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Features / Gomez man brings solo show north

Gomez frontman Ben Ottewell.

ONE of the singers from Mercury Music Prize winning indie band Gomez is heading north to perform in Shetland this weekend – and says he “leapt at the chance” to play in the isles.

Soulful musician Ben Ottewell will perform at Mareel in Lerwick on Saturday night (3 March) as he continues to promote his latest solo record A Man Apart.

The Englishman will also play a short set at non-profit record store The Bop Shop on Harbour Street at 3pm on the same day.

Ottewell will channel his solo material as well as some of Gomez’s tracks too, 20 years after the band released their first record Bring It On.

His solo music sees laid-back, Americana-infused tunes topped off by his distinctive, raspy voice.

It has drawn comparisons to the likes of acoustic nomad Nick Drake and Tom Waits, while he cites influences like Paul Simon too.

“I’ll be playing acoustically, so it’ll just be me and a guitar,” Ottewell said about his Shetland gig, which will also feature a stripped-back set from local act Forgotten Sons.

“There’ll be a bunch of my own solo stuff, but also a bunch of Gomez songs as well. The old classics, I guess. They’re like how they were written – not embellished in any way.”

The singer and guitarist said A Man Apart is “kind of like an Americana record – it’s got a mixture of blues stuff, folk stuff, country, and me shouting over the top of it all”.

“I’ve toured the UK with it, and I’ve been down in Australia, and over in the States. It’s gone well,” he added.

Gomez won the coveted Mercury Music Prize in 1998 for their debut album before its follow-up Liquid Skin reached No.2 in the UK charts a year later.

The band are heading out a world tour later this year to mark the 20 years since Bring It On, including dates in Australia and a sold-out show at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

“I guess the band haven’t played for three or four years now, so I’ve just been playing solo. I’m kind of looking forward to not having to carry my guitar around,” Ottewell laughed.

“I’ve been carrying all my own equipment, booking the hotels. But it’ll be great to play with those guys again. It’s been too long.”

He said ticket sales seem to show that Gomez have a place in 2018, despite their emergence back in the 90s and a recent hiatus.

“When we first decided to take a break, it was never meant to be a four-year break,” Ottewell said.

“We’d been doing it for 17 years at that point. I think if we’d gone into the studio right then and tried to make a record, we’d be lying to ourselves, and lying to our fans.

“It would have been too forced. So we decided to take a break. It’s the 20th anniversary of this record, and it sounded like a pretty good reason to come back.”

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