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Radiohead’s Philip Selway on five perks of solo work

Deirdre O’Callaghan

Philip Selway is best known as Radiohead's drummer, but he's quickly making a name for himself as a solo artist. This year marks the first time Selway tours the United States behind his two solo albums, "Familial" (2010) and "Weatherhouse" (2014). Emerging from behind his drum kit, Selway is lead vocalist, guitarist, and occasional keyboardist in his live shows. While his role as solo musician is certainly different from that in his main band, Selway's artistry remains intimately familiar, blending his drumming experience with a new breadth of artistic choice. As he gears up for his debut at the Sinclair on Aug. 7, we asked Selway to describe the five ways his solo work has allowed him to expand as an artist.

1. Allowed me to develop my songwriting. "My involvement in the Radiohead songwriting process is as the drummer. But working with my own material, [I'm] central to that whole songwriting process. I expanded my songwriting to outside of a drumming mindset."


2. Found my singing voice. "In Radiohead, you're trying to blend in with Thom's vocals. But when you're doing the main vocals yourself, it's an impression of who you are; there's much more personality. The vocal line tells a story in itself, I suppose, in the delivery. It started with my drumming, which is very identifiable, to finding a musical voice which is as identifiable through vocals."

3. Developed my skills on all instruments. "I've always played on guitar, but it's always really been more of a pastime. For me, that's what I primarily write on. And you have to step up to play. Last fall was my first public appearance on piano. I found the whole process really exciting, and it took me outside of my comfort zone, which is really a good place to be."


4. Learned the stagecraft of being at the front of the stage. "Drumming is a very physical presence, but there's a different requirement, being at the front of the stage — having to talk in between songs, finding a way of connecting with the audience."

5. Opportunity to work with other musicians. "Playing in Radiohead, one of our real strengths was always playing exclusively with each other. We learned to play our instruments in the context of the band. We learned to produce a sound that was identifiably us. But I think it's healthy to get out and play with other musicians. Working with Glenn Kotche of Wilco, who drummed on my first album . . . working with Adem Ilhan and Quinta on "Weatherhouse," brings about different aspects of my musicality. They've all got very strong musical personalities, so seeing how my musical voice blends with that has been a great experience."

Philip Selway performs at the Sinclair in Cambridge on Aug. 7. Tickets: $20. 617-547-5200, MALLORY ABREU