Tim Rice-Oxley on the new Mt. Desolation album, finding details in records and Battle Festival

Mt Desolation with Tim Rice-Oxley (left) and Jesse Quin. Photo by Alex Lake

Mt Desolation with Tim Rice-Oxley (left) and Jesse Quin. Photo by Alex Lake - Credit: Archant

Mt Desolation are about to release their second album in eight years. Alfriston-based songwriter Tim Rice-Oxley – also of Keane – talks to Duncan Hall

After we released the first record we went back into Keane world and life took over. We had been kicking ideas back and forth for the past three or four years – it was a question of getting organised.

We started the first album [from 2010] by wondering what it would be like for two blokes from England to make a country album. It started to grow into something much more sincere – a true reflection of us as people rather than a deliberate pastiche. The new album has still got the melody, emotion and storytelling, but musically it’s a much more frank realisation of what we’re into.

Jesse [Quin] and I listen to different music which is reflected in the variety on the album. There are bits of Arcade Fire, Tame Impala, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. Paul Simon has always been the basis of my writing – but I’m influenced by modern pop.

My children go through phases that last about a year where we listen to certain albums over and over again in the car. We had it with Katy Perry, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift’s 1989 and we’re just coming out of Dua Lipa. I think I’ve listened to that album more than anyone else in the UK. After 50 listens you hear tiny details. When we were demoing songs for the album I was thinking of the little things in the background of these records and the tricks people use. I’ve tried to change the way I listen to music as a result – I’ve listened to Father John Misty’s album and Bon Iver’s 22, A Million about 100 times. When I first put Bon Iver’s album on I felt slightly excluded by it. Listening to it a few more times it takes shape and you find beauty in it.

My parents were big fans of Buddy Holly and The Beatles. I listened to their copy of Simon and Garfunkel’s 1981 Concert in Central Park album hundreds of times – you can feel the buzz in the air of a band playing to half a million people. It’s intoxicating.

As I got older U2 really made me want to be in a band. My first big gig was their Zoo TV show at Wembley Stadium. I loved that sense of creating a work of art – they were totally unashamed of the fact they were trying something really ambitious.

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I’m a sucker for travel books. I’ve just finished The Silk Roads [by Peter Frankopan] about the history of the Middle East, and A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby from the same part of the world. I loved Laurie Lee’s A Moment of War about his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Although it’s a non-fiction story he talks about the society and what goes on in people’s heads.

Having kids rules out the luxury of going to the cinema. I’ve seen The Shape of Water, I, Tonya and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which were all thought-provoking in different ways. It sinks into your creative life.

We’re already thinking about another Mt Desolation album. This album has been a long time in the making – from the first sessions to the release has been two years which is crazy! We’re desperate to get back in and work on new stuff.

I’m patron of Battle Festival – I’m hoping to participate this year. I’m excited to do what I can to keep the festival growing – it’s a great thing for my home town.


Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley on getting involved with Battle Festival - Tim Rice-Oxley of the rock band Keane is running a mentoring scheme for young musicians at Battle Festival in October. He spoke to Alice Cooke about why he felt compelled to get involved

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