Miles Kane: ‘It often tends to be I end up writing about worrying’

Eleven years into Miles Kane’s solo career, his fourth album, Change The Show, finds the singer-songwriter from Birkenhead in the mood for honesty.

Miles Kane. Picture: Lauren Luxenberg
Miles Kane. Picture: Lauren Luxenberg

“When I say something like that I don’t mean it to diss what’s come before,” says the 35-year-old who began in the Merseyside bands The Little Flames and The Rascals and before graduating to The Last Shadow Puppets, his chart-topping partnership with Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner.

“It’s probably the most in-depth a time spent (on a record), to go deep and push that little bit harder to get a better work, to get a better emotion. I just really enjoyed the process of it.

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“It’s really hard to put your finger on to explain it. I always just write for me, what I’m going through, how I’m feeling, that’s my natural (habitat), and it often tends to be I end up writing about worrying, that’s kind of my go-to thing. There’s always that theme running through most of my tunes from the early days; I think this one maybe just highlights it more. It’s definitely not hiding or thinking, ‘should I or shouldn’t I say it?’”

This far into his recording career, Kane wonders if he’s become “more open, more mature” as a songwriter because he’s “more comfortable” in himself. “It’s a bit of a postcard of a 35-year-old,” he says.

Having moved to London two and a half years ago, after a spell in Los Angeles, Kane seems reinvigorated.

He had originally gone to California in 2015 to work with Alex Turner on The Last Shadow Puppets’ second album, Everything You’ve Come To Expect, and wound up staying on to make a solo album, Coup de Grace, as well as working with Lana Del Ray.

“It all kind of made sense, if I didn’t do it then, I couldn’t see myself doing it now. You bit the bullet, you did it, you got the T-shirt and it’s great,” he says of the period.

Miles Kane. Picture: Lauren Luxenberg

In all, Kane lived in LA for three and half years. “Yeah, we made the last record there, but my work is here,” he says. “It was silly to stay there, and to be honest I’d done it all, I was ready to come home and get back to reality.”

A mooted collaborative album between The Last Shadow Puppets and Lana Del Ray might not have come to pass, but one reminder of it, Dealer, was released last year on the US singer’s album Blue Banisters.

“That’s such a unique song and I was so glad that saw the light of day,” Kane says. “It was one of those songs that we wrote pretty fast and she takes it from when I stop singing and she goes into this soaring vocal, you’ve never heard her song before like that, it’s quite phenomenal.”

Today, Kane feels living in Bethnal Green has brought a new vitality to his writing. “Whether it’s the place I’m in or where I’m at as a person – probably a bit of both – but I feel comfortable here and that reflects in your writing,” he says. “The process of recording this album and the songs, it feels a million miles away from the last one emotionally. I guess we were almost in two different worlds.”

The loose feel of Change The Show evokes the spirit of both Marc Bolan and Northern Soul. Kane sounds pleased by the comparison. “I absolutely adore Marc Bolan, I love T.Rex, I love Northern Soul, I love Motown, all that stuff, so I guess it’s like my character,” he says.

“If I have people round, you’re going to hear Motown and T.Rex, that’s all that gets played in my house, it’s bound to affect my music.”

He even saw some of his younger self in Dave Bardon and Oscar Robertson from the psychedelic band Sunglasses For Jaws, who he worked with on the record. “They’re ten years younger than me but as musicians they’re phenomenal,” he says. “Their taste and style of playing is so with what I like, it ticks every box. I’d pick a song and we’d be listening to it, it could be an old soul tune or a mad Turkish song or a Roy Orbison song and they’d be like, ‘we could do this with the chorus’.

“Not a lot of people understand that way of working. I think it’s quite a Scouse thing, that’s the way I always do it, you’ll take the song on the acoustic but to have the imagination to be thinking ‘the middle eight could go like Roy Orbison’ or the harmonies. When it’s on the acoustic it just sounds a bit Oasis-y or an indie rock song but they had this vision which is like mine, it was so nice to see and to feel.

“I know when they’d been younger they looked up to me. It reminded me of when I was their age and I was working with someone older who you liked or respected. It was the first time I’d felt that, where I’m the old one now.”

The song Nothing’s Ever Gonna Be Good Enough, a duet with the Leeds-born singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, stemmed from the pair sharing ideas early in lockdown. Kane explains: “We hadn’t spoken for years but one night I’d had a few wines in the house and one of her songs came on and I texted her, saying ‘I hope you’re well. Love that song Paris Nights, I hadn’t heard that in years’ and we rekindled our friendship.

“We started sending songs and she really connected with that idea (for Nothing’s Ever Gonna Be Good Enough), she said, ‘I can’t stop singing the song, it’s going to be good’, the kids were singing it when I had it on. I said ‘We could make that into a duet, I reckon, I want the verses as if we’re singing at each other, like a real [sings] ‘It takes two, baby’, and we did and it worked out so well, I’m so happy with it. It’s like the complete package, that song, that I’d been going for.”

Although they had to record their vocals separately, Kane hopes to perform the song with Bailey Rae when he comes to Leeds in May. “We’ve talked about it,” he says. “Even in the video there’s a connection in that song, so to do it at a gig is definitely something that we’re going to do.”

Change The Show is out on Friday January 21. Miles Kane plays at The Leadmill, Sheffield on May 27 and O2 Academy Leeds on May 29. mileskane.com