I wanted to give you some background info on the 21 tracks we squeezed onto the album, covering my inspirations and the artists I collaborated with. I couldn’t have finished the album without these incredibly talented and stupendously kind folk, so big thanks to them!
Oh, Captain is an existential crisis expressed in nautical metaphor. This upbeat, Beatles inspired song talks about the difficulty of making good life decisions, and muses on how much easier life would be with a ‘Captain’ to guide you. I collaborated with my good friend Spaceship who added harmonica, harmonies, harpsichord and much more.
Lake Like Glass
Lake Like Glass began life as an instrumental, composed by Andy McDonald and Craig Sutherland of Megalith Music. The guys sent me the track and I immediately heard a laid-back, summery vocal in the melody. It’s one of the easier, breezier songs on the album.
My Friendly Skeleton
In My Friendly Skeleton, mortality takes the form of a supportive buddy. The subject of death and its inevitability is one we’ve all considered at one time or another, and I wanted to take a more positive approach to this constant of life. The ‘friendly skeleton’ of the song is a gentle reminder that life is short, and to live every moment. I’m on guitar duties (and vocal of course) bass is by David Ding and all other instrumentation is by the wonderful Spaceship!
Hindsight is a nostalgic, melancholic musing on time passing and the pain of getting older, as well as the accrued wisdom. I think we all have a tendency to look back and yearn for what seemed like simpler times before we gathered the inevitable baggage that comes with age. The arrangement is by Anthony Ferraro with instrumentation also by Craig Sutherland and Andy McDonald.
This started out a very short, simple acapella piece about the regret of a love gone cold. I worked with composer Yousef Khalil who added an epic, orchestral arrangement. We worked together to fill out the track, adding a climactic crescendo .
Smile Bomb is me at my poppiest. It’s a song about how bottling things up is never a good idea. I wanted to say that true friends aren’t only there for the good times, and smiling and pretending through the pain helps no one. Musically it began as a simple guitar and vocal piece, and was later adorned with honky-tonk piano, additional harmonies and more by Matt Sigler of The Morning Hollows. I met Matt at the creative hub that is Hitrecord.org, along with many of the other musicians on the album.
Flawed Romance grew from a quirky instrumental piece by Ryan Patrick. The plunky notes of the toy piano inspired a darkly comedic song about an unusual love story which can be read literally as being about a blow-up doll, or more metaphorically, as exploring the inequalities of an unhealthy relationship.
Everything, Baby is a plain and simple love song. There are echoes of Regina Spektor in the lyrics which range from retro to quaint. The treatment with piano is thanks again to Craig Sutherland and Andy McDonald, and gives the track a more sultry, classic feel then the original guitar demo.
Wanderer, like Clocks Back, came to existence as an acapella piece. The song grew from first line, which came to me, melody and all while washing the dishes one day.
‘If you fall in the forest
Will you make a single sound?
When there are only trees to hear you
Will you ever be found?’
The song evolved into a mother’s lament as she realizes she can’t keep her children safe. Once they fly the nest, they are out of her control and will inevitably be in harm’s way. The haunting orchestration is again courtesy of Yousef Khalil and adds to the timeless, dark fairytale quality of the song.
Skin of the Wolf
Skin of the Wolf is an earthy, almost pagan song about being connected to the Earth, to the moment and to the real. In the distraction-laden, often superficial world we live in it’s sometimes easy to forget what’s really important. I composed the song on guitar and Andy McDonald and Craig Sutherland beefed it up with that great drumbeat as well as adding strings and piano.
Take Her to the Forest
Take Her to the Forest is definitely the folkiest track on the album. It’s a Fleet Foxes inspired plucky guitar song with lots of harmonies and a sweet love story at its core. Again it’s got an earthy, rural theme, but this time has a much lighter feel. This arrangement is thanks to the wonderful Anthony Ferraro.
Conquistador is the song of a woman obsessed with her lover, who she feels unworthy of. It’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek commentary on unbalanced relationships, where one partner feels, or is made to feel, the lesser in the relationship. The track features glorious guitars and tasteful Spanish touches by Robert J. Mills.
Shelter is a bare, delicate song that started life as a poem. It’s the imploring call for help from someone in a bleak spot. The piano and gently tinkly sounds are, again, by Andy McDonald and Craig Sutherland.
Ant on a Rock
This is a philosophical musing on the nature of existence and what it means to be human. The song preaches humility in place of arrogance when it comes to the big issues, since we’re all just ants on a giant floating rock after all! All instruments other than the guitar are by Andy McDonald and Craig Sutherland.
The Tailor and the Seamstress
This is a suggestive, innuendo laden, folky love song, set in a bygone era. The female character in the song is a feisty femme fatale of sorts – but a charming one. The musical arrangement is courtesty of Robert J. Mills.
Apologist is the third collaboration with composer Yousef Khalil to be featured on the album. It’s an emotional ballad about the games we play – about the burden of guilt -and it’s a bit of a tearjerker. The lyrics were draped around a melody by Yousef, which was originally written to accompany a different acapella song of mine.
Shadow Wonder originated from a set of lyrics written by Lawrie Brewster, who is also the album’s graphic designer and producer. They tell the dark story of a doomed love. The melody takes on a folky, almost country tone with an arrangement of guitar, strings and more by Anthony Ferraro.
This track started out as a classical piano piece by Mark Satta. The vintage tone of the melody led me to continue in that vein with the vocals, but the lyrical style is somewhat unexpected for the genre, so I hope it’s an interesting contrast. See Me, like a few of the tracks on the album, is about the psychology of an unbalanced relationship.
An 80s inspired electronic ballad about a femme fatale. The music was originally composed by Jeremy Mullins AKA tonguecutsparrow for the film White Out and will also appear on its soundtrack. I was immediately inspired by Jeremy’s synthy instrumental and added lyrics and vocals in an 80s style.
There’s a long story behind the evolution of Empire. It started with the film of the same name, directed by Lawrie Brewster. Lawrie asked me to compose a song for his Napoleonic war film, so I wrote a song in French entitled ‘Le Petit Soldat’. The song featured in the original version of the film, but when Lawrie decided to create a more experimental edit, he enlisted the help of Craig Sutherland and Andy McDonald who worked with the track to create this remix, which cleverly uses reversed sections of Le Petit Soldat along with an electronic score to great effect. The track now has a Sigur Ros-esque fantasy epic vibe.
An experimental, chopped up remix of the Wanderer vocals with electronic beats from talented Dundee musician thesherbethead. As with Empire, thesherbethead has used my vocals creatively to build new melodies and to suit a new style.