My new album ‘Reel To Reel’ is available now on cassette, CD and high quality digital download from Bandcamp (and also via Spotify and Apple Music etc.) I began writing the songs for it in February and only finished recording it a couple of weeks ago. I had a bit of a nightmare because the Tascam four track machine I was recording it on died on me before I had finished the drum and vocal parts. To cut a long story short, I eventually managed to acquire an identical machine in order to finish it off in time for its scheduled pre-Christmas release. Here’s a little snapshot of the songs on it:
‘Pictures Of You’ was the first song I wrote after I released my previous LP RIDE in September 2018. I gave myself four months off from songwriting after the launch and I am looking forward to having a break from it again now! I always seem to write more in the spring. Perhaps ideas germinate over the winter? It started life as a challenge from my friend Paul to write a song starting with a major 7th chord. It’s about a relationship that, at the time, I thought would last forever. My eleven year old daughter created a video for it one Sunday afternoon on her phone. It was an imaginary incident I wrote about in the song, but when we made the film I genuinely had no idea what was in the box that is featured. It actually contained some of the items, like photographs stuck together, mentioned in the lyrics and pictures of the person and time I was referring to. Weird.
‘Sophie’s Song’ followed, originally entitled ‘A Sunny Day’. I read about Sophie Scholl’s heroic life via an article on Facebook. It really helped to put things into perspective for me about modern life.
‘Why Did You Break My Heart?’ came next, a sort of Americana thing, closely followed by ‘Nostalgia Show’. Joel Rocko, who I had collaborated with on the song ‘Record Collection on RIDE, sent me some more lyrics that I adapted for this one. It's about bands that were big in the past endlessly playing the nostalgia circuit. I start out cynical, but of course, in the end, I go to the concert, too. I would be the biggest hypocrite ever if I scorned people for trying to live in the the past!
‘Real’ is a very personal song that I wrote for my mum. Many of the songs I subsequently wrote contain, either consciously or unconsciously, themes about loss because, sadly, this has been a very difficult year. However, there are hope-filled songs, too, such as 'Believe Me'. It took me about forty takes to play this one through without making a mistake! That's the thing about recording in the old school way on tape – it’s very difficult to edit if you make a mistake.
‘This Song’ came next, a Belle and Sebastian type thing, and then ‘The Bright Field’. I wrote this in an attempt to emulate what Fleetwood Mac’s Danny Kirwan achieved in his setting to music poems by Rupert Brooke and W.H. Davies in 'Dust' and 'Dragonfly' respectively, both of which I have previously covered. R.S. Thomas’s The Bright Field is a poem I’ve loved for years.
I wrote ‘Forever’ after hearing ABBA’s ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’ for the first time. I was an emotional wreck afterwards. 'Forever' is my attempt to write something along the same lines.
My mate Dean Wilson sent me the chorus to ‘Fly Tipper’ one day in May. He sang it acapella as a WhatsApp message and asked me what I thought. I thought it was great and immediately went to work finishing off the story.
‘Travelling With The Sun King’ came to me mysteriously one day. At the time I was learning how to play Abbey Road with my Beatles tribute band, ‘All You Need Is The Beatles’ for a 50th anniversary concert, so there must have been a lyrical starting point there.
By now I had enough songs for an album and had begun recording on the Tascam 424 recorder I had recently purchased. As I’ve mentioned previously, the idea was always to record an album using analogue gear only. Songs kept coming through and I soon had demos for ‘Know’, ‘Three Wishes’ and ‘My Precious One’. I thought it would be a good idea to video the process of recording ‘Know’ because I’d always wanted to make one of those films you see on YouTube of someone playing all the instruments to a song with the screen broken up into quarters. Editing the video proved to be much harder than recording the song, as it turned out!
My daughter said ‘Three Wishes’ would be a good title for a song and suggested that I wrote one. I thought it was a fab idea. She’s recently come up with another great song title which I need to follow up. I like the idea of writing songs to order. It reminds me of doing creative writing at school. ‘My Precious One’, like ‘Know’ and ‘Forever’, is also about her.
In August I drove to France with my family for a holiday on a caravan park which proved to be one to forget. It rained all week and there was very little to do without access to the pool and beach. We played a lot of Uno and at one point I got my guitar out and came up with the idea for ‘Shine’. The title was obviously wishful thinking!
The final two songs written for the album were ‘Where You Are’ and ‘Stick Around’. Both came in the form of melodies I dreamt then forced myself to wake up and stagger downstairs at three in the morning to record them on my phone. The latter is clearly influenced by The Velvet Underground, who I was listening to a lot at the time.
Seventeen is too many songs for a single album, really, but I didn’t know which ones to leave off. There are about twenty more that I’ve written that I didn’t use. Some of these will probably see the light of day eventually. I’m just so pleased to have managed to achieve what I set out to do and record the album on a four track; the first time I have done this since my first album, Solomon’s Tump, recorded sixteen years ago! I hope you enjoy it.
By the way, that's my mum's music box that you hear at the end of the album. I remember it from when I was little.