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Andy Fairweather Low: The Low Riders come to town

Andy Fairweather Low has been reborn in various musical guises over the years, from the young frontman of 1960s band Amen Corner, with hits such as 'Bend Me, Shape Me' and '(If Paradise Is) Half As Nice', to the much more experienced and successful solo act who released the album Sweet Soulful Music 26 years later. But don't be fooled into thinking Andy Fairweather Low has let the grass grow under his feet in those intervening years. His CV reads like an A-Z of the biggest names in musical history. He's played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Chris Rea and George Harrison, and experienced the buzz of playing with and supporting Eric Clapton at huge stadiums, including Madison Square Garden, but Andy Fairweather Low and his band The Low Riders are equally happy touring smaller, more intimate clubs and blues venues across the UK. However, Andy knows how to pull a crowd with his own name, packing out this year's acoustic tent at Glastonbury and The New Theatre in his home town of Cardiff in 2014. The second of which was recorded and will be released on DVD towards the end of August. Closer to home, we will soon have a chance to catch the Andy & The Low Riders when they headline the main stage at local music event Dronfest on Sunday 2 August. What can we expect from your Dronfest performance? Some know about Amen Corner, some know about the solo years, but I didn't make much of a living out of either. I'm a guitar player and I've made it by playing for a lot of people. I've played over 560 gigs for Eric Clapton. I've gone once around the world with him and twice with Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), so I've picked up a lot of bad habits and they all come out in the show. My job wasn't to stand out front and play guitar solos - that's what they'd come to see from Eric. Now I go out and play rather inappropriately in my own set up, so that's good. It's a lot more than five songs from the 60s. In fact, I'll play anything I wanna play. A bit of skiffle, soul, pop, rock 'n' roll, jazz - you name it, we'll play it. What other festivals have you got lined up this year? Just a blues festival in Estonia. Then we are going to Tokyo for three days to do six shows at The Cotton Club. We've done it for the last two years. It's hard work, but it’s fabulous. People come for a meal and watch the band. It's no more than 200 people. I love Tokyo, but we are trying to get to the rest of Japan as well. I went to Japan in 1991 with George Harrison and that was the first time he'd been there since 1964, so that was pretty special. I've toured Japan seven or eight times in Eric's band, but two years ago was the first time I went under my own name. I turned 65, got my pension and my first solo gig was in Japan. They come to see The Low Riders - that's the bit I like. You recently played a gig in Ripley in Yorkshire. How did that go? A fabulous gig, it was. In fact, we had a run with Spalding, Solihull, then finished off with Ripley and all three gigs were just fantastic. It was a great crowd in Ripley. Top Saturday night crowd. It was in an old village church hall - just like one of the gigs I used to do when I started out. The stage was about head height. It was a box room and I loved it. It's on our circuit and we will be going back. I spent 24 years, maybe more, playing arenas and stadiums, and now with The Low Riders we play to about 300 or 400 people maximum, and it's fabulous. Most of our gigs are on a small level at theatres, halls and clubs. I didn't think I'd enjoy intervals and people sat down, but the dynamic is great. There's a real focus from the audience. When it's loud, it's loud and when it's quiet, it's quiet. You really have to entertain and hold their attention, because they are that close. When you're not touring, where's home? Cardiff. I moved to London in 1966 and I came home in 1971 and I've been here ever since. I was born in the Valleys, so home is what it is. We actually have a DVD coming out in the next few weeks and it was filmed at The New Theatre in Cardiff. It was a local gig and it holds about 1,100 people, which is three times more the amount of people I normally play to. But we took a chance, filmed it and it'll be out soon. I can't wait. We've been on the road for eight years now. It’s not going dramatically up and it’s certainly not going down, but it's fabulous so that'll do. Back when you were in Amen Corner, did you think you would still be making music now? No. I didn't think back then. I just knew I had to do it. I had this unbelievable self-belief and very little talent. I worked on the talent over the years. What advice would you give to a young musician starting out now? I wouldn't give any. You couldn't tell me anything. Everybody around me told me not to do it – my mother, my father, my school, my friends... If I had to tell them one thing, it would be, “Don't do it!” If they listened to me, they'd never make it, because you must have that belief that you're going to, no matter what. It's got to become an obsession. If you don't become obsessed, you will not crack it. Some have an unbelievable ability, the rest of us have to work at it. There's no great secret. You have to work at it. What have been the highlights and lowlights of your career so far? Too many highlights. Playing Wembley Stadium, Osaka Dome with George Harrison, Unplugged with Eric Clapton, The Wall with Roger Waters in Berlin – I mean, there was a hundred thousand people at that gig. I'm lucky that nearly all the people I've worked with have become my friends. I will be playing with Eric again in about a week’s time and I'll be in the studio with him in October doing his new album, so there's still a good connection there. It's good, because I want to be tired, I want to be working. The low point was the end of Amen Corner, not because it ended, but because we had such shocking managers and it was time to call it a day. People were making money out of us and it wasn't a good time. When we were number one, it was my lowest point. When it came to an end, I decided I was going to do what I wanted to do. Yes, we were successful, but they reaped all the rewards. Now, I give little away and I'm happy being relatively in control. Andy Fairweather Low plays Dronfest on 2 August. )

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