Stars Behind Stars Behind Stars
I love this song we made, but it definitely has a different feel to the rest of the new record. Pete Bryden (bass, piano) wrote the song on the guitar, and well done him. The first lyric is a quote from Iris Murdoch's Man Booker prize winning novel 'The Sea The Sea'. "Stars behind stars behind stars. Gold behind gold behind gold" is the way the protagonist Charles Arrowby describes a very trippy episode he has whilst lying out on the rocks by the sea, staring at the night sky. When i read it, I knew i wanted to use it in a song one day. Funnily enough, it turns out that Murdoch took the title 'The Sea The Sea' from an account by the French poet Paul Valery of when 10,000 roaming Greeks (yes, Greeks! How apt!) in 401 BC caught sight of the Black Sea and were thus saved from near-certain death. "The Sea! The Sea!" is what they shouted. You heard it here first! (Or maybe not, as my husband Matt has just come into the room and told me he knew that already. Doh.)
But back to the song, actually someone emailed me the other day asking what the blazes was going on in it. Moons and ladders and climbing down to the sea floor. All I can say is, I really don't know, but if ever a wonderful animator wants to work on a stop animation video with us, please do get in touch. It could be really beautiful, I think.
When you move down to the countryside from a big smoke city like London, your perspective, as you may know yourself, get distinctly oblique. I wrote this song four years after finding myself living in a tiny sleepy village. Don't get me wrong, It was a great shift right from the get-go, and with little kids, any easing of pressure and hassle helps you get through the day. But after a few years, it began to occur to me that there were other lives I could have been living, other trajectories I could have followed that had more in common with my old life. I would, from time to time, hear that life calling to me. As everybody knows, you cant be in two places at once, and i do really love my life and, you know, feel like I'm really living it. I was just wondering if i'm like a little boat, untied, floating quietly away down the River Avon which runs a mile from where i live.
I have a little boy called John. Of course i completely love him, and of course i not only know, but am filled with happiness that one day he will venture forth. This little song about him was composed with him at the kitchen table last year. (Actually he is often a real help when i just cant get a lyric.) Anyway, like the boy himself, this song can always make me smile.
Living out here in the countryside, butterflies are a part everyday life. We grew some Peacock Butterflies last year, feeding them nettles in their netting enclosure each morning and, of course,letting them go at the crucial moment. This song is named after another butterfly, the Camberwell Beauty, which is a rare visitor to the UK from Scandinavia and mainland Europe. Though in this case, the Camberwell Beauty in question is a beautiful girl in Camberwell. Some people just seem to have magical powers wrapped up in beauty and poise and confidence. We've all seen them in a crowd at some point, and thought WOW. I was pleased to get the lyric "vintage fur" into this song. I'm mad into vintage clothes and am always on the hunt for the crazy, beautiful and rare.
This is a classic little song written by my friends David Ogilvy and Ben Brierley about misplaced love and growing up in misery. On my first record David Ogilvy and I co-wrote the songs. He was an incredible support and guide to me through the whole project, not only playing a whole host of instruments on the record, but then producing it too. A real multi-talent. Check out davidogilvy.co.uk and give a listen to the wonderful album entitled 'Like It Is'. Even get yourself a copy! Do you recognize the backing vocals? :)
I've always been quite messy, with suitcases left half-unpacked, piles of post & packing cases still not sorted after ten years. Oops. It used to drive my husband mad, though I've got a lot better over the years and I'm glad of it. Anyway, this song is about leaving London and packing away all the half-undertaken projects and things I'd put off for so long, they're never going to happen. And I guess it's also about the ways in which you know you could improve yourself, make yourself happier, but for some reason you can't and won't do them. So, some pretty big things go along unchallenged and unsorted, even when you move away and have that proverbial fresh start. It turns out you take yourself with you.
My mother-in-law once referred to someone in conversation as "dancing to distant music". What?! Apparently it's an old-school expression used to indicate someone being a bit touched in the head. As it turns out, I know someone a bit like that and her way of dealing with it is to walk and walk and walk along the roads around where i live. This song is about her.
It's deeply unfashionable to be depressed. It's not done to bring it up at the school gates, for example, where lots of people are really keen to present an edited, good-side version of themselves to the world. Hey, that's cool. But the truth is that a proportion of those women (and men) will be going home to cry their eyes out in a whirl of despair that may take days (if you're lucky) to shift. And sometimes that person is me. This is a song about everything being fine one minute and then whoosh not so fine anymore. I wanted to write about it because I think it's cold and inhuman to pretend it doesn't happen, and because I refuse to be ashamed about it.
A literary starting point on this song. This time it's Peter May and the first of his Isle of Lewis trilogy, The Blackhouse, a great thriller and a book that definitely makes you want to get out there to the Hebrides and walk on those massive empty beaches. One of the characters is a grim creation, downtrodden and defeated. He delivers a speech about how every time he looks at his watch, another minute of his life is gone, then an hour, then a day. In no time at all, as is true for us all, we will be in the final stretch. Life is beautiful, incredible...and short. I feel like I could do with remembering that more and when little things bother me, just brush them away.
Near Lanark in the border region of Scotland, there is a place called Roberton Moor. A poet, Will H. Ogilvie (1869-1963) wrote about it:
The hill road to Roberton's a steep road to climb,
But where your foot has crushed it you can smell the scented thyme,
And if your heart's a Border heart, look down to Harden Glen,
And hear the blue hills ringing with the restless hoofs again.
My boyfriend and I stopped there one September day to let our two puppies have a run in the heather. Sun out, wind tumbling softly all around us. Matt strode off a distance, the puppies squirmed their way towards him. I'd brought a recorder with me and started to play a little melody which went on unchanged to become this song.
Bloom where you're planted. It's an idea that really appeals to me, and one that had extra resonance when i moved to the countryside from London a few years back. Attempting to flourish wherever you might find yourself strikes me as a pretty solid idea. When things aren't going well with a new start or family life or whatever, it's tempting to look around for something or someone to blame. But, barring extreme circumstances, it really is possible to adapt and to embrace your new life. And over time things settle down and, if you're lucky, happiness follows on behind.
All my life I have gone to this lovely wooden house in the woods in Upstate New York. On the wall of a sleeping porch hangs the Rudyard Kipling poem "If" with the glass cracked. When i started on this song, I knew i wanted to reference that cracked poem. This is for my daughter Nell. It's pretty obvious what it's about, I guess, though I was quietly chuffed to get the lyric "$64,000 Question" into a song. Not so easy to do! But really the message to her is to take the rough with the smooth, and when life hurts (which it will at times) just try to keep your head and in time it will get good again. She is only 7 now, but occasionally i hear her humming this song to herself and i just wonder...