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2018 was quite a year for Johnny Marr. Call the Comet, his most critically-acclaimed solo album to date, made it to number seven in the charts after being released in June, and he then spent the majority of the second half of the year touring extensively across UK and North America.
The shows were rapturously received. His setlists were largely made up of his solo songs, with some Smiths and Electronic numbers thrown in for good measure. Marr has found his groove as a solo artist and continues to occupy a creative space in the music industry.
Whilst in the US, the life-long City fan made it his mission to find fellow Blues Joey McKewan and Mark Mulvany, hosts of the Noisy Neighbors podcast that discusses all-things City. Not only did he invite them to his show in Dallas, Joe and Mulv found themselves on the tour bus afterwards recording a special edition of the show!
We caught up with Johnny to talk about that, his love of Leroy Sane and the success of Call the Comet.
“I discovered the Noisy Neighbors podcast just from shuffling around and listening to all things City online,” he explains. “I think podcast culture is pretty good these days, just the diversity of it, and particularly for my lifestyle because I’m travelling around so much, podcasts are great when you’re on tour because there’s a lot of waiting around in airport lounges and there’s a lot of winding down from shows on tour buses.
“I guess there’s three or four very prominent City podcasts but when I came across the Noisy Neighbors I thought this is the best podcast that you can ask for, really, because the two guys who do it, Joe and Mulv, are really smart and they’re also really funny, which is a great combination.
“They love City, obviously, and there’s a lack of taking themselves too seriously, which is quite like being on the terraces, I guess. They’re definitely the most rock and roll of the podcasts. There’s a lot of information and I think it quite entertaining and hilarious, so I started following them when the running joke was they only had eight or nine listeners – I think it was probably a bit more than that but not much more than that.
“A few seasons ago, I just watched their progress quite closely and me and my band would wait for the next instalment. If you’re a City fan it is so informative. I like the Blue Moon Podcast as well - I think those guys are great - but Noisy Neighbors are rock stars.”
Johnny began promoting them on social media, and as they’ve grown in prominence, he’s remained an avid follower. It seemed logical, then, while he was in Texas, to seek out Joe and Mulv and have a proper football chat.
“Yeah, I think I started retweeting or highlighting them on twitter just to bring them to City fans’ attention because I thought my fellow City fans would really like them,” he says. “They’re reaction to it was hilarious and it amused me massively. Mulv is a Manchester lad who has found himself living in America, and Joe is an American guy who really should have been born in Ancoats!
“So, because they are based in Dallas, I suggested that they come to the show and they invited me to do an interview, which then lead to me inviting them on my bus, so we recorded an episode, which is pretty funny.
“Like all City fans, it doesn’t take a lot of persuasion for me to sit and talk about City for an hour and a half or two or three.”
The discussion was wide-ranging, from talk of a statue of Vincent Kompany (“he’s the sort of man who would suit a statue”), to the sheer brilliance and excitement of Leroy Sane, a player Johnny describes as a “classic” City wide man and whose picture currently adorns the background on his phone.
“I come from a time when exciting wingers were a big part of the game,” he says. “It’s so right that Mike Summerbee is the ambassador for the club; not just for his loyalty and his passion for the club, but nobody could deliver a ball with style and accuracy quite like Mike Summerbee.
“There were a lot of teams back then that that had good wingers but being a City fan, I thought he was the best and we had a bit of history of with that with players like Peter Barnes.
“But Leroy has that same tradition and I have waited a long time for us to have another absolute classic.
“We all know that a big part of Pep’s game is for every single player to win the ball, but you get the feeling that Leroy is allowed to do his own thing and is bit of an exception to that.”
Musically, Marr is in a great place. The Call the Comet tour – “the most popular one so far” – was a unanimous success, and he continues to reach new audiences. His band, “all City fans, which is pretty handy,” offer him a solid canvas on which he can apply some finer brushstrokes. It’s working very well.
“Something happened with Call the Comet where I think the sound to it is more emotional,” he says.
“The songs that are personal and about my own life. That’s really clicked with people and I think that’s because people like when you reveal something of yourself. Sometimes that doesn’t necessarily need to be in the lyrics, it can just be in the sound of the music.
“The first two records were deliberately high-tempo, wavy, art-rock if you like, because that’s what I was interested in hearing from other bands and that is what I wanted to hear on stage.
“But when I did this record, I went in their without a game plan and it’s kind of ironic that when I’ve gone in there with just my emotions it’s been the most popular.”
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