Hot on the heels of Sam Fender and under the guidance of Oasis legend Noel Gallagher, Andrew Cushin is tipped to be the next big thing to come out of the North East. Andrew originally studied sports and plumbing at Newcastle College before he received that fateful email from the nice Gallagher brother. He found the time last month to visit his old campus and speak to students on Music and Performing Arts courses, where we were able to have a quick catch up.
You originally studied plumbing here, then sports, and you played football – what made you switch from sports to music?
In the second year of doing sport, that's when I started doing a couple of gigs and around that time Noel got involved. When we got the first email from Noel and he put us onto a record label, it became quickly apparent that I was going to make more money out of music than I was going to being a PE teacher. I still finished the year and then instead of doing a degree I just went on tour instead.
Was your original plan to become a PE teacher?
I originally wanted to be a plumber but I failed the last exam. I was still playing football with Newcastle Benfield and I was doing a lot of coaching, so I thought I might as well go down the most logical path, which was trying to be a football coach. Then I realised how much a football coach’s salary was and that horrified me, so I thought I'll do a degree and I’ll become a PE teacher. And then Noel Gallagher got involved and here we are doing music.
You’ve had all that amazing support from Noel and I'm sure he's given you plenty of advice along the way. What would you say is the best bit of advice that you've received on your journey, either from Noel or from someone else?
I suppose to just keep level headed - Noel said that. But I’m fortunate in that it hasn’t just been Noel giving me advice. I’ve had quite a bit of advice from Sam Fender and Paulo Nutini sent me a good luck message.
So, it's just to keep level headed, because you’re never too far away from being back in college wanting to be a PE Teacher. Everything could crumble with a case of doing a bad interview, or swearing on stage or doing something stupid.
It’s about being respectful to everybody. I'm in a position now where it's very easy for me to get extremely big headed. My family are great, they don’t see me any differently and I've got a really close-knit group of friends who are not impressed by any of this. I've just got to keep that close-knit circle around me really and just not lose myself in music and in life.
Next year I’m playing Leeds and Reading Festival, I’m playing Isle of Wight. We've got a festival in Milan, I'm playing in Sweden, I'm going all over the world. It'd be very easy for me now to walk around and think that I’m better than some people and that's not the case at all because really, if it wasn't for Noel Gallagher, I'd still be in a classroom.
Is Noel still involved?
Yes we’re in a group chat with Noel, which is amazing and he still gives me advice. I've just bought a new guitar, but I wouldn't have bought it if it wasn't for Noel giving me advice. He gives me advice on recording, on life... he slated my hair once or twice actually, I was starting to look like a sixth member of Oasis. So he still gives me advice on a lot of stuff and if I'm ever a little bit clueless about anything like my amp, or pedals, he’s always there to text and I know that he'll always give me an honest opinion back. And we've always got a bit of back and forth about Man City and Newcastle, so I’d like to say that he's a friend. Whether or not he says the same thing is another story but he’s definitely there to give a lot of advice, he’s been brilliant.
Would you call him a mentor?
Oh yeah, 100%. The last time I went to London he said why don't you come down the studio for a bit of a catch up? We’ve finished the song now and the song is out, but I’d like to see him as more of a mentor now rather than just somebody that helped me out as a one-off. We’ll just have to see what happens but obviously I owe him. I effectively owe him my career in a sense. If it wasn't for him putting me on the record label I wouldn’t be doing this, so I’ll be forever grateful. If that was going to be me and Noel finished after the song that would be great but it's good that he's still in touch.
Can you tell us a bit about what's coming next?
Yeah, all the festivals that we've lost this year, we've got all of them next year. Plus, Board Masters playing with Sam Fender and we've got a festival with Gerry Cinnamon. So a lot of festivals going on, a lot of gigs and I've got the Boiler Shop gig in March which has just been upgraded from Riverside, so that’s 1200 people. That would be amazing but I can't see 1200 people being allowed to stand next to each other in a venue by March. We’ll just see what happens with that.
We’re still recording and we've got a couple more singles to come out next year. We’re just trying to build on the hype and build the momentum of what we've lost this year. It was so fortunate that at the start of the year I had a Cluny gig that was sold out and then we did the song with Noel. That was amazing. Then the whole lockdown thing happened and it's just started to slow down a little bit. We’ve just got to pick it up next year.
In a previous interview you said that you didn't want to put an album out yet. Is that still the case?
Yeah, I say this all the time, but it's so true. By the time that Lewis Capaldi’s album came out it was already going to go to number one. I'd argue the same with Sam Fender. The following that Sam Fender and Lewis Capaldi had prior to releasing, or prior to even announcing their albums, they were always destined to be great.
I’d rather that than do the opposite, which is have a bit of a following of some core fans and then release an album and try and build on the album. Because then in my opinion, you’re three or four albums in before anybody really knows who you are. I'd rather build up that following for the next two or three years and then it’s the right time release an album because we've got enough fans to buy it. I think we're just going to bide our time and see what happens. Because this time next year I might be sacked, so I don't want to do anything too soon.
You've touched on the pandemic and the lockdown stopping all of your gigs and festivals, but has it affected you in other ways, such as making music and writing songs?
