The Art Of Doing Nothing by Mark Owen will be released by Polydor on 10th June. It is the singer/songwriter’s fourth solo album and most collaborative to date, and his first since Take That reunited in 2006. It is, says Owen, an album about each everyone’s “massively significant, tiny little speck life”.
The record fills the gap where Owen was supposed to be putting his feet up. When Take That finished their record-breaking Progress tour in 2011, they agreed to take a break for a year. Except, contrary to his new record’s title, Mark Owen isn’t very good at doing nothing. He had to be doing something. So he sat in his garden and did some sketches for an animation, then some painting. When Ben Mark and Jamie Norton, his long-time songwriting partners turned up, what he’s done for most of his life naturally became the focus. “I’ve been making songs for 20 years now and I don’t really know what else to do,” he says, “it’s my hobby and my day job all in one.” Gradually, the trio’s chats developed into a concept: The Art of Doing Nothing. It was a notion of creating by not forcing things, by just letting the moment take over. “We didn’t think too hard about the songs,” says Mark. For the obsessive Owen, this was a new approach.
Stars, the new single from Mark Owen
The result is Owen’s most free-spirited record yet, imbued with his own vulnerable, charismatic blueprint. It was recorded at The Rabbit Hutch, the studio located at the bottom of his garden. That sense of freedom is best captured in the expansive, swaggering pop swirls of first single ‘Stars’. It’s that rare thing; an intimate anthem, the sort, perhaps, that only someone who has spent most of his adult life playing stadiums could come up with. Others get to leave their mark too: the delicate orchestral swirl of S.A.D. features a mesmeric vocal from Salford chanteuse Ren Harvieu (“she had a beautiful energy, she was amazing,” remembers Mark), whilst Heaven’s Falling’s stomping synth-pop is bolstered by a frenetic appearance from London rapper Jake Emlyn. “It just pours out of him, he’s amazing, full of charisma and life,” says Owen. Extra production input from Charlie Russell and Brad Spence and Katie Halil’s illustration only add to the sense of The Art Of Doing Nothing’s collaborative ethic.
This approach also stretches out to a competition that Mark is launching with Talenthouse. Entrants will be able to submit a painting, illustration, photo, piece of writing or another form of their choosing to show what The Art Of Doing Nothing represents for them. “It feels better somewhere in my psyche to call it a project rather than a solo album, because so many people have contributed,” says Owen. The focus, though, is bound to be on him. And rightly so. At ease, and on a break, he’s made his best record yet.