The way Michael Chapman sees it “the songs are the songs,” and those on his upcoming album True North, whose “It’s Too Late” is premiering exclusively below, fit a kind of mold that’s comfortable — and even a bit surprising — for the venerable British singer, songwriter and guitarist.
“I got lucky this time,” the 78-year-old Chapman tells Billboard. “Sometimes I write songs that can only be done with a band. Sometimes I write songs so loose they could only be done solo. I got lucky because most of the songs on this album I could do either way.” And Chapman is so happy with the results — produced by Steve Gunn, who worked with him on last year’s acclaimed 50, and recorded in rural Wales with a band that includes a cellist and pedal steel player — that for the first time ever he’ll be playing an album in its entirety on tour next spring.
“I’m very pleased with it,” Chapman says about True North, which comes out Feb. 8. “I had the idea of a band like this in my head for years and never got around to it, and now I finally did it. Sometimes it takes me awhile to get back to things I want to do.”
That includes songwriting. Chapman notes that he “hadn’t written a song for six years” before 50, acknowledging that he’s “never been professional about songwriting. You’ve got novelists and proper writers who write 10,000 words a day before breakfast. That’s not me. But I refuse to panic about it.” Since 50, in fact, Chapman has continued on his writing role and had “more than enough” material for True North, many dealing with travel and the passage of time. “It’s Too Late,” meanwhile, is “about regret, but not about a particular person — apart from me. Regret is pretty universal. How many times does that come around in life, right? So it’s just a little page out of my notebook — that’s how I see my songs, as a diary like that.”
It continues to give, too. With his muse back, Chapman is writing more and predicts it won’t be long before we hear new material from him again. “You know, for 50, just because I knew I was going to record I wrote three new songs and thought, ‘Christ, I can still write. How wonderful,'” he recalls. “I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve been writing the next album already, which is crazy. Somebody turned the tap on, and hopefully it won’t shut off again.”