David Rotheray’s 10 tips to approach songwriting after an extended break

July 19, 2018 in Features, Interviews, Tips & Techniques

Dave Rotheray

Dave Rotheray: “Get on the ferry for a couple of days. It’s like a mind cleanser.”

The former Beautiful South guitarist offers some advice for any songwriters hoping to return to the craft after a break

Having completed duties on 2013’s Answer Ballads, David Rotheray decided to leave the music industry behind. Formerly the lead guitarist of masters of wry pop The Beautiful South, Rotheray called time on his career and opened a pub in his hometown of Hull. Ironically, it was the very thing that was intended to replace songwriting which brought him back to it – inspired by snippets of conversations he heard while pulling pints, songs started to form in his mind.

Released under the name Prosecco Socialist, Songs From Behind Bars is proof that Rotheray was right to return to his first love. Here he explains some of the techniques which helped him start writing again…


1. Stop, collaborate and listen

“The first thing that was important for me was to collaborate with somebody. Working with somebody else wakes you up mentally – you up your game a bit when it’s not just you in the room. As well as the motivational side to it of having someone else there, there’s also the fact that people all work differently, so working with someone whose methods are dissimilar from yours stimulates you and makes you think in a way that you wouldn’t normally.

2. Stir it up

“I wrote a lot of songs with the Irish folk singer Eleanor McEvoy. We did a song where we did it all by email, I wrote a bit of a tune on my phone, emailed it to her and she corrected it and emailed it back, and we did that for six months. On the other hand there are songs that I’ve written in 20 minutes. Every different method makes you write differently. Anything that shakes things up and makes them more interesting helps.”

3. Location, location, location

“Along the same track is changing the environment that you write in. Go away somewhere to a different place that you’ve never been before. I like going away on the train and we’ve got the ferry here in Hull – it’s the ferry to Rotterdam and that’s a good one, get on the ferry for a couple of days. It’s like a mind cleanser. I’ve also found that walking is really good. I’ve noticed that the rhythm of walking helps put things into a rhythm. I find it really helpful to sing to myself while I walk – though it must look a bit weird to people walking past.”

4. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

“Also, try writing on a different instrument, one that you don’t normally play. Anything to shake yourself out of your comfort zone and make you think in a new way. I wrote a couple on the piano, I know where the notes are but I don’t play it. If I go to the piano it’s always G and D and that’s it, but that’s good in a way. Sometimes it’s good to write a song that is just G the whole way through and writing on a different instrument can make you do that. I even do things like cutting chords out of a book and then pick them out at random and try to make some sense out of them.”

5. Beginner’s luck

“I think part of is that it has to be an instrument that you don’t play, because it’s the lack of proficiency that makes you do something different. I used to sometimes retune my guitar, I’m not one of these people who can play different tunings but I used to do it so that when I put my fingers on the guitar I would play something unusual by mistake. Obviously a lot of the time it was rubbish but sometimes something quite nice would come out from doing that.”

Prosecco Socialist

Prosecco Socialist (left to right): Mike Greaves, Eleanor McEvoy and Dave Rotheray

6. It’s got to be… perfect

“Once I start writing again, the desire to make it good overwhelms everything else. It overwhelms the lethargy and the distractions and everything. Not doing it is easy but once you start, if you’ve got any pride, you want to make it decent. So that becomes the driving force really; not embarrassing yourself by making something totally awful.”

7. Same same but different

“There’s nothing wrong with copying something, especially if I have words and no tune. I’ll start off by writing to someone else’s tune. I’ll pick a song that I’ve heard on the radio or that I know and I’ll write the words to it. Once that’s done and the lyrics are finished I’ll go back and change the tune to something else, but I’ll have used that song as a stepping stone. That can work quite well because most people write differently to you, so if you write it to somebody else’s tune it puts you into a different rhythm to what you’d normally default to. As long as you remember to go back and change it!
There’s a Radio 4 panel show called I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and one of the questions on there is to sing one song to the tune of another. So you get the words of one song and sing it to a different tune; I sometimes like doing that. It’s the same thing again, it forces you into a different place and makes you come up with something that you wouldn’t come up with otherwise.”

8. Do it yourself

“It helps that I’m doing it all myself this time, so there’s no record company or anything and there’s no real sense of it being a business. Obviously there’s lots of administration stuff like registering the songs but there’s nobody saying, ‘We need to sell so many copies of this.’ It was just get it done and get it released. That makes it easier in a way because you don’t have anyone looming over you. In another way it’s bad because you haven’t got the backing and the weight behind you to promote it and get it in the public space, but on the other hand it means you don’t have anybody to answer to and you can do it however you like.”

9. Under pressure

“Another good thing, especially if you’re doing it on your own, is to impose deadlines on yourself. If you haven’t got a band or people around you saying, ‘We’ve got to get this finished by June 12th,’ it’s easy to keep on correcting yourself and never finish. If you’ve not got the record company hounding you, you can end up in a self-referential pool where you just keep on. I think the demise of the album has made that worse as well. When it was all albums it was like, ‘I’ve got to get 12 songs done.’ Whereas if you take that discipline away, there’s no shape to your week or your month or your year anymore, you just keep doing it again and again. Impose a deadline on yourself. If you can only afford a week in the studio then you have to get it done within a week, and I think that’s good. I’m quite glad I haven’t got a studio in my house or GarageBand, if I’m paying to be in a studio then I’m going to get it done.”

10. You cannot be serious

“Most importantly, if you enjoy it then you’ll do it. You’ve got to find a way of doing it that makes it fun for you. If there’s one other thing I’d add to that it’s perspective – don’t get too caught up in your own grand image of yourself because the universe doesn’t care. Even if you’re super successful, nobody cares that much. I remember listening to the radio a few weeks ago and someone was talking about **Never Mind The Bollocks and they said it changed the world, and I was thinking, ‘Well how much did it change Kazakhstan or Tibet?’ Even if you’ve got a No 1, most of the world doesn’t really care, so try and keep some perspective.”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


Songs From Behind Bars is out now. For all Dave’s latest info, check out his Facebook page and davidrotheray.com

Interview: Ruen Brothers

July 17, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Ruen Brothers

Henry: “Anything that excites us or makes us feel something out of the ordinary usually leads to us getting the guitars out.”

We chat to brothers Henry and Rupert Stansall about their debut album and working with the legendary producer Rick Rubin

Anyone who heard the Ruen Brothers twangy Orbison-inspired 2013 single Aces will have been eagerly awaiting their debut album ever since. Thankfully that wait is finally over with the release of All My Shades Of Blue last month. Helping Henry and Rupert Stansall create the record were a host of familiar names. Producer Rick Rubin, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers’ Dave Keuning and the late great Ian McLagan all feature on an album which delivers on that early promise.

That two brothers from Scunthorpe have ended up in such lofty company speaks volumes about the strength of their songwriting. All My Shades Of Blue is an album which pays tribute to its influences while sounding fresh and modern. It’s clear that the relationship between Henry and Rupert is one that is capable of creating memorable music.

We recently caught up with them to discuss how the album came together and the role of their famous friends…


From the outside it feels like this album has been a long time coming – is that a feeling you also share?

Henry Stansall: “It has been a long time coming. We’ve been very busy since writing and recording the songs on All My Shades Of Blue. We moved from London to Los Angeles to New York, releasing a few of the tracks as part of an EP along the way, and also writing another album since. It feels like good timing for us.”

Was it a deliberate decision to take your time to ensure you created the debut you wanted to make?

Rupert Stansall: “Yes. Fortunately, we’ve been lucky to get the songs to a place where we wouldn’t want to change a note. From the writing through to the mixing, mastering and artwork, there’s been no rush. Everything you hear is how we intended it to be, with added direction from some great people.”

When did the songs first start taking shape?

