Hello! I thought that it would be nice to try and write a little bit about each of the songs on my album, “Isolation Songs”. I talk about how they were written, where the ideas came from and some of my influences.
Before that, here are the links so you can listen to it for yourself:
Right, here goes:
When I had recorded the first few pieces of music, I thought that it would be a good idea to write an album that would really try to describe the things that were happening at the time, and have it all flow together in the same way as so many concept albums like “Dark Side of the Moon”, “The Wall”, “Tubular Bells”, “Tommy”, and the final tracks on “Abbey Road”.
Once I had finalised my track order, I set to work trying to make it flow, and some really happy accidents came along, like songs being in the same key, or the track “Parole” opening with the line “It’s hard to see somebody/Standing in the pouring rain” after the sounds of rainfall. I had to then play around with things, like the end of “Nor Can I”, changing the key of the final guitar parts to fade into the next track, or to have Donald Trump’s aggressive ramblings echo into the final song.
With all of my influences, both musically and otherwise, I really think that this album sounds like me, which is nice. I very much wrote this album for myself, to get my head around the things that are going on at the moment, and trying to articulate those things as best as I can. It is quite therapeutic to be able to write songs and put everything out there. I am quite lucky that I can pull songs out of thin air. All I really need is a little musical idea and I am ready to go!
Isn’t This The Life?
Written in 5/4, I have been collecting little 5/4 riffs for a little while, but none of them ever really came to fruition until I played the opening riff of this guitar. Like with almost all of the songs on the album, I recorded the music to the song first before I wrote the lyrics and melody. The song has a rather melancholy feel to it, which I think opens up the album well. At the moment, we’re all thinking about how things used to be, pre-lockdown, and this song is very much about that.
I wanted to challenge myself with this track. Because it is in an irregular time signature, it makes it a little more difficult to sing and play over. It was interesting trying to write a melody over the top of it. You really have to sit into the rhythm of the track. The idea was certainly rooted in tracks such as “15 Step” by Radiohead and “The Sound Of Muzak” by Porcupine Tree which both use time signatures that aren’t 4/4 or 3/4, but still manage to be very accessible to listeners.
Lost In The Silence
The riff for this song was also something that came from my acoustic guitar, and as soon as I played it, I knew that I wanted to put some 12 string along with it. In the second verse, I wanted to keep the bass line as simple as I could, and let the guitars do the work. For the choruses, I wanted them to have an anthemic feel. There is also a little bit of a Sam Fender influence in the melody as, prior to lockdown, I had discovered his debut album which is fantastic. There are some big choruses in there, and I wanted to write something that was just as big as those.
The guitars are quite folky, and I have the D string droning through the verses. I had been experimenting with more folky guitar styles, and I think having it run into a huge chorus helps keep people on their toes as it might not be where people would expect the song to go!
Reached The End
The guitar part for this track came out of the riff for “Isn’t This The Life?”. I think I was playing around on my guitar when I came up with them both pretty much one after another. It is quite a political number, and is written almost as a criticism on how thing have been dealt with recently, that things could have gone much better.
We’re All Mad Here
This was the last song that was written and recorded for the album, which I wrote with my girlfriend, Katie. I wrote the music on the piano first, and is the only song I wrote on piano on the album. I had recorded the music for it before we started working on the melody and the lyrics, which took a few days. Normally, I can write lyrics very quickly (whether or not that is a good thing, I don’t know) but working with someone else meant that it took a little longer to get right!
I originally was going to have a guitar solo in the bridge, but ended up taking it out as it didn’t work. Fortunately, I had recently watched a video essay about the Pink Floyd track “The Great Gig In The Sky” which features non-lexical vocals. So I asked Katie to improvise some melodies over that section and used them all, which creates a really interesting soundscape, and is much better than the solo I had originally tried.
I wanted to write something that had a nice groove to it, but was quite simple. There is a little bit of a Red Hot Chili Peppers influence, especially in the chorus, and I wanted to follow that influence a little more with the bass line, but one that I wrote for it wouldn’t fit right. In the end, I went for something that was much more simplistic that works much better for the track – sometimes less is more!
On the first version of the track, the final chorus repeated twice, but I felt was a bit much, so I got rid of it, making the song a little more ‘to the point’. The rain at the start of the song was recorded at the same time as I was recording vocals for “We’re All Mad Here”, and I knew that I wanted to put this song after that track, and it works out really well for the opening line!
