Scottish singer Midge Ure has had great success in the '70s and '80s fronting groups like Thin Lizzy and Ultravox. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure back in 1984 to raise money for famine in Ethiopia. He organized Band Aid, Live Aid, and Live 8 with Geldof as well.
He's released solo albums over the years, most recently with 2014's Fragile.
Windy City Times caught up with him during his Retro Futura Tour to learn about his new music and upcoming acoustic tour for this year.
Windy City Times: Great meeting you backstage.
Midge Ure: It's unfortunate you came on a night where I have no bleeding voice! It is dreadful. I started about five days ago when I felt I was getting a cold. I think it's the air conditioning. My tour bus is like a freezer.
WCT: How do you take care of your voice in general?
Midge Ure: I don't, obviously! [Laughs] No, the usualthe lemon and the honey, all of that stuff. You try, but once you get a cold what can you do?
WCT: How has this Retro Tour been?
Midge Ure: It has been great. Cleveland is the home of rock, and was brilliant. I'm not sure how influential the '80s electro thing was, but everywhere has been great.
WCT: How was Toronto? I went there for WorldPride.
Midge Ure: Did you? It is such a great, open place. There are all these funky bars and clubs, cool shops, and graffiti on the walls.
WCT: Yes, they have artist alleys.
Midge Ure: They paint them up properly. Toronto has a lovely vibe to it.
WCT: You are heading out on an acoustic tour after this, correct?
Midge Ure: I am, starting in January. I will be in Chicago in March. To come back out and play the Fragile album is important to me. On this tour it is not right to play the new stuff. I really want to do selected tracks from my new album, like a one man troubadour!
WCT: Do you prefer having a band behind you, though?
Midge Ure: I like both I have to say. I enjoy putting on an electric guitar and making a bit of noise. That is what I am comfortable with. There is something very intimate about the acoustic performance because you don't have to stick to a set list. The great thing is when people see you messing up they think it's hysterical. I did a show in New York before this tour started at a jazz club and I played almost all of the Answers to Nothing album. I had never done that before. I just sat there with my acoustic guitar and did all of these tunes. It was a lovely thing to do. You can do that thing acoustically but you can't do it with a band.
WCT: You have played a lot of intimate venues, like Mayne Stage in Chicago.
Midge Ure: That is a great venue.
WCT: For the video for "Become," what field was that filmed in?
Midge Ure: It is near where I live. I live in Bath, in the southwest of England. We have all kinds of spiritual stuff down there. I am not an overly spiritual character but things like Stonehenge and crop circles all appear in that part of the world. We have a beautiful countryside. Me and my friend spent four hours making the video. I wanted to do something where the camera follows me in different settings. I edited the video on my laptop when I was on a train.
It is very in keeping with how the album was made. I did it completely on my own. Moby appears in it but it's very much a one man thing.
WCT: It took a long to make, didn't it?
Midge Ure: Yes, between the gap from my last album to this one I was sure if I would be part of the music industry anymore. I gave up hope. The music industry had changed so much. I didn't want to compete with America's Got Talent or those type of shows. I didn't like how it now takes 20 people to write a song. It is writing with a committee now. What I love about music is writing with thoughts and emotions. When you listen to one man's thoughts that is what you get not all of this finely sculpted, analyzed to death music that is trying to be a hit.
I went through a phase where I didn't want to do it then finally knuckled down after the last Ultravox album and was able to do it. I enjoyed making this record.
WCT: How was it working with Moby?
Midge Ure: I've never met him. He got in touch with me via the Internet a couple of years ago to work together. A modern collaboration is exactly that. He worked on a piece of music and emailed it to me. I changed it and added things to it. I wrote the melody line. By the time I finished it then it fit into my album, not necessarily his. It felt so much of what the Fragile album was.
I am hoping to meet him when we play The Greek Theatre if he is around. He plans on saying hi so we are not just strangers.
WCT: Isn't that funny how music works these days?
Midge Ure: It's very odd. I hate collaborations where you can tell people have never met. It is usually instigated by managers or record labels. Because this is two artists with equal admiration I found that a really interesting thing to do. It is also horribly embarrassing to sit down with someone you just met and ask them if it's good and they go, "No..." My dreams are shot down instantly. At least when you are four thousand miles apart you can email it and think about it.
WCT: The song with Moby seems very atmospheric.
Midge Ure: It is funny because it has a feel of its own but is still part of the record. You can tell Moby is on it with a little dance groove underneath it. It is very chilled out and very Moby. It is not necessarily what I would have done on my own so I quite like that.
WCT: Explain what International Blue is.
Midge Ure: It is run by a guy name Stephen Emmer, who instigated this tour. He's a Dutch musician. He worked with a lot of '80s British musicians like The Associates and Heaven 17. He sent me a track and I did some vocals on it. He then sent it to Tony Visconti in New York who did all of the David Bowie records.
Within 48 hours he sent back the finished master. It is a great recordall completely self-financed by Stephen. There is no record company; he just puts it out there. He wants to come over and do a showcase with me and the singers from it. The Mayne Stage in Chicago would be ideal for it.
WCT: You worked with Boy George for "Do They Know It's Christmas?." What do you think of him?
Midge Ure: That was the first time we worked together. I remember him from the Blitz days before he was Boy George. He was always the most outrageous. He's funny and I have gotten to know him better over the last few years, with doing some tours together. He's got a wicked tongue and is always saying something witty.
Ure unleashes a solo acoustic show at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln Ave., on Saturday, March 7, at 8 p.m.
Visit www.oldtownschool.org for more details about programs and live concerts.