For over a year now I’ve been working in the studio with friend and producer Matt Caradus. Before we started working on this project, the last time I had seen Matt was when he moved to Tauranga just as I was leaving for a new job in Auckland. That was 3 years ago. So when I got in touch with Matt last year to collaborate, I thought he was still in Tauranga, and he thought I was still in Auckland. Turns out we’d both moved to Dunedin and lived 10 minutes away from each other! Providence.
Not to say the whole project has been easy. I started with an enormous pile of songs, I think the count was close to 30. This had built up since my last album in 2014, and even then some hadn’t quite worked for that one, so there were a few left over from the album before in 2013!
The weight of these songs hung over me like a burden. We recorded a few to see how it went. The songs came out well, but still the project lacked clarity and focus. I felt obliged to record these songs that I’d been playing for so long, but in many ways, I was tired of them, and playing them made me ever wearier.
Over the summer I decided I would only take with me the songs that made my heart quicken a little. It was really hard letting those other songs go. They weren’t bad songs, many I had played up and down the country and seen them connect with people in profound ways. I felt a burden for them, and for those people. But in the end, I knew that weight was going to be more than my fragile creative self could carry. Recording an album isn’t easy. I knew I needed to love the songs for themselves, not for what they had done, or for who had appreciated them. It sounds selfish, but I needed to really care about these songs.
In the end I only had three to take with me. But as the summer rolled on and turned into autumn, more songs crept up on me. A friend put me onto a wee instrument called a ‘Merlin’ which is very folky, and virtually impossible to sound terrible on. It took me away from agonising over ‘which chords, and what key’ to just dreaming up melodies that were compelling, to go with the stories that were playing around in my mind. Paradoxically, the limitation was so liberating! Here’s me playing my merlin early in the new year. This is one of the first songs that came to stay, ‘Open the Door’ based on a poem by Robbie Burns.
Matt and I restarted recording in the new year, hoping to be done by May. We were…..mostly. But there were a few parts that struggled to come together. And we struggled with them sporadically for most of the rest of the year. We’d probably still be struggling if I hadn’t got my act together! My wife, Vanessa is pregnant with our third child, due in early January. I knew if we didn’t get the album out before Christmas, then it might not come out at all!
So here we are. The music is done. Now I just need your help to bring these songs to the wider world.