H: “Strangers is the earliest song we wrote for the album. We wrote it in 2010 or 2011. It initially had different lyrics but the chords and melody channelled us towards a style in which we began writing more. Following that was Aces which, despite the majority of it being written within 30 minutes in 2012, wasn’t finalised for a few months.”

R: “We first met Rick Rubin with around twenty songs we thought were good and stylistically on point, but after going through the songs at Rick’s studio, we reduced that number to five. It was clear what we collectively liked about those five songs and knew the process to write more of the same quality. We wrote new material rapidly and after a few weeks back in England, the rest came together.”

Do you have a set writing process?

H: “We listen to a huge range of music. We either get inspired by songs we’re listening to or a great film sets us off. Anything that excites us or makes us feel something out of the ordinary usually leads to us getting the guitars out and playing/singing through some ideas.”

R: “The basis of our songs develops fairly quickly. Chords and melody often come together first, along with vowel sounds. Then, we develop lyrics. We tend to cast off anything too indulgent initially, aiming for a couple of really catchy or interesting sections. If we end up with what we think is a good chorus, we’ll see if that can be a verse and aim higher and better for a chorus. Then the moulding and shaping happens.”

H: “Ru was classically trained so that helps when tying the sections together and refining – which often takes some good theory knowledge. It also helps knowing what chord structures and melodies associate with different musical genres, in case we want to lean a song into a certain style or give it a certain flavour. Regarding lyrics, we tend to work around the rhyme schemes and vowel sounds we initially hum to keep the excitement of the original idea. We also begin recording the ideas soon after coming up with them which enables us to stick sections on loop whilst thinking on lyrics and refining parts.”

How often do you disagree about the direction/content/sound of a song? Is it a diplomatic relationship or a brutally honest one?

R: “It’s pretty brutally honest but never offensive. It’s very rare for one of us to like an idea and the other not. We’ve grown up around the same music and it’s great to have a bounce board. We trust each other so it’s a very harmonious writing relationship. We’ll show our ideas to each other first before anyone else. Writing can be very personal and inviting to criticism, yet it doesn’t feel like we’re putting our necks on the line when we’re sharing our ideas with each other.”

There’s a timeless feel to much of All My Shades Of Blue, how much of that is down to your early influences?

H: “Thank you. The title track came around one evening in Nashville, 2014. To be in the same town that The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, amongst others, recorded in must have had some effect on us. We had checked out the Johnny Cash museum whilst in town and had a tour of RCA’s Studio B. We had been covering songs by those artists since we began playing and they were the reason we got hired in the pubs of Northern England as young teenagers.”

R: “Playing those kinds of songs week in, week out rubbed off on our songwriting. We wrote daily throughout our teens and absorbed what we played, over time figuring out why all the chords and melodies engaged us and the pub punters alike. We also couldn’t help being influenced by modern artists on the radio. With the album, we wrote true to us and we believe it funnels our appreciation for a multitude of genres and artists from a songwriting and production perspective.”

At what point did Rick Rubin become involved?

H: “At the beginning of 2014. Rick had heard some of our music via an old manager and then our previous A&R guy. It was around 10 months after he initially heard about us that we got together at his home and talked music. Ten days after this meeting we commenced work together on the album.”

Ruen Brothers

Ru: “With great musicians and ideas brought to the table constantly, each take was exciting.”

Did he have any advice with regards to the songwriting?

R: “When narrowing our songs down to the best album’s worth of material, often songs that required much change, or didn’t have enough favourable parts wouldn’t make the cut. Some songs were taken in their entirety and some changed very little. In the initial, ‘Let’s sit down with acoustic guitars,’ stage, Rick would say what he liked in each of our songs, what could be changed, added and taken away. He would say things like, ‘Maybe change that bit of melody there,’ or, ‘I feel like at the end you could try going higher,’ as well as lyrical suggestions and key changes. Things would also change structurally. We now try to look at our songs objectively, either whilst we’re writing them or afterwards, with a similar approach.”

H: “And as Rick always advises…’keep writing.’”

You have some other big names appear on the album – was that Rick’s influence?

H: “It was mostly Rick’s influence, bringing the core tracking band of Chad Smith, Matt Sweeney and Jason Lader. They really understood our direction and the feel of the songs. We mentioned to Rick about involving Ian McLagan and Dave Keuning. Rick reached out to Ian and asked if he’d kindly lend his talents to the record and Ian flew out the following week and laid down keys on a few of the songs. We really wanted that cool honky-tonk vibe which worked for songs like Motor City and Aces. We’d met Dave months prior when we were doing some writing together in San Diego. He mentioned to us that he could play cello and if we ever needed any, to give him a shout. That moment came when we wanted some cello on the title track.”

Was it easy to stay true to your vision and maintain focus with so many successful musicians in the room with you?

R: “We were at ease after a short time. They were playing with us not because of their name but because of their talent and that really helped put our minds to rest – we knew everything was going to turn out okay… well, great. With great musicians and ideas brought to the table constantly, each take was exciting. I think that was captured in the recording. We were very grateful that they appreciated our songwriting, playing and singing as we appreciated theirs.”

Of course special mention has to go the late Ian McLagan. What memories do you have of working with him?

H: “He was a lovely guy. The Small Faces and Faces were a couple of our favourite bands growing up. We would cover their songs in the pubs from a young age. Mac looked like a rock star from the off and could tell amazing stories endlessly. He brought some magic to songs such as Motor City.”

R: “It was an honour to record with him. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to hear how the record finished up.”

Was it important to use the right gear when recording?

R: “Yes. We were using some of the best gear available, partly to get the best sound and partly to enable us to find any sound we were looking for. I believe we were often using AMS Neve 1073 preamps for the vocals, 1176, LA-2A compressors on vocals and LA-3A’s on guitars. U64 mics as well as a bunch of others. We were recording into Protools using a vintage API console as a bus mixer. The gear gave a beautiful representation of what we were playing and singing, which was encouraging from the tracking stages onwards. We used a lot of Gibson acoustic guitars on the record as well as a vintage Fender Esquire guitar, some Gretsch’s and Supro and Vox amps mostly. Particularly with guitars and amps, stylistically they can inject a certain vibe – Americana, rock, country. There was a lot to choose from.”

What would you say are the key components of a successful Ruen Brothers song?

R: “Emotion, excitement and dynamics. We like hooks, but in our view a hook isn’t necessarily a singular repeated vocal part or imposed catchiness. It’s the emotional draw that holds us. It can be emphasised by lyrics but is usually the relationship between the melody and chords. We believe it must come from people’s primal instincts, when language was lesser developed and sounds alone could mean life or death – with chords perhaps implying a group. Any excitement we feel when writing is usually represented in that basic form, without need for lyrics until later. We like to make the listener feel a range of emotions.

“With songs such as Aces we added an additional flattened 7th extension to the tonic chord for the verses, emphasised by the guitar riff. It adds a light-hearted feel to it – kind of like I Saw Her Standing There from The Beatles’ Please Please Me album. We wanted to keep it light-hearted until the entrance to the bridge when we stick a major third in the mediant chord along with a minor 7th extension to create some tension and unease. We then put a minor third in the subdominant chord for some traditional 60s sadness, just before releasing to the more dramatic open chorus, which includes the dominant 7th chord, not yet introduced; it feels like a relief at that point.”

H: “When writing Aces we had just watched a great documentary about Harry Nilsson. We tailor our ideas, but it all comes from excitement and emotion. That’s how everything starts.”

Lastly, how do you feel now that album is out? Are you desperate to move on to the next one or happy to be playing these songs for a good while yet?

R: “Happy to be playing them for a while! Some of them we’d never gigged prior to a few weeks ago. We wanted to keep some as a surprise for fans – anyone can record shows on phones and share on social media prior to releases and we didn’t fancy that. From our early pub-gigging days, we’ve grown a high tolerance for playing the same songs week in week out. There’s always new things to find in songs when playing live, so we have fun with the ones that are released at the moment and will do for a long while. On the flip side, we’re excited to record the new stuff we’ve written and get it out there.”

