Man for all seasons

: Neil McSweeney
: Neil McSweeney

Neil McSweeney thinks in seasons.

And his latest release, The Seventeen, has been written for the summer.

“It’s a summery record so I thought keep it brief but be in keeping with the reality of British summers,” he said.

“I tend to think differently at different times of the year. I tend to have a productive spring and tend not to do a lot in the summer. Autumn is always a reflective period - I do a lot of my writing in autumn.”

The seasons, McSweeney believes, subconsciously influence his music.

“When I was writing The Seventeen I was imagining summer ideas and it came on really quickly. I was working on the songs in the house with the sun streaming through the window and it gave me an artificial sense of warmth.”

But the record’s not just a seasonal map. It’s a collection of tracks about relationships, especially its title track, The Seventeen.

“That’s about a long-term relationship but it’s fairly metaphorical,” says the Greystones-based troubadour.

The Seventeen, however, is not the limit of McSweeney’s output this year. The country-tinged guitarist is also releasing an album this autumn.

“It’s called the Cargo,” he says. “And that’s a winter record. It’s very wintery in mood though it’s not literally about winter.”

The name of the album is - appropriately - inspired by the movement of things and features some of the top names in British contemporary folk. Guests on the album include Bellowhead producer Andy Bell and Bellowhead’s fiddle player, Sam Sweeney, who plays drums on Cargo.

“It’s brilliant working with them, they are such good muscians and Sam Sweeney has been nominated for a BBC2 Folk Award. That’s what’s great about not being tied to a major label - you discover all these brilliant musicians all over the country.”

Working with such talent has also been something of a social awakening for McSweeney. “It’s been lovely becoming friends with these people and having the freedom to become friends with them. There are so many high quality musicians out there who aren’t committed to the industry through a label but get to work on all these interesting projects.”

McSweeney is himself one of these people. He’s already planning a variety of projects for the year ahead.

“I love doing it this way because I get to be part of every single aspect of the music process. It’s bottomless.

“There’s booking the gigs and suddenly I’ve become really interested in artwork and developing an ‘art show.’ And then recently I’ve realised I’ve not been paying attention to my guitar playing because I’ve been focused on songwriting so I’ll go back to that now. It feels endless but it’s great.”

McSweeney already has a solid fan-base, he’s toured with Hawley and his soaring ethereal alt-country has turned heads in the industry.

But for his shows, which are renowned for their musical prowess and atmosphere, he credits the audience. “They help make it special, they come along and bring their enthusiasm.”

And that’s the magic, he says.

Neil McSweeney plays at the Queens Social Club on Sunday with support from fellow Sheffielder Natalie Johnson.