Towards the end of last year Tim Pare’s six track mini-album, 'Trans-Siberian Express', was issued and if ever an album was released at the wrong time then Pare's debut must be in the running. While the stress and excitement of Christmas and the New Year were fast approaching listening to a collection of songs actually written on the Trans-Siberian Express while the artist was fearing the worst sharing the train with a number of aggressive soldiers didn’t seem to be the most appealing way of spending the days leading up to the festive season.

But the warmth emanating from these songs and the intriguing story behind the writing raised curiosity. What, on paper at least, seemed like a bleak listening experience turned out to be the most surprising and rewarding collection of songs to be issued in 2006.

In 2004 Tim Pare had the courage to leave everything behind in England and he travelled to China without any real plans. He explains the reasons for his departure in the following interview he kindly gave to us here at Pennyblackmusic.

That frightening train journey was the foundation for some of the best acoustic based music that has come out of England in recent years. If Pare hadn’t been holed up in that train maybe these songs would never have been composed; maybe they would have eventually seen the light of day in another form but thankfully Pare has presented the songs probably more or less as he first composed them; stark and affecting, apart from Pare's guitar the only other instruments are keyboards and cello, this is far from a full-band recording and all the better for that. But for all the sparseness of the recordings the natural, warm sound Pare achieves is a perfect setting for these songs.

It’s not until the all-too-short album has finished that you realise that Pare is unlike most of the other singer-songwriters we hear all day long on the radio just now. First impressions are that Pare writes extremely melodic songs and his lyrics are also excellent; it’s also the type of album that you want to listen to again immediately. The songs are immediately accessible, and despite the fact that Pare opted to not to have a full-band playing the songs, there are some interesting touches on the album, not least that cello on a couple of songs and the vocals of Jemima Grace on ‘Losing My Touch’, one of the highlights on the album. Pare has a warm, soulful voice, the type of voice that doesn’t have to shout to get your attention. There are no vocal aerobatics. Pare doesn’t have to resort to that, and for once we have a writer who doesn’t wear his influences on his sleeve.

Pare doesn’t seem to be sitting still. Already work is underway on his next album, this time a full- length collection and it will be interesting to hear where Pare takes his music on that album, if he stays with the mainly-acoustic singer/songwriter style which made ‘Trans-Siberian Express’ such a pleasure to hear or if he is going to go for a full-band sound, something we will get a taster of when the two singles he has already planned to release in the coming months hit the shops.

Keeping an ear open for those forthcoming singles is a must, the music Pare makes, if ‘Trans-Siberian Express’ is anything to go by, puts him well ahead of his contemporaries.


PB : Back in 2004 you basically sold up, left England and moved to China. For most people moving to Europe is a major step, China is something else! Can you share with us the reasons for leaving?

TP : I just had that whole "moment of clarity". There is a lyric by the Verve which reads "..a wasted life is bitter spent". I was in a rut, with someone because I didn't want to be alone and not because I wanted to be with her. It was almost so well-rooted that I couldn't think of changing one thing or the other... so I did it all, sold the house, quit the job and left! China was easy as it was totally the opposite in every sense.

PB : You stayed for a year in China? Was that always the plan?

TP : I was actually only there for 7 months. I taught for 6 and travelled a little in the other. The plan changed the regularly. I got a one-way ticket to Indonesia to meet my younger brother and we just had a basic route. We got the job whilst in Singapore... and started in China the following week.

PB : The short notes on the CD sleeve make the journey on the Trans-Siberian Express sound like a nightmare. Were you actually scared for your life?

TP : The first four nights through Mongolia and up to Irkutsk were great. It was only when we decided to take the slow train to Moscow that we struggled. It was the conscription train from Vladivostock to Moscow and the soldiers were returning to Grozny where 80% of the houses had been destroyed since they left two years before... I guess if you take that into consideration it makes more sense. I went to bed that first night thinking we were going to get "done over" and would have got off at the next station... only the next station was twenty hours away and the next train ran a week later... I decided to grin and bear it.

PB : Had you written songs prior to your memorable journey on the Trans-Siberian Express? Or was that the starting point for your new career?

TP : I started writing when I was 14 after my music teacher ripped up a piano piece I had laboured over and made me do it again... I had ten minutes and grabbed a guitar. Up until that point I had played a bit of Classical. Since then I've busked and been in a couple of bands that did alright locally. This is my first go at the solo thing though.

PB : You must have had some musical training before you travelled to China though?

TP : Yes, I guess, my Dad is musical and I was made to be in the choir up until I was 14 when I stopped going to church. Other than that I had guitar and piano lessons... I wasn't a good student though, I just wanted to play basic chords so I could sing.

PB : Who are your influences in music? I think the review I wrote for ‘Trans-Siberian Express’ was one of very few where I couldn’t mention any obvious influences. It was like “this is Tim Pare” from the very first time I heard the opening song ‘Exorcism’.

TP : It may be "uncool" to say but the first album that made me want to write direct, emotional songs was 'The Joshua Tree' by U2. I love the last Elbow album and Radiohead before they started experimenting. I have had to stop listening to Ryan Adams though, I felt I was into him a bit too much and was beginning to sound like he was an influence. But thanks, I've never really thought about it but that's better than it being derivative I think.

PB : The melodies you write are very strong. Every song on the album is instantly memorable. What do you write first, melody or lyrics?

Again, thanks.. that's really generous of you. I tend to get the melody and lyrics to the first verse and chorus at the same time and then I seem to sweat a bit over the rest. There are a few exceptions, I might come up with a little phrase like "Shoot to Win" and that kick starts the song itself.

PB : Do you plan on making any new recordings in the near future?

TP : I have got the first full album demo-ed and ready to go but first I am releasing a couple of full band singles 'Still in Love' in April and 'My Lover' early summer.

PB : Will they mainly be solo again or have you thought about getting a band together?

TP : I'm always going to keep an acoustic feel and do some parts of shows solo but I am getting a band together in London and the new songs go a bit more "epic" at the end so it'll be full band.

PB : Do you go through periods where you constantly write or find that an idea just comes to you now and then? It’s unlikely you are ever going to be in the same position as you were when you wrote the songs on your CD again. Then you had the time and motivation to write; now with, hopefully, more pleasant surroundings is it harder to come up with inspiration?

TP : Good question! I do have times when I write a bit more prolifically... I guess real life gets in the way sometimes and that delays things. I also find it hard to write songs about happy times so I have to feel quite retrospective about things before the songwriting gets going. I have always found it easy to write songs when I'm on holiday. It doesn't matter where, I just like the change of scenery.

PB : You’ve apparently been driving the tour bus for Sheffield band Reverend and the Makers recently. Have you been gigging with them? What’s the story behind finding that particular job?

TP : Yes, they're a great band and that was really interesting as they have got a lot of hype that is attributed to having supported Arctic Monkeys on their first big tour... but they are an amazing band, the musicianship is incredible... the fans go barmy for John (Reverend) and it's totally different to the gradual rise that's going on for me. I haven't played a support yet, I did the driving just before my own acoustic tour and at the last minute. I got the job as Tom Jarvis, the lad who recorded 'Trans-Siberian Express', is the guitarist in Reverend and the Makers, they were in a fix and I had time. I scraped the van at the last drop-off though, so I don't know if I'll be doing it again!

PB : Thank you.











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