Once the frontman of one of the most iconic bands of the 90s, Richard Ashcroft went solo after The Verve dissolved and then disappeared.
He did emerge from the shadows somewhat briefly late last year to perform at Mexico’s 70,000 capacity Corona Capital festival alongside headliners The Libertines, Muse, Calvin Harris and the Pixies.
But there hasn’t been any new studio material since 2010s United Nations Of Sound.
Six years on, after being lost in the musical wilderness, Richard is back with a new album and tour, and it’s safe to say he’s feeling pretty confident about the future.
“I don’t feel like it’s a grand return,” he said ahead of his upcoming album release.
“If you don’t feel it, then that’s cool.
“I’m not going to give you the hard sell here. The album is going to be some of the best songs that I’ve ever written, so I’m excited for it.”
The forthcoming These People is produced by longtime collaborator Chris Potter and also reunites the Verve frontman with string arranger Wil Malone, who Ashcroft has worked with several times before.
“Some personal and world events take a darker turn, leading to a sense of urgency and clearing of the mind,” Richard said of the new tracks.
“My lane in the chaos becomes clearer. To be a modern day troubadour, to play a set of songs in front of thousands, all singing, backed by six strings and one voice – this influences the final stages of the new album.
“To do nothing in music anymore would be a crime.”
The music scene has changed in the years that Richard has been off the grid. Talent show winners dominate the charts and Richard admits he has lost faith in the business.
“Oh yeah, I’ve none whatsoever,” he said. “Turn left for Cowell, turn right for this and that.
“The mainstream has all but destroyed our culture.
“You can gather together as many songwriters as you wish to pen a track or two for the latest talent show winner but it’s never gonna be Lucky Man. We all know that, deep down inside.”
“At the end of the day, there should always be an alternative to having four people who haven’t written a decent song in their lives telling you if you’re good or bad and how to live your life.”
In support of the new album, the Brit and Ivor Novello Award winning artist announced two special intimate live dates in Manchester and London for later this month – both of which sold out in just 25 minutes.
He’s since added more dates due to demand, proof that the fans want him back.
But is Richard’s return a permanent thing?
“I’m back but not at full speed just yet. I am always in the wilderness. I’m always struggling to find something that stimulates me,” he said.
“When you’ve been to the top of the mountain, where do you go?
“We have no musical barriers. There are no genres now – forget genres, forget what you think you should sound like. These things should not be planned.
“Just tap into your spirit and do what you feel is right.”
These People is released on May 20, via Ashcroft’s Righteous Phonographic Association label.
Richard Ashcroft’s tour reaches Glasgow O2 Academy on Friday, May 27.
For tickets, visit www.richardashcroft.com.