CAN it really be nearly 21 years since Embrace released The Good Will Out?

Released in 1998, it was one of the fastest-selling debut albums by a British artist, going Gold on the day of release. The NME declared it “one of the great debut albums of the decade”. Number 1 in the album charts, it went Platinum, sold over half a million copies in the UK and spawned three Top 10 hits; All You Good, Good People, Come Back to What You Know and My Weakness Is None Of Your Business

Next month Embrace play two Christmas gigs (The Mill, Birmingham, December 8, and Southampton’s Engine Rooms, December 9) ahead of a 2019 tour playing The Good Will Out in full, celebrating the 21st anniversary of their seminal album. They're at O2 Academy, Leeds, on March 16.

“It’s been fun going back to those songs,” says keyboard player Mickey Dale. “We’ve always played the hits, but it’s quite something to play the album in full, with renewed energy and the ability we have now.”

It was Embrace’s last album, Love Is A Basic Need, that sparked the idea. The rousing, anthemic tracks took fans back to the band’s early sound. “It was such a pleasure to record, and people kept saying it reminded them of the first album. We thought: ‘You know what, this is what the fans really love’,” says Mickey.

Listening to an album in full seems a retro concept... “Yes, it was something I cherished - going to HMV on the bus, buying the album you’d saved up for, sitting in front of the stereo, looking at the artwork,” says Mickey. “You got to know an album, you made yourself listen to it all the way through. I love an EP because I get a similar insight into a band’s pysche.”

Drawing talent from Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees, Embrace started out in 1990 as Danny and Richard McNamara, Steve Firth and Mike Heaton. Mickey joined after The Good Will Out. “I'd already started working for them in 1996. It was a cliquey little music scene; I knew them and they knew me,” he says.

It was a last minute ‘phone call one day, requesting a string arrangement sound for All You Good Good People, that landed him in the band. “I put my tea to one side, jumped in a car and created what sounded like a 40-piece orchestra. Not bad for a lad who can’t read music,” smiles Mickey. “I went down to London with Embrace when they signed their record deal, and became part of the furniture. They’d been together a while before I came along and were a bit protective of being a four-piece. I had other projects on the go, but eventually they popped the question.”

He adds: "We had brilliant people who guided us as a band. I'm not sure record labels do that now. But there are some great young bands out there, the standard of musicianship is high. They just need to get out there and play."

Prior to Embrace, Mickey worked at the Telegraph & Argus as an editorial messenger and later in pre-press. “It was an exciting place to work, I used to go all over the building delivering sandwiches, taking stuff to the photo-copier. I thought about journalism, but it meant going to college and I wanted to earn money,” he says. "I was in a band called Poppy Factory, we got a record deal but it didn't last too long. I was an unemployed musician for a while, but I was steadfast and bloody-minded."

Embrace have had three Number 1 albums and six Top 10 singles to date. In 2006 they were chosen to record England’s official football World Cup song, World At Your Feet. Each band member has been busy with other projects over the years, but Mickey says they're happier as a band now. "When you're together 300 days a year it can get a bit fractious, but we get on better than ever now," he says. "The music flows naturally, 20 years on."