banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

Interview – Andrew Strong, The Commitments, August 2013

| 20 August 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Story first published in X-Press Magazine’s 21st August 2013 issue – HERE

Andrew Strong has come a long way since appearing in Alan Parker’s movie The Commitments, which was itself based on Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name. That was 1981, and Strong was 16 years old but possessed a voice that could shake foundations, and was ‘discovered’ for the part when he did some backing vocals for his Dad, who was working on the movie as a vocal coach.

On the 20th anniversary of the film the original cast reunited for a half dozen gigs in the U.K. and Ireland, an experience Strong is torn about, but before we get to that, we’ve plenty of other ground to cover… primarily, Andrew’s Australian tour.


Andrew Strong 01


100% ROCK: Hi Andrew, thanks for your time today

Andrew: No problems

100% ROCK: Will you only be playing Commitments material on this tour, or will it cover all of your solo albums as well?

Andrew: This will predominantly be 90% Commitments stuff, you know. That’s kind’ve the whole idea, the whole concept of doing the tour in the first place, you know.

100% ROCK: And just to clarify, I did see you did a couple of shows with the “Official” Commitments tribute band in England, but this is your own 8 piece band you’re bringing to Australia?

Andrew: Yeah, exactly.

100% ROCK: You also have a live album covering the Commitments years and beyond, that’s out now. How’s that been going for you?

Andrew: Yeah it’s going very well. I don’t know what the numbers are right now, but as far as I know it’s been doing very okay. The reviews have been positive so far so that’s good. It was a gig I played in the South of France last year, and it was a gig I recorded, and we made a video of it, and it just turned out pretty well and we just thought, we could possibly just put this out as a live CD, so that was all pretty good there, you know

100% ROCK: Excellent. With this tour mainly focussing on The Commitments movie, is it going to be just music or will there be some filmic elements involved?

Andrew: In the show? Oh no, it’ll be just music. Music, yeah – absolutely.

100% ROCK: Well we’re talking about timeless classics here so that’s certainly not a bad thing!

Andrew: Ohhhh totally, totally, yeah. Even when all the original guys got together there was talk of doing stuff like that but I wasn’t too on for that sort of thing, you know. I think you should leave that in the DVD!

100% ROCK: After performing these songs for 22 odd years, do they still move you?

Andrew: [thoughtfully] Yeeeeaaaaahh. Yeah, of course. But I think what moves me are the people who performed them, you know. I mean, it’s not like I sing these songs all the time, but yeah, they’re timeless songs. And when you’re associated with a song that people know and love, they just really love you singing these songs, it kind of keeps it fresh to you, you know.

Andrew Strong 02

100% ROCK: When you think back to that time, when you were a 16 year old lad who just got plucked out of obscurity, effectively – do you feel like you have much in common with that guy back there.

Andrew: Oh, not really to be honest. My character was pretty much an unsavoury character, a dickhead, so I mean – I’m a totally laid back person, maybe I used to be a bit feistier when I was younger – I’ve probably mellowed out a bit over the years, but no, I think the only thing I had in common was the ability to sing, you know.

100% ROCK: Well I was gonna say – the words I have written here are “your character was a bit of a drunken arse”.

Andrew: Absolutely!

100% ROCK: Were you a bit typecast by that performance – did people expect that that was YOU?

Andrew: Ummm, no. No, not really. Well, I mean, that’s what I don’t understand, when people say that – it’s a film, it’s me portraying a character in a film. It’s like the way, you know, Robert DeNiro portrays a character in Taxi Driver – he doesn’t go around in a mohawk shooting pimps, you know what I mean?

100% ROCK: [laughs] Absolutely

Andrew: At the end of the day, in order to play a character – to play an arsehole, effectively, you have to have those tools inside you. And I think all of us can be an arsehole at times – I mean that was me basically just being an arsehole, obviously with direction from Alan Parker. He was saying ‘take it here, take it there, don’t act, just try and be more natural with it’. But in general, I mean I get a lot of those questions from journalists – ‘are you really like that character’, but I don’t think so…

100% ROCK: Well that’s good! With the movie being about characters who were plucked out of poverty and almost made it, was there a parallel with the relative unknown cast who were hoping to use the movie to kickstart a ‘big break’ so to speak – or is that reading too much into it?

Andrew: I can only answer that from my point of view. My goal was really just to release records and be an artist and tour – that was my determination. I wasn’t determined to be an actor or anything and I still haven’t been. But I mean, people have gone on to do other things – the girls have done a lot of acting, been in a lot of big things – Glen [Hansard], the guitar player won an Oscar [in 2008 for the song Falling Slowly from the movie Once] so yeah, we’ve all kind of gone on and done and our own thing. But sure – when you’re a kid and all of a sudden you’re plucked out of obscurity and everyone knows you and you sell – what, 14 million records? Of course you want to continue that way, you want to be successful – I mean, anyone who would say otherwise is just lying! From my point of view it was just a great vehicle to kickstart my career. But that movie and the soundtrack was just such a successful thing worldwide – in a way it was probably harder for ME to step aside from it, ‘cos really I was the driving force for the band: I was the guy who sang all the hits, you know. So in a way it was a bit tough for me to walk away from all that. The girls, they weren’t necessary the driving, focal point of the band – I know they were singing all the time, but I think it did inspire us all to try and do better and to success on a personal basis, you know.

Andrew Strong 03

100% ROCK: And do you credit your voice – the fact that you sounded so much more mature than a sixteen year old at the time – do you credit that to your Dad, him being a vocal coach at the time, or was it raw natural ability?

