HE’S PLAYED bass with The Last Shadow Puppets, shared the stage with Oasis, but Stephen Fretwell is very much his own man, with a line in descriptive, sweetly melancholic, and intelligent acoustic songs.
English singer-songwriter Stephen Fretwell plays the Róisín Dubh on Monday June 1 at 9pm.
Scunthorpe born Stephen first came to prominence with his debut album Magpie in 2006 which went gold in Britain. The success was unexpected.
“I was proud of what Magpie did,” says Stephen. “In social situations I’d no longer be the scruffy kid in the corner. I’d now be the enigma in the corner. I hadn’t become a big star who'd had some big, gruelling, intense promotional bout. I felt a bit beaten up: I’d find myself at some celebrity-ridden thing and then the next day I would be home in my flat in Manchester without a pot to p**s in. So I ran away to New York for a few months.”
New York however was to provide the Englishman with the artistic inspiration for what would become his next album.
“I like the anonymity of New York,” he admits. “Not in a fame way because I'm not famous, but in a life way, so I don’t have to deal with my family or friends. It’s like starting again. I’ve got new friends there, I haven’t made any mistakes, so they all think I’m a good person.”
An acquaintance in London thought Stephen might be lonely in New York and suggested he give Eli Janney - producer of Garbage and Ryan Adams - a call. Stephen performed some of his new songs for Janney who said one was good, the rest were “s**t”.
Despite this a creative partnership was born. “I immediately thought: ‘I’d like to work with you,” says Stephen. “He was very strict about what he thought was good, whereas everybody else was gushing. I thought ‘This guy’s pretty hardcore’.”
The result was Man On The Roof. While not as melancholy as Magpie, it is the sound of a man moving on and embracing his own gifts. Certainly Stephen attracts a high calibre of fan. Film director Cameron Crowe is an admirer and sent Stephen a rare vinyl copy of the Easy Rider soundtrack. The acclaimed British director Dominic Savage used Magpie’s ‘Play’ and ‘New York’ in his film Love + Hate.
Support is from Loughrea singer-songwriter Ultan Conlon. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.