3. Plans and Puzzles
The windows of the flat faced a corrugated metal wall belonging to a turquoise coloured warehouse. The flower beds that adorned the perimeter of the warehouse may have softened the image a touch but they were never going to be enough to disguise the hideous nature of the building itself.
Between our flat and the warehouse was a small road that lead to a plot of land that served as a large storage complex populated by shipping containers and beyond that were fields and apple orchards in which to walk around in and reflect on ideas in uninterrupted musings.
The spare bedroom of the house was in the shape of a long cuboid and I set upon the task of turning it into a small home studio as soon as I could. Much of my music gear had been leant to a friend, which in turn offered him a leg-up in setting up his own studio space for a period of time, however now that I was back in Kent and generally staying put for the foreseeable future, I reclaimed some of that equipment and made a start on experimenting with new sounds and ideas.
The main priority for the room was that it was tailored towards speed and focus rather than achieving any real sonic clarity.
Writing an album had been on my mind from the moment I started as a solo act but defining exactly what kind of album I’d create took a while to settle on.
For the last three years, I had based my life and music around an acoustic guitar, so I was chomping at the bit to be reacquainted with my original trusty sidekick; a custom made Fender Strat. It was only natural that I was attracted to the idea of making a big guitar record.
I wanted the album to be the most ambitious thing I’d ever done; something I’d be proud of for years to come and in doing so it needed it to sound as developed and articulate as that of a full band despite only having myself to rely on.
I couldn’t tell if at the time I just had a healthy desire of self-improvement or whether I was completely deluded dickhead taking on a challenge like this entirely on my own.
Being a solo act is something I may never fully get to grips with. On one side, it’s great because you can get a lot more done and get to the point a lot quicker and with a lot less friction, however that in itself can pose its own set of problems. There’s A LOT more to do, and with a lot less input and it can give indecision a stomping ground on which to reign supreme. Should the bass bounce off the kick drum or lock in? Does that lyric even need to rhyme? Is this a good song or am I chasing something down another yet rabbit hole all the while with my head up my arse? What sort of delivery should the vocal have? It's all one big puzzle.
Still, it has to be emphasised that there are some very real advantages to working in solitude and for me personally, it’s always assisted me in writing songs with depth, meaning and sincerity, especially when having to explore very personal and internal lyrical themes.
I didn’t want the body of work to come across like I’d just jumped on the mental health songwriting bandwagon but the subject of my own struggles became harder and harder to avoid the deeper I got. The more I examined it, the more I realised that the prison of my mind was evidently constructed with bricks of self-doubt and insecurity; and though my stubbornness was doing its best to put up barriers, the cathartic process of writing inevitably revealed home-truths that I may not have otherwise fully acknowledged so directly.