Billy Lockett: Northampton music star on playing for James Corden, performing at arenas and coming home
Poised to release his new EP this week and back in the house he grew up in, Billy Lockett admits it’s taken him a while, but he finally knows the singer-songwriter he is – and he’s come full circle.
Last week, Lockett sat solo at a piano and performed his new single Hard Act To Follow to a global audience of millions on The Late Late Show with James Corden in America.
Describing the performance as one of “the most surreal and best moments of my life,” Lockett was picked by Corden to play after musician Andy Burrows played him a preview of the single.
The trip also gave Lockett the opportunity to play shows in New York and Los Angeles.
Over last 15 months, Lockett has headlined his own tour across the UK and Europe, supported chart topper Lewis Capaldi, played at festivals including Glastonbury, Latitude and Isle Of Wight and walked out onto arena stages opening for ELO.
However, it was the times he played solo which helped him realise it was where his future lies.
“I’ve only recently worked out exactly what I am and it’s ironic it's exactly what I started doing about 10 years ago,” he says. “I've come back to it - but in a more refined way.”
Lockett played this summer’s festival season solo and explains it brought “more honestly” to his songs.
“It was just me on a piano sitting playing songs,” he explains. “There were no gimmicks and I wasn’t hiding behind anything or anyone.
“With a band, I could occasionally do that. “If you listen to my music online some of it's got drums some of it has got synths and it’s a little ‘What’s going on here? What are you?’
“I don’t think I’d actually found my sound until recently.”
Lockett’s new EP Reset is released on Friday and besides his new single, it features the songs Say I’m Sober, Trade Places and Easy.
Three tracks were produced by Anthony Goldsbrough and one by Steph Marziano.
While Lockett has released a series of singles in recent years, including Every Time You’re High, Covered In Chaos, Feels So Good and Empty House, it’s four years since his previous EP Burn It Down.
“There’s a real hunger in the EP,” he explains. “There was no one telling us what the songs need to be or interfering. It’s been heaven.
“For the past two years it has been difficult doing something I love knowing it wasn’t going to get released because it had to go through so many people and chances are one wasn’t going to like it.”
Lockett had previously signed a contact with a record label to write and record his debut album but has since parted ways with them.
“I know I wasn't ready for an album,” he admits. “I definitely wasn't ready with my sound.
“My singles had been so different and I didn't want to do a debut album without knowing exactly what I wanted it to sound like.
“I’ve realised this year I want to do it in Northampton, on that piano (he points to the piano which dominates his dining room) be surrounded by my dad's paintings and make it myself.”
Lockett explains the EP is designed to show fans what they can expect from a debut LP.
“I’m someone who belts out a big chorus on a piano and I don’t think people want me with all the ‘bells and whistles’ – they just want good honest songs,” he says.
Moving to London following the release of Burn It Down, Lockett explains he knew the time was right to move back to Northampton.
“I love it here - this is definitely a choice” he jokes.
“I became sick of London, sick of the of life, I’m still there a lot but I wanted to be here with my friends and to be able to make music in a calm environment on a real piano.
“Here, I feel everyone is behind musicians. I didn't feel that in London.
“It affects your work if you're not happy and I wasn't happy.
“I’ve laughed my way through the last few weeks here - despite working on my house.
“I was in London for four years and it was good, but I knew it was time to move.”
The house Lockett has returned to he aspires to transforming into to a studio for not only himself, but for other artists explaining he wants to become “an inspirational writing haven for musicians".
Turning to the benefits of the capital, Lockett explains it opened doors to people in the industry.
Adding, “My manager Helena is incredible, she’s helped change my life.
“Having a manager who totally has your back is amazing, she’s the one on the phone in the early hours talking about mixes or working all night on a visa.”
In April, Lockett played at a sold-out gig at Shepherd’s Bush Empire at the end of a UK headline tour.
“To sell out of Shepherd's Bush Empire was something I had on my bucket list but it was playing at the Isle of Wight Festival which was the first time we realised the solo thing could work.”
European shows which preceded his UK tour were all played solo and helped cement the idea Lockett wanted to move away from playing with a backing band.
“When we did London, I knew it was going to be my last band show,” he admits.
“I was ready to change everything. I feel like I'm at the beginning of my next journey.”
In October last year, Lockett was picked to support Jeff Lynne’s ELO – which saw him walk out in front of tens-of-thousands of people at the biggest arenas across the UK and Europe.
“It was crazy but it actually easier than a normal gig,” he explains.
“The first was terrifying but you're so detached it didn’t actually feel like playing a gig.
“I couldn’t see anyone until the house lights came on, when it did you see that sea of people.
“It felt like a massive monster, all the fans almost become one and move at the same time.
“It was life-changing, every show was incredible it basically turned me from an up-and-coming songwriter into kind of a name - it really helped my career.”
Billy Lockett is back out on a 12-date UK tour in January which includes a gig at the Northampton Roadmender on January 31.
Tickets are on sale now via www.billylockett.com.