He made his latest solo effort at home in England with minimal outside help, so it makes perfect sense for singer-guitarist Midge Ure to hit the road supporting the album sans a backing band.
That’s what Ure — best known as a brief member of Thin Lizzy, the leader of Ultravox and a co-writer of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” — has been doing so far in 2015 to promote the 10-song Fragile, which was released last summer via eOne Music.
Earlier this week, Ure fielded questions about his latest album and tour, why the lyrics to “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” were changed for 2014’s 30th-anniversary remake and other topics.
Medleyville.us: You’ve described your North American tour in support of Fragile as being “true troubadour style” — just you and an acoustic guitar, with no crew or tour manager. Why did you choose to hit the road in this way — economics? Convenience? And what adjustments have you needed to make in your daily routine in order to deal with tasks unrelated to performing?
Midge Ure: “I found myself speaking at the Paul McCartney music school, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, as a guest pro musician and realized as I sat in front of the music students that nothing I was relating to them had any relevance in the industry they are trying to become part of: record deals, publishing advances, tour support, etc. — all the things that were the ‘norm’ when I started out but don’t exist anymore.
“So I decided that in order to understand what these young guys will have to face, I should try and experience how that might work for myself, so the ‘Fragile Troubadour’ tour was born: booking transportation, hotels, car rentals by myself; no crew or tour manager — a real one-man tour. [This is] something I have never done before and might never do again, despite it being enlightening and at times entertaining for me.”
Talk about making Fragile alone in your home studio and what you did to work through any obstacles in the writing or recording process. And did you seek outside input at any point along the way?
Ure: “There is a 12-year gap between my last studio album and the release of Fragile. During that period, I had huge doubts as to whether I wanted to be part of an industry that seemed to increasingly focus on music which at best was standing still and at worst glorified karaoke. At times I felt the last thing the world needed was another album from me, and I saw no point in continuing to be part of an industry I once loved but had started to become something I wanted no part of, so the making of the album stretched way beyond anything I had even done before.
“After releasing the Ultravox album Brilliant [in 2012], I realized there was still a reason to make new music, so I completed the Fragile album, an album where I wrote, played and mixed everything alone and thoroughly enjoyed doing so. The only outside input came from Moby, who contacted me with a view to collaborating on some music, and the result, ‘Dark, Dark Night,’ appears on there.”
It’s been 30 years since your first solo album, The Gift, which included your version of the Jethro Tull hit “Living in the Past.” Did you catch any grief at the time for doing that song? By the mid-1980s, Tull was not exactly the most hip band in the world, especially in America.
Ure: “It was a bit of an oddity at the time, but I didn’t really care. I loved that song and wanted to put my take on it on my first solo record.”
Speaking of grief: I have to belatedly and good-naturedly give you some for the cringe-worthy lyric “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” that Bono sings in the 1984 version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” Bono sings a different lyric in the 2014 version. What prompted the change? Who wrote the new line? And were you and Bob Geldof in agreement that the lyric needed to be altered?
Ure: “Cringe-worthy or not, the line was a pivotal one in the original, and although there were many queries about it, including from Bono, Bob insisted it said exactly what had to be said at the time.
“The change in the lyrics came about from the decision to raise the funds to fight the Ebola crisis with this version. Lyric changes on the Band Aid 30 version came from a variety of contributors on the day: Bono, Chris Martin and, of course, Bob. The general consensus from the Band Aid trustees was that the original song focused on famine and wasn’t relevant for this cause as it stood.”
What’s your opinion of the current Thin Lizzy? As someone who played with the band when Phil Lynott was the frontman, do you think any version of the group without Lynott can really be Thin Lizzy?
Ure: “Very difficult for me to comment, but there is no Thin Lizzy any longer — just [longtime guitarist] Scott Gorham and a new band who happen to sound uncannily like them!”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Midge Ure on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Feb. 20: Café 9 — New Haven, Conn.
* Feb. 21: Johnny D’s — Boston
* Feb. 23: Tellus 360 — Lancaster, Pa.
* Feb. 24: World Café — Philadelphia
* Feb. 25: The View Grill — Glen Cove, N.Y.
* Feb. 26-27: Iridium — New York
* Feb. 28: Sugarloaf PAC — Sugarloaf, N.Y.
Photos by Andy Siddens/Courtesy of midgeure.com