Beacon Backstories: Last Summer

The more I write about the songs the more I realise how much they’ve made things better for me. Maybe not one particular song but as a whole, it’s very comforting to know they’re out there in the world.

Premise: A cheery song about the premonition that life was about to get better, and a close friend was about to arrive.

I wrote the core of this under a tree by the stream at Beddington Park in a break between sets at the Wallington Music Festival, during a boiling hot year that I think must have been 2015. I spent a lot of that summer running around parks and lying in the grass in the sunshine – slept barefoot is a bit of an exaggeration but not by much – and also spent that year and the years around it playing a lot of music and making a lot of friends, so this song was a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Recording Process:

This was one song that just got happier as it went along and it really was a team effort. The draft track having been passed around everyone was invited to contribute their own lines – Chris came in first with his bass line that pushed the song further on its cheery little path and then Vicky gave us a range of sounds by experimenting with different beaters – we ended up going with something top-endy to sit in the mix alongside Daniel’s snare. But the real show-stealer was Aidan’s ultra-catchy mandolin riff that had us all chirping along for days after that session. Then thought we’d throw in some vocal echoes in the verses.

Feature Lyrics:

Heard you calling in the rain coming down

Barefoot in the grass I slept


The way it’s always seemed to me

Life leads us where we need to be


Listen out for:

Extremely cheery mandolin starting 0:14 and onwards… and some tasty mandolin harmony at 2:44

Band stops in the verses like 0:23, 1:24, 2:42


Best band song by far! Lots of fun to play, great to have everyone pile in wherever it comes in the set.

Live video of Last Summer at Ruskin House (Croydon Folk & Blues Club) night 25th March 2018.

Beacon Backstories: Messages

When someone asks you, outright, if you’re in love with them, what do you say?


Recording Process:
Super straightforward – guitar and vocal first, piano added after. I was aiming for a drumless mix and it turned out to be one of those rare songs that works equally well on piano and guitar.

This song was fun to write and if you’ve seen it live you may well know the story because it’s one I love to tell – suffice to say that I lied when I told you I wasn’t in love, but darlin’ you lied to me too is a real-life extract and the song is about concealing the truth as much as telling it. I’ll admit to not having always acquitted myself well in matters of the heart; but sometimes writing a song can right a situation in your head and provide those words you needed at the time but failed to find, and for that reason I find singing this song immensely satisfying (and it’s also quite slushy in its way, which works). The bridge is one of my favourite to sing, it’s quite close to the top of my range and I remember writing it thinking it was a bit of risk (putting things together in the studio is a good time to take risks). There are good practical reasons for playing this one early in a live set as the bridge acts as a good barometer for how well my voice is warming up – the rest of it being fairly low and comfortable. I try to write to the edges of my range wherever possible (it’s not that far!) because I think you can get some really good emotional tension at the top end, or by slipping into falsetto at just the right point – for that reason there are songs that I wouldn’t be able to guarantee would work at the start of a set, but this isn’t one of them (I’m thinking Flowers maybe, or Wish These Years Away, or something like Daughters of Mercy).

Feature Lyrics:

You’re so easy to love, it’s not like I can help it

Listen out for:

Piano run at 0:10 and on the entry to all the other verses. The spectacular Fabia Anderson very kindly did the honours on piano at the launch night (as well as treating us to a spellbinding solo opening to the second half) and gave this 4-note run some special attention; it’s still hummed by members of the band as Fabia’s solo whenever we play it live if she’s not there :)


More likely to get played than not, it usually fits in the set somewhere.



Beacon Backstories: Behind The Lines

Behind The Lines

Premise: Love, separation, war and death

Recording Process: This was very nearly not a song at all, and very much an experiment in writing about something - war - that I know nothing about. Usually I have a fairly settled idea about a song pretty quickly but my uncertainty over Behind The Lines meant it was hard to pin down - I’ve never had so many combinations of possible lyrics and parts of verses for a song before or since! It reminded me of writing poetry in school almost. In the end I related it back to something I do know something about: writing .The central idea of giving someone a book where you’ve written down all the things you’ve felt about them, for them to read and draw strength from when you’re far away – well that’s just the sort of thing I would do.

Musically, I knew I wanted to do something unaccompanied or at least with no guitar, something that would foreground the vocal (don’t get me wrong, I love to play, but singing is the bit I live for) that could maybe be the album opener. I had unfinished fragments of Behind The Lines floating about quite late into the Beacon process – there’s no Half-Light version because it didn’t exist as a song at that point, and anyway it would have been just the vocal… might work, might not. On the day we went in to record Vicky’s bodhrán session she kindly played the rhythm along to a quickly cobbled-together guide track of mis-ordered lyrics and humming – almost as an experiment, but it was enough to give me hope that the song might eventually come together. We kept discussing it during the sessions that followed and Gareth talked about asking Russ to come in and drum, which he did, bringing an authentic WWII-era snare with him. I really feel like I owe Gareth a lot for getting taken up with this song and encouraging me to keep trying ideas lyrically and on the production – not sure I would have persevered with it on my own. I think the vocals went down next, and then we put the viola drones in, recording all the notes of the scale and bringing them in and out on the faders to make chords, until it ended up being the perfect atmospheric start to the album.

Feature lyrics:            

And summoned he no angels there

In the dark, laid his wounds to shadows bare


Listen out for:

The augmented 4th in the drone at 3:13

Forever-reverb on the last note of the vocal at 3:47 onwards.


Live: works well with just the bodhrán and harmonies, and Vicky’s been known to throw in the harmonies as well. At the launch night we had Maggie Smith put the drone in on her shruti box – it was the first song of the show and a brilliant feature to kick off with.


There’s now a video of the hand-written lyrics here.