Midge Ure calls Fragile, the former Ultravox leader's first new release in more than a decade, "the type of album I needed a lifetime in music to create." And there was some bumpy terrain leading up to it. Listen to Fragile in full, exclusively on Billboard.com:
"It's a diary of thoughts and emotions and highs and deep lows I've experienced," Ure tells Billboard about Fragile, which officially comes out Aug. 19. "I went through huge swatches of doubting my continued involvement in this rapidly changing music industry, a lot of self-doubt as to whether I could write anymore after walking away from my all too constant writing partner Jack Daniels and the realization that, just maybe, nobody was waiting desperately for new Midge Ure material." But ultimately, he adds, "I realized that if you don't agree with where music is at the moment, where busloads of writers contribute to one song and talent shows are supposed to find us the next John Lennon or Led Zeppelin, then walking away from music isn't going to change anything. (Fragile) might not change anything, but it makes me feel better about trying to redress the balance."
The 10-track Fragile mines Ure's trademark blend of synthesizers, guitars, hooky melodies and rich ambience, with songs such as "Wire & Wood," "Dark Dark Night" and "Fragile" stretching past the six-minute mark. Ure did all the playing, producing, engineering and mixing himself, which he acknowledges took "time, time and more time" to get to the point where he was satisfied.
"You need plenty of time and space to be able to discern between right and wrong, necessity and excess," he explains. "I thought of each instrument and what they were doing in relation to the other instruments and melodies as building blocks towards the final production. They all had to contribute something to the overall picture but be melodic at the same time. I hope it sounds like a band rather than one person."
"Dark Dark Night," meanwhile, is a collaboration with Moby that Ure says started via an Internet contact from Moby to work together on something for his latest album, 2013's Innocents. "I was very flattered and intrigued," Ure recalls, "so he sent me a couple of tracks he was working on, one of which is the core of 'Dark, Dark Night.' Although I was in the middle of working on Fragile I eventually did my thing to it, adding lyrics and keys and guitar -- by which time he had finished and released his album. I asked much later if he minded if I include it on my album, as it then felt a part of what I was doing. It works seamlessly with the feel of Fragile."
Ure adds that he and Moby "have never met nor spoken, but I'm hoping to change that in the not too distant future." Their paths may cross during the next few weeks, in fact: Ure will join Howard Jones, Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins and others on the Retro Futura Tour 2014, which begins Aug. 19 at the Iridium in New York, and he'll follow with solo acoustic dates that start Sept. 7 in Vancouver.