Thunder songwriter Luke Morley releases a new solo album this month. He talked to Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth about the soaring Songs From The Blue Room…and more.
Rushonrock: Why is it the right time to release a new Luke Morley solo record?
Luke Morley: I think, after 22 years, the world is ready! No, seriously, I hadn’t really intended to make another solo album. I did the ones all those years ago and enjoyed it but I don’t really see myself as a solo artist. I’ve always been more comfortable being part of a band or a project and I do like working in a team in that sense. But I think with this one, lockdown meant that I had all the time in the world to work on new material but nobody to work with.
Rushonrock: So what did you start working on?
LM: Three of the songs were written a few years ago and I’d put them to one side because I thought they probably weren’t Thunder songs. They were kind of sitting around and I was just playing them one day during lockdown when the missus said I should really do something with them. She asked me if I’d thought about making a record on my own and it really didn’t seem like such a bad idea. I’m not a fan of doing things virtually but I couldn’t work with anyone else at that time. I just thought let’s see what I can do here. I was writing a lot for Thunder anyway in between All The Right Noises and Dopamine so I just kept going. If I came up with an idea that wasn’t quite right for Thunder I’d consider it for my own album. And then all of a sudden I had enough songs!
Rushonrock: What persuaded you to wait until summer 2023 to reveal your solo work to the world?
LM: The intention was to put it out towards the end of last year or the beginning of this year but then Danny had his ‘incident’. It just seemed completely inappropriate to release anything at that time. The sole focus was on Danny, when and if he would recover and what it all meant for the future of Thunder. I just didn’t have the brain space to deal with anything else at that time. So Songs From The Blue Room has been sitting there for a while, waiting patiently for its opportunity. It’s been weird knowing it’s there, in the background. In the meantime I’ve played it to various people and it’s largely been a case of thumbs up. So I’m fairly confident that it’s worth releasing! And, with Thunder in a natural holding pattern, the time’s finally right to get it out there.
Rushonrock: Is there a different discipline to writing a solo record?
LM: I didn’t rush into it as much as I might have down with a new Thunder album. As the creator and the sole critic I allowed myself more time to live with the music and the time to ensure it all held water. When there’s only one of you it actually takes more time to be sure that it’s right. With Thunder there are schedules and deadlines and we’re always working 18 months in advance. We work backwards from those dates. With this there wasn’t any particular time frame so it meant I wasn’t under any time pressure at all. I could keep going and keep improving. When I thought I’d finished it I did play it to a few people whose opinions I really value. I went to see Andy Taylor in Ibiza in December and he liked it. Andy’s is an opinion I value very, very highly and his reaction — like that of others — was generally positive. That helped me to take the plunge and set a release date.
Rushonrock: What makes a song a Luke Morley solo song rather than a Thunder song?
LM: As mental as it sounds, I’ve had Danny’s voice in my head for 40 years. It’s always there. So if I’m writing a tune and it’s one for him then I know straight away. There are some that are borderline which I think he couldsing on but let’s be honest — Danny can sing bloody everything! He’s a fantastic singer but the best metaphor or analogy I can think of is it’s like clothes: some clothes look great but they don’t look great on everybody. It’s the same for songs. A great song isn’t always a Danny song. And when I settled on making this album I made the conscious decision to write for myself rather than for him. I was writing for Thunder at the same time, of course, but the two piles of songs just sorted themselves out quite naturally. Tonally we’re very different singers so that made things easier. And some of the songs on …The Blue Room are very personal to me. I think only I could sing Errol Flynn — a song that’s loosely about my late father who passed away a couple of years ago. But there’s no hard and fast rule when I’m writing a song. I start writing and the pile it ends up on is based on the feeling I get.
Rushonrock: Did you have an idea of the overall sound you wanted to achieve on Songs From The Blue Room?
LM: That’s the great joy of doing a solo album. When you’re used to being a member of a band then that band generally has its signature sound. Thunder’s a rock band and I write rock songs for them. When you’re making a solo record you can do whatever the hell you like. That’s the other reason why the idea of this album was so appealing. I can take on board any musical style that I want to and there’s no pressure at all on me to make a rock record. So that that was kind of liberating. But there was never any grand design.
Rushonrock: Would like to take the new music on the road?
