What inspired you to write your latest single, Could Have Been?
This song was inspired by an inscription in a book of love poetry which read ‘Happy Birthday, 1978. Love John. Xxx Could have been so good – (see Somewhere on the Way)’. Somewhere on the Way is a poem by Peter Roche and is a heartbreaking account of love, lost due to an inability to communicate his feelings, and of hindsight. The poem uses the phrase ‘I wanted to say….’ about several things and this, combined with the inscription and a new guitar part I had just developed, resulted in this song. A gift to a songwriter!!
What’s your song writing process like?
Oh boy, that’s a hard one to answer. Having been asked it many times though I have come to realise that where it starts is usually me noodling with the guitar, maybe learning some new skills/parts, and then playing about with this and ideas that are beginning to formulate in my brain. Eventually, a song is born!!
What’s behind the title of your forthcoming fourth album ‘Where Time Suspends’?
This album had a working title of Music is Sunshine for most of its life and it only changed on the night before the actual CDs were to be pressed! I lay awake that night wondering if I’d called it the right thing, as the original title didn’t work with the cover art (a definite) and didn’t really give much of a clue about the content either or reflect the zeitgeist. After much tossing and turning, the line ‘where time suspends’ from the song, Music is Sunshine, jumped into my head as being the absolutely correct name for the album as it leaves the listener with a sense of wondering where life will go next. It felt very apt for the times we’re living in and also perfectly complemented the ambiguity of the artwork – in my opinion :).
Can you tell us some more about the album’s production?
This, my fourth album, has been almost five years in the making and I was really enjoying the actual process of its development. Several of the songs were brought to fulfilment using the process I’ve described above and, because this album wasn’t rushed at all, they developed in a very organic way. The producer, Marc Pilley, and I have worked together on all four albums and we just thought we’d allow it to take its time and see where that led us. We had a lot of fun and creative development in the course of the five years! The way we usually work is that Marc comes to my house, we have a chat and then he records ideas and songs that I’ve written. He then takes that away and adds his musical parts to it. All of the recording is normally done that way – my loft/studio is basically a recording studio as well as my studio for making art. We only had two songs left to finish when the pandemic struck and we were unable to meet up like this. After a few months of us not getting any work done on the album as we weren’t meeting up at all, I suggested that we could try to use my Tascam recorder as a means of me being able to send him really high-quality files. After a little bit of trial and error we found that this works really well and were able to finish off at last 🙂
What is behind the artwork for the album?
The photo in the cover art is of a scene in France that I’d photographed many years ago and which I felt was incredibly atmospheric. It was always going to be the album cover as it’s one of my favourite photos and I love it as an image.
How does Where Time Suspends sound compared to your previous releases?
It’s so hard to be objective about this as it’s like asking about a favourite child, although I know that’s not quite what you’ve asked! It sounds like a development in my work, like a mixture of songs and styles that, in some part reflect my inner world and personal experience but that will also (I hope) have resonance and connect with others who hear it. Musically it records my progress as a musician and songwriter and the work I’ve put into learning the craft of guitaring over the last few years. For example, one of the songs, Choices, sprang from me having just learned the guitar part for the classic jazz song ‘My Funny Valentine’. I loved the chord progression in that song (which is the same as Stairway to Heaven btw…) and wrote the song around some of these chords, which were new to me. It’s definitely the best work I’ve done to date and I’ve also been told this by others who have heard it and who know my music.
Why and when did you first start playing music?
This is another long story….. Just over 20 years ago I worked as an art therapist in a children’s project dealing with children and youngsters who had experienced sexual abuse. I found it very difficult to leave my work behind when I got home and my supervisor suggested that I took up something that would bring me joy and give me a better balance in my life. She asked what that might be and I said I liked singing and sang all the time around the house. She gave me contact details for a voice coach (who went on to become a friend) and the voice coach encouraged me to sing, to start my own band and to see where that would all take me. I’d played guitar very badly since I was a teenager so I then decided to practice that properly too. There’s a lot more to it than that but this was the origin of my musical life.
So I started off by playing other people’s music and then started writing my own songs a few years later and my first album, Lazy and Mellow, came out in 2009.
Where are you most excited to play when live gigs return?
I really enjoy playing small, intimate gigs where I can engage directly with the audience. One of the gigs that was cancelled due to Covid was in the National Gallery of Scotland and that’s one that I really enjoy so that would be in the top three. I can’t wait to get together with my band again as we had just really started to gig as a coherent band, playing my new songs as well as the older ones, when all of the restrictions happened. We were looking forward to doing some house concerts too so these would be high on the list. In addition to this, I usually do some petits concerts in France and that will be another thing to look forward to this year – fingers crossed!! There may also be something in this year’s Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival in the pipeline so I’ll wait to see if that happens as that’s a fun gig too.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?
I’m an artist, a dog owner and nature lover and have an allotment. These things, together with my family, take up most of my days.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
I’m very much an old-fashioned music lover and my default musicians are Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Van Morrison, Paul Simon, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, Joan Armatrading, k.d.lang, Nick Cave, Mary Gauthier and others of that ilk. So, mostly singer-songwriters, although I do also love the blues, some jazz, and lots of rock music, including Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC etc. Several of my friends are musicians too and I like to keep up with what they are doing. Marc Pilley, my producer is a perfect example of that. He has produced a lot of music recently, since the pandemic started, under the name of Arksong. Lovely stuff 🙂