H: “It’s a nice time to be in, we get to focus on new stuff at home and in the studio and gig the familiar stuff.”

Interview: Duncan Haskell


All My Shades Of Blue is out now. For all the latest news, head to ruenbrothers.com

On The Stereo

July 16, 2018 in Music

Seafret

Seafret: Jack Sedman and Harry Draper are back with their first new material since 2016

Superb songs from Seafret, Childish Gambino, John Grant, Christine And The Queens, Ariana Grande, Xixa, Tom Baxter and Club Drive


SeafretSEAFRET
CAN’T LOOK AWAY
Kobalt

Jack Sedman and Harry Draper are back with their first new material since 2016 and it’s clear that their writing has matured during that time. Their folky foundations have been fortified with a full-bodied production and Sedman delivers his most confident vocal performance yet on this rousing effort.
DH


Childish GambinoCHILDISH GAMBINO
FEELS LIKE SUMMER
mcDJ Recording

Listening to this special EP at the peak of a heatwave is incredibly fitting, there is elements of nostalgia in the melody and base, throwing me back to old school summer classics. I’m in love with the 2 tracks, that are, as usual oozing with cool that only Childish Gambino can create.
FD


John GrantJOHN GRANT
LOVE IS MAGIC
Bella Union

Grant ruminates on the absurdity of love over a backdrop of squelchy 80s-inflected electropop. He’s the right man for the job too, able to decorate his kitchen sink drama with enough glitter to keep it from becoming depressing – just remember to stock up the fridge with milk.
DH


Christine And The QueensCHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS
DOESN’T MATTER
Because Music

Not going to lie, I’m a huge fan of Christine And The Queens, so any new tracks I devour like the delicious pop nuggets they are. With the new album due at the end of the summer Doesn’t Matter is a perfect taster of what’s to come, with more infectious pop classics.
FD


XixaXIXA
TOMBSTONE RASHOMON
Glitterhouse Records

If you love Westerns, you’ll know that the moment before any gunfight is a tense affair. Hands linger on holsters, moustaches twitch, eyes meet across a saloon or out on the street where passers-by have become statues. That atmosphere is captured here; dramatic, dangerous and impossible to resist.
DH


Ariana GrandeARIANA GRANDE
GOD IS A WOMAN
Republic Records

Ariana Grande is now firmly part of pop royalty, always managing to walk the fine line of infectious pop hits that have the cool factor and substance. God Is A Woman is a seductive mellow beauty of a track, teasing us for the release of Sweetener later this summer. I’m excited!
FD


Tom BaxterTOM BAXTER
BALLAD OF DAVEY GRAHAM
The Orchard

Davey Graham has some famous fans, with Tom Waits and Rufus Wainwright known followers of his brand of blues-folk. Ballad Of Davey Graham is taken from Baxter’s upcoming album, The Other Side Of Blue, and It’ll please not only you but Baxter’s famous fans too.
DG


Club DriveCLUB DRIVE
WDYD
NUA Entertainment

A nice slice of indie pop, Club Drive isn’t exactly groundbreaking music but it’s three minutes of fun. The guitars are funky and melody upbeat so I guess you can’t ask for much more in a pop song, at points it has echoes of a male Haim so I’m intrigued for more.
FD


Words: Fern Dunn, Duncan Haskell, Damien Girling

Listen to these songs and other On The Stereo selections on the Songwriting Magazine SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify ‘New Music Reviewed’ playlists.

How I wrote ‘Breakout’ by Swing Out Sister

July 14, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Swing Out Sister

Swing Out Sister on Breakout: “We should hate it with every bone in our body…”

Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell explain how the 1986 World Cup and a panic-inducing deadline inspired their sophisti-pop hit single

Arriving in the mid-80s, Swing Out Sister stood out with a unique style of sophisticated cinematic jazz-infused pop. The group started as an instrumental duo comprising Andy Connell on keys and Martin Jackson on drums, before being joined by fashion designer Corinne Drewery to add vocals. Prior to releasing their debut album, they put out the single Blue Mood in 1985 and it didn’t chart, but they would become known across the world just a year later with the song Breakout. It reached No 4 in the UK in the autumn of 1986, and rose to No 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and also resulted in a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Continuing to record and perform as a duo, Corinne and Andy have just released a tenth Swing Out Sister album, Almost Persuaded, giving the pair a good excuse to reflect on the hit single that launched their careers…


Swing Out Sister 'Breakout' single cover

Released: 1986
Artist: Swing Out Sister
Label: Mercury Records
Writer(s): Andy Connell, Corinne Drewery, Martin Jackson
Producer(s): Paul Staveley O’Duffy
UK chart position: 4
US chart position: 6

Corinne

“I was a designer at that time, and had started my own fashion label, but I’d always wanted to be a singer. I’d never written any songs before, but the music suggested things to me and I took words that I’d written down just after I’d had the fractured skull. I fell off a horse and hit a wall, so I’d been unconscious for a week and then spent three months recuperating. As you can imagine I was in quite a delirious state and the lyrics were quite interesting, but they were just stream of consciousness things. I don’t know why I was writing them down; I wanted to know if I was going to get my marbles back!

“You sort of have an idea of what you want a song to be about, and it never ends up being what you think it is – it writes itself. Sometimes I’ll think of a word or a line and I think I know where it’s going, but it comes to me in little phrases and I think, ‘Maybe I’ve thought of this one before somewhere.’ I do think songs are like premonitions sometimes.

“It was a bit of a panic really. We had some demos and put out our first single Blue Mood, and then we did the demo for Breakout. I was in London living in a squat at the time, and the record company phoned up and said, ‘You better have the demo in by first thing on Monday morning, or you’re dropped!’ It was only a two-single deal. But Andy had gone on tour somewhere in Europe with A Certain Ratio, and Martin was up in Manchester. This was 1986 – pre-internet and mobile phones – so I couldn’t get hold of them! There was nothing to record it on, but I had a Walkman and a cassette player in my room, so I started recording it on that. My flatmate was saying, ‘Shut up, I’ve got to get up for work in the morning and I’m trying to get some sleep!’ So I had to wait until she went to work, remember what was in my head, and then just sing it. Then the courier bike took the cassette off to the A&R meeting at Phonogram, and luckily they liked it!

“I think I was in such a panic that the lyrics came without too much analysis, but I remembered people saying, ‘Write what you know about,’ so I was describing my situation and how I was feeling at the time. When I’d had the accident and that near-death experience, it made me realise I didn’t want to go back to being a fashion designer, and I decided I needed to do what I wanted to do. But it was quite scary because it was a well-paid job. Andy and Martin had been in various bands, struggling along. I said, ‘I’m going to hand in my notice because I really like doing this,’ and they both said, ‘Oh no, don’t do that, you’re the only one who’s got any money!’ But I wanted to make a go of it. I didn’t have any overheads or too much to lose.

“The blissful part of songwriting is when you’ve got all these ideas suspended in your mind and you’re not quite sure what they are. When you have to decide and make something final, in a way that’s the greatest achievement because you’ve finished a song, but it’s the saddest part as well because you can’t do any more to it. Actually every time we do a gig we reinterpret the songs and they’re never the same, so we never get bored of Breakout.”

Andy

“It was the Mexico ’86 World Cup and the TV theme was the most shocking piece of drivel you’d ever heard, so I turned the volume down and played the bass line [to Breakout]. I think of was secretly trying to be Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, but I was convinced it summed up the World Cup that year.

“One of the things that people would have noticed about that record at the time was the horns. I’m not entirely sure how that came about. I think we’d been listening to Richard Niles’ Slave To The Rhythm, but we all had different ideas: Corinne wanted a Motown sort of brass and I wanted almost the big marching band type thing, and Martin didn’t want any! It was a very odd thing because it’s disappointing when you have an idea in your head and you have to compromise. It came out nothing like any of us anticipated, which I think is better.

