plate for me. But I'm so lucky. I've managed to bring up four kids at the same time."
For 40 years it's been Paul's soulful voice on hit after hit.
This star by stealth has played for so many great acts, from Roxy Music to Ringo Starr, and he always bringing something extra.
He says it was amazing playing live with Eric Clapton recently.
"I don't know how good he was when he was younger but he's pretty bloody good now!"
Despite his versatility, there are a few musical genres he doesn't feel comfortable tackling.
"I have a feel for music and natural empathy. What I do is about dressing, really. I'm not that great technically.
"There are areas I can't do - jazz and classical music. I just haven't got the chops for them."
That this jack of most trades has always felt drawn to his solo career when enjoying success with a band - and vice-a-versa - may also help explain his ‘sleeper’ star status.
Paul said: “I always feel that playing for someone else disrupts my life as a solo artist.
"But I’m okay with the slow and steady route in my career. I like hard graft. I've never had it so good.”
Bur what about The Smiths? Surely that's one of the least likely matches in music history?
"It was the time of the first album. I lived in Shepherd's Bush round the corner from their studio.
"I already knew their producer John Porter. They used to come out of the pubs and roll up at the studio. I'd never heard of them.
"I was only involved in a doing keyboards on one or two tracks; Reel Around the Fountain was one, I think.
"Morrissey was this bespectacled figure brooding away in the corner. It was all quiet strange but interesting."
Paul Carrack plays the Royal Hall in Harrogate on Tuesday, January 26.