Miles Kane: ‘Sometimes you write an album and your head changes – but this is a proper stamp of where I’m at now’

With his fifth studio album One Man Band out now, we speak to Miles Kane about Italian footballing icon Roberto Baggio, being afraid of love and how releasing an album is like preparing for a boxing match.

Miles Kane

In the summer of 1994, a wide-eyed eight-year-old lad was glued to the TV screen in his mother’s home in Merseyside. This was the year, of course, England famously didn’t qualify for the World Cup, but that didn’t stop this particular nipper being transfixed by the class and pizzazz of eventual finalists Italy and one player especially: ‘the divine ponytail’ himself, Roberto Baggio.

Watching the grace and flair of this mercurial talent seemed to unlock something in the young Miles Kane. And whilst Miles would later opt for a guitar over football boots, it was seeing such a style, even in the limited white and blue stripes of Italy, that sparked something within.

“That Italian team, they were fucking cool as fuck and amazing at footy, of course,” Miles recalls to me down the phone in his Scouse drawl. “I hadn’t really seen men like that from where I’m from; so it kind of opened this door to me to think, ‘Wow, there’s this other world out there’. I’m talking visually and style-wise, it was like, ‘I want to be like that.’”

Miles Kane Baggio

Photo: Charlie Salt

On his fifth solo album, One Man Band, which arrives today, Miles pays tribute to the storied Italian playmaker in a track, inevitably, titled ‘Baggio’. Sonically, the tune embodies a spirit of hopeful longing, coupled with wistful contemplation that’s seen across the record, all of which is tied together – threaded through like an incisive pass – by Miles’ full-blooded return to his beloved guitar. Where for at least his last two prior albums – 2018’s Coup De Grace and last year’s Change the Show – Miles took sonic turns into northern soul and shimmering glam rock, on One Man Band, he recommits to his first true love.

“It was all about why did you pick up the guitar in the first place? And what were the old records you were listening to? And about tapping back into that, sometimes you do just have to go back to go forwards.

“You have different sides to you, don’t you: I love orchestral tunes; I’m into soundtrack-y tunes, I love Motown-y stuff, I love glam-rock and all that. But I just think when I’ve got my whammy bar and my guitar, when I’m in that zone, that’s my little signature. It was like, ‘What am I good at?’ and we just cranked it up to ten.”

In the spirit of returning to his musical roots, the creation of One Man Band saw Miles venture back to Liverpool, where he assembled a team at the newly built Kempston Street Studios with whom he had a trusting creative relationship and who could elicit some of his original passions.

Miles Kane new album

Photo: Charlie Salt

These included regular writing partner Jamie Biles, as well as his cousin and The Coral frontman James Kelly, who helmed the album’s production; Miles’ other cousin, Ian Skelly, also weighed-in on this family affair by playing drums. The added experience came via Circa Waves’ Keiran Shudall and Tom Ogden of Blossoms to help neatly craft the record.

The result is an album of well-balanced bite and bittersweet melodies, best captured in the first two tracks that kicked it all off: the shuddering, festival tent-ready title track and the softly spoken heartache of ‘Ransom’. And whilst One Man Band might be an out-and-out guitar record, it’s formulated in a way that still shows more than a few sides to Miles, with both tracks ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ and ‘Never Taking Me Alive’ sharing the same forceful assertiveness you might expect for tunes with such titles; ‘The Wonder’, which reminisces over past relationships, sounds like a throwback to some of Miles’ work alongside Alex Turner with The Last Shadow Puppets; ‘Doubles’, by contrast, switches things up with a jaunty toe-tapper.

Lead single ‘Troubled Son’, meanwhile – which arrived with a one-take video shot in Miles’ local boozer that included a cameo from James Buckley – commences the record in anthemic terms, its message one of embracing your foibles.

“[‘Troubled Son’s] about sometimes you’re cruising in life; you’re buzzing and everything’s going great. And then sometimes – whether it be with your mates, your career, a relationship – you fuck up sometimes. It’s not a sympathy vote, it’s not a poor me; I like where I’m at, I’m in a good place.”

