on the fiddle

I was listening to Wogan on Radio 2 this morning.  Okay… my girlfriend was listening to it, I was hovering nearby making toast.  But anyway, Seth Lakeman was being interviewed.  He also performed a few of his songs – including another spectacular rendition of Kitty Jay.  Well, it took me back to the times we played together, and then to the songs I was writing around that time.  This is a site that is documenting the creation of my new album. In fact it is currently documenting the creation of two albums.  I find it interesting to reflect on the intervening years.  What has changed in my approach to crafting a song?

In those heady days of the early noughties I felt I had the world in the palm of my hands.  I wanted to create lush soundscapes, beautiful walls of sparkle.  I wanted to take your breath away.  I wrote from the heart, but I did write the lyrics in a slightly cryptic manner – I wanted to take you with me, but I wanted you to have to hear, to listen, to think.

So, what’s changed?  What are my songs about today?  Hmmmm.  Well, I want to create lush walls of sound. I want to take your breath away.  I write from the heart.  But today, I don’t so strongly feel the need to hide behind the lyrics.  I am who I am.  I say what I say.  I feel my music has come on in leaps and bounds.  I am producing music that surprises me.  Music that can hold its own with anything out there.  But the most important thing is that the music ebbs and flows.

I have been working on the latest Eleventh Hour song today.  Bill and I have a winning formula.  I tend to write the music and Bill tends to write the words (with a little overlap here and there).  When it comes to this album the ability to concentrate on the music has been a revelation.  I have produced a collection of songs that I feel are up there with the best.  I have been able to create emotions and stories with sound.  And I have been so lucky to have Bill as the other half of The Eleventh Hour.  He is the best lyricist I have worked with bar none.  Okay, he’s the only lyricist I’ve worked with ’cause I’ve always written the words myself before – but I mean that I read his lyrics and I just think “wow”.   Seriously good stuff.  He’s up there with the best of them!  So, I listened to our ‘album so far’ through today and it just blew me away.  My music and his words are the perfect fit.  The album flowed by and in a split second it was gone.  Half an hour of the most intriguing, intricate, exciting music I’ve heard in a long time.  And it’s mine!!! Ha ha.

So, as I was saying… I was working on the latest song today.  I’ve pretty much mixed it.  It has a beautiful ending.  A real “heart fluttering” ending.  An ending which probably places the song at the end of the album.  The final track.  I was mixing the song, mixing in Bill’s contribution of multiple layers of chimes and whooshing sounds… and the song became something else.  Not just a song that we’ve created… from nothing.  No.  The song became its own entity – right before my ears.  A truly gorgeous massage of sound, swirling, rising, falling and dying.  Music has to die.  The perfect end to what is shaping up to be my perfect album.

Anyway… I buttered the toast, Seth played Kitty Jay, and I raised a cup of tea to him.  We have both come a long way in those years.  A life in music is one of trials and tribulations.  Of great ups and depressing downs.  But one thing always remains a constant.  Music is you. You are your music.  Everything life throws at you becomes your music.  There is no spoon.  But there is always a guitar.  People may ask what ‘inspires’ you to write a song.  But that isn’t the right question.  The question should be “to what extent does the song write you?”.  It’s a loop.  Chicken and egg.  All the clichés.  My life is laid bare via music.  The new song will be posted soon.  Don’t you guys let me down.

cuts cuts cuts

Everywhere we look, all directions… cuts cuts cuts.  No money for anything.  Bleak times.  Time then for uplifting songs?  Time for lyrics that are fuelled by the gloom?  There is a place for all comers.

The new song is really progressing.  It should actually be a refreshing surprise for you all.  I can reveal (if I haven’t already) that it is the latest track in my collaboration with Bill Ryan.  The Eleventh Hour as a project has been a revelation.  Nearing 8 songs in, I’ve got to say that it has been a joy to construct a collection of songs that are so focussed, intelligent and rocking.  While the country around me is taking part in a reckless gamble it is with a certain reassurance that I now ponder what The Eleventh Hour has so far achieved.  The songs are powerful, modern, forward-looking and distinctly retro.  I like that.  A set of songs that feel like the future (garlic bread don’t you know) and yet could be considered retro.  Oxymorons and other such strange words.  This is the world Bill and I inhabit.  And it comes naturally.  This has been a most constructive year for me.  I have written songs which I rank among my personal best.  It has been great to work with such a fine lyricist as Bill.  Before our collaboration I felt I had probably written all I had to say.  I could pick you a song I had written which could sum up most emotions.  But I realise I was wrong to feel that way.  You can never ‘be done’ with writing lyrics.  There is ALWAYS something to say.  Which leads on brilliantly to the subject of the new Eleventh Hour song.  It very much feeds on these ideas.  Can you ‘be done’ with music?  Music itself.  Music and lyrics.  The song will help answer the question.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a question that any of you out there are asking.  But it’s a question that for me very much needs to be answered.   This is the song that needed to be written.  Most songs are accidental.  Plucked from the ether.  This song is a necessity.  Wait till you hear it.  You might just understand what I mean.  And if you don’t, the X-factor will be on the tv for your eternal enjoyment.