From a shared passion ignited at the age of 15, life-long buddies Andrew Gower and Webbo (James Webster) have been crafting musical magic together. With Gower's soulful vocals complementing Webbo's guitar prowess, the dynamic duo birthed GUSTAFFSON in 2012—a haven for their creative synergy. Andrew, the charismatic frontman and wordsmith, seamlessly transitions from the world of music to captivating our TV screens for over a decade. Known for his stellar performances in acclaimed dramas like BLACK MIRROR, OUTLANDER, BEING HUMAN, CARNIVAL ROW, and the latest season of the Netflix hit YOU, he's set to enrapture audiences once more with his upcoming drama, THE WINTER KING, slated to grace ITVX later this year.
1. You've been writing music together since you were 15. How did the idea of forming Gustaffson come about, and what has been the evolution of your music from those early days to now?
The idea of Gustaffson came about because I wanted a creative home for my songwriting. The evolution has happened naturally with age as we've found more nuanced stories to tell, more experiences to draw from. Like most creatives, the tales of our childhood and the places we grew up in have become even more poignant over time. Our sound has also evolved both through our collaborations and the band now becoming a five piece outfit, instead of the original two.
Having worked as an actor for 13 years and played a variety of different characters in crazy worlds and projects, Gustaffson has given me a opportunity to have creative agency within art and a vehicle to tell the stories that intrigue and inspire me. We live in a world dictated by identity; telling people exactly who we are, where we're from and what we stand for. However, in my opinion the best songwriting is timeless and means something different to everyone that listens to it, unable to be boxed.
2. Andrew, as an actor with an impressive career in award-winning dramas, how do you find the balance between your acting career and being the frontman and lyricist for Gustaffson? How does one influence the other in your creative process?
So far I’ve been very lucky with the balance of my acting and the music. If anything they have proved complimentary to each other. We’ve made several live videos collaborating with some of the best upcoming directors along the way, shooting in really iconic locations which all felt very filmic.
There has also been intrigue at our gigs from people and professionals within the acting industry. We have decided to screen a short film at everyone one of our shows - venues like The Lexington, The Cavern, The 100 club - as we want to offer our audience a kind of old school variety night filled with artists we ourselves believe in.
So far we’ve screened films starring Ben Whishaw, Toby Jones and Kiran Sonia Sawar. Written & Directed by the likes of Aneil Karia, Jonathan Schey and Malinda Kaur.
3. Your first EP, 'THE JACARANDA,' was recorded with Elbow's Craig Potter at the iconic Blueprint Studios in Manchester. Can you share some highlights and challenges of working with such a renowned producer, and how did this experience shape the sound of the EP?
The month long recording of our debut EP with Craig Potter was creatively one of the best artistic experiences I’ve had. This was our first real taste of a studio setting and what a place to start. We got to learn from the best and the whole process was completely new and thrilling to us.
I would compare working with Craig in the studio to the equivalent of booking an acting job with a great film director - someone who's really at the top of their game. Having admired his work with Elbow and other artists we were genuinely excited to see how he would interpret our songs and the stories. We were not disappointed and it was no surprise he took the music to a whole new level.
4. 'THE JACARANDA' has received widespread acclaim, including being named 'Record of the Week' on Guy Garvey's Finest Hour on BBC Radio 6. How did you feel about the EP's reception, and what impact has this recognition had on your journey as a band?
It felt like being offered the fast track ticket at airport security. With high praise from Guy Garvey, Peter Jobson, Nathan Barr and many others who’ve worked in the industry for decades … it has definitely made people listen. A wider audience became intrigued to hear our new stuff and were encouraged to come down to gigs. I guess it all becomes affirmation that you are doing something right. The EP was always the beginning, to stick something out there - a record we are really proud of and gives us a foundation to build from. It’s also wonderful to have a physical vinyl with our names on it!
5. Liam Morson joined Gustaffson in 2023, and you recorded the track 'CLOSER' live at Coastal Sound Recording Studios in Liverpool. How has Liam's addition influenced the band's sound, and what was the inspiration behind 'CLOSER'?
Liam is our very own Billy Preston from Buxton. I remember the day he came to his first kitchen rehearsal (we rehearse in Webbo’s kitchen from time to time). It was meant to be his audition but he came straight in with very clear and exciting ideas for ‘Closer’. In hindsight I think his audition actually turned into us finally finishing 'Closer' as a track. We went into Coastal Sound Recording Studio in Liverpool the next week to record. Liam was a perfect fit. At his heart, like all of us in the band, he is a composer. It’s great to have the basic beauty of being able to replace or support a guitar part with some keys. It's elevated all of our songs. There’s a real effortless soul and timelessness to Liam's playing.
6. Your music video starring Sue Johnston OBE was featured on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. How did this collaboration come about, and what was the creative process like in bringing the video to life with such a legendary actress?
It’s still surreal that Sue Johnston starred in our debut music video. Growing up my family would gather round to watch The Royle Family and Sue as ‘Barb’. She’s a real staple of British TV and a true artist. A couple of years ago I started my own TV/Film production company (ONEBoat Productions) and my fellow producer Kiran Sonia Sawar had just finished filming with Sue on a Channel 4 show. She played her ‘The Jacaranda’ and luckily Sue said yes! Being a fellow scouser she knew all the tales of The Jacaranda club in Liverpool and it’s significance to the Beatles journey. Her stories of Liverpool in the 60’s are just amazing.
She was also very excited by the concept of the video and to work with our incredible director Barney Douglas (dir. of EMMY winner McEnroe). It was all very fitting that Elbow and Guy Garvey had previously written a lyric "Sue Johnston in corduroy and marigolds" in their song 'Calm and Happy'.
7.With the recent recording of the live single 'NORTHERN BABY' and ongoing excitement for the year ahead, can you provide a sneak peek into what listeners can expect in terms of upcoming releases? Is there a Gustaffson album on the horizon?
We are delighted to be recording our debut album this December with Elbow’s Craig Potter back in Blueprint Studios, Manchester. We have a host of new tracks to share with our listeners that we are all really excited about. We will also be collaborating with some epic musicians and composers on the album including Emmy award-winning composer Bear McCreary (Outlander, Walking Dead & many more).
It’s been an incredible 18 months since we released our debut EP: gigging at some of our favourite UK venues and releasing four venue specific LIVE singles. We love this way of sharing music and getting to record a moment in time on film with a one-off feel and tone. Gustaffson feels to us like a lifelong project not just made for the moment.
Our next headline gig will be at our favourite Manchester venue Night & Day Cafe on Friday 19th January 2024. At the gig we’ll be joined by special guests including the screening of the award-winning short film TICKER directed by Thom Petty and produced by BFI.
Tickets are on sale now: https://nightnday.org/show/gustaffson/