14. Recording in Ireland pt2 (South of the River)

I headed out to Ireland once again with a clear idea of the final songs I wanted to add to the album, but only just. I’d spent a long time debating over what songs to bring to the final recording session and with so much material to choose from, I was becoming more indecisive than ever.

Knowing I may never get the opportunity to record an album on this scale again (I guess every album is your last), I wanted to make something that was ambitious and hypnotic but still with a healthy amount of pop songs that I could pitch as singles. I wanted the album to feel wholesome and not disposable despite the inclusion of the simpler songs. I wanted it to have lyrics that felt personal and sincere but still not take themselves too seriously.

I’m not sure whether the album’s downfall is this clamour for variety or whether its diversity keeps the whole thing entertaining.

At the end of the day, I made the album for me, first and foremost, and I didn’t want to regret any of it, so I put together a collection of songs that were spread across the board whilst still connecting them to a subtle inner strand of sonic and thematic cohesion.

We got to work right away and I was glad to be back in the company of Martin to tackle the final and most critical stage of the record. We had a lot of loose ends to tie up from the previous session and needed to ensure we maintained deep focus and efficiency in order to complete everything on time.

Of all of the instruments I recorded, I was most concerned with getting my vocals right and with Martin overseeing proceedings, he did a great job of extracting the right amount of energy, delivery and emotion out of me. On reflection, these combined principles probably helped to compensate for my lack of technical ability. Martin has an extremely sharp set of ears and his objectivity to the whole thing meant that I didn’t have to waste too much time deliberating on whether I was delivering things correctly or not. I was able and happy to put my trust in him while the recent vocal exercises and training experiences I’d had meant that I was pretty malleable to the things he’d suggest.

We clocked in a good 20 hours of vocal recording in the last 2 days of the session, pushing things late into the night before I had to fly back to London the next morning. It was exhausting work but it was what the album required.

I’d dragged Martin down with me into various musical rabbit holes and to his credit he fully committed to my lead, offering loads of expertise, dedication and insight into the entire process. There are so many subtle details I can hear on the final recordings that are solely attributable to him.

When we finished up that night, we headed out into Kells to grab some dinner and celebrate not only the end of the album session but Martin’s birthday with a few pints of Guinness in a small bar. For the first time, it was nice to hang out without being consumed by my fucking album. We drank, spoke about music, drank and spoke about music some more.

Emotionally, I was drained and yet at the same time firmly sat on top of the world having finally come out the other side of an intense odyssey of writing, demoing, rehearsing and finally recording, that had lasted eighteen months.

I flew back to London the next day feeling really proud of everything and managed to get home just in time to catch the Liverpool play Tottenham in the champions league final. Katie, being a big Spurs supporter arranged to watch the game with her family while I put together a half-arsed attempt to see if any of my football loving friends fancied watching the game at mine. Expecting only a couple of friends to take up the offer, everyone accepted the invite and in my absence arranged an ad hoc summer party that kicked off an hour after I landed back at Gatwick.

Liverpool won the final, the album was in the bag and I was surrounded by some of my best friends at a party that started indoors, before relocating to the nearby sandy banks of the Thames lasting into the next day. Over the years, I’ve had many campfire parties on our little slither of river beach but this one was particularly special and helped make a very memorable homecoming.

After witnessing a beautiful sunrise, I hit the sack with a smile on my face, deeply excited at the prospect of finally reuniting with Katie who was due home later that afternoon.

When she did return, I woke up to news that she wanted to call time on our relationship.


South of the River

At the waterside,

Reflect into the night,

Down at the waterside,

And in this modern life,

Take a breathe and step aside,

Down at the waterside,

She runs over,

I’m at home with her,

She’s got it figured and I’ve got the madness,

South of the river, the signals are flashing out,

Loved up and trippin’ yeah we took the poison,

Flip to invisible, only our voices now,

And if we lose our minds,

In the night time come and find,

Us at the waterside,

And in this modern life,

Take a breathe and step aside,

Down at the waterside,

Calling over,

I’m at home in a…

Momentary magical snapshot of madness,

Compounds and chemical signals rushing round,

Loved up and tripping yeah we took the poison,

Flip to invisible, only our voices now.

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