Referred to as a “genius” and a “downtown ringleader” by The New Yorker, Spottiswoode is the son of an American singer and an English clergyman. WNYC’s John Schaefer describes him as "one of New York’s more colorful band leaders for more than a decade.” For the past twenty two years, the Englishman has been the frontman of Spottiswoode & His Enemies, a septet that has become a New York institution.
With the band Spottiswoode has released seven acclaimed records, performed numerous Manhattan residencies and toured worldwide from SXSW and Lille Europe to Lincoln Center. The band has been profiled on NPR’s Weekend Edition and has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio programs XM Loft, World Cafe and Soundcheck.
In late November 2018 Spottiswoode & His Enemies released their seventh record, Lost In The City. The eighteen song epic - a giddy brew of jazz, chanson, rock, blues and minimalism - was included on several international Best-Of-Year lists and nominated for three Independent Music Awards winning one for Riley McMahon as Best Producer of an Eclectic Album. It “feels like the punchline to a joke that begins ‘Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Frank Sinatra walk into a bar…’ The man and his jaw-droppingly tight seven-piece are simply that sophisticated, that eccentric, that charismatic, time after time after time." (The Daily Vault)
Lost In The City is a swaggering antidote to the band’s sixth and more atmospheric collection, English Dream (2014). "A gloriously lush album!" (Popdose) "One of the half dozen best albums of 2014." (New York Music Daily). That album was also nominated for an Independent Music Award as the Best Adult Contemporary Album of that year.
In 2012, the band won 2 Independent Music Awards for their fifth record, Wild Goosechase Expedition, a critically hailed “miracle” about a rock band’s doomed wartime tour. Awards included Best Adult Contemporary Song (for the piano ballad, Chariot) and the Vox Populi Award for Best Eclectic Album.
Ironically, Spottiswoode has always bristled at that particular description of the band’s music. “We are expressionists!” he pleads. Although his songs travel the gamut from raw rock and roll anthems, confessional jazz ballads and gospel-inflected hymns to vaudevillian ditties, and although His Enemies seamlessly switch gears and instruments, there is a distinct signature to Spottiswoode’s work and a compelling emotional unity to the band’s shows. WXPN's Dan Reed concurs: "They do something that few bands can do: evoke real emotions, sometimes several different ones in a single song.” Paste Magazine describes the live show as “nothing short of transportive!”
Spottiswoode & His Enemies features John Young (bass), Tim Vaill (drums), Candace DeBartolo (saxophone), Kevin Cordt (trumpet), Riley McMahon (guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel), and Tony Lauria (piano, accordion, keyboards).
In addition to working with the band, Spottiswoode has released three acclaimed solo albums and the much-praised IMA-nominated duo record, S&M, with band guitarist Riley McMahon. New York chanteuse Bronwen Exter also covered thirteen of the Englishman's loungier songs for her beautiful debut album, Elevator Ride.
Spottiswoode’s songwriting has drawn comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Ray Davies, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, David Bowie, Randy Newman and many others. Still, he is his own man. He composes mostly on guitar, sometimes on piano and occasionally in his head - "very rarely, but those are often my best." His tunes have been performed and recorded by numerous artists and featured in a variety of television shows and films (A Street Cat Named Bob, She’s Out Of My League, The Ledge, Tart, Bridget, Bloodline, Kingdom) as well as in his own short film, The Gentleman, which he wrote, directed and scored and which played for several years on the Independent Film Channel.
He has also written a gothic rock opera, Above Hell’s Kitchen, that was presented to sold-out crowds at the 2010 New York Musical Theatre Festival. He still desperately hopes that someone will produce the film adaptation.
Another of his feature screenplays, Either Side Of Midnight, goes into production this autumn in New York City with Roger Spottiswoode attached to direct. Remarkably, Roger (most famous for helming one of the Bond films) is not a direct relation. The veteran director just happens to like the script - four interweaving tales set over one Friday night in New York City.
Alas, despite all the songs and scripts he has written, Spottiswoode still hasn’t settled on a style or even truly found his voice. He does portraits, landscapes, love songs, emotional psychodramas, abstracts, expressionist hallucinations, ornamental screens, stick figures, cartoons, and old-fashioned soda pop. He is happy to work in oil, clay, acetate, latex, wax, collage, mixed media, ceramics and crayon.
Clearly, Spottiswoode doesn’t know what he stands for. He recognizes this as a commercial liability and agrees with any critic who would consider it a long-standing artistic pitfall. It is the symptom of a life-long, not yet life-threatening, identity crisis.
He blames his mother.