“I’m in an honest place,” he adds, suitably easing into the conversation, “where I can talk about the fact I’ve got a bit of a fear of long-term commitment. After a couple of years, I get this thing, which the chorus touches on: [“I’m a troubled son / I come undone”] / Then I cut and run.” And no one’s done anything bad, so it’s like, ‘What is this feeling inside me that keeps reoccurring?’ So it’s a song about me trying to figure it out. When I talk like this, I think some people could take it really heavy. I don’t find it heavy; I’m just being honest.”

With this introspective appraisal introduced at the beginning of the album, One Man Band becomes neatly bookended by its most pared-back offering: ‘Scared Of Love’. As its title suggests, the track works more like a confessional, admitting something we all deep down find as terrifying as we do enrapturing.

“The album’s quite hard-hitting; it can be quite full-on. So I thought: how honest and real can you be? How naked can you be? If you have a song called ‘Scared Of Love’ and you’re talking about being scared of love and someone knowing that you are, there’s this sort of sad understanding from their side as well.

“I think with the sentiment of the song, just with the voice and the guitar – which was hard because you could have made it like a Lennon ballad and “bigger” if that’s what you want to call it – I thought there was something cool about just keeping it bare. And to end the album like that, it’s quite a rocky journey. I think it sums up me from start to finish.”

Miles Kane One Man Band

This bare-boned acoustic work doesn’t just provide a mellow counterweight to the album but figures Miles as a wiser, more contemplative soul from the spirited ex-frontman of The Rascals who sprung his Colour Of The Trap debut LP on the world in 2011. Both albums incidentally depict Miles amid a black-and-white background; only, on his debut, the buttoned-down rock star stares us head-on, whilst his latest offering sees him pensive and mid-thought, gazing out the window. It’s a touching, self-referential nod (intentional or not) to the passing of time and the more reflective, true-to-oneself state Miles now finds himself in.

He’s done life in the heady highs and sunny climes of Los Angeles, where he lived between 2015 and 2019, first lured there to work on The Last Shadow Puppets sophomore album Everything You’ve Come To Expect, and where he worked closely with Lana Del Rey; the result being Miles’ pained vocals featuring on Blue Banisters “fucking banger” ‘Dealer’ and Lana, in turn, providing backing vocals on Coup De Grace track ‘Loaded’.

As a result of all the soul-searching on solid home turf for his latest album, Miles is now in particularly rooted grounds. Not that that’s dampened his ambitions. Described in relation to another of his beloved sports, boxing, he remains steadfast to “that dedication and that fighting mindset” around the new LP.

“Obviously with [releasing an album], you’re not getting punched in the face – although I’m sure a lot of people would like to – but it’s like the fight is your album release; the training is like the recording and the promo; and then there’s an end-goal, a final date where you’re going to fight. I just like that mindset. It’s very dramatic, I know. But I see this correlation between the two.”

Miles Kane

Photo: Charlie Salt

That date has finally arrived, and Miles is immersed in the spirit in which the record was made. “I’m buzzing. I love this record; I love where my mindset is; I love talking about it,” he says. Whilst such lines might seem like inevitable album promo material, his practically audible, beaming grin makes it sound genuine. What’s more, he’s all too aware of the times when albums haven’t been as reflective.

“Sometimes you write an album and your head changes, or you’ll be on to your next thing. But I think with this one, because I only finished it in February and it’s been a dead-quick turnaround on it, it’s a proper stamp of where I’m at now.”

Indeed that wide-eyed young kid has come a long way and now, five albums deep has a record that mirrors his inner world. Whilst Miles has done the heavy lifting, it can in-part be traced back to the style and verve of one particular Italian playmaker all those years ago – someone who Miles in fact got to meet after the release of ‘Baggio’.

“When we did the album, we thought, ‘How do we get him this song?’” Through a merry-go-round of connections, he explains, they finally cracked it, managing to get the song over to Roberto’s daughter, Valentina.

“She heard the song,” Miles explains, “and then she played it to him and came back the next day and said he wanted to meet me and invited me to his house in Vicenza. It was just insane; him and his wife and his daughter are just the nicest people, so lovely. And that shit doesn’t happen, mate.”

I think that’s what they call manifesting, Miles… “Yeah, well I’ve been manifesting it since I was eight so thank fuck it’s happened now.”

One Man Band is out now via Modern Sky Records.

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