Not entirely, I’ll always write. I despise any artist who will have a year off to write or have to go on a retreat. At the end of the day, me, along with hundreds of thousands of other artists that are fortunate enough to do this full time, my job is to write songs.
It’s been hard when I have written good songs, because I can’t get them recorded. You'll write a great song, you’ll rehearse it with the band and think I can’t wait to play this live, but then you can’t play it live. I've written some really good songs in the lockdown just because I've got more time, but I’ll always write. I've written songs on the way to gigs in the car and I find writing quite easy.
Has it inspired any of your new music?
Not really, all of my songs come from my past experiences. If you listen to Waiting for the Rain for example, it’s about an argument breaking out in the house. It's Gonna Get Better was written as an apology, Where’s My Family Gone is quite self-explanatory. All my songs resonate with experiences that I've had.
But I try to stay away from writing songs that everybody else is writing. You would have seen it if you're on Facebook and Instagram, every musician was writing a song about Covid or writing a song about lockdown and by the finish it was boring. So, I haven't taken inspiration from anything that's happening currently, I've taken inspiration from things that have already happened.
You’re still pretty young but you've had quite an eventful few years So, is there anything that you would say now to your 16-year-old self?
When I was 16, I was still going out with my pals and pottering on with the guitar. So I wouldn't tell myself to do anything different because when I was 16 I wrote Waiting for the Rain, which is a great song. So, I wouldn’t say anything to my 16-year-old self but I would speak to myself when I was 18 or 19 when I was starting to do gigs.
The unfortunate thing for me was that I would finish a gig and every person would tell me I was brilliant, regardless of whether they thought I was or I wasn't. Slowly but surely your head starts to grow when you have that much praise. I went on tour and I was going on stage drunk. I didn't have a tuner so I would blag it. That's not professional at all. It’s not okay and it's not rock and roll to go on stage drunk, it’s just stupid. And you're effectively ruining an opportunity to gain more fans. So I'd speak to myself then and tell me to pull my finger out and treat every gig as incredibly important.
I think everything that's happened to me and the events that I have been in, or the events I've witnessed, have brought me to write the songs I'm writing now - so I wouldn't take myself out of any situation. I wouldn't have told my mam and dad to split up earlier, I wouldn't change my friends. The only thing I would have done is just give myself that little bit of a kick because I did think I was amazing and I just wasn't.
What was it that made you change that view?
Going in the studio with Noel helped massively. It became quickly apparent that he hasn't got time for anybody that goes into the studio hungover, or anybody that goes on stage drunk. I see all the instruments he can play and I can’t play one of them. He was jumping on the drums and on the keyboards and bass. It was a bit of a kick to be a better musician.
With gigs, I was snapping strings on stage on quite a regular basis. I kind of just got sick. I was doing gigs, in particular when I was 19, and people would say I was brilliant. But when I got to 20, I wasn't actually singing that well and I wasn't actually performing that well. I was coming off stage and nobody was telling me I was brilliant anymore.
Then I started researching into equipment, got myself a tuner and some better-quality guitar strings, and practised a lot more. Slowly but surely I was going on stage sober, focused, and then when people were telling me I was brilliant, I was thinking yes, I was brilliant. I’m twice the artist I was earlier.
But it’s just learning your craft. I haven't even played 50 gigs yet, I'm still really, really naive to the whole gigging process, so you can only improve. It has been a gradual process and in 50 gigs time I'll probably do another interview and I'll say the same sort of thing.
I saw Jake Bugg last year in Leeds and he was five times the artist as he was in 2011. Same sort of thing with Sam Fender, it's just learning your craft, it's just getting better and getting more confident on stage.
How important do you think getting involved with 15, 16, 17-year olds is and giving them advice?
I wish somebody had spoken to me when I was 15 or 16. I mean I had a guitar but wasn't a great player. I had a half decent voice and I was writing poetry.
But I wish somebody had spoken to me about life and having a bit of a direction because I was quite a lost kid, as most 16-year-olds are. If somebody had pulled me to one side and told me I had a talent, that I could write songs, that if I pursue it I could make something of myself, this might not have happened when I was 20 , it might have happened two years ago.
I enjoyed talking to the students because I would have loved somebody to have spoken to me when I was 16. There are some talented kids in this group, really talented. There’s a singer and I was blown away by her voice. She asked me a question and she was quite shy but I wish I had her voice when I was 16, she should be a bit more confident.
I suppose I was just trying to tell them, express yourself, you're 16 years of age, you’re here to do music. Go write a couple of songs, go and have a go. Yeah, I wish somebody had said that to me. I hope I helped them.
What advice do you have for anyone hoping to become the next Andrew Cushin?
Just gig. The biggest bit of advice I can give anybody and I said that to the students I spoke to last week. If you want to make something yourself, you've got to learn your craft. It took me the whole of 2019 to finally realise I'm not that great. If I could go back to being 17 or 18, I would be knocking on every pub door, every bar, every club, every venue. I’d be badgering upcoming artists, asking to support them.
You've got to have a bit of luck, which I've had, you've got to have a bit of talent, which I like to hope I've got, and you've got to gig, which I'm currently doing. You’ve just got to be obsessed.