Ploughing a lone furrow

Andy Burrows is happy to have left the tensions of his former band Razorlight behind, says Ed Power

Ploughing a lone furrow

ANDY Burrows is enjoying the quiet life. “When I was in Razorlight, we were playing big venues and the shows were always sold out. It was extremely hectic. It can be a lot to take in,” he says. “As a solo artist, things are more low key and far less disruptive. It’s different. I like it.”

Burrows was Razorlight’s drummer and co-songwriter. He penned many of the group’s biggest hits, including their chart topper, ‘America’.

He didn’t always agree with hard-charging frontman, Johnny Borrell. There were punch-ups, silences, rows — often in one evening.

The four members sometimes travelled to gigs in separate cars. Burrows loathed the tension. He left.

“It was quite difficult,” Burrows says. “There was a lot of drama. Being in Razorlight was a very turbulent band to be in. At the same time, there was an exciting side to it. It felt as you were constantly in the eye of the storm and that can be a lot of fun.”

Soon after, the guitarist and bassist left, too. Now Razorlight is Borrell and hired musicians. It makes Burrows sad to see the group reduced. He understands Borrell will be the face of Razorlight.

After Razorlight, he couldn’t bear the idea of being a solo artist. So he started a one-man band, We Are Arrows, and released a well-regarded LP, Green Grass, in 2010.

People kept asking where the other musicians were. He tired of explaining that We Are Arrows was just him. Burrows was embarrassed, so, for a video, he invited friends to pretend to be in the group.

He realised it was time to face the inevitable. So, his second post-Razorlight collection, Company, was released as ‘Andy Burrows’. For a songwriter who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, it was a big deal.

“It is like a new beginning, in a way,” Burrows says. “There’s a sense that it is official now — me being a solo artist. It gives it a stamp of approval.”

Burrows’s solo career is largely a matter of necessity, he says. He constantly writes songs and it doesn’t feel right to give them to someone else to sing. For better or for worse, they are his and he stands by them.

“The whole thing is by default,” he says. “If I want these songs to reach an audience, I have to go out and perform them. So, I’ve ended up as this ‘solo bloke’. In the past, I’ve played in arenas. Now, it’s smaller venues. Whenever people turn up, it’s always humbling.”

Playing on your own is lonely, he says, but he has creative control — which isn’t how it works in a band.

Solo artists do not have creative disagreements and backstage rows (in the final days of Razorlight, every week seemed to bring new reports of altercations between band members).

“There’s less need for diplomacy and compromise,” says Burrows. “It’s you and your producer making decisions. When you are promoting the record, in particular, it can feel more lonely. However, that can also make everything more straightforward.”

Burrows is much in demand as a drummer. He plays with the American band, We Are Scientists, as well as guesting on one-off projects. It’s nice to be popular.

However, with his skills as a percussionist so highly sought-after, making time for his songwriting is sometimes a challenge.

“Don’t get me wrong. It is flattering that people want to do projects with you,” he says. “The thing I enjoy most about life leaving Razorlight is you can do all sorts of different things. It’s exciting to be able to turn your mind to a wide of variety of projects and work with lots of people. I feel I’m in a lucky situation.”

Burrows was born in 1979 and grew up in Winchester, a well-to-do town south of London. In 2004, he joined Razorlight after an open audition.

From the start, it was obvious his contribution would go far beyond merely banging the drums. He was a major creative force on their debut, Up All Night, and even more so on 2007’s chart-topping Razorlight (not everyone loved it — one UK magazine nominated it for ‘worst album of the year’).

Burrows has, he says, occasionally felt adrift as a stand-alone artist. Which is why he attaches importance to his 2011 collaboration with Editors’ Tom Smith, released as Funny Looking Angels. “It was great, because he brought a considerable fan base with him,” says Burrows. “We were playing to big, sold-out venues. Which was something that hadn’t happened to me for a while.

“Tom and I have been close for seven or eight years. We live in the same part of London and we had kids around the same time. We’re both ‘dads in bands’, you could say. It was great to work together. We’d definitely love to do something again, whenever time allows it. The problem is that we’re both very busy. It’s hard to find the time.”

Have Razorlight fans continued to take an interest? Not as much as you might think, he says.

“Having played in large venues, when you go to a small room and nobody’s there, you do think, ‘oh well, the Razorlight fans haven’t come then’. I have pockets of people who stuck by me. In many ways, however, it feels like I’m starting over. Which is fine. I’m really enjoying myself.”

*Andy Burrows’ album Company is out now. His new single, If I Had A Heart, is released Apr 1.

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