LM: I’d like to. But because it’s just me, there’s a lot of responsibility. I’ll have to do everything in terms of putting it all together and making it work. But I am looking at the possibility of doing some shows — just a few. It’s a massive thing to undertake but I’m talking to our agent and looking at whether we can make it work. It depends on so many moving parts, including the availability of musicians. But if I can then I will. It would be another new challenge and something I haven’t done for a very long time. I know it would be fun.
Rushonrock: Errol Flynn is one of several lyrically challenging songs on the album — did you feel as if you pushed yourself as a songwriter with this record?
LM: There are some interesting songs on there. There’s the lead single Killed By Cobain and I mentioned Errol Flynn — which means a lot to me — but then you have Nobody Cares which is a very peculiar song! I admit it’s very odd and that’s why I thought I’ll just stick it in the middle. That’s me letting off steam about the sort of banality and the mundanity of the stuff that most people put up on Facebook or on online. You know: here’s a photograph of my dinner and all that sort of shit. And I honestly despair. Nobody Cares is just me moaning and being the grumpy old git.
Rushonrock: Do you have to think twice about what you want to say and how to say it?
LM: It’s really interesting because the last two Thunder albums have both been lyrically about the world, where we are and what’s going on. The songs have included an element of my political views which hasn’t always gone down well! But I’m at the age now where I don’t care what anybody else thinks. With the solo album I think it’s generally a bit lighter lyrically — apart from a couple of weightier moments. I didn’t worry too much about the lyrics. It was a case of it’ll come out how it comes out. I’m not trying to make any kind of grand point or take any particular kind of stance. It’s all about what feels good with the music. My view was that as long as it feels good, then it’ll be fine.
Rushonrock: How much do you still enjoy songwriting after dedicating your entire career to the craft?
LM: I did take a year off after I wrote this album and Dopamine. I suddenly realised I’d written a lot of songs — even by my standards. So I gave myself a year off and I’m just starting to get back into it now. And, yes, I still enjoy it. But to be honest I don’t know what else to do! Pretty much every day I get out of bed and write a song and remember that I’m getting paid for it! That’s an amazing thing and I’ve been very fortunate to be in this position. And you know what? I’d still be doing it even if it wasn’t my job. It’s an awesome job but like anything in life — if you stop enjoying it then you should probably stop altogether.
Rushonrock: You’re releasing Songs From The Blue Room through Conquest (Bernie Marsden, Micky Jupp, Hillbilly Vegas) — what prompted the move to work with a smaller, independent label?
LM: There were three options: go with a bigger label, choose a smaller label or do it all myself. And I certainly didn’t want to do it all myself! Imagine the misery of all that paperwork and admin? No thanks! This record was never going to be a career priority — or it was never meant to be — so I liked the idea of working with a smaller label that recognised that and understood my commitment to Thunder. I didn’t think I’d be able to commit a massive amount of time to this but, as it happens, that’s not been the case. The events surrounding Danny mean I’ve been able to focus on the solo album more than I imagined. A mutual friend suggested I get in touch with the people at Conquest and it turns out I’d known both the guys that run it for some time. They had solid reputations and seemed really invested in what I was doing. We sat down and I said ‘I’m gonna save you some time here because this is what I will do and this is what I won’t do. This is what I can do. This is what I can’t do. So, if all of that works for you guys then let’s proceed.’ And we did! I wasn’t looking for a massive advance or anything like that — I was just looking for a label that liked the record and wanted to get it out there. Conquest only release music they like so that really appealed to me.
Rushonrock: Songs From The Blue Room follows hot on the heels of the vinyl reissues of Thunder’s first three studio albums. How much of a part did you have to play in those long-awaited expanded editions?
LM: We’ve been talking about doing it for a long time. Vinyl’s become more popular and collectible again and a lot of our fans are of a certain age…where they’re looking to replace original copies or start a new collection. We talked to BMG about reissuing the early records and they came back with an offer that included making a new record too! So it was all systems go. The Thunder vault has been raided so many times that we thought long and hard about how to make these vinyl reissues more collectible. There wasn’t really anything left in terms of brand new, unheard songs so we wondered how we could complement what’s already there. What we do have is a vast library of live recordings from over the years and we thought it might be interesting to include live versions of fan favourites recorded years after the original studio takes. So that’s what you’ve got. And all on lovely coloured vinyl.
Thunder image by Ross Halfin
Luke Morley images by Jason Joyce
Songs From the Blue Room is released via Conquest on June 23. A limited edition blue vinyl version is available.