From New York to Symphony Hall

Talking to Graham Gouldman, 10cc frontman and songwriter extraordinaire.

Graham Gouldman is a songwriting and performing legend. He wrote hits for amongst others the Hollies and the Yardbirds, but is probably best known for being a founder member of 10cc. He still performs with the band and is currently getting over a tour of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

“It’s been great, quite intense as all the days off were travel days but very enjoyable. We had lovely audiences.”

10cc always had clever lyrics. Do foreign audiences pick up the nuances of what you’re singing?

“They love the music and a lot of the time they’re singing along so they obviously know the lyrics. I don’t know if they understand the subtleties or the innuendo but it doesn’t matter because they seem to love it.”

You’re playing the UK next year and some of the shows are the biggest you’ve done for some time.

“That’s happening wherever we’re going. It’s a difficult time for people to get used to the idea that this is what I call the mark three 10cc, with me as the only original member but as time has gone on we’ve established ourselves and I’m delighted that we’re playing much bigger venues. Not necessarily ones that we didn’t play in our heyday but bigger than we have been playing.”

Symphony Hall’s on your schedule and that’s a venue made for a band such as 10cc.

“It’s great. We’ve played there before and it’s a wonderful venue. We’ve played stadiums, I’ve played them with different artists as well but there’s something about these places that’s just right. Some venues can be too big and a few artists choose to play smaller places for that reason. It’s a nicer experience for them.”

You started out differently to most musicians in that while you were still in bands you were predominantly a songwriter for other people.

“Yes, I was in a few bands but then I began writing songs for other people and up until the time we formed 10cc I’d been in a band with Kevin Godley called the Mockingbirds but I was happy being a songwriter. I was always in bands because I love playing live but forming 10cc was the best thing that could have happened.”

You were almost a one-man Hit Factory, going into work, writing and going home again.

“It wasn’t quite like that but I did have a purple patch from 1965 until 1968 and then I felt I was out of sync with what was going on but I always believe that if you keep doing what you’re doing things will come round to you. I couldn’t change what I did, to this day I write what I feel I want to write. I never listened and certainly 10cc never listened to what was going on in the charts. We were never influenced by anything outside our sphere.”

You moved to New York at this time. I would guess that being a songwriter in New York in your early twenties was quite an experience.

“It was, not that happy an experience but it was one of the things that bought 10cc together. The songs I wrote in New York, I got fed up being there and I was already a partner in the studio with Kevin, Lol and Eric, and I said I wanted to go back to the UK to record the songs I’d written there. So we started working together and we were doing a lot of other stuff, we were the house band for the studio, doing football records, school choirs, all sorts of things that were good for the studio and good experience for us as well. Musically some of it wasn’t up our street but it helped finance the band.”

Was it difficult to go from being a studio artist and writing to being in a working, on the road band?

“Not really because we’d been in bands before. Eric had been with Wayne Fontana and had a lot of experience and so had Lol to a certain extent. With 10cc it was like starting again. We were both in the studio, which was different to their bands but we’d got to the stage where we’d had a couple of hits and we thought about going out on the road.”

You’ve collaborated with a lot of very well respected people, such as Kirsty MacColl, Andrew Gold and Paul Carrack. Is there anyone else you’d like to work with?

“There’s lots I admire and respect. I’ve always been a big fan of Mark Knopfler, I’ve never met him but he’s someone like to work with. I don’t know how that would work; I couldn’t compete in the guitar playing department, that’s for sure.”

Sometimes people on the outside think musicians and entertainers in general live in some sort of community where everyone is always together, so to say you’ve never met someone can sound a bit strange. But getting back on track, of all the things you’ve ever done and written, which is the one song you’d want to be remembered for?

“Bus Stop by the Hollies. It was an important song for me, I was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and if you’re a performer they ask you to do one of your songs. I don’t know how many songs I’ve written but that was the one I immediately wanted to do. I’m very proud of that song.”

Realistically though, when your time does come there’s only going to be one song played on the radio.

“I know what you’re saying. We did a lot of songs but I’m Not in Love will be the one 10cc is remembered for.”

Hopefully it won’t be for a long time to come but that’s not a bad legacy to have.

“Not at all. I’ve no plans to stop; I won’t stop, I’ll be stopped. And that’s going to be too long a time away to contemplate.”

10cc play Symphony Hall on Friday 8th March. Tickets.