★★★★ The Times
Release date 10 MAY 2019
- GETTING THERE
- I SAW THE FAIR
- IT’S A TRAP
- COMING UNDONE
- LEAD OR FOLLOW
- BETTER THAN BEFORE
- IT’S ALRIGHT
- UNHAPPY THIEVES
- DRIVING HOME
- ALL AT SEA
- THE KINDNESS OF OTHERS
(Download the press-release here.)
01 GETTING THERE:
I started with the phrase, “let me start at the beginning.” I wanted to describe something plainly and truthfully. “I’m a husband and a father and a man without a plan.” I may not have had a plan but I have a family who love me and we’re a gang: who needs a plan? Musically, I’m a sucker for a pedalled bass note (bass stays the same; chords change) and that seemed a good setting for this: a hopeful musical backdrop to a strangely hopeful lyric.
02 I SAW THE FAIR:
This is a tune I’d had for ages. I’d previously tried another lyric that related to an earlier time and then, by chance, I saw a fairground in a field in West Bay near where I live. It reminded me of seeing a fair for the first time when I was younger. I liked the idea of an older person getting on the big wheel for a ride in an attempt to try and capture something of what they’d forgotten about for all these years. I didn’t get on the big wheel myself, however. You won’t catch me riding on anything more exciting than a lift.
03 IT’S A TRAP
The whole thing’s a trap. I think this song is about greed and envy and forgetting that we’re all utterly unique and important and are spinning round the stars for a very short time indeed. The grass will always seem greener but it’s worth deciding if green grass is actually what you’re after. “What you have is where it’s at.” I found the four chord inversions that make up the verses by accident one afternoon and it triggered the whole thing.
04 COMING UNDONE
I’m often easily distracted when I’m feeling low and this is a story about that. I’m pleased with the guitars and the groove. Jo Hooper’s staccato cello rhythm is fantastic.
05 LEAD OR FOLLOW
I was really taken with the melody I found; I love it where I sing “lead or follow” in the verses. The slow and creeping rhythm was after a James Maddock song that I like. Rhythm has been a bit more on my mind for this record. The lyric explains itself, I think. My friend Jennifer Crook played some harp on an eleventh-hour overdub just before the tracks went off to be mixed. I’ve been wanting to get Jennifer on a record for ages and I nearly didn’t again. It was worth waiting.
06 BETTER THAN BEFORE
We’re doing our best aren’t we? “Save me from the worst of me.” I think I wanted to write about how good intentions alone are seen as not enough, but it’s sometimes all we can manage. And, all the time, we’re learning; we’re getting better. I asked my friend Robert Lee to play a bit of sympathetic piano underneath the whole thing to give it a little subliminal authority. I worked hard on the detailed chord progressions and on making sure everything felt complete.
07 IT’S ALRIGHT
In essence: don’t worry about it because it’s only you who is judging you: just get on with it. I asked my eldest son to find me a really good synth sample. George Arnold (mix engineer for the record) recorded all the keyboards on the album out onto tape and then back into the computer which gave everything an alive quality. All my late-eighties guitar sounds—which are going round my head all the time—got themselves a day-out on this track.
08 UNHAPPY THIEVES
My wife read a book by Nick Duffell called ‘The Making of Them’ about the concept of Boarding-School Survivors. A lack of love early-on and a sense of entitlement massively confusing what’s important in the lives of those who went to boarding-school who often go on to become the decision makers in the top jobs including big, banking jobs. Decisions that affect us. As a result of their upbringing the decisions they make can factor-out love and feelings and all that. I wondered whether or not the ‘thieves’ were happy.
09 DRIVING HOME
This whole song is a yarn built off the words ‘driving home’ which was all I had for months as I was writing it. I’m hoping it’s a useful metaphor for somebody.
10 ALL AT SEA
This is the oldest song on the record. I had the chords on the piano for ages before I managed to work it into a song structure. I actually quite like feeling all at sea: I like getting lost. When I’m out walking, I will always try and take a route I’ve never taken before in order to get lost and then have the thrill of finding my way back. This is true both geographically and psychologically. I wanted this track to be resonant.
11 THE KINDNESS OF OTHERS
This song began as a thank-you to a couple who put money into my previous album. They were due to receive a credit in the album artwork and, for some reason, that got overlooked and their names didn’t appear. I apologised and they said to keep the money and put it towards this record. I wrote this for them.