Diary Of A Songwriter: Stina Tweeddale
The Honeyblood star reveals some of the startling inspirations behind her new album as we look back over its creation in these extracts
In Plain Sight, the third album from Scottish pop-punk band Honeyblood, is the first since the group essentially became a solo outlet for Stina Tweeddale. Previously a duo, it was announced earlier this year that drummer Cat Myers was no longer part of the band. In many ways this change makes a lot of sense; Tweeddale began the project seven years ago and wrote much of the new album by herself while Myers was off drumming for Mogwai.
Inspiration for In Plain Sight came from the most spectral of places – an apparition which would visit Tweeddale every night, enter her dreams and try to kill her. Here, in extracts from her diary, we get a glimpse of how the record came together during a critical time in her band’s existence…
After my last tour for Babes Never Die I came home to my flat in Glasgow – exhausted. I had never toured so hard and slept so badly. I think this led to my apparitions. I was visited near-nightly by a phantom figure who was dead set on strangling me to death while I slept. Something about her is so alluring, and however frightening – I was captivated by her. She’s like a cobra snake and I’m her prey in full hypnosis. I would lie in bed and she would stand in the doorway wearing a yellow slip dress and her hair; a blunt black bob. Sometimes she’s a young girl with long black hair – frantic and scrambling at my bedsheets. Other nights she’s smaller and older and she walks around the room solemnly. The most intrusive visit was her last. I woke to see my old flatmate from university leave my bathroom and turn into my bedroom; hair wet and in a towel. I sat up abruptly in bed and asked her what she was doing in my house. She smiled and her face immediately became that of my phantom visitor. She then launched herself at my throat and dragged me out of bed. These dreams feel so real I convince myself that I am going to die. And then I wake up. I am on the floor and my cat is staring at me with a very puzzled look on his face. This was the only time she ever touched me and it was the last time I ever saw her.
I thought about writing her a song for months and finally conjured the courage to do so. The words were scribbled down all at once. The song itself still gives a shiver down my spine because I can imagine her so vividly every time I sing it.
During this month I moved house. I moved out of the city to the near countryside so I could have room to write and a little garden which I have always craved. I wrote The Third Degree during a writing trip in London soon after. This song was based on a real event where my best friend and I were in a bar and bumped into her ex-boyfriend. I never liked him to begin with and wanted to write her a song that filled her with confidence. We lived these moments and walked away laughing as he drunkenly chatted up a barmaid. I wanted to pay homage to a lot of 60s girl groups and singers I have always loved, with this song. My favourite lyric is, ‘and as I see you sat there – drooling into your pint / I say a little prayer ‘cause you’re out of my life.’ It’s a small nod to Dusty Springfield whom I love.
“I BECAME CAPTIVATED WITH THE IDEA OF POISON FOR A FEW MONTHS”
I bought a piano in April and have been experimenting with writing. This was completely out of my comfort zone and I knew it would take me down a different path with my songwriting. I wrote Touch on guitar but knew it would become a synth-heavy track. While Babes Never Die is very much celebrating empowerment, in ways In Plain Sight is about submitting to the inevitable. Touch and You’re A Trick are the two songs on the album that encapsulate this feeling.
I became captivated with the idea of poison for a few months and read up on some interesting traditions which led to the creation of Tarantella. I imagined a woman on her deathbed confessing her sins and wrote the song from her perspective. I was so interested in the passion of the Tarantella tradition and its romantic story. After being bitten by a poisonous spider, your only chance of survival (although very slim) is to dance frantically for days to rid the poison from the body. Perhaps the woman in the song has done some terrible things in her life and now she’s paying the price – but she still has a few dark secrets to tell before she goes.
It was around August that I made the decision to carry on Honeyblood alone. My last few songs came together quickly which included Harmless – a blunt and frank take on my own failings. This is an incredibly personal song for me. Near my old flat, there was a little apple tree that was growing on the rail line – and that sight completely floored me. Out of all the terrible places to grow and bear fruit – that tree was doing it. No matter how bleak things get, we will always create and we will always keep on going.
On 1 October I flew to Los Angeles to begin recording my album In Plain Sight. Both terrified and prepared to take the future head-on, I began to sleepwalk again for the first time since January. However, working with John Congleton was a dream and we created a unique album that I am so proud of. I didn’t hold back on any of my creative ideas for this record and tried to do something I hadn’t explored in my previous work. My greatest joy is to see the songs written in my head come to life in a studio.