Joe Sumner On Tour With Sting…

Remember the band Fiction Plane? The front man Joe Sumner is now going it solo and is currently on tour in Australia with his old man Sting. From Joe’s hotel room in Perth he speaks to Hi Fi Way about his new live EP Feelinʼ The Love, Tastinʼ The Fear. The five-track affair is an unfiltered chronicle of a performance in France in November 2022, complete with Sumner’s undeniable raw energy and French language repartee played to a lively and engaged audience. The tracks will be featured on Sumnerʼs debut studio album, Sunshine In The Night, which Joe also talks about and is looking forward to its release in the coming months as he explains.

It must be exciting being back in Australia on tour?
Absolutely psyched! It’s looking good, I’ve been rehearsing which is unusual for me because I just wing it. I have been practicing to make sure I get off to a good start.

Are you playing with a band or in solo mode?
I’m playing in solo mode.

Having that family connection is there any extra pressure supporting your Dad?
I don’t make any big announcement about it so I’ll let people figure it out. I don’t know if there is pressure, there could be if I thought about it to much. I try and let the music speak for itself and sometimes I send spies in to the audience to make sure there is a decent response! It’s usually alright.

Last time you were here was with Fiction Plane, do you play any of those songs or have you moved on and forged your own path since the have called it quits?
I have a whole album ready to be released and I’m playing mostly those songs but sometimes I throw Fiction Plane songs in there because I am still proud of those songs. It’s not quite the same without a drummer and a guitarist making life noisy for me.

After Fiction Plane was it a tough period trying to work out who you wanted to be as a singer songwriter and your sound?
I’m still figuring that out and just for the record Fiction Plane isn’t done, it has been a long break for sure but part of that process was that I needed to figure some stuff out for myself because I started to try and throw songs in to Fiction Plane that were more subtle or getting in to these subject matters that were personal to me. When you throw that in to the context of a rock band it can get smashed up like a bull in a china shop that just runs over them. When I look back at the best Fiction Plane work we deciding at some point when we did Left Side Of The Brain album it has to sound good as a three piece with no over dubs. The best stuff for me is that sound. Now I am writing songs from a very emotional place. I realised I needed to step away and start fresh completely without anyone else. It’s my responsibility and fault if it is good or bad. When I started making the album that is about to released I started with just acoustic guitar and voice, it was my intention to just stick with that for the whole thing. Of course within three minutes I was working with my producer and he suggested how about putting a keyboard pad on here and add a little bit of percussion. Five minutes later it is like a full orchestra with a tonne of instruments on it. It is a bit of a smorgasbord but that’s how it goes you know! You never know what is going to happen when you’re making something up.

Is this the most excited you have been creatively for quite sometime?
Yeah for sure, like I said there is something nice about it just all being up to me to decide. I have to take responsibility for it at the end of the day if it is good or not. I can just decide to create some entire universe out of nowhere, I get to improvise a lot in my live sets to make whatever music I want and nobody is there, not that anyone gets in my way but I think I try and please people a bit to much when I play music with them. It’s like I don’t want to do something to weird to upset somebody but now it is only me. If I can get out of my own way it is very exciting.

When you mentioned the songs you were working on are quite emotive, did you expect it to be such a cleansing process?
I’m always a bit wary of that as some people use their songs as therapy, it is a good way to do it but the emotional cleansing of it is one thing and the quality of the song is another, it is hard to separate them. If this song means so much to me and expresses something that changed my life but doesn’t mean it means anything to anyone else even if it sounds good. However, it is surprising how deep it can go because when you start writing about emotions they’re kind of universal but when you apply them to your own life while you’re writing it can be pretty overwhelming for sure.

Do you draw influences from elsewhere?
The last ten years I have taken my inspiration from my children as I started having children around then. That just opened a whole new dimension for me. That’s been my main topic of discussion ever since.

Was it always the intention to release the songs on Feelin’ The Love, Tastin’ The Fear live?
I started recording the sets to see if they sounded good because there is a certain theme to this. Like I said when I started making this album it was just going to be me, guitar and voice. The album is obviously more expansive but then when I’m playing these love shows it is just me to crowds from ten people to ten thousand people, so it’s a really raw and exposed vibe and I wanted to capture that and get it out in a decently recorded form to express what is going on when I’m touring. I’m happy you enjoyed because it is fun to do.

Do you think this EP might get a vinyl release?
I’m wanting a vinyl release and I’m trying to figure that out now. It is a battle out there to get your stuff on vinyl but I am feeling good about that and I think it would work really well. I’ll be recording all the shows in Australia so we’ll see how that goes as well. A lot of these shows will be outside so it will be a totally different vibe. Feelin’ The Love was recorded in a dark arena in France, it’s like I’m doing it on my own and can’t see anyone. Most of these Australian shows will be outside and will be a whole different feeling. It might capture something entirely different.

Do you really enjoy the buzz of playing to big crowds particularly here in Australia?
Can’t wait! Now you’re making me think about it! It is going to be great, the more the merrier!

When is the new album out?
It will be out in the next two to three months, it’s called Sunshine In The Night, it’s ready to go just need to get the launchpad ready.

Hopefully this opens the door for you to return and play some smaller intimate venues on your own tour around the country?
That’s my goal,I’m just a tourist right now piggy backing off the old man so I can get around. I’m gagging to come back on my own.

Have you seen much of the sites in Perth?
I have seen some kangaroos on Heirisson Island, as soon as I step outside I get burnt as I’m a proper pom. So far the highlight has been coffee, quality coffee everywhere.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Catch Joe Sumner on tour with Sting on the following dates, tickets from Live Nation

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