Andrew: Well my Dad never taught me how to sing or anything like that, that’s just my own thing. Well, I’ve gotten my talent from my father, absolutely, that’s just something that’s embedded in me from a young age. It was just something that came naturally to me – even before The Commitments I was in a couple of bands, so I always knew music was at the forefront of what I wanted to do with my life. Definitely – it’s very hard for me to observe myself. When you listen to those records and listen to my voice you’ll have a clearer perspective on it. I was just the guy – just the vehicle for these songs, and I just sang them the only way I could do it. But I never really got any guidance in terms of ‘don’t do it this way, do it that way’, it was always just a matter of putting my head down and getting on with it, you know.

100% ROCK: Over the years, how have you avoided The Commitments overshadowing your solo work – ‘cos you’ve done very well out of your solo albums.

Andrew: Yeah look, at the end of the day, it gets back to what I said about your last question, about me being the lead singer in the band – even though it was never really a band. It was a lot harder for me to be able to walk away from that because a lot of people really associated me with that, and they associated my career with that, and they associated Andrew Strong WITH The Commitments – or Andrew Strong IS The Commitments. So that was hard, it was hard from a point of view of me wanting to do my own thing, I wanted to do my original stuff. Record companies are really only interested in me doing soul music and that sort of stuff. So yeah, it was an albatross – absolutely. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. But in the same token, it’s not a bad albatross to have – I mean, I’d hate to be like Right Said Fred or something. You know – be remembered for taking my t-shirt off, or whatever. At the end of the day, it’s good work – my contribution to The Commitments, my contribution to the records, and even today those records still sell in bucket loads, still today. So from that point of view its good work, and that music – soul music – is universal. I would really cringe if I was known for something where twenty years later I’d look back and go ‘Oh my god, I absolutely hate this’ you know. So it’s not a bad thing, but in the same token, it hasn’t been easy – probably the first ten years afterwards it was tough, just trying to branch out and do my own thing and try and just get away from that brand. That was definitely, it wasn’t really easy, but, you know, we got there [with a sigh] and I just ploughed on and made my records. At the end of the day I’ve never really been motivated by success, or motivated by selling 50 million records – great if it happens, but what motivates me is the fact that I’m in music, I make a living out of what I love, and that’s the most important thing to me. If I can make a living out of that and continue doing that, that’s the most important thing to me for sure.

100% ROCK: You said that that association, it took you maybe ten years to break that and to rebrand yourself. Was there reluctance in thinking that 2011 was the time to do The Commitments reunion thing in England, and now’s the time to come out and do it here, just in case you got reassociated?

Andrew: Well there was, yeah there was, to be perfectly honest with you, ‘cos there were a couple of members of the cast that I just couldn’t be in a room with – I just couldn’t be around some of the members. I just felt extremely uncomfortable about lending my services towards that. And then on the other hand I said, well, let’s put that aside, and let’s think about the people who went out and bought these records, let’s think about the people who have given me my career let’s think about the people who absolutely adore this music and adore my contribution to that, and let’s think about the people who deserve to hear that. So I kind’ve put my differences aside and I’m kind’ve happy about that – I mean, we played some great, great shows. In a way it’s sad that we couldn’t say ‘let’s just go out and do this one time. Let’s go to Australia, let’s go to America, let’s do New York properly’. It’s sad that we couldn’t do that but to be perfectly honest with you, it’s like a time bomb going on tour with all of us, because everybody’s just SO different, and everybody’s got very diverse careers and so, the limited amount of shows we did do were tough enough to do. I just could not see myself going out on tour in that environment for six months, because it just wouldn’t last to be perfectly honest with you.

100% ROCK: Well i was gonna ask if you’d manage to get through those shows without any friction – but I think you’ve pretty much answered that question!

Andrew: Yeah, yeah… I mean, we did the first shows in Ireland, and they were great. Then the second batch of shows in the UK, and to be honest with you they kinda… I mean, as far as the shows go they were fine, but as far as what was going on behind the scenes, it wasn’t really a nice place to be, to be honest. I mean, I didn’t sign up for this, and obviously I was approached would I like to come over to Australia and do the tour. And normally I would say no, but I don’t want Australians to be under the pretence that I’m going there with The Commitments, because that’s not the case. I’m going there to sing the songs, and if they’re prepared to come and hear me sing them, than that’s cool. So I’m cool with that – and the people of Australia, they deserve to hear these songs, they bought so many of these records – and it’s always nice to get down to Oz anyway, you know!

100% ROCK: You’ve been working on a project called The Boneyard Boys for a while – how’s that coming along?

Andrew: It has [been a while coming], it has! Well a bit of a spanner has been thrown in the works there, because my partner, his father passed away, so he’s been grieving, and we’ve put things on the backburner for a while, but as soon as we finish the Oz tour we have some time scheduled in October to go in and revamp things and look at things. I mean, we’ve totally done the songs – we’ve written about 30 songs, so we really just have to get back to it. It’s probably a good thing, we can listen to it with fresh ears and we can have a little bit more perspective on things. Hopefully we can definitely get something happening with that next year, and also with my new solo album too.

100% ROCK: Awesome – well we look forward to hearing them both, and seeing you live!

Andrew: No problem mate, take care


Thursday August 22 – Metropolis, Fremantle WA
Friday August 23 – Discovery, Darwin
Saturday August 24 – CEX, Coffs Harbour NSW
Wednesday August 28 – Entrance Leagues Club, Bateau Bay NSW
Thursday August 29 – Newcastle Panthers, Newcastle
Friday August 30 – The Star, Sydney
Saturday August 31- Waves, Wollongong NSW
Thursday September 5 – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday September 7 – Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane


Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad