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You Wanted This

 

You Wanted This is about my love/hate relationship with being an artist and remembering why I fell in love with music in the first place [‘I remember you’ is a nod to Golden Hour’s opening track and the artist I was then]; thinking about being a kid, absolutely obsessed with Avril Lavigne, wishing I was one of Roger Waters’ backing vocalists (a life-long goal that still holds strong), obsessing over finding cool music/artists that no-one else was listening to, wanting to be on Stars In Their Eyes and sitting in the back of the car daydreaming/pretending I was in a music video singing all moody through the window. It’s thinking back to how I viewed music then and regaining that child-like excitement for it. 

 

This was one of the songs on the record where I really wanted the demo version to reflect the final version of the track as much as possible before I headed into the studio. In the writing/demoing stages, this song was the first time I really noticed my progression from a production standpoint; I’d listen back and think ‘yeah, I am a producer’. It's one of my proudest production moments on the record. You Wanted This is also my nod to Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, an artist I’ve listened to since being a teen and whose music has soundtracked over a decade of my life. I love how he navigates vocals in everything he releases and he's always redefining what we view as dance/electronic music. He was a big inspiration for this track.

For a long time, the piano didn’t feel quite right and too rigid when I recorded it initially. I re-recorded the piano right at the end of my time at Blank and something about this particular take just felt so right. I remember turning to Luke (who engineered across the record) and we were both like ‘that one’s special’. It took me a while to feel fully comfortable in Blank/recording in a studio environment and I think somewhere along the line, the penny dropped/something clicked. This piano part is like an audible representation of ‘yeah, I feel at home here’, you could tell I was more comfortable and listening back to that felt like such an achievement.

Bad Dream

 

Bad Dream is a song of two halves that fell out of me pretty quickly. I had a very vivid dream that really stayed with me and I got stuck on this notion that everyone falls asleep at night not knowing if they’re going to dream and, if they do, whether that dream is going to be a nightmare or not. I pulled a lot of visual references from that dream: I remember being in a dark, hazy field, people without faces calling/saying my name. Somehow I knew who it was but they had no face? Something about it felt really unsettling to me and, naturally, I had to write about it.

 

The outlier of this song is really the middle 8, which has nothing to do with the dream at all. It started out as an expression of wanting to control my dreams/wishing I could lucid dream, but it kinda manifested into the anger I, among many women, feel towards misogyny in the music industry and a constant feeling like you have to go the extra mile to prove yourself and have your voice heard. I think it kind of became my cry out for reclaiming space in what is a very male-dominated industry.

One of my proudest elements in the whole album are the guitar parts I played throughout the middle 8 and ending in Bad Dream. There’s a lush tremolo/melody one and a very gritty/growly textured one (which was added very last-minute before mixing!). They really give that end section the drama and anger that I wanted to convey in that section. I’m also super proud of the BV stacked ‘ooh-ahh’s, which I recorded at Summer Studios.

 

Learning to play this with my band really took this song to another level. I think it’s the first song I really took to the band to trust their skills on it, particularly with the drum part Rich brought. Fran played the final drum part, but from the get-go I was very stuck on the drums staying true to Rich’s part and the version we’ve played as a band for the past year or so.

Another Frequency

 

This song feels like Why Would You (Go)’s older sibling - same meaning, but in a new light. It’s about not knowing whether to leave a relationship or not and feeling like you and the other person are on totally different pages. There’s an element of overwhelm and interference, maybe from other people, which the ‘how’d the radio get so high’ represents in the chorus. This track almost didn’t make the track listing and turned out to be one of my favourites.

 

Sam and I wrote this at The Howl & The Hum’s studio in York in Summer 2021. I remember us both leaving knowing we’d just written a banger. Production-wise this one stumped me for a long time and it wasn’t until Summer Studios (a week before heading into the studio) that it finally started to come together. When Sam joined me at Blank to record bass and vocals, the whole song came to life and finally fell into place. It became one of my favourites on the record and really made me realise how powerful collaboration can be. I also had a lot of fun recording radio static on this and me flicking through channels. There are a lot of references to driving and listening to the radio in this track, so it felt like the perfect way to add context and place you in the moment.

Pity You Had to Leave

 

Pity You Had to Leave was inspired by a series of dreams I had over consecutive nights, each centred around female friendships throughout my life that I’ve either drifted apart from or don’t speak to anymore. To me, it’s a nostalgic kind of song about reliving old times and having that one last hurrah with those people.

 

Pity was my biggest conundrum for the album and almost didn’t make it in. I’d created a band-style demo and a more electronic-based one, and I went back and forth on numerous occasions deciding which version should make the album track list. The song itself fell out of me quite quickly, and was heavily inspired by the main pad that acts as the track’s backbone. The track title, though not mentioned anywhere in the lyrics, was actually a melody and lyric idea I started out with. Even after I changed the whole chorus, it still felt like a cool song title for the track.

Embers

 

I wrote Embers during a time where I was considering leaving my team and going solo with my artist career. I was thinking through a really pessimistic lens and making a decision that would ultimately be career-changing. The idea of leaving terrified me and I tried to kid myself into thinking it didn’t. The ending represents that fear taking over and realising there’d be no going back.

 

Around the time I wrote Embers, The National’s album ‘I Am Easy to Find’ was on heavy rotation in my car and I remember really wanting to write a song like Dust Falls in Strange Light. The track feels almost nondescript until some huge drums come in, and suddenly the whole track makes sense. I was also listening to a lot of The Weather Station at the time of building the track up more, so the instrumentation is quite inspired by that. I’m really proud of the end section. I played tambourine(!!) and I really love the subtle electronic elements that add so much light and shade.

It’s definitely one of the bolder tracks on the record and the one I was most excited/nervous for people to hear on release day. Witnessing Fran record drums for the end section was one of my biggest highlights recording the album at Blank, it was pure magic!

Situation

Situation is one of the rare occasions I’ve taken a demo to my band as a song we could shape together and has been a firm favourite in my live set for the past couple of years. My drummer at the time, Rich Endersby-March, settled on a really cool groove that completely elevated the track and when Fran came to record drums across the album in Blank, I wanted to retain as much of Rich’s groove as possible.

 

This song probably had the most amount of changes compared to any other track on the record, the main change being a middle 8 that I wrote on my drive to band practice before touring in 2022, but didn’t actually sit down and demo until a week before heading into the studio.

This is the only song I recorded mostly at Luke’s studio in Newcastle’s John Marley Centre. Luke and I added this cool arpeggio which inspired me to incorporate more synth elements and some vibey passing notes (a super last-minute, pre-mixing decision), which became one of my favourite parts in the whole track.

What If I

 

What If I was co-written with my wonderful friend, artist in her own right, Harri Endersby-Marsh (check out Harri Endersby and ETHR), in May 2022. It was the first time we’d written together, which felt long overdue given how much we’ve played music together in each other’s live set-ups over the years. Sonically, it sits perfectly between Harri’s releases (particularly through ETHR) and mine, and I took inspiration from soundtracks like ‘Stranger Things’, a series we both love, to shape that euphoric outro section. To me, it's a real symbol of our friendship and how it’s evolved through music, because the biggest part of this song’s inspiration really comes from the love we both have for each other's music; that was really the driving force behind it.

 

It feels like it’s a track about falling out with someone, ruminating on things you/someone maybe did or said and being scared of pushing someone away. When we wrote it, I remember thinking that I didn’t want to lose sight of why I love making music, what made me want to start releasing music in the first place. I think I was feeling quite under pressure to write and make 'good' music, ironically for this record, and all the far-ahead planning that comes with being an artist was really getting to me. Writing ‘What If I’ with Harri felt like a bit of a remedy to all that.

 

We started with the synth that acts as the bed of the track. We got the structure down pretty quickly, including the key change(!!) at the end which is quite subtle but I really love the lift it gives the track. Harri added much more rhythmic guitar chords initially, but I really struggled to play it, so I ended up stripping it back to a more chill/relaxed strum and it gave the track loads of room to grow/build. The ending is my favourite section. When we were writing it, I asked Harri if she’d be up for doing some whispers with a really cool guitar pedal, tremolo/delay effect on it. It’s so simple but adds so much. I used the same pedal effect across the overarching vocal, which can also be heard at the end of Embers.

Starlight

 

Starlight ultimately kick-started album-two thinking and acts as the lullaby on the record. As soon as I wrote it, I knew it belonged in the context of a bigger body of work - an album! There was a slight temptation to make this into a very grandiose song with a solo of some sort and add more lyrical sections, melody changes etc., but I loved that it didn’t necessarily ‘go’ anywhere, the simplicity of it in that sense, and the idea of it being this fleeting little moment/pocket of a song and pause-point within a bigger body of music. From there, the seed of album two was planted! The complexity of it really comes from the harmony movements and how they weave/mesh together to shape the track.

