THE man who was one half of The Lighthouse Family tells Dan Thomson why life is still beautiful.
PAUL Tucker has the look of a man who has been there and done that.
The Newcastle-based songwriter, best known for being one half of The Lighthouse Family, is back with a new band and a new outlook on life.
Sitting with his leg propped up on the arm of the chair and a cup of coffee cradled in his hands, the man behind hits such as Lifted and Ocean Drive is older and wiser and looks as laid back as they come – although there is one thing troubling him.
“It’s going to take me a while to get used to this smoking ban,” he smiles. “It’s just weird having to go outside to light up. They have the same kind of thing in LA, but the weather is a bit better over there. If the rain keeps up I might just have to quit smoking altogether.”
Newcastle-born band The Lighthouse Family may have come to an end in 2003 after four multi-million selling albums, but Paul has not been resting on his laurels.
The 38-year-old, who lives in Jesmond, has spent the last two years working on new material with former Spiritualized guitarist Jason Hart.
The band are touring with their new band The Orange Lights this month and will be playing a homecoming gig at Newcastle’s Carling Academy on Sunday.
“People have told me I’ve got nothing to prove. But I still want to make great records that a lot of people will love,” the former Newcastle University student says.
The Orange Lights have been gaining momentum over the last few months with performances in Newcastle, Los Angeles and Ibiza, where they supported Editors, and have worked with acclaimed producers Ken Nelson and Chris Potter.
“If you liked The Lighthouse Family you’ll definitely like The Orange Lights, but the new stuff comes from a much darker place and has more of an edge to it. The album is filled with huge, raw, epic songs. We’re more of a soul rock band.”
Paul practically jumps from his chair when he talks about his new songs and it is nice to see that even though he has reached the top once his passion for music remains undimmed.
When he talks about his former band however there is a noticeably bittersweet look in his eyes.
“The Lighthouse Family never officially split up,” Paul says. “I speak to Tunde regularly and we’re still signed up to a label. We’re just not making records at the moment.
“I’m really proud of everything we achieved and I’ve got great memories of those days. It went way beyond what we thought it would be and I still love songs like Lifted, High and Ocean Drive.
“Once you get very successful you would have thought things would get easier, but it’s actually the other way around. It got very difficult all of a sudden when we should have been enjoying it.
“It was like we’d been placed in a straitjacket,” Paul adds. “They just wanted us to repeat Lifted over and over, but that’s what record companies are like. I knew it was time to move on when I started to feel like I’d said everything I wanted to say within The Lighthouse Family.
“Now, I have a studio on the quayside and it’s been like a bunker for us over the last couple of years. It’s been great because we haven’t had anyone breathing down our necks and I think that freedom comes across in the album.
“Having the ability to make a record in your own way and at your own speed is a real luxury these days.”
Freedom comes with a price, however, as Paul soon discovered.
“We’ve really had to start at the bottom again. It’s a bit like climbing Everest for a second time, but things are really starting to happen now. We’re just a baby band at the moment, so we have to take all the little victories we can get. Getting played on the radio station that broke Coldplay in America was a great feeling and this tour is going to be fantastic.
“We’ve played lots of one-off gigs, but this is the first run of dates we’ve done and it’s really exciting. By the time we get to Newcastle on Sunday we’ll be on fire.”
Paul met Jason two-and-a-half years ago after a friend leant him a CD the latter had produced.
He says: “I was actually looking for a guitarist, but when I heard Jay’s vocals I was floored. We hit it off immediately and he ended up coming up to live in Newcastle with the rest of the guys.
“That’s one of the great things about being in a band. You feel like you’re in a little gang. It’s great. We just listened to all the music we loved and started writing.
“One of the things I love about Jay is that he’s a singer who doesn’t know how good he is and we’ve been on the same wavelength as to the band’s direction since day one.”
Coldplay producer Ken Nelson’s influence on The Orange Lights has led to a number of comparisons between the two bands, but Paul believes they have developed their own distinctive style.
“We’ve been compared to everyone from The Verve, Radiohead and Stone Roses to Primal Scream, Snow Patrol and Embrace,” Paul says. “But I think the album is unlike anything else out there at the moment.
“We wanted to do a collection of big songs, which had a down-tempo feel, but were ultimately uplifting. Spiritual, but in a street way. Kind of like a loved-up version of The Verve’s Urban Hymns.
“There are too many mumbling indie bands around at the moment and we wanted to write the kind of songs you could sing along to. The time is right for it.
“I don’t think you should have to hear a song 10 times before you like it. There should be something immediate about it and if it’s really great you should almost feel like you know it already.
“It’s like that famous story about Paul McCartney when he came up with the melody for Yesterday in a dream and put it to the words ‘Scrambled Eggs’. He thought it sounded so familiar that somebody else must have already written it.
“I had the same kind of experience when I was writing the title track of the album, Life Is Still Beautiful. I sat down at the piano and 10 minutes later the song was there.”
The album, which was co-written by Paul and Jason with contributions from band members Chris Gittins, Alex Lucas and Ewan Warden, will be released in September.
“I lived in Ibiza for a while and although it’s a very bohemian kind of place I didn’t find sun and sand very inspiring,” Paul adds. “I need a bit of northern grit, which is probably why I keep coming back to Newcastle.
“I like the sunshine, but I need a bit of rain too. That’s what Life is Still Beautiful is all about.
“It’s been a bit of dark century so far, but every now and then you need to remind yourself there is still beauty in the world.”
The Orange Lights will be playing Newcastle’s Carling Academy on Sunday.