Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – February
February 13, 2017
A woman went to the doctor and said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me; I feel depressed all the time. What have I got? Has it got a name?” “It’s called February,” the doctor replied.
I read that little story a few years ago and it must have struck a chord with me. That’s not to say I haven’t ever experienced a wonderful February – because I have – but I think it’s fair to say that most of us in this part of the world feel it really has been winter for quite long enough now. Thankfully, the tiny daffodils in my kitchen display a small yet hopeful reminder that Spring is on its way.
The February song doesn’t have a chorus, and builds up slowly which I think reflects the mood of the month for me. I was playing around in a drop D tuning and found the guitar pattern – though it took a little while for my fingers to do what my ears could imagine. I was also experimenting with the idea of staying on one chord for as long as possible…. so that the change was even more noticeable once it came along. A bit like Spring itself. I remember Boo Hewerdine telling us in a song writing workshop many years ago that he had applied that rule to a well-known song of his and the idea stuck somewhere in the back of my mind.
“Roses come in February, lucky you if you get any, and you should.” Roses that is. “But Love is more than cards and words…” When my friend’s 6 year old daughter saw this lyric written on the calendar we made, she said: “That’s true isn’t it Mummy? Love IS more than cards and words, and the whole world needs love.” Now more than ever, I would say.
But back to the song, which was recorded in Bath on a very wet, windy February day last year. It was one of the most efficient recording sessions I’ve ever been involved with, and I had the guitar parts down by coffee time. I still had a couple of decisions to make on the lyrics though (nothing like having a mic in front of you and a deadline to help with that) and whilst the one open chord was ok to start with, I felt it needed more colour and introduced a 7th note into the proceedings by the second verse. If you are not a musician, it’s where the cello comes in. That’s the beautifully expressive sound bowed by Beth Porter. I was recording with her husband Ben Please that day and Beth came home in time for tea and cake, heard the track and offered to play for me. Perfect timing. Some of the busiest and most creative people you are ever likely to meet, Beth and Ben packed the car at 5pm and drove off to do a gig while I went home with a new recording.
I have been blessed to have Beth’s cello and voice gracing my songs for the last 10 years, and to be around the love and light she brings with her wherever she goes. We have been to quite a few places over the years – all over the UK in fact – playing festivals and gigs and stages and libraries and great halls… Trips in Betsy the camper van, meeting up at railway stations or in muddy fields, rehearsing in my garden, singing harmonies in the car. There has been much laughter and much drinking of tea. There are far too many stories to tell, but suffice to say the real joy is being able to trust the intuitive way she plays on a song, which means I can just sink into the music we make together. Listen to Only the River for one of my favourite examples of this.
Beth has been in nearly all of my bands since I first began performing my own songs, and some other bands we made too. I shall miss her. With a baby due in three months, Beth is embarking on a new life in bonny Scotland with her equally astonishingly talented husband, Ben. Together they are The Bookshop Band so it is not surprising they have gone to live in a town of bookshops. I can’t wait to visit.
Oh, and if you thought recording and releasing a song a month was impressive, check out their band page. They have been releasing an ALBUM a month.