“It was supposed to not work, actually! We were already shopping the demos around because the label had told us that the single wasn’t going to do anything. The mid-week charts said it was 90-something, but we got one TV slot on the Thursday, I think, and it was just a couple of minutes on a children’s programme. Corinne wore her big mac and haircut, and the next week it was at 40-something and the week after that it was at No 4!

“We’d taken it into the radio promotions people and they said, ‘Yeah it’s a nice song, but it’s not what anyone’s playing.’ So I think it was just one of things that didn’t happily fit in, in quite an interesting way.

“I don’t think we had the key change in the demo – we weren’t sophisticated enough to know those things – so I think that came from Paul the producer. We were always listening to Stevie Wonder records and it was almost mandatory that the last chorus would go up a tone. I like it, it’s a little bit ‘old school’. It’s a good trick and one of the things that works well on radio – it gives it a lift at the moment you need something more.”

“We should hate it with every bone in our body, but I’ve always loved it. There are some parts of the song that I think could’ve been stronger, but I love the sound of the record. There’s an excitement in there. We didn’t know what we were doing, so it’s got that youthful exuberance. We certainly tried to get that energy again, but it’s a thing you can’t replicate and that’s the beauty of it, in a sense. It’s a cliché but it’s like lightning in a bottle – the stars align in a particular way and you can’t repeat that.”

Interview: Aaron Slater


Swing Out Sister’s tenth studio album Almost Persuaded is out now on Miso Music/Absolute. For more info visit swingoutsister.com

It’s ‘coming home’ for Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds

July 13, 2018 in News

Frank Skinner and David Baddiel

Frank Skinner and David Baddiel. Pic: The Official Charts Company

While the national team inspired a nation, ‘Three Lions’ gets 6.8m audio streams, 5.2m video streams and another No 1

Whether you love it or hate it, Three Lions hit the top spot for a record-breaking fourth time. Originally released for the 1996 European Football Championship when the song spent two one-week spells at No 1, while the re-release in 1998 enjoyed three weeks at the top. And, once again, its songwriters David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and Ian Broudie are topping the charts with the same song.

The extraordinary feat makes it the first song in chart history to spend four separate spells at No 1 with the same line-up. Do They Know It’s Christmas? also had four stints at the top, but with different line-ups. Considering most football songs that enter the charts are best forgotten, why is this particular novelty tune still so revered?

At a glance, the song is a catchy anthem that sticks in the mind like the memory of a last-minute wonder goal. However, scratch below the surface and the true genius is revealed. Forget football, lads and larger, Three Lions celebrates failure – something English, or British, people are quite good at – tapping into the nation’s psyche and sense of humour. Not many other songs utilise such negativity, eventually turning the mood and filling people with hope and passion the way Three Lions does. The songwriters clearly understood its theme and how it could connect with its audience, and that is what makes it so successful.

Speaking to the NME in 1996, Baddiel said: “The song’s supposed to take you from one place to another. It starts off with, ‘Oh, yeah, I know what it’s like supporting England, they always fuck up. But at the end of it you’re supposed to think, ‘No, wait a minute…’”

He went on to explain, “That’s why, at the start you’ve got samples of Alan Hansen and Trevor Brooking saying what an awful state the English game is in, and then towards the end you get all these positive ones.”

Songs In The Key Of… Adelaide

July 10, 2018 in Features, Interviews, Music

Germein

Germein: “Adelaide’s music scene was our first taste of life in the industry, sparking our huge love for live music and performing.”

Australian sibling pop act Germein take a break from supporting Little Mix to share a playlist inspired by their home-city

Adelaide’s music scene was our first taste of life in the industry, sparking our huge love for live music and performing. We remember the ambient summer nights watching our Dad play trumpet in his New Orleans Rhythm & Blues band at popular local festivals. The energy was pumping, the punters were dancing, and the music was always loud. Iconic Adelaide venues like The Gov, Jive, and The Wheatsheaf continue to attract not only awesome local bands, but also popular national and international touring artists. Intimate venues like the The Grace Emily, Hotel Metro, The Producers and The Jade are also brilliant places to check out the local scene.

“Mad March is a massive festival season in Adelaide, with the Adelaide Fringe named the biggest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s also WOMADelaide and Oz Asia attracting thousands of people to the city to experience the wide variety of music from many different cultures. The Porch Sessions are well-known for transforming backyards into an intimate musical oasis; as well as A Day on the Green, Handpicked, and Botanic Park for larger outdoor festivals in picturesque locations such as renowned Adelaide Hills Wineries and Adelaide’s beautiful Botanical Gardens.

“You will always find live music in the city anywhere from the bustling Adelaide Central Markets, to the busy streets of Rundle Mall, and even as you go to collect your bags at Adelaide Airport there’ll be local muso welcoming you with their tunes. Adelaide was also recently named as a UNESCO City of Music (one of 31 cities in the world), which is awarded to cities that have demonstrated excellence in music heritage, music making, education, community involvement, and regular high-profile international music events – which we think is pretty cool.”

To listen to the whole 10-track playlist in one go, check out the Spotify playlist


1955 – HILLTOP HOODS
“The Hilltop Hoods guys grew up close to our hometown, and we love 1955 cause it’s all about growing up in small town. The lyric “no matter where I go this will always be home” is a nice little homely reminder for us when we’re on the road.”


DON’T YOU WORRY – ELECTRIC FIELDS
“This is a super feel good tune. The vocals are so unique – and the combination of cheerful lyrics, powerful melodies, and a pumping beat is sure lift any mood. We played a show with them at Adelaide’s New Years Eve Party in a couple of years ago in front of about 30,000 people and had a blast.”


TALKING – GERMEIN
“We really wanted to capture the essence of our live show in this track, so we recorded it in our home studio in the Adelaide Hills. It’s edgy, moody, and features our three-part harmonies in a soaring break out chorus. We hope Talking can relate to people facing all different types of challenges. Whether it be feeling like you can’t express yourself through communication in a break up, losing a loved one, fighting with a friend, or even feeling like you don’t have the right to talk.”


FIREFALL – BJÉAR
“We love listening to this on long drives between shows. It’s such a chilled tune with really poetic lyrics. Bjéar connects with listeners in a way that they can take away a number of different meanings from his songs, and the music in Firefall is just stunning. For us it’s a beautiful tragic piece that makes us reflect on our loved ones back home.”


FLAMES – SIA
“Sia is arguably one of the best songwriters of this generation. We love Flames because it inspires us to ‘keep on running’ and ‘never give up’ when things get tough.”


OFF MY BACK – WANDERERS
“The lead singer of Wanderers, Dusty, opened for our Adelaide show of the Australian Talking Tour earlier this year, and his voice is awesome. Wanderers’ song Off My Back has a really cool summer vibe about it, featuring a number of great Adelaide musos in the band.”


HOPING FOR – BAD DREEMS
“We love the straight up rock in Bad Dreems’ song Hoping For, with simple but powerful lyrics. We played at the Hot Dub Wine Machine Festival with Bad Dreems in our hometown recently, and their energy on stage is contagious.”


OLYMPIC SNEAKERS – HEAPS GOOD FRIENDS
This is a quirky song with a pumping 80s dance vibe. Lyrics like “I know where not together but I wanna break up” is just so great.”


JACARANDA SUNSETS – TIMBERWOLF
“This tune takes us back to springtime in Adelaide and where the streets are lined with beautiful purple flowering Jacaranda Trees. We love the old school feel of this track, and together with the chilled out lyrics it captures the essence of the magical spring time nights in Adelaide.”


DUMB THINGS – PAUL KELLY
“Paul Kelly has been described by David Fricke from Rolling Stone as ‘one of the finest songwriters I have ever heard, Australian or otherwise’. Dumb Things is just an awesome road trip song about being on the run.”


