Aynsley Lister

This chap gigs a lot, but we find an evening where we’re both home and able to talk about ‘Home’, his latest album….

JLTT:  Where are you at the moment?

I’m at home in my kitchen eating a Cornetto that has just gone down the wrong way!

‘Home’ is a very strident, confident almost stealthy beat for the opener there in what I tend to call the post-Cray punchy blues style. Some great Hammond and piano on this track. How do you work out your keyboard arrangements? Or do you rely on your man to know what to do?

When I write a song I‘ve always got a good idea of the instrumentation that I’m sort of hearing ion my head. Basically, when I write I write in isolation. So I demo it at home, I have a home studio set up where I sort of write the songs, programme  the drums and put some bass down. So I’ve always got an idea of what I wanted to hear. But I’m not a keyboard player, I’m not a drummer and I’m not a bass player. The super musician version is the one on the album with all the guys. I basically sketch it out and present the band with a demo cd of the song and then they do their great musician version of it

It’s how a lot of people work. When I write songs, I write it on an acoustic twelve-string and if it doesn’t sound good with the vocal and twelve-string, I dump it. 

That’s a workable rule. Some songs work great as a solo acoustic. Other songs need a full band behind it for them to work. But if you’re trying to work out a melody, a verse or a chorus it’s a good guide for that

Ok. It’s kind of a novelistic lyric here isn’t?

Well obviously it’s a very personal song. But I think the title of the album ‘Home’ has a few angles that all go back to the same thing really. In my own life I’m at a point where I’m very settled and grounded. With the label being in-house and the management and everything it’s all kind of come home. So that song is kind of a key song to the album really

Ok. ‘Broke’ has sort of a stabbing tempo with that guitar. Your voice sounds very comfortable on this Aynsley. You’ve actually got a slightly light-ish voice for blues rock music

Well what I say to that is I don’t have a generic blues rock voice. I don’t have what you would call hoarse, gravelly blues voice. I never have had. My style particularly as an artist, is rooted in the blues. My guitar playing is very bluesy. It has a blues undertone to it. But my voice, I’ve never had that gruff blues voice. When I first started out I really wanted that. I was kind of disappointed that when I sang it didn’t sound like that. But now, I kind of embrace it and I’m really happy with the voice I have because it’s different

I think these days as well, with Robert Cray, Jon Amor people singing in the same ‘above range’. John Mayall had a higher voice and still has. It’s a feature in your music that you sing in that range

I think in terms of the range, I don’t have the classic blues voice but I think I have enough of a range that I can get across the songs and melodies in my head. I think one of the things when you’re writing is, you hear a melody or something and you think ‘can you sing it?’ In this album, there’s quite a range of melodies and tunes and stuff. There’s things on their vocally that I’ve never ever done before

Well that’s a good point. You should always have things on the record that weren’t on the last one.  ‘Insatiable’ has this deliberate moody, walking sound with the sparse tremolo guitar. There’s some quite subtle chord movements aren’t there? I wonder what inspired that song?

I think for that, I wanted something that was quite rootsy and old-school. In terms of the chorus, you’ve got the texturable drum groove. But then for the verses, I really like to create moods in my songs, I always like to put a little twist in there. On the turnaround in the verse it’s not a very obvious chord change. But I like that. I like to keep people guessing

Aynsley Lister Band

It’s a great thing. It’s what makes songs memorable, not going to the obvious place. ‘Inside Out’ I like. It’s an excellent song.


You should actually give that to Bonnie Raitt I think! It’s a song that I think she would take too. I like that a lot. Was that written early on when you were recording the album or was it a late addition?

No that was one of the first songs I wrote for the album. I think the first song I wrote for the album was ‘Home’. Then ‘Inside Out’ probably came about three or four songs later. For that, it’s definitely influenced by John Mayer. I got into John Mayer a couple of years ago and I just like the depth and mood that he puts into his songs. So for that, it’s got sort of a laid back groove to it. Again, vocally that was something where I tried a melody and vocal thing that I’d never done before in a song. But it really worked

I was talking to Chuck Leavell from the Stones and he’s friends with Mayer. In fact, Mayer came down and did a spot on his piano album. He thinks the world of him. Look there’s a star on your record, Wayne Proctor who I do run into. He has a great touch and feel for making an album varied. You have to give him credit

Yeah. Wayne is a great musician and he has a good sense of song structure, so working with him on this album was really good. I like his drum sound. I tell you, one thing he is very good at is getting drum sounds onto tape. He’s very good at getting that big, lively sound recorded. He just complements the songs

Yeah and on ‘Free’ he’s sort of edging onto a Neil Young Crazy Horse kind of tempo. Which I think puts a bit of a sharp jolt through the performance I think

Ok. Well that’s interesting. All of the tempos have my initial ideas on them and then we fine-tuned them. We rehearsed all of the songs before we recorded them. We just tried it out, found the natural tempo that would sit comfortably with each of us for each song

Yeah Joanne Shaw Taylor has a band that’s got a very similar dynamic. Where she feels able to jump off that because she is very comfortable with the musicians around her. I mean ‘Sugar’ is a sweetheart chug like Jimmy Reed. But again, it’s got a completely unusual turnaround 

I’ve never been one to just do things simply. I always like to put a twist on it

‘You Make t Real’.  My son’s a big James Morrison fan and he said to me ‘Ask Aynsley if he’s ever seen James Morrison live?’

