Richard Gourd: how Plymouth is the inspiration behind his music
PUBLISHED: 12:37 31 October 2016
© 2015 Robbie Elford. All Rights Reserved.
Su Carroll talks to a singer/songwriter who has been inspired by his childhood haunts
The Beatles had Penny Lane in Liverpool. For Gerry Rafferty it was London’s Baker Street and for Eddy Grant it was the delights of Brixton’s Electric Avenue. All places of special memories which ended up being immortalised in a song. For singer/songwriter Richard Gourd it is Plymouth, where he grew up, which has inspired the songs he has written for his first solo album Ebrington Street.
It is all there, in the lyrics, the vibe and the quirky album illustrations – a gloriously faded green Victorian tiles exterior of the Melbourne Inn near Plymouth’s Cathedral and a heavy metal door covered in graffiti that is nearby. The album isn’t heavy metal though. Richard, 64, describes his work as “broadly melodic rock with a 60s vibe”.
Richard’s dad was in the Navy and he was born in Malta but returned to his parents’ home city of Plymouth when he was little. He grew up in Hartley Vale which was then very rural with woods, streams, old lanes and farm land.
Music has always been a huge part of Richard’s life, playing in bands as a teenager and then, during his career as a teacher, running choirs and orchestras. His older brother was also an accomplished musician and the house was filled with American imports from Pete Russell’s legendary record shop. It was always the singer/songwriters who attracted Richard.
“I played in local bands, folk clubs, that kind of thing when I was younger, playing my guitar and writing songs,” he says.
When work took him away from the city, he played with two bands in Somerset and with a band called Ozone Terrace (another street inspiration, this time a location in Lyme Regis) who recorded a seven-track EP at Sawmill Studios.
“When I was very young I had ambitions to try a career in music, but it was a half-hearted attempt,” he admits.
After taking early retirement as a deputy head at 52, music took a greater priority again. He has pulled together a collection of songs for his self-funded solo album which he recorded at Sound Gallery Studio in Exeter. Bookending the album are the title track, Ebrington Street, and another local landmark Linketty Lane.
“They are quite important songs for me,” says Richard. “Both places hold strong memories and the songs are a mix of imagination, history and nostalgia. Ebrington Street survived the war and post war redevelopment to become symbolic in some ways, of the ‘other Plymouth’, the one that could not be reclaimed but was still there. It’s a really quirky street to go to and buy things in.
“I played in Linketty Lane which was a wonderful place to explore and play in as a child. Many of the other songs are at least semi-autobiographical. I hope it feels like it has got a unity to it, I’ve really enjoyed the process and I’ve got enough material to think about a second album.”
Richard Gourd’s Ebrington Street is available on iTunes, Spotify and CD Baby or from Really Good Records at Bretonside, Plymouth.
TRACKS OF HIS YEARS
Here are some of the stories behind album tracks…
A Place in the Sun – “I first started to write it when I was a teenager in Plymouth and I worked on it again after 40 years. It had just stayed in my head.”
The Mystery of Things – “I wanted to write this as a kind of upbeat West Coast rock song.”
Bookshop – “My attempt to write about the end of an affair.”
In The Park – “The park is Hartley Park in Plymouth and this is about young love.”