Once and future Blur guitarist Graham Coxon has cultivated a solo career since 1998 that has simmered in North America among the Britpop frontrunners’ ardent cult. He’s overdue for a visit, however. Coxon’s upcoming Chicago date is his first since 2005, and part of his first one-man North American tour. “It’ll mainly be acoustic guitar, but I’ll have an electric on hand to make some noise for people who like that sort of thing,” he says.
Coxon is beloved for the barely controlled chaos heard on Blur favorites like “Song 2.” As an ardent student of folk masters Bert Jansch and Davy Graham, Coxon is also adept at fingerstyle acoustic fretwork. His riotous side is deployed on delirious solo cuts like “Advice,” while his melodic acoustic sensibility manifests during songs like “In the Morning.”
“Both approaches have pluses and minuses,” says Coxon. “‘Advice’ is just kind of smacking the hell out of a guitar, whereas ‘In the Morning’ is quite long with a ton of fingerstyle playing.
“They’re exhausting in different ways,” he adds with a laugh.
The soundtrack for Netflix series “The End of the F—ing World” is Coxon’s ninth solo effort. The reception for the black comedy’s quirky score helped coax him onto the road. “It did get quite popular in America, so I thought I could go play that stuff,” he says.
The summery folk of “Walking All Day” taps Coxon’s intuition and spontaneity. “That came out of nowhere,” says Coxon. “The character is slashing with a stick through the forest in his jeans and no top, looking like something out of ‘Deliverance.’ I thought, ‘A country blues kind of thing might fit here.’ It was done in 40 minutes.”
“The Snare” nods to Link Wray’s “Rumble.” “I’m a longtime fan of Link Wray,” says Coxon. “I love that 6/8 rhythm and twangy guitar. I was going for an approximation of underground ’50s and ’60s B-movie music.”
Coxon looks forward to touring on a smaller scale. “I like that romantic idea of having a dead simple setup that I could probably carry in a rucksack,” says Coxon. “I’m traveling in a van with minimal crew, and we’re just going to enjoy a bit of life on the road. Some of my fondest memories during my mid-20s with Blur were looking out the window at changing American countryside, and meeting people at truck stops and restaurants.”
In December, Coxon released “Falling” to support the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), a charity directed at reducing suicide among men. “I’ll probably have a go at playing that on the tour,” says Coxon. “It was written by a family friend who took his own life. CALM encourages men to actually talk about stuff if they’re feeling rubbish — don’t keep it inside. It’s also important to care about friends openly and be available. I think men lead by example. If somebody confides in you, you’re more likely to confide in them.”
Coxon’s recent activity includes guesting on stage and in studio with Blur partner Damon Albarn’s band Gorillaz. Blur’s future is unclear, but Coxon isn’t pessimistic. “It’s a never-say-never thing, absolutely,” he says. “I think it’ll happen when we’re all really missing it and we’ve all got time to spare. It’s a lovely job. You get to play big places, you’re fed well and stay in a decent hotel. You play a nice guitar through an amplifier that’s turned up loud, and you see a lot of smiling faces.”