Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley on getting involved with Battle Festival

PUBLISHED: 10:15 26 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:15 26 August 2015

Photo by Victoria Walker

Photo by Victoria Walker


Tim Rice-Oxley of the rock band Keane is running a mentoring scheme for young musicians at Battle Festival in October. He spoke to Alice Cooke about why he felt compelled to get involved

Photo by Victoria WalkerPhoto by Victoria Walker

Keane founder Tim Rice-Oxley and the band’s frontman Tom Chaplin performed together for the first time in two years on 8 August in the grounds of Battle Abbey. This coincided with an international gathering in the town, which saw Keane fans from all over the world descend on 1066 Country to celebrate their idols.

Why the reunion and why Battle? Well founding members Tim and Tom met and grew up in the area (it’s name-checked in many of their songs, and you can even take a Keane tour of the area), and it’s all in aid of Battle Festival of Arts and Music, of which Tim is a patron, alongside Sir Andrew Davies. The festival boasts an illustrious history, but had fallen by the wayside in years gone by. Now it’s back and local enthusiasm couldn’t be more fervent. With Andrew and Tim at the helm, there are great plans afoot.

With Keane, Tim achieved five consecutive number one albums, and a huge number of hits including Somewhere Only We Know (number three in the charts in 2004, then number one in 2013 when sung by Lily Allen), Everybody’s Changing (number four in 2004) and Bedshaped (number 10 in 2004), and as the band’s Ivor Novello award-winning song-writer, his lyrics have long been inspired by growing up in and around Battle. Keane’s 2012 number one album Strangeland namechecks many places and spaces in Battle, Bexhill and Hastings – like this line from the song Sovereign Light Café: “I’m going back to a time when I owned this town/Down Powdermill Lane and the Battlegrounds.” These landmarks attract national and international visitors to the towns.

Last year was the first festival in more than 20 years, and it was deemed a universal success. As well as various performances, workshops and happenings, there was a mentoring scheme in which Tim played a key part. Young musicians aged 12-22 were invited to send through demo tapes, which Tim watched before choosing eight to take part in an hour-long one-to-one workshop. “The amount of talent in the 1066 area is simply superb,” says Tim. “I was hard pushed to whittle it down to eight, but the guys we picked were sensational.” So sensational in fact that they’ve been invited to come back and perform at the festival this year. So what advice did Tim impart? “It was anything from songwriting to tips on the industry – the thing was that despite some of them only being 12, the skill was already there, so it was just bringing to the table anything that I thought might be helpful.” He goes on to say that although Sussex is “amazingly arty and musical”, when he was growing up around Battle (he now lives in Alfriston), there weren’t many people to talk to about the music industry, “and I think it would have made a real difference to me if there were.”

It was a chance meeting with Roger Daltrey of The Who “who by some strange coincidence knew Tom’s dad – I think he taught his son or something similar to that. Anyway Roger came and watched us play when we were teenagers. When I look back at that day now I cringe, because I think we must have sounded awful, but if we did he never mentioned it, and I hung off his every word – he paced around a lot and flicked his hair about, but his advice was completely invaluable to me – I hope that’s what I can bring to Battle through these mentoring sessions.”

As well as one-to-one workshops, there will be a question and answer session, which is open to the general public, through the festival. “We ran one last year and people seemed really enthusiastic about it. If I even help one person to break into the industry and move forwards with their music, I will have succeeded.”

Photo by Victoria WalkerPhoto by Victoria Walker

Tim is involved with the festival because, “it’s a great focal point for a real sense of renewed energy in the area. Music changes people’s lives and that’s what I want this to do. I hope it will grow, but for now I just want it to be about really focused, high quality music and arts. With any luck, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

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