GermeinGeorgia, Ella and Clara Germein are a three-piece indie pop rock act from Adelaide in Australia, who are currently in the UK supporting Little Mix. Taking their lead from strong artists like Haim, Chvrches and Tegan & Sara, the sisters explore a wide palate of musical styles, while keeping a firm hand on pop sensibilities. Whilst they have previously toured the world and released music independently, their latest single Talking is the first taste of Germein’s new sound. Find out more about the siblings at germeinsisters.com

On The Stereo

July 8, 2018 in Music

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968: now celebrating their 50th anniversary. Pic: Fantasy Records/Wikimedia Commons

Our new music selection serves up CCR, Moon Panda, Odetta Hartman, Tayne, Foreign Poetry, Natalie Holmes, Baeilou and Satellite Stories


Creedence Clearwater RevivalCREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL
FORTUNATE SON
Craft Recordings

With CCR celebrating their 50th anniversary, it’s about time that this iconic number had its first ever music video. With or without accompanying visuals, Fortunate Son remains one of the most enduring rebel songs in the rock canon and it sounds as vital now as it did in 1969.

DH


Moon PandaMOON PANDA
RABBIT
My Little Empire

This debut is a delicate and naive affair, which suits its title. The lyrics reflect singer Maddy Myers sheltered upbringing. However, the musical arrangement is at times bold and outgoing. The four-piece strike a fine balance, using electronica and intricate guitar riffs to paint a whimsical picture.

DC


Odetta HartmanODETTA HARTMAN
WIDOW’S PEAK
Memphis Industries

This track is a pure headphones moment. With an Americana-gothic vibe, It’s as if Odetta’s haunting vocals are whispering gently in your ears whilst a bizarre cacophony of instruments swirl around her. For fans of Nick Cave and anyone that wants to get lost in some magical melody.

DG


BaeilouBAEILOU
ELEANORA
Self-release

Eleanora packs the atmospheric punch that you’d expect from a song based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, yet Baeilou’s delivery and cello playing manages to keep this captivating sliver of baroque jazz both fresh and original.

DH


TayneTAYNE
HAUNTED
641169 Records

London-based experimental noise-pop group, Tayne, have no interest in the verse-chorus-verse format that’s defined pop. Instead, Haunted is a fraught and energetic number that grabs all and any sounds it can and spits them back out in a glorious cacophony.

DG


Foreign PoetryFOREIGN POETRY
MHL
Pataca Discos

Coming across like a collaboration between TV On The Radio and Alt-J, the Austrian/English duo of Moritz Kerschbaumer and Danny Geffin have constructed an indie-rock slow burner which is equal doses intimacy and intricacy.

DH


Satellite StoriesSATELLITE STORIES
CARRIED AWAY
Playground Music Scandinavia

Carried Away is the latest song to be released by Finland’s biggest ever indie act, Satellite Stories. What it lacks in daring, is more than compensated for by the song’s finely crafted structure and warm synth lines. While you won’t get carried away by this track, you’ll certainly b happy to have it on in the background.

DG


Natalie HolmesNATALIE HOLMES
HIDEOUT
Calm Places Records

There is something stunningly simplistic in this live session from Natalie Holmes. The Bristol based musician weaves beautifully constructed lyrics around souring piano melodies, filled with emotion and making my heart full of joy. I loved it and can’t wait for more.

FD


Words: Dave Chrzanowski, Duncan Haskell, Damien Girling, Fern Dunn

Listen to these songs and other On The Stereo selections on the Songwriting Magazine SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify ‘New Music Reviewed’ playlists.

The sun is shining for Bob Marley And The Wailers anniversary

July 7, 2018 in Music, News

Bob Marley

Bob Marley: Kaya 40 is available in special edition green vinyl

The band’s classic album ‘Kaya’ gets a 40th birthday makeover, but the message of love and peace remains the same

To celebrate 40 years since the release of Kaya, the Marley family, Island Records, and UMC will release a special edition of the record. Featuring a full remix by Stephen “Raga” Marley, alongside the original track listing, which is due out on 24 August.

Stephen uses Marley’s original vocal demos from the Kaya sessions for his remixes. His intentions for Kaya 40 were to stay true to the original sound by using alternative takes recorded at different tempos. The album will be available as a double LP and double CD, with a limited green vinyl also available, but the digital download will only feature Stephen Marley’s mixes.

Kaya includes the classic songs The Sun Is Shining, Easy Skanking, and Is This Love. First time around, the record reached the Top 5 in the UK album chart. Despite its popularity, the band received much criticism for ‘going soft’, as the songs were less militant and more romantic than the band’s previous material. Bob Marley only released two more albums before his death in 1981.

The album is available to pre-order at universalmusicenterprise.com

Songwriting Magazine Summer 2018 out now

July 6, 2018 in Features, News

Songwriting Magazine Summer 2018

Summer 2018: the 15th edition of the UK’s only publication dedicated to the art and craft of songwriting

Our latest edition features Chvrches, Graham Nash, Janis Ian, Travis, Ali Tamposi, Nizlopi, Roger Cook, Jamie Lawson and much more

Songwriting is proud to announce the publication of the Summer 2018 edition with Scotland’s synth-pop gods Chvrches on the cover. The digital magazine, aimed at songwriters and at fans of song-led music, provides another selection of interview features with big name artists and rising stars, songwriting tips and techniques, along with the latest news and reviews of new music and gear.

As well as getting to know Chvrches, we chat with American singer-songwriter Janis Ian, meet Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies fame, and speak to Fran Healy of Scottish rock band Travis. And in our new feature, Unsung, we shine a light on the material created by Bristol’s legendary backroom songwriter Roger Cook.

Other features include How I Wrote JCB by Nizlopi‘s Luke Concannon and How I Wrote Run To You for Whitney Houston by Jud Friedman & Allan Rich, plus Jamie Lawson shows us his #SongwritingSurvivalKit, Emily Phillips shares her Diary Of A Songwriter and we explore the scene, songwriters, albums and equipment that helped create the sound of grunge. We also introduce new act Fizzy Blood and some of our past interviewees reveal The Album That Changed Everything.

In our Technique section, Ali Tamposi shares her Tips From The Topliner, we learn How To (Almost) Never Play A Bad Gig Again with Emma Hooper, and James Linderman tells us Five Things About Songwriting Coaching.

This packed edition of Songwriting Magazine is available to download on all desktop and mobile devices via app stores on Apple, Google, Amazon and others. To find out more, go to: pocketmags.com

Nile Rodgers becomes chairman of the board

July 4, 2018 in News

Nile Rodgers

Nile Rodgers at his Le Crib Studios in 1999. Pic: Wikimedia Commons/IAmMisterD123

The legendary Chic co-founder becomes chair of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame and announces first new album in 25 years

Multiple Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger and guitarist Nile Rodgers has been unanimously elected chairman of the Songwriters Hall Of Fame by the directors at the annual board meeting. Rodgers will serve for a three-year term following Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, who were co-chairs for the past three years.

“Nile is respected and admired by his fans and his peers alike for his multi/cross-genre music and for being a musical pioneer,” said Linda Moran, SHOF President and CEO. “More importantly, Nile’s eloquence in talking about songwriting and its process makes him the ideal voice for the songwriting community as Chairman of the SHOF.”

​”I ​am truly honored and beyond humbled to be elected by such an esteemed group as this illustrious board,” Nile Rodgers commented. “I will try and serve with all my heart. I hope I can make you half as proud of me as I am to even sit in the room with you who’ve done so much for the furtherance of composition. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve the songwriting community.”

As the co-founder of Chic, Rodgers pioneered a musical language that generated chart-topping hits like Le Freak – the biggest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records – and sparked the advent of hip-hop with Good Times. Rodgers transcends all styles of music across every generation with a body of work that garnered him inductions into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame (2017) and the Songwriters Hall Of Fame (2016).

