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    Ashcroft's Coming Home... Nearly

    richardashcroft3.jpgRichard Ashcroft has been out of sight for much of the past four years, but the last ten months have seen the re-emergence of the former Verve singer. See him at Lancashire CCC on June 17.


    Ashcroft's Live 8 appearance alongside Coldplay propelled him back into the limelight, and his new album, Keys to the World, has gone platinum.


    He clearly appreciates the Coldplay frontman's praise - Martin called him "the best singer in the world" at the Hyde Park gig and has been supporting Coldplay on their recent American tour.But when we catch up with him at Lancashire County Cricket Club, which will be the venue for his epic upcoming June 17 gig, the 34-year-old singer seems confident that his current success isn't all down to Coldplay and Live 8.


    "There were acts that played Live 8 whose next albums bombed. Chris Martin is a very kind guy who says a lot of things, but he isn't a Merlin an alchemist," says Ashcroft, whose indie-good-looks still shine past his trademark shaggy hair and permanently attached dark glasses.


    Ashcroft mentions that red tape got in the way of a proper homecoming gig in Wigan, but that Manchester is close enough to his heart (and home) to be an apt venue.


    "It is very important I probably sell more in Piccadilly Records than anywhere else in the world," he says. "It's not too far from Wigan. Manchester is buzzing at the moment. I have a big connection with this city when I first saw the Stone Roses it changed my life!"


    The subject turns to Ashcroft's current musical tastes.He has high praise for American singer Joseph Arthur, and he doesn't seem upset that Arctic Monkeys freakishly high sales kept his last album from the top spot. "The Arctic Monkeys have shown that you no longer have to rely on the man."


    But he does say that one reason for his extended career hiatus was the positive response to Gareth Gates and the Pop Idols, even by music critics, at a time when his second album, Human Conditions, was being slammed by reviewers and ignored by the radio. "Most of the southern press has tried to nail me as an artist. People didn't really hear from me for five years," he reflects. "I think if you write music from the heart then it will always connect with the man on the street - if they get the chance to hear it. But I'm very fortunate to have written a few songs that are going to outlive me and any of my critics."


    Ashcroft is also confident that proper' music will ultimately have the last laugh over manufactured bands. "None of them will be listened to in 20 years only for comedic value to see how sheep-like we were back then!"


    At a time when he insists that record companies only care when your last top ten single was, Ashcroft has plans to take advantage of his current success. He wants to work with DJ Shadow and get together an album of other artists covering his songs. He's aiming high, too: he wants Dolly Parton to do The Drugs Don't Work. The sports enthusiast also has topical World Cup ambitions. "I am going to do an alternative football song, with the proceeds to go to a cancer charity," Ashcroft enthuses. I want to use the position I am in to do some good for the planet, because I have wasted a lot of time. That's not to be in competition with Embrace - I'm very happy for them."


    As the sun streams across the green velvet of Old Trafford and Ashcroft prepares to make his exit, thoughts turn back to the 26,000 capacity gig in June. "I haven't played to that many people in a long time. I just pray that we have similar weather to this!"


    Source: thisislancashire.co.uk


    Richard Ashcroft will be playing at Old Trafford Cricket Ground on June 17, with support from Razorlight and The Feeling. Tickets are available from the usual outlets, including www.gigsandtours.com and by calling 0871 2200 260.

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