Squeeze Finally Find Joy in Their Work

Squeeze make four decades years in the rock 'n' roll business look good.
Squeeze make four decades years in the rock 'n' roll business look good. Danny Clifford
Writing knockout songs for more than 40 years, Squeeze’s Chris Difford finds continuous sources of inspiration — like at a prison, for one. The guitarist and vocalist has been teaching writing workshops in rehabs and prisons for more than two decades.

He recently shared how charity work helps his creative process as part of an interview with Radio Phoenix in anticipation of the band’s appearance at Chandler Center for the Arts on Sunday, September 15, with Los Angeles punk legends X.

“It started because I wanted to give back what’s been given to me — the gift of being a songwriter,” says Difford.

In addition to presenting these sessions in institutional facilities, he has been hosting independent workshops and seeing continuous growth in attendees.

“This year, for the first time, we started working with soldiers, using writing as a tool to open up their depression and get them into a different headspace — it’s very emotional,” Difford describes. “One of the last people we worked with was a helicopter pilot who had been shifted out of the Air Force. Getting dropped ruined his life. We got to writing songs and discovering his wonderful voice, and it really helped cheer him up. That’s the point of these events for me.”

Also active in raising awareness and funds for in-need organizations, Squeeze co-founder Glenn Tilbrook (lead guitar and vocals) had a solo tour last year that helped support The Trussell Trust, a charity that supports food banks across the United Kingdom.

Positive endeavors and mindsets seem to be guiding Squeeze these days. For instance, weeding through the group’s extensive hymnal of New Wave and power-pop-laden rock to select a show’s worth of material sounds daunting, but Difford says narrowing down a setlist as they planned the tour wasn’t that much of a challenge.

“There’s definitely a core section of the set that features all of the hits you would imagine,” he says. “You know, like ‘Black Coffee In Bed,’ ‘Tempted,’ and ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),’ and from there, we branch out into the last decade, where we recorded two new albums (Cradle to the Grave and The Knowledge). Beyond that, we do more dipping back in time. We may make some changes here and there, but that’s what we did in rehearsals, and I have to say, it was very inspiring.”

He also confirms that he and Tilbrook will be performing tunes from their prolific solo catalogs. In both arenas, they pen intelligent songs. They’re masters of blending wit and tenderness to make you chuckle or cry — sometimes both on the same track. When asked if the two have any new territories they want to explore with Squeeze, Difford’s response brims with contentment.

“I think we have done most of the things that we properly set out to do,” he says. “From our days as ambitious 17-year-olds to men at 65, many things that have happened and so many goals have been reached. We are happy where we are at — we’ve written great songs, and we enjoy touring. Personally, I don’t have ambitions to go and work with different people, because it’s very much a compromise to do that.

“Right now, I’m looking forward to just turning up in Phoenix with some amplifiers and a drum kit and giving the best I can offer.”

Squeeze are scheduled to perform on Sunday, September 15, at Chandler Center for the Arts. Tickets are $48 to $78 via Ticketmaster.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young