The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and music publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond to honour those whose work represents a spectrum of the most beloved songs from the world’s popular music songbook. Visit the Songwriters Hall Of Fame website at songhall.org

It has also been announced that Nile Rodgers & Chic will be releasing their first new album in 25 years, It’s About Time this September. Find out more at nilerodgers.com

EXCLUSIVE! ‘Never Gonna Fall In Love (feat. Rich G)’ by Amira B

July 4, 2018 in Music

AmiraB

Today’s exclusive song is from the wonderful, Amira B

Brought to you a day late because of football World Cup commitments, this exclusive track is a smooth, funk-soul number

With a voice as crisp as a newly ripened apple and a sound as smooth as slowly melting chocolate, today’s exclusive artist, Amira B, is a songwriter who will leave a lasting impression on your ears.

The song she brings to you exclusively is titled, Never Gonna Fall In Love (feat. Rich G), and of the track, Amira B says:

“When Andrew first showed me the beat, I loved how it reminded me of summer and I instantly knew it needed a feel good vibe vocal hook. We both decided the track should be a summer jam and make you want to roll the windows down in your car! Everyone involved in creating this song was extremely pleasant to work with and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.”

She’s been compared to Ashanti, Alicia Keys, and Mary J. Blige. Listen below and then leave your comments…

Like that? Then check out Amira B at her Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Soundcloud.

The First Song

July 3, 2018 in Features, Interviews

cassettes

We all have to start somewhere

Hear how songwriters like Gene Simmons, Janis Ian, Adam Duritz, Loudon Wainwright III, Roger Cook and BC Jean got started

One thing that all songwriters have in common is that at some point they plucked up the courage to write their first song. For some, like Janis Ian, that tune made it onto an actual album, whereas for many others it was just a point of entry, a way of answering that calling from deep inside. We all have to start somewhere and here’s how some of our previous interviewees cut their teeth…


Adam DuritzAdam Duritz (Counting Crows)
“In my first band, when I was 13 years old, my guitar player taught me how to make a major and a minor chord. Once you know that you can sort of play, so I would sit around and play shitty piano, but I would play a lot. Then when I was 18, I was a freshman in college, I wrote my first song and, after that, I vomited songs for a few years. I wrote so many songs, which I realise now weren’t very good, but at the time they seemed like really good songs. When you’re creating something from nothing for the first time in your life, that’s a pretty big deal.” Read more

BC JeanBC Jean
“Since I was very young, probably since I was six. I started writing stories and creative writing was my passion, and so was singing. Then, around 13 or 14 years old, I started converting my poetry into pop songs. I took my favourite pop songs and I’d write down all the lyrics, and realised what the format was for a pop song – verse, pre-chorus, chorus, etc. From there I wrote my very first song, called What’s A Girl To Do? I basically just took my poetry and put it into that format. I’d write different sections and figure out which parts are the hookiest, then I would use another person’s melody and make my own melody… I kind of just taught myself… I remember sitting on my stairs as a child and being like, ‘Mom, Dad, I wrote my first song!’ The lyrics were pretty good, I think, and the melodies were pretty good, and I still think it could be a hit. I feel like I should rework it, or something.” Read more

Gene SimmonsGene Simmons (KISS)
“Before I started writing songs I thought that all the songs and all the words had been written. Then out of nowhere this My Uncle Is A Raft Song came out and I couldn’t stop listening to it thinking, ‘Wow, this never existed before and I gave it birth.’ I remember when I first recorded it I kept saying, ‘Play it again, play it again,’ because I couldn’t believe that before I wrote and recorded that song it had never existed on earth. It’s a remarkable thing to say.” Read more

Janis IanJanis Ian
“It was Hair Of Spun Gold, which wound up on my first album. I was 12 and I remember it distinctly. I wrote the song and then I sang it for my parents while we were in the car going to visit my grandparents in New York. My mum asked where I’d learnt that song from and I said, ‘I wrote it.’ They both just stopped and looked at me. It had never occurred to me to tell anyone that I had started writing.” Read more

Loudon Wainwright IIILoudon Wainwright III
“I started when I was 13 and I probably didn’t write my first song until I was 21 or 22 I’d say. I didn’t plan to be a songwriter – I thought I was going to be an actor… I’ve forgotten it and it never was recorded. I was working in a boatyard in New England and one of my co-workers was an old, grizzled lobster fisherman named Edgar, so the first song I’d ever written was called Edgar and it was about him. I don’t remember anything about it, but to have written a song was exciting to me, and I think the next week I wrote two more.” Read more

Mark E EverettMark E Everett (EELS)
“The first one that I remember was when I was very young, probably like 11 and I had my first girlfriend and my mum had an upright piano in the back of the house and I was making up a song about her. At that point I was always fantasising that I would play it to her someday but I don’t think I ever had the nerve to. You know for years I never entertained the idea that this could be something I would do for my job, or whatever, how I’ll make a living. It never occurred to me that that was a possibility.” Read more

Roger CookRoger Cook
“In the late 50s I was singing with a vocal group, The Sapphires. The guitarist Brian Holly had written a song for the girl singer called Let The Wind Blow and I was very jealous of his ability to do that. I thought, ‘How hard could it be to write a song?’ I was dating a girl called Judy at the time and wrote my very first song called Judy My Darling using the well-worn chord sequence of C/A minor/ F/ G. Unfortunately Judy cheated on me and our romance came to an end, but my song for her was the birth of my career as a songwriter.” Read more

Ward ThomasWard Thomas
“Your first song is always awful. But we just worked really hard at our songwriting, and we started putting our own stories, from our own upbringing into our songs. So we put a country style to it but with our British influence. The first song was called Imperfection’s Beautiful, and we were very young when we wrote it, about 14 or 15. There wasn’t much maturity in the song. But you’ve got to write a bad song to get the good ones out!” Read more

Wayne HusseyWayne Hussey (The Mission)
“I was a big T Rex fan, that’s how I got into making music, because suddenly I wanted to be a rock star instead of a footballer. And I got a guitar and a chord sheet, worked out a few chords, and I think the first song was basically A minor and you took that finger off and on, and it was called Seagull Woman, which is ripped off the lyrics of a T Rex song. I was about 13 or 14.” Read more


Download the latest edition of Songwriting for the full interview with Janis Ian and to discover the 10 essential tracks written by Roger Cook

On The Stereo

July 1, 2018 in Music

Catgod

Catgod: the five-piece from Oxford make their claim for the alt-folk throne

Our latest choice music collection gives you Catgod, Joshua Burnside, Mountain Lions, Paul Steel, Stella Sommer, Zack Logan and Givers


CatgodCATGOD
HEARTBEAT IN MY HANDS EP
Self-release

Over four tracks, this five-piece from Oxford make their claim for the alt-folk throne. The real highlight is Keep My Promises – cascading rhythms ebb and flow, encasing Robin Christensen-Marriott’s warped vocals and enrapturing these ears. It’s as inventive as it is welcome.

DH


GiversGIVERS
LOVE IS LIKE A FIRE
Glassnote Records

If you can’t listen to joyful upbeat tunes in the summer, when can you? With this track, Givers give me exactly what I want: uptempo verses blending effortlessly into euphoric choruses full of synth vibes. If this is a sign of things to come, I’m looking forward to their new EP, which drops at the beginning of August.

FD


Stella SommerSTELLA SOMMER
LIGHT WINDS
Affairs Of The Heart

Taking her cues from Marianne Faithfull and Nico, Sommer’s debut solo single is stark, dramatic and a serious achievement considering that she is singing in English for the first time. The precision in her vocal delivery only adds to the song’s charm.

