Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – January
January 13, 2017. No comments.
The idea first came to me after recording ’Come September’ for my second album ‘Merry-Go-Round’. I was in Mark Freegard’s studio in Glasgow with Boo Hewerdine who was producing the record, and I said that I thought it would be fun to write a song for every month of the year. Fast forward to 2016 and that’s exactly what I did.
Not only write, but record and release each song as I went along. It was an extremely rewarding project to undertake, and like any creative endeavour it was also very challenging – not least because, for me personally, the end of 2015 was an immensely difficult time. It certainly didn’t feel like the ideal moment to embark on a new project, but I knew that musically it was time to do something new, and a song a month had to start in January. So that was that. As the sleeve notes will tell you, “I didn’t exactly know how… or with whom… there was no grand plan. I just decided to trust the creative process, and began.”
In late December 2015 I found myself at Real World Studios amidst the hive of activity that is the Schtumm Jamboree. New songs were being written everywhere – in the pub, in the rehearsal room, outside the toilet…. I first met Mark Smulian and Neville Farmer here 5 years ago. With Neville’s help, I decided on the last few lines of lyrics, Mark offered to play some bass, and the three of us sat around the table and finalised the structure and harmonies. We performed it at the concert the following evening.
Neville had become my special guest of choice whenever I performed Cowboys (recorded on the aforementioned Merry -Go-Round album as a duet with Darrell Scott) and it worked so well that we rehearsed up some more duets and performed them with his band, The Fishkillers. Singer, songwriter, journalist, film maker, television producer, author, playwright and sometime politician, you soon realise that Nev knows Everyone!! He is currently working in Los Angeles scoring a movie soundtrack about the Standing Rock Pipeline protests.
Mark founded the highly successful Israeli/Palestinian project Whiteflag and we have played in various bands together; including the Global Trio with Amadou Diagne from Senegal. The Biophillia Ball was a grand event to raise money for Synchronicity Earth, and took place at The Natural History Museum in London. We were given the theme of deserts and Mark composed the landscape on which we improvised… with oud, harp, banjo, percussion and bass… As well as being an amazing musician Amadou also tailored the incredible desert costumes we wore that night.
But back to dreary South West England… the middle of winter, and a song about the realities of January. That feeling after the party…. when you clear away the cards and the dirty glasses. When all those good intentions are just a memory and you sit down to do your tax return (again), trying to hold on to the optimism you had that this year will be different, this year might give you the breakthrough you need. To me, January is both hopeful, and hard. Either way, ‘January’s Here’.
So the song was written, rehearsed, and even publicly performed… now it needed to be recorded. I rang up my friend Leon Hunt and asked him how much he would charge me for a day in his studio. Leon engineered the live sessions for my last album Carnforth Station, and I have known him since I was 17 years old. Leon is best known as the highly acclaimed master of the 5-string banjo, and it’s kind of his fault I have been exposed to so much bluegrass music over the years…. but I digress.
I also asked Shaun Batt who had been filming the rehearsals, if he would come to the session so I could let people know what the project was all about, and a date was fixed. Recording, mixing ,and filming for the Bandcamp campaign… it was a lot to cover in one day! However, we all arrived at the studio that morning, and after a nice strong cup of coffee they asked me what the plan was… so I thought one up quickly, and we got going. Everyone did a great job and there were a lot of laughs along the way. Peter James Milson sent me a photograph for the track art, which I loved, and I released the song on the 18th January.
The year had turned and the song a month project had begun.