Part of the Union

Dave Woodhall talks to Pete Shoulder, singer with blues rockers the Union.

Pete Shoulder is frontman with the Union, a band featuring Luke Morley, who played with British rock legends Thunder for over twenty years. With their third album The World is Yours released earlier this year, a live recording set to be released imminently and a UK tour starting next week you’d expect Pete to be enjoying the decadent rock’n’roll lifestyle. or maybe not.

“I’m just at Durham station now. I’ve got me bag packed and I’m about to set off on tour. The first date’s in Sheffield and I’m looking forward to it. We did a big tour at the beginning of the year then we did a festival in June and apart from that it’s been quiet, sorting out the DVD we’ve got coming out and stuff like that so we’re looking forward to getting back out there and playing.

Tell us what your music’s like then.

“It’s a bit of a mixed bag. The roots are in classic rock; two guitars, blues rocky, that sort of thing but we also do a lot of other stuff. There’s acoustic and at times we’re almost country, shades of Led Zeppelin 3. When you see us live it’s a good, rocking show though.”

If there’s a Zeppelin influence you’ve picked the right place to play in Wolverhampton.

“Wolverhampton is one of our strongest towns, anyway. It’s always a good turnout and a good night.”

Your music is a lot wider than blues rock, though.

“Definitely. Growing up, I was playing blues clubs in the north-east which was a big blues area and still is, but I felt a bit boxed in by it. I like writing songs too much rather than just having to slot them into a twelve bar blues, which is a bit stifling, so I always had an eye on other stuff and that evolved over the years in to the Union.

“The band’s roots are in blues, but I’m trying, especially with the last album we took a few more risks. The first two albums were quite varied but we turned it up on the last album, went for it a bit more, it’s a mixed bag but it all sounds like us. It’s our sound.”

In any case, there’s a lot more open-mindedness now. It’s not like years ago when the type of music you listened to influenced everything you did.

“Labels don’t really matter now do they? People listen to more music, it’s not a lifestyle choice. I went to see Neil Young in the summer and I was shocked by the crowd. I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe tie-dyed hippies but there was every walk of life there, people with mohicans, people in suits, everything in between.”

You won the WC Handy award in 2006 for your song Thinking of You, after it had been recorded by Little Milton.

“That was a great honour. I’d written the song two years before, and I’d made a demo over in America of a few songs. I got a call that Little Milton liked it and wanted to record three of my songs. His album Think of Me won Album of the Year and Thinking of You won the Best Song award.”

Playing with such an experienced guitarist as Luke Morley must be interesting. He’s from east London, you’re from the north-east. Do you need interpreters?

“I’ve known Luke for twelve or thirteen years now and we have a load of fun together. We can understand each other – it’s our drummer who’s the problem; he’s a Glaswegian.”

Being from different ends of the country and presumably with different backgrounds, do you find that your musical influences are different?

“We agree on a lot of stuff. We both like Free for example, but I also grew up with grunge which Luke doesn’t really get. It’s more of an age thing.”

You’ve toured with Whitesnake and Thin Lizzy. That must have been an experience.

“It was great, playing in front of someone else’s audience and getting new fans, those tours did very well for us. I’d played with Scott Gorham before and David Coverdale’s still doing the same thing he was doing thirty, forty years ago. Still doing it.”

And what happens after the tour finishes?

“Once the UK dates are over we’re going to Japan, then I’ve got a solo album out next summer so I’m working on finishing that. And then there’ll be more songs to write, then record, more music really. The everyday life of a rock musician. Hard isn’t it?”

The Union play Wolverhampton Slade Rooms on 9th November.