Daddy cool

“I can tell a story and I can play the guitar, and that’s pretty much all you need really.” Raconteur Huey Morgan tells how family life and friends inspired his debut solo album

Huey Morgan is a very busy man. Along with his regular radio gigs and songwriting, he’s writing books, opening a tattoo studio in Notting Hill, working on a TV documentary about music history and always travelling back and forth between his London and New York abodes. This is’s fourth attempt to grab some interview time in recent weeks and before we begin he’s already regaling tales from the previous weekend when he was DJing in Bristol.

But far from revealing any rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, the Fun Lovin’ Criminal is revelling in the rare lie-in he and his wife had because grandparents were on babysitting duty. Among his many professional ties, Morgan has responsibilities these days and he’s the first to admit it’s defined a new chapter in his life. “I consider myself a grown up, which I never would have before,” he says. “I’m 44, I have a son, I’ve been married five years and, again, that’s pretty grown up. That’s as grown up as you get.”

This maturity is reflected Huey’s new album, Say It To My Face, made with a group of friends (including Fun Lovin’ Criminals drummer Frank Benbini) collectively known as The New Yorkers. And the record, which combines rock, heavy soul and a little country, should be appreciated by fellow grown-ups, he says. “It’s for people who have experienced things in life that maybe the younger kids haven’t yet because of their age. The subject matter is a little bit jumbled like adults are,” he laughs. “We’re all jumbled up because of all the stuff that happens.” It offers stories about the human condition, from a soldier not making it home for Christmas to shady goings-on between lovers.

Huey has always been a storyteller. “With the Criminals it was great because there was a lot of hip hop and MCing involved,” he says. “You can explain a story pretty succinctly using the hip-hop style and diction. Then you start realising there’s more esoteric things that you want to explain and only certain words can do that. On this record I get pretty deep with my feelings on a lot of songs,” he says, such as in the track about his beloved dog dying – one he can’t listen to. “I did it not thinking anybody would hear it.”

He’s serious. Huey only made this record for a bit of fun. His wife bought him a 1920’s re-issue Martin guitar and encouraged him to work on more music but the release idea came about when Simon Drake from independent label Naim Edge Records heard some tracks at an intimate show in east London. “He said, ‘You played four songs and I think four of them are really, really good!’,” recalls Huey. “That math works out in my ego’s favour!”

This debut solo work comes with no expectations from the man himself, though. It’s not about billboards, chart positions and tours these days. Times have changed. “We don’t want to jump on a tour bus for six weeks anymore,” he says. “I’ve got a little man at home I want to hang out with.” Ex-marine Huey is giving all the proceeds to help veterans in the US and UK as well. “I think it’s really important that these kids get looked after and if people like the Fun Lovin’ Criminals, they might like this kind of music or if they don’t they could buy it [as] they’re helping someone out and they have a great looking coaster – a picture of me by Danny Clinch!”

Huey has got what he wants from the album anyway, although he admits it probably won’t be his last as there’s so much music left over. “I did ok in my life,” he says, “I can’t complain.” In everything he does, it’s always about just one thing. “All roads lead back to love,” he says. “The guys in the band did it for love, [co-producer] Tim Latham did it for love, Danny Clinch did it for love, I did it for love, my wife gave me the guitar for love. Just to get it together was like a labour of love and it’s a dream realised: I made a record with all my friends.”

Say It To My Face is out now on Naim Edge Records

Huey and the New Yorkers play Bush Hall in London on Wednesday 7 November

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