Squeeze co-founder/co-songwriter Chris Difford will tour the U.K. and Ireland as a special guest on longtime friend and blues rock veteran Chris Rea's early 2003 trek.

Squeeze co-founder/co-songwriter Chris Difford will tour the U.K. and Ireland as a special guest on longtime friend and blues rock veteran Chris Rea's early 2003 trek. The run in support of Difford's debut solo album, "I Didn't Get Where I Am," will kick off Jan. 22 in Bristol, England, and continue through a Feb. 17 stop in Dublin. Difford also has a U.S. East Coast tour in the works for March, according to his official Web site.

Released last month in Britain on former Virgin Records U.K. president Paul Conroy's new Adventure label, "I Didn't Get Where I Am" is currently being touted by the single "Cowboys Are My Weakness," which has been playlisted by national adult contemporary station BBC Radio 2. The single will be commercially released by Adventure on Dec. 23 in the U.K.

Difford's album was first released online a few weeks earlier by ex-It Bites member Francis Dunnery's Aquarian Nation Internet label. Last weekend, Difford played an unusual, intimate set with Dunnery and vocalist Dorie Jackson at the Huntsham Court Hotel in Devon, England. The concert was recorded by BBC Radio Devon for broadcast at the end of the month.

Aquarian Nation is also the home of songwriting duo John & Wayne, who entertained hotel guests and Difford fans with a further set in the hotel lounge after the main set. They will continue to support Difford, Dunnery, and Jackson tonight in Brighton (Dec. 13) and tomorrow in London. Difford had spent the majority of November on the road in the U.K. supporting his former Squeeze bandmate, pianist Jools Holland.

"I've always been in everyone's shadow and enjoying that," Difford tells Billboard.com, "but Francis has been really beneficial in giving me huge support to stand on my own two feet. My aim now is to do my own Squeeze album of the old hits, because I'm really enjoying singing 'Black Coffee in Bed' and 'Up the Junction.'"

The album and live appearances mark the first commercial activity for Difford since he and co-founder/co-songwriter Glenn Tilbrook put Squeeze on indefinite hiatus in 1999. Last year Tilbrook released his debut solo set, "The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook" (Quixotic/W.A.R.), and has toured the U.S. several times on his own. Holland leads his own big band, and hosts the weekly music television show "Later With Jools Holland" on the U.K.'s BBC2.