Singer, songwriter, producer, occasional rapper and all round king of the club banger, Example is back with an all new album that somehow manages to distill every amazing summer holiday you’ve ever had into twelve standalone tracks on the standard album with four additional tunes on the now obligatory deluxe edition. SIXTYNINE degrees’ Jon Fraser caught up with the man himself in a rare gap between studio and live performances to talk sport, touring, married life and what it takes to create the perfect summer album.
Your schedule is absolutely mental, I looked at your website and for the next three of four months you really are all over the place! I know, I think it’s about 50 gigs for the summer. The toughest will be from 8th July because I’m doing 13 gigs in 14 days including two gigs in one night. It’ll go: Ibiza, a day off, Majorca, Croatia, South of France, T in the Park, day off, Plymouth, two gigs in Montenegro. Then it’s We Are Rockstars in Ibiza and Benicassim. I never planned for it to be that mental but what happens is I say to my live agent just say yes to every gig- let’s do 50 shows because I always worry that this could be my last year. I’m on my fifth album now, I’m 32. Everyone else seems to be in their twenties but if people see the live shows, we’ll keep it alive because the live shows are really what I exist for. I’m not here to change the world, I’m here to put on bangin’ live shows.
You are really well known for being an incredible live performer. Does playing live give the biggest buzz as an artist?
Totally, I’ve always enjoyed being on stage. I don’t mind being in the studio but I don’t love it. I love making music but I’m usually in and out of the studio in a few hours. What I’ve found over the years is even though I’m not selling millions of albums like some people, I tend to be bigger live so when people have chosen to take a year or two off, I’ve carried on touring and what I tend to find is people either go ‘I did really like your music but your live show blew me away so I’m now a fan’ or ‘my brother told me I should watch you because you’re wicked’ so I think the live show is what made it get to such a scale.
Has there been anyone in particular that has inspired your live performances?
I always loved people that had lots of swagger on stage and almost a bit of cheek. I used to watch mainly rock bands when I was a kid; the best show I’ve ever seen is Rage Against the Machine. It was purely about how the whole band were in synergy – the drummer was having it, the guitarist was having it, the bass player was having it – which is why I always say to my band ‘you’re part of the f***ing band so just let yourselves go on stage. Do what you want, there’s no rules.’ I think Tom Meighan is an incredible front man, I was at the Kasabian gig in Leicester, it’s weird because I saw them ten years ago and I started off as a fan and then about four years ago, became mates with them and it’s just amazing to go from watching someone to then being mates with them. They’ve come through the back door to headlining Glastonbury which is what I’ve always done – people are like ‘Example’s playing Earl’s Court!’ ‘Example’s headlining – where’s that come from?’ Coz it’s not like I’m known for millions of albums like say, Metallica or Arctic Monkeys. I’ve kind of been the underdog and I’ve just been playing to my strengths in the live shows.
It must really take it out of you, how do you actually relax?
I like to run between six and twelve miles every other day because it keeps my mind clear. I never listen to music when I’m running; there’s always so much shit going on in my head – either songs or stress from flights or doing twenty interviews a day or worrying about the chart position. It’s the only time I get to myself really.
It’s quite meditative then?
Yes, definitely. I remember I started running when I was a kid because I was getting stressed with exams at school and I felt like I didn’t really have any space to myself. My dad said when he was really stressed when he was 30, he used to go running every day, about six miles a day and it really allowed him to clear his head so I started doing the same.
So when do you actually get time to write?
With the last album I started it in February last year, in LA and then did a bit in Australia and then I was touring all last summer, I did about 40 or 50 gigs, so whenever I have a week off I try to go to the studio for five days because I can do a song a day. For this whole album I probably wrote 20 songs to get 16 for the deluxe album so it was probably only a few days song writing to get this album done. I like to write within the space of a day and if we think that the song’s got something then we go and produce it and mix it so a lot of the stuff is done whilst I’m on tour and I’ll come back to the studio for a whole day and maybe in 12 hours we’ll have three, four, five songs. Some people like to do a slow, really drawn out process, I was always concerned that I wrote too much quickly then I read an interview with Paul McCartney and John Lennon and they said they can write songs in an hour. If you know what you’re doing and what your audience want and you know what works live, if you know what you’re good at then you shouldn’t feel too selfconscious about having to spend a week on one song. You can imagine that after almost a decade of writing songs, it comes to me quite easily. I always write songs for festivals then tweak it for radio if I have to. The new album, your fifth, feels really anthemic. Listening to it I felt like I was being taken on a journey through every amazing summer holiday I’d ever had. Yeah I wanted the songs to sound like a summer playlist or like a dance compilation so my vocal performance on every song is really different. On ‘Seen You’ I sound a bit soulful and on ‘Live Life Living’ I sound a bit more gospel, on ‘Longest Goodbye’ it’s a bit more reggae. I wanted all the songs to fit, which I think they do I terms of subject matter. All that love or hedonism or festivals or feeling high – I wanted to capture those feeling and then connect them musically. Me and my producer go through every song on the album and edit it to have drums and bass lines to tie everything together so it sounds like a complete project. The album was written for clubs and festivals but also for the poolside or the beach or BBQs. Every song on the album I wanted to feel like a moment at a festival or a moment at a party or on a beach. I think that’s why it’s the most positive album so far, ‘Playing in the Shadows’ and ‘Evolution of Man’ were so dark, they were all about therapy and hangovers and addiction and cheating on your girlfriend and lying. All my biggest songs were written about that so it’s nice to come out the other side of all that. That’s why I’m glad I gave the album such a positive title ‘Live Life Living’, I just wanted it to embody what I stand for which is good times. Lyrically though, I did pick up on times when you are talking about separation from partners and living without someone.
Has life changed and your priorities shifted since you got married?
Yeah I think that on this album I’m a lot more honest, confident and less anxious. All the songs like Live Life Living have a big positive sentiment which is, ‘I’ve seen nothing til I’ve seen you’ and ‘Can’t Face the Word Alone’, whereas on the previous albums all the songs like ‘Natural Disaster’ and ‘All My Lows’, ‘Shot Myself in the Foot Again’, ‘Crying Out For Help’ –were really about someone in need, someone who is a bit lonely. Even though those songs were quite euphoric because of the music I don’t think they were happy songs, whereas on this album, people are going to listen to it and be uplifted.
Do you think you’ll ever settle down and stop touring?
One day I’ll have kids and I’ll relocate to Australia when the kids are young. That’s when I’ll probably slow down and tour three months of the year but at the moment it’s more like ten months of the year. If people wanna watch me then I’ll turn up.