Lyrically, the song is influenced by the Stacey Dooley documentaries Katie and I have been watching, and drew some parallels between prisoners being released after serving their sentences, and the general public coming out of isolation once this is all over.
Tearing My Hair Out
The bass line that opens the song was the first thing that I came up with for this track, and knew I had to record it before I forgot it. It is the bass that really drives this song. There is another political element to the lyrics in this track, again critical of how people are running things at the moment, and the stresses that come along with that. I am quite proud of the guitar solo for this track, using some tapping and a really interesting scale that I can’t tell you name of that is influenced quite heavily by Muse.
Although I have enjoyed having so much time to myself, doing things that I don’t often have the time to do, it is certainly very frustrating when you are unable to visit your loved ones, go out somewhere nice for food, or even go to the theatre. This song, I think, does vent some of those frustrations which we all have, certainly at the moment at least.
Touch The Sky
This was the first track that I recorded in lockdown. I pretty much just clicked record and went wherever the guitar took me, and then used that as the structure. The song features a bass solo that I thought would be quite nice to expand on, were the song ever to be performed live. It is quite a simple tack with only a few layers to it, and not many instruments. I was certainly influenced by the band Vulfpeck, whose concert in Madison Square Gardens I had been watching before the lockdown begun. It is just a straight funk rock track with lyrics about the excitement when you first start a relationship, though I think I only really figured that out once the lyrics were written and the vocals had been recorded.
Pace Of Life
I have no idea how I came up with this one. I know I wanted a funky breakdown section that happens before the final chorus that leads up to a big final chorus, but the rest of the track I think kind of just happened. Lyrically, It is about someone trying to date and not doing particularly well to start with, and then taking their time when something decent comes along even though society has a tendency to make you rush into things. That’s what I think it’s about anyway.
Nor Can I
The music to this track was around a little bit before the lockdown began, but it was completed during the lockdown. It started off with a riff I have had for a little while, and wanted to make use of, and it developed from there. The chorus is a little different to anything else I have written, which I am really proud of. Also, I really like the riff, so I literally put it everywhere I could in the song. The lyrics are very much about trying to stand up for yourself, despite other people trying to bring you down. A little bit of motivation against the things that are stopping you from doing what it is you want to do.
We Will Meet Again
Not the Vera Lynn song. I hadn’t made the association, and the title comes from one of the final lines of the Queen’s direct address to the nation. This one was written immediately after “Herd Immunity”, where I felt that there needed to be something that preceded the opening riff. Influenced by Jimi Hendrix and the track “Are You Experienced?” I felt that some guitars playing in reverse would song really cool and dark. Once I had done that, I felt I could really set the tone with some random audio clips of press briefings and broadcasts from the beginning of the lockdown, featuring the voices of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Matt Hancock, Donald Trump, Sir Patrick Vallance, Nicola Sturgeon and Queen Elizabeth II. Some of these people also appear later in the following track. It is very much a prelude to “Herd Immunity”.
Basically one, long, progressive rock riff. I really love long tracks that take you to all sorts of different places, and I think this song does that. There are more words in this song than any other song I have written, but it isn’t the longest track I have written. I wanted to write something that really tried to convey everything that was happening during the start of this crisis, and almost hold people to account, while also trying to voice the things that were happening to the general public.
The song is heavily influenced by Steven Wilson and Pink Floyd and that whole progressive rock genre. I would love to perform this song live, and I think it is something that I try to keep in mind when I am writing songs, but it was certainly something I was considering as I was writing this, with all its ebbs and flows. The chorus on this song is very anthemic, akin to Muse’s “Stockholm Syndrome”, and it has a rather hopeful message attached to it, ending the song on a positive note; “We will get through this”.
I Don’t Know
There are no electric guitars on this track at all, using a Spanish guitar and a 12 string guitar. The song was written on my grandfather’s Spanish guitar as Katie was on a zoom call with some friends of hers, and I was quietly writing away. It is the only track on the album that I wrote the music and the lyrics at the same time.
As I came to record it, Katie was on another call with a friend who was jokingly repeating the phrases I was singing. Though I felt incredibly self-conscious about this, I then played with the idea myself, and used it on the final chorus a couple of days later. I am not too sure what this song is about, but I think it is about growth, about trying to be a better person than you were the day before, but not knowing who you will be in the future. Deep.
If you have made it this far, and want to listen to the album for yourself, you can check it out at these links I have conveniently placed down the bottom here:
I really do hope that you enjoy, or have enjoyed listening to my album!