The too-often overlooked music of songwriting duo Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook was said to carry the torch lit by Lennon and McCartney. Their band, Squeeze, paved the way for the less-synthesized acts of the New Wave era. Squeeze produced some of the most heartfelt, yet gritty and honest, songs of the late ’70s and continue to this day.
Recently, we spoke with Difford about his work with Squeeze, his songwriting in general, and his fascinating, multi-faceted career.
REBEAT: You released Cradle to the Grave with Squeeze at the end of 2015, and it’s been one of the band’s highest-charting releases to date. This, of course, being nearly 40 years after your first release. Apart from the tie-in with the BBC series, why do you think, so late in the game and in a world of streaming and downloads, this record did so well?
CHRIS DIFFORD: It sounds like Squeeze, and that’s why I think it did so well. Often bands go off track and lose direction, but with this album, we did the right things and made a record that represented us best. A great band and some fine songs, with well-tuned production.
Do you have a favorite track on Cradle to the Grave?
“Sunny” is a wonderful song. It takes me back to the lovely days of the ’70s when, for me, the music industry was alive with valid and melodic songs. I miss those days.
I really love “Nirvana.” Is there anything you can tell us about it?
It’s a song that came from reflection. I saw myself as an old person — not far off in the distance — and I felt the sadness of an empty home and what life might bring to the table. Luckily for me, Glenn put a wonderful upbeat melody to it and helped fine tune the words.
I can’t help but notice that there are two Squeeze songs that both deal with being 15. Is there any particular reason for a special focus on 15?
Being 15 is part of the plot from the TV show, and some of our very first songs drift through early teenage years, as we were young once! Like when we first met… 15 now seems too young…
Before that, you released Spot the Difference, which was new recordings of classic Squeeze songs. The arrangements and production were so similar, I had originally thought they were just different takes. Actually, you were re-recording the songs so that a version of them was actually owned by the band, since the old recordings are owned by the label. Do you foresee Squeeze doing any more re-dos based on how this one was received?
No, it’s time to move forward and not live in the past. It’s a tough call getting all those songs to sound so good, and I have to thank Glenn for his vision and perseverance.
Your songs, particularly the earlier ones, offer a snapshot of life in the working class. Do you feel that your rise to fame made it harder to continue to write that sort of song?
As one grows older, it’s harder to write in that style. Life moves on and things change, but for the better. It’s forward motion and, for me, that’s all I have.
Do you have a favorite song or bit of lyrics you’ve ever written?
I do love “Tempted.” It’s so visual and again floats me back to that time when youth was a cloud I drifted around on from day to day.
You manage to do so much with your lyrics. They tell stories and contain brilliant imagery. Have you ever considered writing fictional stories or books? Or a standalone collection of poetry?
Yes, I’m thinking about that right now: short stories based on my songs. I think it would fun to do, and I might enjoy the pressure of getting it right and out there.
I read that you were working on your autobiography, set to be released sometime this year, but can’t seem to find any updates on it. Where are you with that?
It’s coming out [next] year, but it’s being finished this month — with some deep, deep breaths being taken.
Are there any modern or recent acts that you haven’t worked with on your radar? Any current songwriters?
The Strypes are the best-loved band I have seen for years, and they write wonderful, youthful songs.
Excited to hear that you’ve announced a new album planned for this year. Any idea when we should be expecting it?
We started recording in March, and we hope to have it in the shops by October — if there are any shops left by then, that is.
Since the last album was mainly based on Going to Sea in a Sieve, what sort of tone or focus do you think we can expect from the new album?
The new album does follow a thread. It’s under wraps currently, but it will be worth the reveal.
You have a big UK tour planned as well. Do you have a favorite place to play?
The Albert Hall and Brighton Dome, perhaps because I live close by and the drive is so simple.