DH


Paul SteelPAUL STEEL
I SEE SADNESS
Raygun Records

The latest single from English songwriter Paul Steel is a whimsical and sweet pop track with a message. As Steel explains: “When I observe the people around me I see sadness in all of them. It’s not all I see but it felt good not to be alone. Sadness is a crucial part of happiness, only before I wallowed in it rather than using it as a springboard to get what I want in life.” Steel really does turn his frown upside down and, if your feeling a little blue, I See Sadness will do the same for you.

DG


Mountain LionsMOUNTAIN LIONS
CALIFORNIA
Self-release

A track with all the relaxed charm of the state of its title, California is a warm offering from Steven Diaz’s indie pop ensemble. There are hints of Jack Johnson in the breezy delivery, making it ideal fodder for this time of year.

DH


Joshua BurnsideJOSHUA BURNSIDE
A MAN OF HIGH RENOWN
Quiet Arch

Joshua Burnside’s debut album, Ephrata, won the 2017 Northern Ireland Music Prize, and on A Man of High Renown, Burnside demonstrates why he’s held in such high regard. The influence of traditional Irish folk music is clear, while the song’s sombre accordion melodies hints that Burnside has spent some considerable time thumbing through the collections of Neutral Milk Hotel and Beirut. It’s lovely stuff.

DG


Zack LoganZACK LOGAN
ANNALEE
Badlands Records

Nashville-based songwriter Zack Logan’s single, Annalee, featured in Rolling Stone‘s 10 Best Country & Americana Songs Of The Week. It’s a gentle, delicately crafted number, which features intricate guitar picking. However, there’s little that is memorable about it, meaning country and Americana fans will feel there are better songs out there.

DG


Words: Duncan Haskell, Damien Girling, Fern Dunn

Listen to these songs and other On The Stereo selections on the Songwriting Magazine SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify ‘New Music Reviewed’ playlists.

Alice In Chains return with new album

June 29, 2018 in News

Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains (left-right): William DuVall, Sean Kinney, Jerry Cantrell, Mike Inez. Pic: Pamela Littky

Seattle rockers return with their first album in five years and the lead single is already a social media success

It’s been confirmed that there will be a new Alice In Chains album, and it’s news fans have been waiting patiently for. The album will be called Rainer Fog and it will be released on 24 August. It is the band’s first release since 2013’s Grammy-nominated The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here.

There has been speculation surrounding the album with the band due to kick off a European and North American tour this month. And fans were sent into a spin when the first single The One You Know was released in May. The song has been well received, having already amassed over 2.4 million views on YouTube. While the second single So Far Under is being hailed as a return to the band’s original sound.

About the latest single, singer William DuVall said: “It’s about feeling completely up against it… It was inspired by personal circumstances, as well as events in the wider world… The lyric is a cold, hard assessment of a difficult situation but the music has a message all [of] its own.” 

DuVall added, “Every aspect of writing and recording this song will always be remembered with a lot of joy – from recording the basic tracks and the guitar solo at Studio X in Seattle to doing further overdubs at Nick Raskulinecz’s studio in rural Tennessee.”

‘Counting Pennies In The Afterlife’ by Colour Me Wednesday (Album)

June 27, 2018 in Music

Colour Me Wednesday

Colour Me Wednesday: their brand of indie, pop-punk is incredibly modern

The London four-piece’s sophomore album is one of the most exciting DIY releases in 2018, and unlikely to be bettered

‘Counting Pennies In The Afterlife’ by Colour Me Wednesday It’s been a busy five years since London four-piece Colour Me Wednesday released their debut album, I Thought It Was Morning. The intervening years has seen the band record an EP and release a split with fellow London musician Spoonboy. Successful European and American tours, including one with indie band Lemuria, and the inception of the band’s own Dovetown record label, has kept the band busy.

What makes Colour Me Wednesday stand out from their peers is that their brand of indie, pop-punk is incredibly modern. There aren’t any songs on the album that could be considered ‘throwback’ or rip-offs. The band’s wide range of influences means they’ve created a sound that is more unique than the average indie rehash artist. Also, Colour Me Wednesday’s ability to write engaging music that reflects the world as it is today, is one of their strengths.

Boyfriend’s Car is one song that tackles the reality of piss-poor politics. The track features stunning vocal harmonies, while frontwoman Jen Doveton drives the lyrics with undeniable skill and accuracy. Take What You Want (And Then Leave) injects some electronica; another example of the band refusing to give in to genre-defining boundaries. Other favourites from the album include Sunriser, Edge Of Everything, and Disown.

Colour Me Wednesday are fearless songwriters in the sense that they let their music go where it needs to, but their songs will always be well-crafted and heartfelt. The band know how to channel their emotions and say what needs to be said, without losing any impact.

Verdict: Engaging and unique

Dave Chrzanowski

EXCLUSIVE! ‘June’ by The Rareflowers

June 26, 2018 in Music

The Rareflowers

Today’s exclusive is by power-pop gems, The Rareflowers

Today we bring you an exclusive track by a power-pop trio that recall one of the genre’s truly great bands

Led by sibling duo Jimmy (guitar, lead vox) and Kane Maraday (bass, vox), The Rareflowers have jangling melodies to die for. Completed by drummer Aaron Gollubier, the trio are a power-pop band you’re going to love.

Today’s exclusive is titled June and of the song, the band says: “June is about that particular feeling of meeting excitement with reasonable doubt based on prior failures when meeting someone new.”

They’ve been likended to The Cars, The Replacements, and Big Star. Have a listen below to make up your mind on those comparisons.

If you like that you can find The Rareflowers on Facebook, and Instagram.

Live review: Snail Mail, Louisiana, Bristol (21 May 2018)

June 25, 2018 in Music

Snail Mail

Snail Mail are more than the real deal, they’re a dream made flesh.

Catch what we thought the of rising indie-rock stars, Snail Mail, on the Bristol leg of their maiden UK tour

On an evening whose warm climes and sweet air hinted at the potential of a summer of rare wonder, a youthful Ellicot City, Maryland, songwriter arrived in Bristol with the promise of so much more than seasonal enjoyment.

Snail Mail features four touring members. However, the band exists as the vehicle of one member: vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter, Lindsey Jordan. Since Snail Mail released their debut EP, Habit, in 2016, Jordan has been the subject of a smouldering interest. She’s featured in The New York Times, The Independent, and The Guardian, among others.

With the band’s debut LP, Lush, due to be released less than a month before hitting the stage at Bristol’s Louisiana, the flames of Jordan’s star were becoming brighter, bigger, and harder to ignore. The sense was that Jordan was quickly becoming the guiding light of indie-rock and that this tour, her first global one, was the chance to see something truly special, of generational significance. No pressure then.

Snail Mail hit the stage with that expectation palpable. However, no nerves were visible. Jordan and her bandmates coolness’ was pristine. It was fitting.

They began with an immaculate rendition of Heat Wave, one of the highlights from their exceptional debut album. Jordan was every inch the star already, with the crowd basking in the warmth of her wonderful voice and liquid guitar playing. It set the tone for the rest of the set.

Among the highlights to be played were Dirt, Pristine, and, Anytime, with each a gorgeous example of the band’s harmonic interplay, and Jordan’s assured songwriting. In truth, though, there was not a bum note played; every song was at least the equal of its recorded version and demonstrated Snail to be a band well-deserving of the near impossible hype that surrounds them.

After exiting once the last notes had of Jordan’s solo performance of Anytime had cleared the air, the band returned for one last song. Static Buzz was their choice and it was inspired. It was the moment on Habit when you realised that this group, and this songwriter, were something different, a once in a lifetime gift to music.

As Static Buzz finished and band politely departed, you needed not even a moment to appreciate the significance of this performance; this wasn’t simply the first show in a new city for a young group of musicians. This was the day you witnessed the potential of an artist to shape a generation. Snail Mail are more than the real deal, they’re a dream made flesh.

You’ll find Songwriting Magazine’s review of Lush in the latest edition our app. You can buy the latest edition of our app here. Not only does it feature Snail Mail, there’s also an interview with synth-pop megastars Chvrches.

