[Oh dear blog! It looks like I went to Wales and never came back again, understandbly.]
This is a round-up of what I was so busy doing last year that I didn't get around to posting about!
I started out at the start of 2017 with a good year of collaborations and writing under my belt and sat down to make a list. Something about 2016 - (honestly I think it was working up the courage to ask other people to work with me and that this was happily well-received) - expanded new avenues in terms of the music I felt I wanted to make. I had a growing backlog of songs, some on guitar, some on piano, some I knew I wanted to build a band for. Rather than try to pour everything into one project I decided I’d break it down into separate projects based on the the musical setups and producers involved. And suddenly, there it was: the masterplan…
Suffice to say of the five projects I planned, only one got finished within the year - the Doesn’t Take Much EP with Stephen Nurse (which was the easiest because it came together in two afternoons of live sessions!) In total I did at least 30 days in the studio (on top of extended hours at work), very nearly drove myself crazy, and never got to writing up any of it here - but I’m pleased to say that everything is now (very nearly!) done and it will all get released this year.
So here's a run-down of what's out and what's on its way:
1. Doesn't Take Much EP - this is the EP featuring Stephen Nurse on Harmonica with Vicky Keohane on bodhrán, the product of two afternoon sessions in May and happily released in July. We did this live as a trio and it includes remakes of Solid Ground and Wish You Were from These Hours plus some new material I wrote after meeting Stephen.
So far so good!
This is the new full-length studio album and accounts for the biggest proportion of the work from last year. 12 brand new songs (although some that have been kicking around an awfully long time live - Swim Any Sea, Some Kind of Comfort etc.) and a re-make of From You originally on Doesn't Take Much. These are guitar-based songs although I did end up putting a little piano on a couple of them where I felt it benefitted the song (more on piano songs to come!) and there's quite a list of credits: Vicky Keohane is back on bodhrán, her dad Aidan joined us on mandolin, Daniel Fitzgibbon and Russ Watts on drums, Chris Hyde-Harrison on double bass, Maggie Casey on whistles and producer Gareth Cobb played bass guitar - plus there's a tiny bit of viola from me and quite a bit of harmony work. We've played mix and match with instrumentation and I don't think there are any two songs that have exactly the same ensemble. There's also a wider range in the writing compared with These Hours.
Beacon is launching on 4th February (that's tomorrow!!) and we have a launch gig at the Oval Tavern, literally just round the corner here in Croydon, where we'll be putting the band together live for one night only. I'm super pleased with how Beacon has turned out and we'll see where it goes.
Half-light is the acoustic album launching at the same time as Beacon - it has the straight single acoustic takes of most of the Beacon songs (the ones that work best as solo acoustic songs!) plus the songs on the Renegades EP (keep reading...)
This is a live-in-the-studio collection like These Hours and some of these acoustic takes were the base we built the Beacon tracks around - it actually proved to be quite an efficient way to work. It's there because I know some people just prefer the raw acoustic sound, and because I like to keep a record of what I'm doing as I go along!
4. Reckless Heart EP - this is a live piano + band EP of 6 songs I wrote for piano and as a result is quite a different, poppy sound. This was something I've wanted to do for a really long time: we set aside one full day in the studio and put all six songs down live. It was one of the most amazing experiences I've had, and I'm endlessly grateful to producer Andy Brook, Dan Smith (drums) and Daniel Fitzgibbon again (this time on bass guitar) for making it happen.
This project is all mixed and mastered and ready to go once Beacon settles down and we've all recovered from the excitement of Sunday's launch!
5. Renegades EP
Yes! As originally planned there is going to be an EP built around Renegades which has been out since late 2016. I've been working with producer John Lovell who has been doing beautiful things to three other songs to go together with Renegades as a mini release. This could have happened much sooner but various things (Hoodoo's closing for one) have gotten in the way and then I got caught up in Beacon - but this is very nearly finished too and the acoustic versions of the tracks are out tomorrow on Half-light.
Altogether that's 42 tracks - with duplicate versions I think it's 25 songs altogether. Which I know now is too much to try to do in one year! So at least I've learnt something... I'm not entirely sure either where this leaves me in terms of songwriting for 2018 as everything I've done in this list has been so great to do - where next? But for the time being I'm back to writing on guitar in my quiet moments.