13 Apr 2024

Mark Knopfler: 'I'm just really delighted when the records make people happy'

From Music 101, 1:20 pm on 13 April 2024
Mark Knopfler

Mark Knopfler Photo: Cambridge Jones

British musician Mark Knopfler has just released both a new solo album One Deep River and a re-recording of his debut solo single 'Going Home'.

The 74-year-old former Dire Straits frontman talks to Charlotte Ryan about the thrill of collaboration and the "buzz" of a Knopfler song becoming the theme for his hometown football team.

The new version of Knopfler's 1983 rock track 'Going Home' was recorded as a fundraiser for teenage cancer treatment.

It features guitar-playing from 60 of Knopfler's famous musician friends, including Ringo Starr and Pete Townsend, and was mixed by his long-term producer Guy Fletcher.

"Guy was trained as a sound engineer. He began his life in music as a sound engineer. He knows what it's like to sleep underneath a recording desk. There was a lot of editing you know, so many people contributing to this thing. Really from the beginning, the level of the input was just tremendous and there were lots and lots of high points, but you can't really list them because everybody played so great on it.

"The first one through the door was Pete Townsend with a guitar and an amp and once we heard him hit a chord in the room it was just electrifying ... I'd come into the studio after a couple of days and Guy would be there with a beautiful contribution from Bruce Springsteen from America or Joan Armatrading. You know, he was that level. It just went on from there. Beautiful, beautiful contributions."

Knopfler says he first played in a teenage cancer ward in Middlesex 30 years ago. When similar wards soon popped up it became obvious that "having a specific cancer care for teenagers really worked".

Three weeks ago, he visited staff and patients at the Teenage Cancer Unit in Newcastle Hospital where he grew up.

It's "such a buzz", Knopfler says, that 'Going Home' is the theme song for his hometown football team Newcastle United. 

"The Geordies, as we call ourselves, are the best fans in the country. They're terrific. They're known for being terrific fans. The manager of Newcastle, that's the most important job in the north. It's a big deal, you know. 

"Sam Fender did a great contribution [on 'Going Home'] as well. He's a big star in Newcastle and he's going to be a big star everywhere I think - Sam. So it was lovely to get a contribution from him."

The cover of Mark Knopfler's 2024 album One Deep River

Photo: Copyright (c) 2019 Alex Manders/Shutterstock

Knopfler feels very lucky for his connection with the other musicians who worked on One Deep River, his tenth solo album.

"The feeling between everybody, it's just so nice, so pleasant. Everybody was in mourning at the end of the session so I think that we'll be looking forward to next time, if we can organise that after I write some more songs."

While being a songwriter is about your relationship with the lyrics and with the song, Knopfler says, being a musician is very different.

"These players have got a great relationship with their instruments ... The 'feel' has got to be right. They won't necessarily be talking about it, but they will know that they're listening to each other. One day you play something different and somebody else will hear it and they'll reflect that back because they're used to playing off each other.

"The studio's only two or three miles away from where we live, and it's wonderful to be able to go in and record ... If I write a decent song I just want to try and make a decent record. I think I've reached that kind of stage now. I'm just really delighted when the records make people happy."

Watch Mark Knopfler and his band working on One Deep River: