Song-by-Song: ‘Three Kings’ by The Mining Co.
Michael Gallagher talks us through the five songs which make up his new festive EP, complete with plastic log fires
The Mining Co. is the musical project of Ireland-born/London-based singer-songwriter Michael Gallagher. Following the release of third album Frontier earlier this year, The Mining Co. return with festive new EP Three Kings. Inspired by everyone from Scrooge to Johnny Mathis and Jona Lewie, and further influenced by time spent in Spain (where the songs were recorded) the five tracks showcase Gallagher’s love of Christmas. “I wanted to write something sincere and capture the Christmases I remember; the Nativity, ghost stories, gifts, family, and also the melancholy it brings when you look back nostalgically”.
Here, Gallagher walks us through each of the EP’s tracks…
Long Way To Christmas
I started writing this EP in January 2019. I initially had the idea of writing a song, of counting down and mentioning every month until Christmas. As I tend to listen and write songs no longer than three or four minutes, I arranged Long way To Christmas to keep it more concise and simpler and have the emphasis of the song in the bridge. I wrote the melody in the outro to this song with the idea of doing something more elaborate to it, three-part harmonies, string melody, fade out; but in the studio, the idea to use a children’s chorus came about. Instead of my vocal, we also used a canon.
When recording this song in the studio I felt it was too poppy, and I asked Paco [Loco, the producer] to remove my acoustic guitar, to hear how it would sound. Thankfully, his idea of replacing the guitar with a banjo suited the atmosphere I was looking for.
Lyrically it is a song that can be sung all year round, as it is about the countdown towards Christmas. Every reference in the song is autobiographical and from a child’s point of view.
Christmas No1 began by messing around with jazz chords on a Saturday afternoon. The melody and the chorus came straight away without thinking too much about what I was singing and playing. The chorus came first, then I built the song around the chorus. I wanted childhood references like plastic log fires, as my parents had, and modern references such as houses over-adorned with kitsch decoration. I always wanted this song to have a Latin/70s feel to it, I wanted to try and have an EP with five totally different-sounding songs, but about the same theme. It was a lot easier in the recording studio to find Latino references for this song; the flutes, percussion and vibraphone. The style of Christmas No1 is also an ode to the crooners of the seventies. The song is about a guy trying so hard to make the perfect Christmas, but he only gets it wrong and ends up spending Christmas alone.
The melody from this song came from a power-pop tune I was working on last year that I didn’t finish. Originally I wanted this song to be about the journey that the Three Kings took, travelling to Bethlehem, but the song became more about the gift at Christmas being Jesus and having the patience of waiting, before receiving a gift. I thought Three Kings on a journey would be too complicated and too wordy. The song starts with The Little Drummer Boy snare in the verse and, after listening to Elvis’ Live In Las Vegas, I decided to throw in that big crescendo and change of tempo for the chorus, and that way I could have the excuse to include strings, bells and piano for the outro.
Ghost Writer started as a rough idea for a project I was doing about work songs, but it felt more suited to the songs I was already arranging for this Christmas EP. It is about the ghost of a failed writer influencing peoples’ thoughts and messages to their loved ones at Christmas. I recorded three different versions; one with strings, one using strange electronic sounds, but settled on this, the third version, as it was the most atmospheric. One of my favourite Christmas albums is a Mexican Christmas compilation, and I always wanted to have a Latin American sounding Christmas song, because of this.
Holloway was the first song I wrote for this EP. I had the opening lines recorded into my phone and liked the melody so much, that I wanted to create something bigger than just one song, so this is how the idea for the Christmas EP began.
The lyrics for Holloway developed from a conversation last year, while recording my previous album, myself and my brother were talking about bands that write narratives about places that they have never lived. My family moved from Ireland to Holloway when I was seven, and this song is entirely about my good memories of our Christmases spent there. For me, the word Holloway is melodic and sounds romantic and mystical, but the reality is quite the opposite in N19, but the great thing about being a child is that you don’t see negatives around you, but hold on to the good times growing up. Musically, I wanted to have a harp on this, but with time against me, it didn’t happen. However, the ambience of 80s style keys and classical guitar gave it a dream-like soundscape. It is a very personal song, and as the lyrics state, it is a real experience of our childhood, seven of us in North London, at Christmas.
Three Kings is out now. For further info, head to theminingco.co.uk