Looking back at the recent release of ‘Better Off’, Dale Sutherland aka Justboy chats (virtually) to IGigs.
It’s been a little over a month since the release of ‘Better Off’, what do you make of the response to your debut?
The response has been wonderful and heart warming! I’ve only ever released music as part of a band so I was a bit anxious about putting this out and the focus being entirely on me. Thankfully it has been received really well and people seem to be connecting with it which is really nice.
It’s made me look at this project differently and start to take it a bit more seriously. I started this solo project initially to just have a bit of fun and let out another side of my songwriting. I remember saying to myself “it’s just to get the shit songs out of the way” so I could focus on writing my best work for Alkanes, but as it turns out this track is probably one of the best I’ve ever written.
Your material carries with it an emotional rawness, how difficult is it to let others appreciate and interpret it in their own way?
I always try to write songs from experience and that have a significant meaning to me, but at the same time I want it to be relatable so that the listener can feel a connection. So I don’t find it too difficult to allow others to delve into the lyrics and find a meaning in it for themselves. I’ve had people telling me they can really relate to the lyrics in ‘Better Off’ and anyone who knows me personally will know exactly what it’s about and everything I went through to come to the point that I had written the song and it’s great to see that people can really understand the true emotion I’ve put into it.
I think it’s lovely when people interpret a song in their own way. Streaming and sales figures are great to see because you know people are listening and supporting you, but if you have been able to connect to someone through your music, I find that far more rewarding.
How did COVID impact on the development of ‘Better Off’?
It almost helped it come to fruition really. I’ve been sitting on some of Justboy material for a while now but was never really sure how far I wanted to take it. With no gigs going ahead and rehearsal spaces closed, Alkanes have unfortunately come to a halt for the time being, which has been really hard for us to accept off the back of our first sold out headline show right before the pandemic hit.
We want to work on an album but Connor and I have been struggling to really work on writing songs when we can’t be in the same room together. We really bounce off each other in a rehearsal space. So with the easing of restrictions last year, Steve Bull got in touch about working together but we weren’t ready to lay down any new Alkanes material yet.
However, it allowed me to take the opportunity to record ‘Better Off’ and just take it from there, to really focus on this project and explore it. I got Connor involved to play drums on the track and he really knew where I wanted to go with the song and the vibe it should have and smashed it in just a couple of takes.
So without the pandemic, I might not have given this a real go. Of course there’s an impact with the run up to the release, with no chance to showcase the music in a live setting. I really want to make up for that when we see a return to normality. I’ve always done Justboy shows acoustically, but the way the music has developed I’d love to bring in a band!
How do you see Justboy moving forward through 2021?
It’s really hard to say, there’s still so much uncertainty with everything going on, particularly in the music industry. I am hoping to be able to work on some new music, hopefully release an EP and I’m keeping everything crossed for gigs before the year is out, time will tell!
Your real passion and commitment to music (and new music in particular) can be seen in your curation of a range of Spotify playlists, what tunes are particularly catching your ear at the moment?
There’s so much good music being released just now, it’s really great to see artists being so creative and persistent through these difficult times. I’ve had recent singles from Josephine Sillars, Hamish Hawk, The Joshua Hotel, North Atlas and Midnight Ambulance on repeat at the moment and they all feature in my Top of the Scots playlist!