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The Universal: “I grew up with the notion that you could be like your heroes and make it as a musician”

 Terry Shaughnessy, the front man of Liverpool based band The Universal, sets his sight on bringing back the golden era of UK rock bands.

After a childhood surrounded by music, Terry Shaughnessy started song-writing inspired by musical greats. It was years later, the band The Universal surfaced, releasing their debut in 2010 to great reactions in the UK, Italy and Japan. ‘The Outsiders’ is the brand new follow-up album, released this month recorded for Buster Records. Charlotte Pearson, caught up with the front man to talk about the new album, today’s music industry and more…

Being surrounded by music growing up, was it always obvious that you would pursue a career in music and who are your biggest inspirations?
I was always obsessed with music and wanting to play it. One of my earliest memories was making a studio set up with cardboard boxes in my bedroom. It had a reel to reel tape machine with wires made from wool from my Mums knitting bag! My mum has always supported me and my Uncle Bernie was a great influence always taking time to jam with me. Steve White is a massive inspiration for his musicality and giving up your ego attitude, Neil Finn’s first solo album ‘Try Whistling This’ had a massive effect on me, and growing up listening to The Beatles, Small Faces, The Who and The Jam.

Liverpool has a big musical history and reputation for producing great bands. Did this make it easier to find inspiration in the city?
When I was young, it always amazed me that John, Paul, George and Ringo came from down the road. To think they grew up nearby, seeing where they eventually got and the impact they had seemed magical to me. I had two Uncles who played in bands. I’d hassle them at their rehearsals and get stories second hand. I’m not sure if the city inspired me directly, but I’m always aware of the musical heritage. Because of The Beatles I always feel there’s a certain level to live up to, a standard you can’t drop below.

What did you set out to achieve with this follow up album ‘The Outsiders‘?
I wanted the overall sound to be a bit dirtier, more direct with a few psychedelic touches thrown in for good measure. I wanted the music and artwork, to be no-nonsense and straight to the point. Most of the songs are about what’s happening in the UK at the moment, and my observations an experiences of the music business.

In ‘Is This England’ you talk about ‘better days’, ‘a golden age’ and the video has references to Sex Pistols and The Who. Do you feel there’s a lack of big iconic bands, pushing the boundaries right now?
Not really, it’s harder these days the bases have already been covered. Those bands were ground-breaking in their own time, not many do that now, but not many record companies allow them to. I really admire Jack White; he’s one of the few musicians who pushes his own boundaries all the time.

What effect do you think ‘X Factor’ culture is having on the music industry?
If you’re trying to break through it’s having a massive effect. I grew up with the notion that you could be like your heroes and make it as a musician, but you had to work hard and develop your craft. Nowadays it’s more about being famous and getting your face in some dodgy magazine. Bands aren’t allowed to develop. Thankfully, there are people who want to listen to real music and see X Factor culture for what it is. The more we get onboard, the more chance real British music can have a future.

Many smaller live venues are currently closing, how has this affected bands like yourself?
If you can’t cut your teeth somewhere and serve your apprenticeship, how are you meant to get good? Taking away live venues just doesn’t make sense.  Any band worth its salt has spent time travelling the country, honing their craft, learning how to put on a good show with dodgy monitor sound. I’m a musician who wants to work and earn a following. For me, playing live is the ultimate test, it’s where most of the magic happens. Without live venues, you can’t do that.

What are the plans for the rest of 2013?
Continue working hard, getting in front of as many people as we can and promoting the new album. Plenty of shows are booked with more coming in daily, the latest info on the band can be found on our website –||  |

Written by Charlotte Pearson

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