Happy homecoming for Northampton's Andy Crofts as he goes acoustic at The Playhouse Theatre
Andy Crofts is looking forward to a happy homecoming when he plays a two-night acoustic stint at the Playhouse Theatre in Northampton in December.
Frontman for town band The Moons and bass player and vocalist in Paul Weller's live band, Crofts will lay himself bare at the intimate Clare Street venue, playing special Christmas gigs on December 21 and 22.
The Saturday night date quickly sold out, so a second was arranged and tickets are now available for the Sunday night show (Dec 22) - although you might want to get in quick as they are limited for what is an all-seater venue with a capacity of just under 100.
Crofts has carved out an excellent career in music.
He has released three albums with The Moons, played a key role as a musician on Weller's past five solo albums and also played 100s of gigs at some iconic venues across the world - but him playing a solo acoustic set will see him treading new ground.
"I'll be honest, this is the first time I have done acoustic shows, apart from maybe getting up at the Lamplighter pub on an acoustic night," said Crofts.
"It was a bit of a last minute decision, and with the Northampton one I thought 'let's just book it and see what happens', and I was a little bit worried that nobody would come.
"It is only a small venue, but I was still doubting myself, and I think that is half the reason I am doing this little tour, to give myself some confidence back."
What started out as a couple of gigs, with the first being in Crofts' current home town of Worthing, has now turned into something of a mini UK tour, with dates planned for small venues in Stockton-on-Tees, Halifax, Bristol and Brighton.
"I am very, very pleased that the Northampton gig sold out, and the second one is selling now, and I am looking forward to it," said Crofts.
"It is just going to be myself with my acoustic guitar, and I am going to be singing stuff from The Moons, maybe some stuff nobody has heard or a cover or two.
"There is not really any thrills to it, it is meant to be my songs in their rawest format, and if I was a fan of somebody I would love to see them play a stripped version of their songs."
Crofts is currently busy doing the final mixes for The Moons' fourth studio album, which was recorded at the world famous Abbey Road Studios earlier this year, and he is hoping will be ready for release in early 2020.
The Moons are currently doing some support gigs for The Rifles, and have performed one or two new songs in their set, so will any new Moons material get an airing at The Playhouse?
"It will be mainly be old stuff, but there will definitely be a handful of stuff that may be on the new Moons album," said Crofts.
"In general, the whole new Moons album could be adapated to be played on acoustic, but I may only be playing three or four of those songs."
So why The Playhouse?
The theatre is something of a hidden gem in Northampton, despite the entrance being via a nondescript and metal-gated royal blue door on Clare Street, off the Kettering Road.
You can't imagine there being a theatre behind those doors, but there is, and Crofts admits it is a venue he has long been fascinated with - especially as he used to live just a few doors down the road.
"It is a bit of a hidden gem," admitted Crofts. "And if you go in there you will think to yourself, 'why have I never been in here?'
"I went a few times years ago to see some plays, and it was amazing.
"It is all red velvet seats, and it is almost like somebody's house has been stripped out and they have filled it in like a tiny theatre or cinema-type thing.
"You can hear the cars going past as well, but that sort of adds to the charm.
"It is like a little thing lost in time, it is hard to explain really, but I thought it would be perfect setting for me to play, and I have always wanted to do it."
Earlier on in this interview, Crofts made reference to 'giving himself some confidence back'.
It wasn't a comment I was expecting to hear from somebody who regularly stands up and plays in front of 1,000s of people, has produced an excellent body of work with The Moons, and is also a trusted lieutenant to one of the best singer-songwriters Britain has produced in Weller.
So I asked Crofts to explain what he means, and he says this little solo enterprise is all about giving himself 'a slap in the face'
"I am not doubting myself as a musician," said Crofts. "But from years of playing in bands on all kinds of levels, I just realised that I feel like I have to go back to the beginning and teach myself again what it is all about.
"That's because, one minute I am playing the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York (as part of Weller's band), and then I am playing a little show wherever, so I thought I needed a wake-up call.
"I need to know that I can deliver my music in its rawest format of just an acoustic guitar and vocals, so that is why I am doing this tour - to basically give myself a slap in the face."
The fact the first Northampton gig quickly sold out, and the second one is sure to follow it in doing so, should be a boost for Crofts, who admits he is also wary of any 'virtual' back slaps he may get from fans and followers on social media.
"I am always doubting everything," he admitted.
"I do have some kind of fanbase, and that is purely through hard work, but with the internet, and although everything is done through it these days, I never believe it.
"Say you put up a post on Facebook saying you are doing a show, and 100 people say they are coming, you know they are not. It's probably 10 per cent of that.
"But God bless all of the people who do make the effort - because they keep all the music alive."
So if you haven't already, make sure you book your ticket to see one of Northampton's finest musicians up close and personal on Sunday, December 22.
Tickets are available from Crofts' website at www.andycrofts.com and are priced at £9.50 with a £1 booking fee.