Under constant scrutiny from her label, Victoria Hesketh and her co-writing producer RedOne came up with this classic pop banger
It looks like 2022 is going to be a huge year for Victoria Hesketh AKA Little Boots. First up, March sees the release of her new album Tomorrow’s Yesterdays. Judging by glistening singles such as Silver Balloons, Landline and Crying On The Inside, it’s the kind of infectious pop music that will appeal to fans of her 2009 debut album Hands. Not only that, anyone who has found solace in their own kitchen discos over the last couple of years will discover much to enjoy in these songs, all written and produced by Little Boots herself and released via her own imprint On Repeat Records.
The good times don’t stop there. In May, Hesketh will be joining ABBA on their Voyage tour where she’ll be singing backing vocals and playing keyboards/synthesisers. Speaking to us in the Winter edition of our magazine, we learned all about how the opportunity to collaborate with her heroes was too good to turn down and how watching Benny Andersson at work helped to take Tomorrow’s Yesterdays to a whole new level.
As well as looking forward to the exciting year ahead, we had time on our Zoom call to be taken back to the creation of one of the songs that helped to launch Little Boots’ career. Following on from the equally captivating New In Town, second single Remedy became her first Top 10 hit, reaching No 6 in the UK charts and going on to sell over 200,000 copies. A collaboration with the Moroccan-Swedish songwriter/producer RedOne, best known for his work with Lady Gaga, its creation is a fascinating insight into life on a major label, as Hesketh explains…
“The label sent me to LA for three days and I wasn’t sure if I was going for a session or just to meet him. I got there and I think his wife was there; he’s a lovely guy and we were chatting away and then different people are coming in and out. I thought maybe it’s just a meeting, then someone went and he was like, ‘Okay, let’s like have a look at some things.’ So it was a session. Then he started playing some tracks and we got something going. I think we got the verse and the first half of the chorus, because it’s two halves that chorus.
“This was in an hour or something and then Red’s like, ‘Cool, yeah, I’ve got to go now. I’ll leave you with the engineer.’ So I recorded a bit more, tracked all the vocals and then left. I was there for about two hours. So I didn’t really think very much of it. Then the label must have heard the demo and been like, ‘Right, this is the one.’ So they sent me back to finish it with Red. I think we had something like two days.
“By this time, the big head honchos of Warner US were involved. They were like, ‘Right, can you send us what you’ve done every couple of hours. Every time you write a new section, send it over to you?’ I’m like, ‘No, that’s not how you write songs.’ I’m not handing my homework in to the A&R bosses. Red, bless him, was like, ‘You know, I work with these people all the time. You just got to play the game sometimes.’ So we spent a day writing. We fleshed all the song out, we wrote the second half of the chorus, the, ‘Move while you’re watching me,’ part. We were like, ‘This is good.’ It felt like a banger. I remember, actually, when I got the track back it said something like ‘Song For Britney’ as the title.
“I was feeling pretty good about it but I was furious at the label for being so demanding about having to approve every bloody change. I had two days to do this and then had to go back to the UK for more promo. I was so jet-lagged and then, the next morning they called up and they’re like, ‘Yeah, so we listened to the song and we think it’s too Euro, it’s just super Euro.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe these dudes are telling us how to write songs. This is not how I work,’ and Red’s trying to calm me down. So then we had to undo everything. We wrote a whole new chorus. God, what I wouldn’t give to hear that chorus again, it would be hilarious, but I can’t remember it. So we’ve got a whole new chorus and totally changed the song. It’s basically a different song at the end of the day.
“We didn’t think it was as good but we’d done what the doctor ordered and sent it off. I got on the plane home and then the next day they ring back and they’re like, ‘Yeah, actually what you did the first day, we think is best. That’s the one,’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah I fucking know!’ So there’s this whole other version that I can’t even remember.
“Some of the words are quite weird, they bug me in that song – like, ‘Move whilst you’re watching me’ – weird lines that aren’t very good and could be smarter. I remember trying to write some more weird lyrics and I was like, ‘This is a cool Bowie lyric, let’s just say this off the wall thing,’ and Red was like, ‘No, come on. We need to play the game.’ So it was the song that I played the game with the most ever. But then, you know, obviously playing the game works a bit because it was the biggest song, a lot of people love that song and it means a lot to them. But yeah it was a strange process for sure.
“At that first meeting, I didn’t really know we were writing a song. I think I had Remedy written down as an idea for a name. So I had the title and I had some lyrics about poison, because I thought they were kind of dark and spooky and quite cool for a pop song. And then Red liked the idea. But it’s very blurry, the first time there were people coming in with babies and then Michael Jackson’s people called at one point because Red was so hot. Just Dance had just blown up and his phone was off the hook. I think they just kind of squeezed in this meeting. He’s a great guy, a very talented guy.
“All I knew was that this Lady Gaga song was kicking off, so it wasn’t too intimidating or anything. The label was sending me on the rounds at that point so I would get sent to sessions constantly, with so many people, around that time. It didn’t really faze me at all. But you know, I instantly liked Red and got on with him and that’s the main thing for sessions, I think.
“I thought Remedy was a little bit naff, but good naff. It is quite Euro – people always tell me it could be a Eurovision song – it has got this edge to it, which is a bit much in a way, but that’s its charm. I love smart pop, the spoonful of sugar thing, you know? Try and do something complicated but package it in a way that people will get on board with instantly. In some ways, I’m always trying to be too clever for my own good and that song wasn’t that clever. I think if I hadn’t done one of those kinds of songs I would have kicked myself.
“It’s kind of a big dumb pop song but it’s a good one. Even now, when I play it – even if I do an acoustic version – it’s a powerful song. They don’t go away, songs like that, they’re robust. It’s that magic formula of a great hook, a great lyric, great melody and great chord progression. Simple but powerful. When that all comes together, to take a song to the next level, that is something quite magical. You can’t control it and you don’t quite know where that comes from.
“There are definitely times, especially when we were playing live a lot more, that we were all just like, ‘Oh my God, not this again!’ But then I always have a love for it because that’s the song that broke through for me in lots of ways, it broke charts and got worldwide recognition. That song opened a lot of doors for me. It’s easy to talk about big bad major labels but they know what they’re doing, they can smell the hit. In some ways, I’m grateful that they annoyed me by making me send them the song and pushed us to make it a certain way, because that song opened a lot of doors for me that wouldn’t have otherwise.”