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The Most Ugly Child

18 July 15 words: Thomas McCartney
"I just love songs about heartbreak, loss and dead dogs"
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photo: Ralph Barklam

The Most Ugly Child – where did the name come from?
That’s probably the question I get asked the most. It was from a song – the line is “tip the fool in the aisle, tip the most ugly child” and it just stuck in my head for some reason. It was me on my own before we got the rest of the band, I thought that was funny at the time.

How did The Most Ugly Child begin?
It was me at the beginning and then I met Stevie at an open mic night and we got together. This was in a little village down the road from where I live. We were together for about a year and we had a gig at JamCafé so I thought, “We’ve played JamCafé a couple of times, maybe we need to get a band together.” It was just people that I met in Nottingham, really.

You say you started off playing quite small gigs. What’s the progression been like to become as reputable as you guys are now?
All the open mics that I was doing were around the little villages around our way. I thought, I fancy something a bit more upmarket so I travelled into Nottingham and got a few gigs from Will at I’m Not From London. From there it was just a natural progression – we kind of said let’s just do less gigs in Nottingham and get some gigs out of town.

You play a lot of country/Americana, why?
I’ve always listened to it. My grandad used to play a lot of old Willie Nelson and Tom T Hall records. As a teenager you get into all the stuff your mates like and eventually you find your own. I was a massive blues fan for ages but I always felt like a kinda fraud playing it – no disrespect to anyone who does. It didn’t seem right to me singing all these songs about picking cotton and things. But with country music, I felt a kind of kinship towards it.

So do you have any specific influences?
The first big one was Willie Nelson, and then, in terms of song writing, there’s a fellow called Townes Van Zandt who I really got into massively. I just love songs about heartbreak, loss and dead dogs.

You’re currently signed to Wire and Wool Records. How did this come about?
It was when we were getting ready to release the CD and they asked if we wanted them to help out, I thought we could probably do with a helping hand. They’re a bit more knowledgeable about how to release a record, we’d never done it before and it was all a bit of a learning curve.

What would you consider the most memorable moment as The Most Ugly Child?
The EP launch was great, that was like everything we’d worked so hard for over the last year. It took us ages to record – there were only six songs on it but that was just me being a perfectionist, messing around with things a bit too much. Then we played a show with Ian Seagull, he was really impressed with us, it was quite nice to be recognised by an artist who we respect. Those kind of things are always really nice. It’s amazing to play for the same few folks who know you but when you play to a whole crowd of people you don’t know and they appreciate you, it’s amazing.

Any bad moments? Anything you regret?
Not regrets, I don’t think. There’s definitely been some times where we’ve finished a gig, put our heads in our hands and gone, “Oh, we shouldn’t have done that,” maybe not playing-wise, maybe the places we play. It’s not a joke, what us lot do – some people think it’s just something we do for a laugh, so you’ve got to forgot about those guys as there are a lot of people out there that want you to do well and do want to pay you if they can.

Are there any Notts musicians that you believe would suit The Most Ugly Child for a collaboration?
I love Ryan Farmer, he’s great. Georgie is very good and so is Leah Sinead [Keto]. I’m pretty insular, which is really bad, I only listen to what I like. There’s so much stuff to get immersed in, I’m really not bored of it.

Apart from the JamCafe, have you got any favourite venues around Nottingham?
I love The Maze – the sound is always great, there’s always a cool atmosphere and the bar staff are amazing. I love The Guitar Bar, Rob, the owner, is a champion of new, young artists. That’s where we put on the nights where we get other bands from out of town to come and he’s always really supportive of that. He cooks a mean chilli and he’s got silky sheets on his bed. That’s a winner for when bands come – they can have chilli and sleep in a comfortable bed, its brilliant.

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A Wicked Wind Blows - EP

So are there any venues outside of Nottingham that have really stood out?
The best nights are when it’s a group of people that’ve never heard of us but come to the night because they know there’s going to be a decent band on. There’s a night in London called ‘What’s Cooking’. I think it’s Leytonstone Ex-Servicemens Club in the middle of a rough area in London. From the outside, it looks like a really rough club but you go upstairs and it’s a really cool little place.

You say you used to play solo – did you study music at university or are you self-taught?
I did music tech at uni but it didn’t really help me on my musical journey. I had guitar lessons which helped me a lot. I think the most important thing I learned was to have rhythm. You’ve got to have good rhythm otherwise you’re not going to be a very good guitarist. You can be so fancy but you’ve got to have rhythm.

So what does the future hold for The Most Ugly Child?
Hopefully a lot more gigs. There’s no better way to cut your teeth than gigging. We’ve got any album that we’re writing. Things are coming together quite well, were trying to do it right, bring everything together.

Any upcoming shows in Nottingham?
Yeah we’ve got The Deep River Revue, which is the night we put on, that’s on the Tuesday 28 July. We’ve got one at The Maze on the Wednesday 22 July with Cosmic American and we’re playing Blues in the Blood at The Chameleon on Saturday 22 August.

The Most Ugly Child website

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