Words: Damien Girling

On The Stereo

June 24, 2018 in Music

Save Face

Save Face: think Weezer meets Jimmy Eats World meets Say Anything

Our playlist includes Chris Stapleton, Save Face, Mayka, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Apple Of My Eye, Becky And The Birds and Peluché


Save FaceSAVE FACE
NOTHIN’
Epitaph Records

A band’s record label is often a good indication of a band’s sound, and Epitaph’s Save Face is no different. This signing is a little left of centre for Epitaph, but the mix of hard rock and melodious guitars is a good fit; think Weezer meets Jimmy Eats World meets Say Anything.

DC


Chris StapletonCHRIS STAPLETON
I WANT LOVE
MCA Nashville

Taken from, Restoration, an album of Elton John and Bernie Taupin songs reimagined by some of Nashville’s finest, this track does what country music does best and gets to the heart of the matter with minimal fuss. Stapleton takes one of the finest offerings from John’s latter-day catalogue and finds his own truth in the words.

DH


Becky And The BirdsBECKY AND THE BIRDS
BECKY AND THE BIRDS
Self-release

Swedish singer and producer Becky And The Birds’ debut EP plays as one continuous, elegant mix. The songs have a natural beauty that is reflected in the glorious production. Spoken word vocal samples add to the layers of alt-pop, trip-hop wonderment.

DC


Charlotte GainsbourgCHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG
SYLVIA SAYS
Because Music

Although an EP of remixes gets a bit repetitive after a while each track is a banger in its own right. My personal favourite is the A-Trak mix, which reminds me of Daft Punk at points. The perfect addition to any party playlist.

FD


Apple Of My EyeAPPLE OF MY EYE
GONE TO GROUND
Pear O’Legs Records

A traditional folk track with ethereal harmonies might not seem like the obvious platform for a song about the injustices at the heart of the Grenfell fire but, then again, the genre has always tackled such issues head on and this Bristol band ably manage to convey the vast spectrum of emotions stirred up by the tragedy.

DH


PeluchéPELUCHÉ
TO BE A BIRD
One Little Indian Records

Not only are Peluché a trio of self-taught songwriters, they’re also the pioneers responsible for a new sound: trip jam. Trip jam combines elements of Latin, funk, psychedelia, soul and hip hop to create a wonderful sound that’s both unique and familiar. To Be A Bird fuses all those elements perfectly to give a song that you’ll adore.

DG


MaykaMAYKA
WATCHING YOU
Warner Music

Watching You is utterly blissful escapist pop from singer and producer Mayka. Alien-esque vocals over twinkly hypnotic beats puts you into a trance that feels like living an Instagram filter. The song builds beautifully into a perfect summer floor filler. An exciting artist to keep an eye on.

FD


The Milk Carton KidsTHE MILK CARTON KIDS
I’VE BEEN LOVING YOU
Anti

GRAMMY Award-nominated indie-folk duo The Milk Carton Kids prime their fans for the release of their highly anticipated fourth album, All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do, with I’ve Been Loving You. It’s a gentle, snail-paced, song that will hit the sweet spot if indie-folk treated Americana is your thing.

DG


Words: Dave Chrzanowski, Fern Dunn, Damien Girling, Duncan Haskell

Listen to these songs and other On The Stereo selections on the Songwriting Magazine SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify ‘New Music Reviewed’ playlists.

Sparks team up with Edgar Wright for documentary

June 23, 2018 in News

Sparks

Sparks: Ron and Russell Mael spent much of the late 80s and early 90s making films

The Mael brothers and British director Edgar Wright will collaborate on the documentary celebrating the career and music of Sparks

Edgar Wright has confirmed he will direct a documentary about Sparks. The filmmaker responsible for cult TV show Spaced and the box office hit Baby Driver tweeted: “It’s not the only thing I’m currently developing, but I can confirm this IS in the works.”

Wright filmed the band’s performance at O2 Forum Kentish Town in London this May for the feature-length project. The director is also collecting archive footage of the band for inclusion in the documentary.

The American pop and rock band, formed by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, garnered a cult following with their 1972 self-titled debut album. Sparks influenced many artists and songwriters, especially in the synth-pop and new wave movements, including Siouxsie And The Banshees, Nirvana, The Smiths, and New Order. The brothers spent much of the late 80s and early 90s making films but returned to music with the 1994 album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, and the pair continued to make music, releasing six albums since 2000, the latest being 2017’s Hippopotamus.

Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes’ Songwriting Survival Kit

June 22, 2018 in Features, Interviews

Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes' Songwriting Survival Kit

Taylor Goldsmith: “I tend to like going between the guitar and piano to see if one can unlock anything in the other.”

The LA indie band’s frontman is a sucker for a good pen; find out what else he can’t do without

We’re always interested in finding out a little more about our favourite artist’s essential songwriting equipment. The right gear can inspire and empower, it can be a conduit, a muse and the perfect vessel for getting those ideas out of your head. Whether a tatty old notebook or a beautiful grand piano, there are always items that songwriters need in order to make their music.

The latest musician to share their Songwriting Survival Kit with us is Dawes’ frontman Taylor Goldsmith. With the Southern California indie rockers set to drop their new album, Passwords, it’s a perfect time to dig a little deeper into Goldsmith’s armoury…


1. Gibson J-45 1965 guitar
“I’d say about 90 percent of my songs are written on guitar. This one in particular was a gift for my 18th birthday from a bunch of friends but led and chosen by my buddy Blake Mills. I try to bring an acoustic with me everywhere I go, whether it’s on the back of the bus away from the rest of the touring gear or in a hotel room on a trip completely unrelated to music. For me, the moment the first seed of a song shows up is never when you expect it. It’s always on the move or when I’m in the middle of something else. The times I’ve tried to just sit at my desk and be available to the muse has never really paid off. So it’s become integral that a guitar is always nearby. Ideally, this specific guitar!”

2. Yamaha C1X grand piano
“Once the beginnings of a song are written on a guitar, then I sometimes take it to the piano. It opens up all sorts of new ideas and options of where to take things melodically and musically. Sometimes a certain move or chord change that might seem tired or hackneyed on the guitar can feel really fresh on piano. Or there’s a certain stranger direction that didn’t present itself on guitar that becomes clearer on piano. The songs that seem to be predominantly written on piano tend to have denser or more colourful progressions. The guitar songs can often be simpler, which allow themselves to be a bit easier to treat more aggressively. The more notes in a chord, the harder it gets to play it loud. If I’ve had a song for a while and am tying up loose ends, I tend to like going between the guitar and piano to see if one can unlock anything in the other.”

3. Notebook
“I’ve never been good with anything resembling a diary entry. For me, a notebook ends up as a sort of catch-all for any words, or phrases or ideas that I might come across that I feel could work well in a song. The little entries can come from a book, an article, a conversation, or even a daydream. It ends up looking like a series of bullet points. And then once a song starts coming together, I’ll write it out in the same notebook. A lot can get crossed out or written over, but it’s nice keeping it all in the same place because a lot of times, what doesn’t work in one song can work perfectly in a different idea.”

4. Drum machine
“My brother let me borrow this. Pretty sure it’s from some time in the 80s. It’s been fun to see how it can change the ideas I’m having when there’s a beat to play along to. It makes the guitar and piano almost different instruments. I tend to keep anything too technological away from the writing process. Not because I think it’s bad, but just because I find myself getting caught up in the wrong thing. I also find that if I land on some specific sound or part that I like, we end up trying to chase down the demo, which I hate. These songs have lives and sometimes exploring something for the first time creates a magic that can’t be found again. So I try to keep the demos as plain and simple as possible and allow that first moment of exploration to be behind the microphones with the rest of the band making a record.”

5. Pen
“I’m always a sucker for a good pen.”


Passwords is out 22 June. For more info, head to dawestheband.com