HAVING already helped create one band that has gone on to critical acclaim and commercial success, Catfish and The Bottlemen, guitarist Billy Bibby now faces doing it all over again, but this time with his name and songs to the foreground.
However, on the eve of his first tour under the banner of Billy Bibby and The Wry Smiles, which includes Saturday’s date at The Ironworks in Inverness, it seems this new venture is off to a very positive start.
"We’ve not even gone on tour, but things are progressing in radio play and things coming up on Facebook and Twitter, so that’s a good sign," Bibby said.
Born in Lancashire, Bibby was brought up in the Welsh seaside resort of Llandudno where he co-founded Catfish and The Bottlemen with band frontman Ryan "Van" McCann.
He spent seven productive years as lead guitarist with the Welsh outfit before leaving the band in the summer of 2014, just before the band’s debut album The Balcony was released and earned Gold Disc status by hitting the UK album chart’s Top 10.
With McCann his previous band’s songwriter in residence, striking out on his own allows Bibby to showcase his writing as well as his guitar skills.
"In the early days, I wrote the majority of the songs, but it’s only in the past couple of years I’ve really gone for it in terms of songwriting," he revealed.
"I’ve learnt a lot from Van. Not to say that I’ve copied anything. I’m just saying that he’s a songwriter by trade, and you just pick things up."
Bibby unveiled himself as solo performer and writer with a series of solo acoustic shows, but although the reaction was very positive, he is looking forward to getting back on the road with a full band behind him.
"I do enjoy playing acoustic gigs. It’s easy to get around and not have all the equipment, but I’d rather make some noise," Bibby said.
"I decided I needed to do these songs justice and get a band around them."
A call to his friend Simon Jones, the bass player in The Verve, led to Bibby auditioning potential bandmates at Jones’s Chester studio finding the musicians who would become his new band, The Wry Smiles.
"We really started with the songs and then built the band, compared with Catfish which was just four mates putting a band together, which is usually how things start," Bibby said.
"But it’s more exciting in a way because you get to know people for the first time and create new experiences with them.
"They’re young lads – they’re all 21 – but they’re not too young. They are tight musicians who could go on to be great musicians. I’ll definitely keep them as the core of the band and hopefully maybe build on that as well."
It might be a new venture, but Bibby hopes some old fans will be along for the ride.
"I think people who liked Catfish will get on board with this as well. It’s not hugely different, but there is a difference there," he said.
"I want to create my own band, not just rip off what Catfish sound like.
"It was all about the guitars with Catfish. The guitar element is probably still the main focus and there is some nice little lead guitar there, but there is more of a country tone to it, I guess, as well as the rock and the pop as well."
And Catfish fans might be treated to a familiar number.
"I’ve been playing one Catfish song acoustically," he revealed.
"It’s kind of nice for people to see what happened in the past and most people know the tunes, then we throw in a nice cover, but all the rest is my own stuff to try and promote that."
With the launch of his new band, 2016 is shaping up to be an important year in Bibby’s life. And a busy one.
"Just as many gigs as possible is my motto, keep the momentum going. Not too many bands gig full time these days, but we need to build up the fan base and gig wherever we can," he said,
"That was where Catfish made their mark, on the live scene. We sounded good on record and people enjoyed it, but it’s a different experience all together watching us live.
"That’s the same mindset I’m taking into this now, to hone that live set and make sure it’s better than everyone else’s."
• Billy Bibby and The Wry Smiles are at The Ironworks, Inverness, on Saturday February 13 with support from The Ragazzi and The Strives.