I’ve been asked why I’ve allowed my album to be downloaded for free. There are two reasons really. Firstly, as I’m hoping that people will buy my new book in 2021 it seemed almost cheeky to also ask them to buy a bunch of songs. And secondly, as a lover of music I know just how MUCH quality music is out there already. By making my music free, does it reflect the amount of time gone into making it? Definitely not. But I’m also aware that there is so much better stuff out there and I’d rather see people buying stuff from musicians trying to make a living from their music. For me my music is a hobby. I’m not trying to be deliberately self-deprecating here. Just honest.
Ok, now for the stories behind the songs. As a student of songwriting, I love hearing how songs come about. There are some great shows out there that cover this very thing. I’d highly recommend the Sodajerker and Attention Engineer podcasts and The Ashen Asks YouTube series to name but three.
So, here is a brief breakdown into how the songs from my album, Piece by Piece, came into being.
Track by Track
A Home for Everyone: This was the last one to record and one of two songs written during the first lockdown of 2020. I’d read an article about the great work that my local council were doing trying to get homeless into accommodation at the start of the pandemic. The song tries to highlight some of the challenges and rewards that come with the work. And it chimes with the broader campaign, run by homeless charities across the country, striving for a home for everyone.
The Last to Know: First song recorded with Andy (friend, musician, producer – see www.andrewcleggguitar.co.uk). I recorded a guitar and vocal line and then attempted the fairly straight forward guitar instrumental. And I just couldn’t get it right! He was very patient re-recording the line over and over again. It was exhausting! Eventually he managed to piece together a full guitar line from a series of individual takes. Piece by piece you could say! The song was inspired by the story of Christopher McCandless that was made into the film, Into the Wild. Wonderful movie and even better soundtrack by the brilliant Eddie Vedder.
If You Stop: Another song written inspired by a movie. And a book. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a rather bleak apocalyptic story but it threw up some great imagery which I used in the song. The song, and the resultant video I did for it, develops the theme more into one concerning the current climate emergency we are facing. Also recorded with Andy.
The Shadow of the Moon: It’s basically a love song that also speaks of the possibility of freedom and promise that you often get if you get a chance to get away for the summer.
Seasons: I’d been listening to Four Seasons in One Day by Crowded House and the line Seasons Come and Seasons Go just popped into my head. That became the basis for the song. My favourite bit in the song is the middle 8 where I sing about the cyclical nature of the seasons. I particularly like Andy’s Beatles’ inspired keyboard chords in this part of the song.
Lose Today: Originally the demo was faster and thrashier until Andy’s production refined it into a more contemplative song. And it’s all the better for it. Lyrics inspired by the movie Che, about the revolutionary Che Guevara.
Desperate: Probably every songwriter has written a song inspired by the dire situation of the 2020 lockdown. This was my attempt. As the title goes, it attempts to capture the desperation felt by so many of us during parts of this year when we just longing for the simple, sometimes mundane elements of life to come back. The words for the spoken part at the end are credited to Michael Stipe of R.E.M. who was asked to comment about the future after the pandemic.
Start Again: I’ve actually written another song on a previously unreleased album called Begin Again. I perhaps like the idea of renewal. The song talks of the courage to keep going when a change is necessary. The Christmas sound is entirely unintentional but it was recorded in December!
Another Winter: This song started as two separate lyrical ideas. But they came together to highlight the problem of how the climate emergency seems to be often overlooked and disregarded. The direct reference is whether our country’s flood defences will keep lasting another winter.
Not Going Home: This Christmas song was written for an exercise set by my local songwriters’ group. I’d imagine most songwriters have written or attempted to write a Christmas song. This was my attempt to write a bittersweet Christmas song. The style is a homage to my favourite Christmas song of all time. The Pogues' Fairytale of New York.
Suche Deine Selle: Inspired by two great bands. Oasis and Crowded House. I watched the documentary Supersonic where songwriter Noel Gallagher explained that often his best songs are written quickly and do not always have to make logical sense. I tried that approach and wrote the lyrics and melody in less than an hour straight after watching Supersonic. The recording and production took a lot longer. And it was here that came the Crowded House inspired chant of Suche Deine Selle that forms the backbone of the song. It’s not in English because Search Your Soul didn’t scan as well. I tried different languages before finding the German translation worked the best! Trial and error!
Breaking Through: This was my attempt to write a song from the point of view of another person. In this case, it was the main character in the book I had started writing at the time. From the aspect of the story, he lived on top of the world but was feeling very down. For good reason. He was suffering anguish and the song explores this through the comparison of opposite situations. This was the last song I recorded with Andy and Esther and the part where Esther takes over lead vocals is my favourite part of the whole album. (check out Esther’s two great albums on her bandcamp page estherclare.bandcamp.com)
Lyrics for each track are available on my bandcamp page.