Retro harmony group The Overtones bring their Sweet Soul Music tour to Newcastle City Hall this week. Here, I catch up with band member Mike Crawshaw to talk vinyl records, the evolution of doo-wop and memorable rooftop performances…

Where did your interest in music come from?

I first remember having that feeling, where music really stirred emotions in me, as a kid while on a car journey from Bristol to Cornwall for the summer holidays. My parents played Queen and Barbara Streisand to The Drifters, The Temptations and Status Quo. Their wide variety of music taste rubbed off on me I guess. It’s funny because, looking at the music we do now, there are a lot of songs that I can’t remember hearing for the first time, but I know every single word!

What are your thoughts on the revival of the vinyl?

I think it’s great! Nowadays, a lot of the newer artists are trying to emulate that vinyl sound. There’s a certain sound that comes with playing a vinyl record that you don’t naturally get when you’re recording on computers and printing on to CDs or MP3s. It really shows people are harking back to yesteryear.

How did you decide what tracks to put on your current album, Sweet Soul Music?

We make no secret of the fact that we had to go back to the drawing board after three months of recording the album. We got about eight songs in and even though individually the songs were great, we sat down with everyone, put our hands up and said ‘look this isn’t working’. We felt that the fans deserved more from us.

We wanted to do a soul album and when it came to picking the songs, it was quite a natural process. You can’t really have a soul album without Heard it Through the Grapevine or Sweet Soul Music. I think we’ve got quite an eclectic but strong and coherent album.

Does your genre still have a place in modern music?

I think more so now than in the last 20 years. There’s almost been a resurgence in genres like doo-wop, Motown and soul.

Musically, who inspires you at the moment?

I think Bruno Mars is absolutely killer at the moment and everything he touches turns to gold. Meghan Trainor has got this really quirky style but with a vintage feel to it as well. It’s not simply bringing the genre back – it’s adding a little contemporary edge to it too, which is brilliant.

What’s the best thing about being on tour?

I love standing on stage with two or three thousand people all enjoying what we’re doing. Every element of our job is great, but when you’re actually standing on stage in front of your fans, looking into their faces, you can see first-hand how you’re affecting people in a positive way.

What’s been your personal highlight since The Overtones formed?

It’s near impossible to say. We’ve performed all over the world, on rooftops in South Africa and at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on New Year’s Eve in front of a million people. We’ve also performed on ice-skating rinks in Finland for TV shows and in front of the Queen at the Royal Albert Hall. There’s so many magical moments that I’ll never forget.

What’s the dynamics like within the group?

There are times when we get a bit frustrated with each other, but in a creative industry, of course you’re going to be, as you put your heart on your sleeve when you’re trying to create something new. We’ve helped each other through personal issues and things like that – we’re mates at the end of the day.

What are your plans after the tour?

We already have preliminary ideas about the next album – it’s top secret at the moment but it’s definitely on its way!

Where do you see the group in five years’ time?

It’s always important for us to evolve. Obviously, we started with doo-wop, which was a natural evolution to where we are at the moment. I’d like to think that we’re going to continue doing what we love to do. It’s a natural process, so we’re not going to force anything – we’re not all of a sudden going to be dub-step or anything like that! So we’ll see…

For more information about The Overtones and Sweet Soul Music, visit