In: Studio

September 21, 2017

Studio Diary Part 3

The story behind a song

I’m in London working with Tobin Jones on more mixes. I’ve mentioned before that, unlike many mixing engineers who ask for references to other music you want your songs to sound like, Tobin wants to know about the song itself. It’s story, the characters involved, smells, tastes, where the song is. So in this episode I thought I’d share a little about what I’ve been telling him….

The story of Ranginui and Papatuanuku

This is how I was told the Maori creation myth, while living in New Zealand, by Bushka band founding member, dear friend and drumming bad-ass, Jean Pompey. Before the world began there was ‘Rangi’ the father and ‘Papa’ the mother. They were having a good time and kept producing more and more children. But the world wasn’t created yet and there was no space for all the children they kept producing. Rangi and Papa didn’t care, they kept having a good time. The children did however and, as conditions got more and more cramped and uncomfortable, they set about devising a way to separate their parents. One of the children, Tu, god of war, suggests killing them but the other siblings agree this is a step too far. Tane, god of the trees, suggests that instead, they push them apart. Only Tawhiri, god of wind, is against this idea and doesn’t believe in separating the parents. Nevertheless, Tane goes ahead and with all his might pushes and pushes, his whole body become taut.. With an almighty crash of light, Rangi and Papa are separated and the earth is created! Ranginui, the father, becomes the sky, Papatuanuku, the mother, becomes the earth. The children discover that while they’d been living in such cramped conditions, they’d become infested with tiny human beings who were now running around everywhere. Tawhiri, the sibling who’d been against the plan, is the only one of the children not to stay on the earth with their mother, and instead remains with his father, raging around the sky, berating his siblings for the magnitude of what they’d naively done. Rangi and Papa are heartbroken to be separated and according to this Maori myth, each night Rangi weeps for Papa, leaving dew drops on her skin, and Papa consoles him by sending rising mist up from the ground to the skies. See you for the next instalment when I’ll be sharing sessions with trumpets, strings and Indian bells gifted in Swiss mountains!

September 21, 2017

Studio Diary Part 2

Introducing artist Becky Lu, the best little coffee shop in Brighton and the Devonian Glorious Chorus.

A call from Hannah… I’m sheltering from the rain, on the phone to BBC Unsung Hero award winner, Hannah Brine. A bizarre series of events have perpetuated in Hannah and her London choir performing with me next year as part of my album release tour. Over the noise of the squall we talk logistics, four part harmonies, and the power of music- ever more poignant in these present times, in bringing Londoners from all walks of life, together to sing. We’ll need that bigger venue. I’ll call the promoter. And now jump in the sea for a morning swim as the rain pours.

Drawing a song…Illustrator Becky Lu is drawing my songs. Each single released from the new album will have it’s own piece of artwork. Back from an artists residency in Canada, Becky tells me that it was on the ferry to Vancouver Island, listening to ‘Don’t Know Much’, that she began to see the song in waves. And here’s a little secret, to the song which is a letter to our unborn child, the pattern within the waves are actually umbilical cords. The best little coffee shop in Brighton… Recording, mixing, mastering, pressing, rendering, printing, scoring, confirming, parking… and everything in between. It’s all in a day for any of the working musicians you see and hear doing their thing. On these admin days, Stoney Point, the cafe downstairs, provide consistently excellent coffee and company. I’m a huge fan of Patti Smith’s last book ‘M Train’, and I think she’d like it here. From a sea of budgets, and to-do lists, I bob up and talk to owner Jesse about Banjos, Existentialism and Banana bread. This is barista Hannah and an enormous dog.

South West show announced… To Totnes! The first tour date to be confirmed for next year’s Arts Council tour will be May 5th in Totnes, with non other than Devon’s ‘Glorious Chorus’ choir! Having just sung with Willy Mason at Roundhouse, force-to-be-reckoned-with choir leader Helen Yeomans and her choir will be joining me and the band. More UK dates to be announced soon! Until the next instalment; sing, dance, wave your hands up in the air… Just go get ’em.

September 21, 2017

Studio Diary Part 1

Part 1: The Recipe for a Record

In which we send two producers to Moscow, two tracks to London, and eat the finest Arancini this side of Palermo.

Record… I’ve teamed up with producers Chris Boot and Ben Daniel to bring you this record, created in a living room on Goldsmid Road, Brighton. Don’t tell anyone, but if you listen hard enough, you may just hear the number 7 bus pass by. But anyone who knows Chris and Ben knows these songs are in seriously safe hands. We finish our first stint of recording, (where drummer Chris plays the banjo for the first time!) just in time for the guys to jump on a plane to Russia and perform with Lucy Rose. Weather in Moscow- a balmy 24C. Lucky, Ben lost his shorts in India.

Mix… Tobin Jones doesn’t want to know about the records that you want your’s to sound like. He wants to know the stories behind the songs, the colours, where you were. We meet in London at my Green Note show and talk about baby names and vintage tape delays. 4 mix revisions later and ‘Don’t Know Much’ and ‘Keep You in Light’ are ready to be mastered. 

Master… (Arancini) Total superstar Poppy Ackroyd is arranging and performing strings. Please listen to her music and see her live, I believe there’s a Berlin show soon. We listen to Tobin’s mixes in her studio, just so happening to coincide this with the end of ‘Italian month’ where Poppy and her boyfriend Joe have been perfecting Italian recipes. The finale; ‘Sicilian Night!’ We feast on the best food I’ve had since the ferry from Catania. A return to Italy is definitely on the cards for 2018’s tour!