I’ve never seen him live but I’ve watched him on YouTube. I think that song, the reason why I picked it is that I do like James’s songs from his earlier albums and that song’s lyrical theme was very fitting with the rest of the album. Again, in my style I thought ‘I’m not gonna do a carbon copy’. So again, I put in a little bit of a twist. I put a few bits in like the guitar bit in the middle to suit myself. It was something to break it up

The ‘Feeling Good’ version that you do, to me goes back to the Antony Newley. This was before Nina Simone got to it. They didn’t actually have her in mind when they recorded it. There’s a deep feel to that and I like your light touch.

Right. Well again, it’s a great song with a great riff. With that, I wanted to do the bluesy fill in the verses where the dynamic drops down.  Just have some light and shade


On ‘Possession’, you’ve got this heavy chording and this fuzzy gallop tempo. Your voice sounds most comfortable at that tempo. The bass on this track is absolutely terrific 

Steve’s a fantastic player. You mentioned earlier about the song ‘Free’ and if you listen to what Steve’s playing on the bass and how he bounces off the main vocal line it’s fantastic.

‘Hyde 2612’, there’s a very sinister tread to that. It seems to be a story of disorientation. It’s got a sort of cartoonish element

Well there’s a story on that that might actually shed a bit of light for you. It’s actually written after watching the television series ‘Life on Mars’ a few years ago


It was John Simm wasn’t it?

Basically, I watched that series and the whole storyline of a guy having an accident in 2006 and waking up in 1973 I thought was absolutely brilliant. It was like this time warp thing and I got really sucked into that. So ‘Hyde 2612’ was written from the perspective of the characters. He wants to wake up but he has to deal with this guy every day. Who is technically his boss really. What I did when I was writing that, I tried to use as many references and quotes from the actual series as I could. So there’s obviously some interesting and quite far-out there lyrics in there. Which you might think ‘What is he on about?’, but basically if you watch the series or one episode than you would totally get where the song’s at

There’s a bridge in there with very light chording which I think works a treat . But ‘Impossible’ where does that come from?

That just started off because I bought a new guitar. I just sat strumming the guitar, and I came up with that chord sequence. Really laid back so I just recorded it on my recorder.Lyrically, I really enjoy writing lyrics and spending time on creating. It’s like when you read a good book you can almost build up a picture in your mind of the scenario

That’s what books are for. Books are to trigger your own brain to sort of start creating

Yeah that’s what I try to do. It’s that whole thing of building up imagery and making the listener go to a place when they are listening to a song. It’s not the same old train coming down the line thing!

What was Jonathan Swift? He was LSD on paper wasn’t he? This guy is ninety times the size of everyone around him. Do you realise, half of this album is a love letter?

I’m well aware of that yeah. I’m at the happiest place I’ve ever been in my life. Certainly my personal life and in my professional life as well. Life’s good. The whole business machine of the album with everything being in-house. It’s on our own label and it couldn’t be better really. I think the other thing with this album is it’s a very settled and honest album. At the moment, I suppose I’ve got a lot to shout about. I’m quite happy to use that as inspiration really.

Yeah but if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be true to yourself. Painters go through different eras don’t they? The Byrds made albums that according to my friend Roger McGuinn are ‘like magazines’. He regarded as the albums as editions of what the band could do at that particular point, with that particular line up. I think you supress yourself if you don’t follow your heart and let that come through when you write 

I think the other thing is as well though, as a person I’m a very private person. I’m not the type of person who would talk about my private life openly to someone I didn’t know really well or felt comfortable with. But I’m in control of the songs, saying what I want to say and not saying what I don’t want to say, I don’t. I’m actually very open in my lyrics put it’s the other way around in my own life

That was just an observation. There’s a huge romantic streak and obviously it deserves to be there. I enjoyed it immensely, I thought it was a great record and I thought the players really rise to the occasion on these songs

Yeah it was great working with the guys. I worked with Wayne before a good few years ago. Steve is in my live band at the moment and hopefully he’s not going anywhere soon. Also Andre is in the live band as well so it’s great to go out on the road…

Pete Sargeant