Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – June
June 24, 2017. No comments.
Happy post-solstice, post-heatwave, hopefully not post English summer…
This blog is a little late… as was the song for June last year. Not surprising really. For the first time in the process of the ‘song a month’ project I had to take stock of my finances (or rather lack of them) and learn to record myself. I set up what I alternately called ‘The Yellow Studio’ (due to the paint on the walls), or the ‘Bottom of the Stairs Studio (due to… well, it speaks for itself). Some extremely kind friends lent me some recording gear and I rigged up some acoustic treatment (with duvets and other hi-tech materials) and got to work.
The June song was written for harp and voice. Simple. Except neither of the parts I had written were exactly simple. I hear it in my head, work it out on the instrument, and then I learn to play it… or at least that’s the theory. I used my old faithful Pilgrim Progress 41-string harp for this track and never did quite pin down the arrangement. It didn’t seem to want to be too pinned down… and so I left room for improvisation and what you hear on the recording is the version I liked the best.
The vocal melody was written first – in a very annoying key for the lever harp which involved me having to do some fundamental re-tuning. You would have thought I would have thought that through… being a harpist and all. However the song had it’s own ideas, and like that line in the last verse… “She’s calling the tune”.
The biggest challenge was recording the vocals. With no one else in the studio and having to press all the buttons myself, it was hard to get into the ‘zone’. Another pair of closely listening ears always helps my focus, unless those ears are not closely listening in which case it distracts… anyway on this occasion there was only me. And it wasn’t working.
So I went outside to try to ground myself by walking around the park barefoot, and breathing, and remembering what the song was about: the planets, the night sky, the stars, the mysteries of life, and cosmic love. Expansive. Uplifting. Destined. Pure.
Could I capture that feeling? I do believe the microphone never lies. I can hear it when I don’t mean every word I sing.
“The camera never lies”, said Peter James Million when we were out on the photo shoot earlier that month. He made me feel so relaxed that I could just be myself and sort of forget about it. That’s a sign of a great photographer. No wonder he used to work for NME. If you haven’t seen his work click PETER JAMES MILLSON PORTRAITS. I’m the one with the wild hair and further down with a banjo on my left. The album cover was indisputable – we both knew it. PJM clicked away… and there it was: ‘The Year, She Turns’. Head to GALLERY to see some more images from that day.
Expansive: In terms of my own professional development ‘Venus in June’ was the first time I released a track that I recorded myself. Knowing I could embrace that steep learning curve – with a deadline – and do it myself is a huge step for me and opens up so many more possibilities.
Uplifting: Rising above previous limitations and finding my own flow. Flow is so important. I can’t go near the sea without taking off my shoes and walking along the shore so I can feel the sand in my toes. Photos, or no photos, work at it’s best feels a lot like play. The better people are at the technical parts, the more it can feel like play, and then the better the resulting work.
Pure: The intention to create something of beauty, one way or another, and the delight of sharing it with another, maybe even with the world, maybe with you.
Destined: Who knows…
Listen to VENUS IN JUNE