It is, arguably, the era of the singer-songwriter. Not in the sense of the Ireland of 15 or 20 years ago, where every other act was a lad with a guitar, of course. More in the sense that those who do produce playful folk with wit and panache have never had a more natural audience: they can perform near enough as normal, while few other musicians are hampered at home by more complex technology.
Beans On Toast, a London-based singer songwriter who delivers sharp-edged folk-pop from the heart, is one such man. The solo act is a popular leftfield festival mainstay, and has spent the last few months performing in his back room most weekends, with only his girlfriend – a regular in his tracks – in attendance.
‘Beans’ as he’s lovingly referred to by his fans, is political without being a know-it-all, smartly observational, and incredibly consistent: an album a year for a decade, on his birthday in early December (or two, this year, one themed around corona, and one more regular).
“It felt like an ending was in sight when I wrote the album,” he laughs as he talks of his corona record. “I’m not just going to keep doing that. I do write about life, though I really hope it won’t just be the one thing to write about for the rest of my days.”
“I miss touring and festivals, but I feel more for 19 year old kids who’d be going to their first festival. I’ve been to hundreds, so I can’t really complain. I don’t physically miss gigs, I’ve started getting aches and pain. I’ve never had any kind of routine before, so that’s been nice. The change in the mental dynamic of my life has been really big, actually.”
“The biggest worry might be how quickly you can adapt. It only took a year to get into things feeling normal, not being close to people. Later, they’ll be a phase before everyone goes mad, I think, with socially distanced shows and stuff. But I hope humanity comes out of this with a new lust for life. Connection to nature feels like it matters like never before, and that connection with each other. Surely we’ll learn some lessons.”
Beans had never been afraid to deliver a few messages in his songs. “I’ve never believed it’s an artist’s responsibility to comment on the world around them,” he laughs. “As much as I’ve always written about life, I did immediately pick up the guitar and start writing about this.”
“It’s the only thing I knew how to do, I guess. I wrote the song, but I questioned it, too. I’d never really done that before, but I found that I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I guess it made sense to write about the one thing everyone’s feeling.”
“One of the problems with the world is that there are so many opinions on stuff like covid, though. I guess I feel, despite my oar being ‘stuck in’, it could use a few less people talking about it.”
“I share my opinion on some heavy stuff, but I’m not claiming I’m right. If anything, I’m putting the songs out there as a question about things. Have I got it wrong? It strikes a tone between talking about subjects that could be deemed political, but avoiding telling anyone what to do or what to think.”
“I guess I want to tell people how I think and how I feel, but that’s the extent of it. I’ve changed my mind on some songs over the years. Like my one against the smoking ban. Now I can’t stand people smoking in pubs.”
“I still play those songs, I just tell people I think I got it wrong first. We should be allowed to change our opinion, otherwise, what’s the point? We can’t be afraid to speak our mind for fear of getting things wrong.”
Beans On Toast albums ‘Knee Deep In Nostalgia’ and ‘The Unforeseeable Future’ are out now.