Stephen Fretwell at the Eagle Inn, Salford

  • Friday | 25.06.21
  • 7.30pm
  • Band on the Wall, Manchester
  • £18 Advance


This is a super-intimate socially distanced event for only 25 ticket holders to see Stephen Fretwell perform songs from his forthcoming album Busy Guy.

This is a pilot event by Band on the Wall. As a condition of entry we will require all ticket holders to show proof of a negative COVID-19 home lateral flow test within 48 hours of the event to gain admission. Please do not purchase a ticket if you are unwilling to provide this. Home lateral flow tests can be ordered by anyone online at or collected from most pharmacies.

If attending in groups (max 6 people) please purchase in one booking where possible.

Please note this event is being filmed and attendees may appear in the final production. If you wish to be excluded, please make yourself known to the event management team on the night.

Stephen Fretwell’s long-awaited third album, Busy Guy, is set for release on Dan Carey’s Speedy Wunderground label this summer. Described by Fretwell himself as “a song cycle of sorts,” Busy Guy examine the seasons of a life, exploring fatherhood, grief and rebirth, with Fretwell’s trademark eloquence and wit.

Preceding the album’s release are two singles, ‘Oval’ and ‘Embankment’. ‘Oval’, the fourth song on the album, will be released first. It is heady with sensuous images – ‘a harvest pear in silk’ – and heavenly bodies – the moon and the sun – as well as those lying on beds. But, as in so many of the songs on Busy Guy, all is not well. There is a deep sense of unease: tropical heat at twilight. Beyond the innocent curves of ‘Oval’, images of opposites clash and collide; celebration sours to disappointment. The longed-for sun can be a thing that burns. The birthday becomes a sultry disco.

“I think it is a song about marriage, the actuality of it, the responsibility of it, and the gamble,” says Fretwell. “When my girlfriend was pregnant with our first son, we moved to a flat near the Oval in London. As our marriage fell apart a few years ago, it was this simple song that was the only thing I had to stick in the ground and push on with making some new music. I wrote the song about watching my wife look out of the window in that flat in Oval, looking at her new life as a mother, our new life as parents, and I was trying to show that in some way the beauty that we are gifted by becoming parents is often haunted by the loss of something, too.”

Fretwell, now 39, grew up in Scunthorpe but cut his musical teeth in Manchester in the early noughties, playing in the bars and clubs of the legendary Northern Quarter. In the years before that, as a teenager, he visited his cousin who lived in Vienna. On these trips, he’d stay up late with his cousin’s wife and she would play him her record collection (“the Nicks [Cave and Drake], Morrison and Morrissey – who I presumed were related,” he laughs) and talk about her interior life. This experience, witnessing music and lyrics being used to process thoughts and feelings, informed his approach to songwriting, giving his early work a maturity beyond its years.