Michael Timmons on his breakthrough year and The Twilight Sad
We speak to Glasgow singer-songwriter Michael Timmons about his breakthrough year that’s about to get even busier as he embarks on a European tour in support of The Twilight Sad
There’s no denying that the idea of “making it” as a musician, in any scene, can require an element of luck or chance. But for the few who have the talent to deserve it, the truth is that getting to the stage where your music finally reaches people takes a great amount of time, effort, patience and elbow grease. East Kilbride via Glasgow singer-songwriter Michael Timmons is extremely gracious; it's nearly half an hour into our conversation before he admits that it’s more than just pure luck that he finds himself at a breakthrough point for his career.
2018 has been a whirlwind for the 29-year-old. After headlining (with much trepidation as to what the reaction would be) a couple of solo shows at Glasgow venue The Hug and Pint late last year, he released his long-gestating debut album Bone Coloured. This was followed by a stint supporting Kathryn Joseph, James Graham and Marcus Mackay’s Out Lines project down south, a vinyl release of his LP, and what seemed at the time to be a one-off slot opening for The Twilight Sad in June at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club. "There was that kind of weird moment seeing The Twilight Sad artwork and my name underneath it," says Timmons. "Just this feeling of 'Wow, this is where I’m at.' Years of gigging and really working hard and supporting so many acts through the Glasgow venues and now the chance to do something bigger."
The surreal feeling of the whole episode didn’t stop there. "They have this really dedicated group of people who love their music, which was quite strange because I guess I’m part of that. They’re really intense, but also friendly and supportive. I was a wee bit apprehensive. But their fans were silent for the whole set, really listening to my music and even chanting for me afterwards. It went really well."
Image: Colin Campbell
Unknown to Timmons, his connection to that fervent fanbase was about to continue. When the band announced a ten date November tour to precede the release of their fifth album, including a sold out show at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room, it was to be Timmons coming along with them to support on each leg. "When they announced this massive tour, that wasn’t on my radar at all. I didn’t in a million years think I’d be offered the chance to go with them," he says. "They’re an amazing band and James [Graham] just seems to give so much onstage. It’s special seeing them live and to get to support them is a wonderful opportunity."
It’s not the first time that someone with creative and industry clout has expressed trust and high hopes in Timmons, helping him out in his work as an artist. Bone Coloured, Timmons’ dark, sombre first full-length collection of songs, was helped into existence – fully-formed and imbued with the kind of gentle power familiar from his live shows – by producer Andy Miller and Hamilton’s Gargleblast Records. Miller lent a hand to cult record Any Other City by Life Without Buildings, as well as music from Mogwai, The Delgados and the increasingly adored Songs: Ohia project of the late Jason Molina.
"He’s a joy to work with," says Timmons ecstatically. "He’s got so much knowledge and experience that he’s generous about sharing. It helps to have that trust that if either of you have an idea, that you’ll see where it takes you."
Timmons’ sound – stripped back, just his voice amid waves of layered, swirling guitar tones, with the field recording-style flourishes of ambient music scattered here and there – leans closer to the tortured confessionals of Molina than post-rock. In song, beneath the atmospheric wash of feedback, his words strike a balance, managing to seem personal and specific but ungraspable, like seeing familiar figures through gossamer, the detailed features of which you can’t quite make out.
The images he conjures feel like memories – perhaps not quite complete. In fact, memory is a theme Timmons returns to over and over, starting from Bone Coloured’s opening line: 'Are you finished yet / Time to forget.'
As with most interesting artists, Timmons is multi-faceted. When not gigging and writing, he works in the care sector with much of his focus going into music-based projects. Timmons’ involvement with Playlist for Life, an initiative that uses personally meaningful music to help keep dementia sufferers connected to their families and themselves, sees these ideas of memory bleed over from one part of his life to another.
"It can really change their life and essentially unlock who they are again," he says about the project. "As dementia develops, some people can become quite lost in the disease and lose a sense of who they are. But by listening to familiar songs and then having a conversation with someone about them it can bring that person back, even if it’s only fleeting."
Before heading to Europe, Timmons is beginning to explore new but still characteristically downbeat ideas for another record with the help of Frightened Rabbit’s Andy Monaghan, and reflecting on a year filled with milestones. "Things have moved a lot quicker since the album came out than the last four or five years have. I’ve got to do a lot of stuff that I’ve wanted to do for a long time," he says. "Even just seeing strangers respond to your music makes you feel very lucky. People come up and tell me what their favourite song is – it’s odd after all this time, but it’s a good feeling for sure."
Bone Coloured is out now via Gargleblast Records; Michael Timmons supports The Twilight Sad at The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 29 Nov