 

It fell out of me after writing with a friend over Zoom, someone who is really special to me in my life, and I think it was my way of saying to that person “no matter where we are in life, what we’re doing, where our paths take us, I hope we’ll always have each other”.

Here I Am

 

Here I Am is the most introspective, personal song on the record and really captures that feeling of being in ‘safe hands’. I wrote it after closing off one of my closest friendships; I experienced so much guilt and spent months grieving that friendship. The guilt and shame around it faced me every day in the mirror and my inner dialogue was so, so negative. ‘If this ain’t who you are, here I am’ is that idea of looking in the mirror and changing that inner voice to ‘you don’t have to be that person any more, the person you want to be is right here’. From there, the outro reflects that guilt and negativity lifting.

 

I particularly love the production and how it leans on my more prog-based influences, with the guitar riff tone being a little nod to Marillion and how it completely changes at the end with the piano-based outro.

 

Fun fact: I couldn’t remember how I played the main guitar riff so I kept the demo version in! Fran was an absolute trooper for recording the drum part over piano that wasn’t recorded to a click and I pain-stakingly edited everything in time! The outro, to me, sonically defines what it feels like to be in ‘safe hands’ and immediately came to life with drums and backing vocals. It’s my favourite moment in the track.

Limit

 

Limit is the dark horse on the album to me and really taught me how big of an impact recording in a studio can have on a track. Recording the drums, vocals and piano in the same room instantly gave this song so much context and made it feel complete. Limit is particularly special as it was written and performed with Joe Ramsey, an incredible artist in his own right and also my partner, who really witnessed all facets - the highs and the lows - of this record’s creation first-hand. Getting the opportunity to create part of this album together and record Limit in the studio was a very surreal and special moment for us; I feel really proud that it’s part of the album.

Joe and I wrote this during his residency at The Glasshouse ICM ‘Summer Studios’ in August 2022. We’d been writing that afternoon and were planning on heading home. Whilst Joe was wrapping up/listening through/working on a demo of his, I was playing piano and the main piano arpeggio/part came to me that formed the basis of Limit. Joe was singing/humming really nice melodies and we both felt like it’d be easy to write something to, so we postponed our plan to call it a day and stayed for an extra 2-3 hours to create the song. 

 

I got really excited experimenting with BVs for this track, as I felt like it would lend itself to some distant vocals that are really being pushed, so lyrically and sonically you’re hearing a limit being reached. Luke and I experimented with mics at different places and me standing at different places in the main studio room. The big stack of BVs are made up of me and Joe (on separate occasions from each other) wailing in the live room with the door open and a hallway mic picking up our voices in the corridor. I love how sounds like you’re on a ship out at sea and the atmosphere those vocals give the track.

Love, I'm on Fire

 

I didn't fully realised how much this song meant to me until I recorded the lead vocal takes. It’s very personal, despite not being written about me! I cried mid-recording this song. Something about focussing on the lead vocal take and its lyrics really hit home and I think you can really hear the vulnerability and fragility in my voice across the whole song.

 

The track was born from a Logic sound I found and instantly wanted to try and create something with. I had the drums shoddily mapped out with MIDI for Fran to recreate on the kit. My favourite moment is the piano at 2:14, which was born from me messing around on my walk back into the control room after recording some vocal takes. I asked Luke if we could mic up the older piano in Blank, which has a gorgeous warmth to it and you can hear all the moving parts in the piano. It was totally unplanned (quite out of character for me, I’m not a very spontaneous person!) and was one of my favourite moments/parts I recorded on the album. It’s such a magical moment and I particularly love the way it hangs so delicately across the track’s outro.

Flesh & Blood

 

Flesh & Blood is one of the most special songs on the record, to me. I wrote it after watching ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ and being incredibly moved by it in a very unexpected, ugly-cry kind of way. For the first half an hour you have absolutely NO idea what’s going on, it all just seems a bit bonkers and fast-paced, but by the end I realised how much I related to Joy (the daughter) and how much I personally needed to hear everything her mother, Evelyn, says to Joy in those closing scenes.

 

I wrote it about that mother-daughter relationship, stepping in Evelyn’s shoes and speaking to my imaginary future daughter about our shared experiences, as a way of saying ‘I’ve got you, we’re in this together, it’s us against the world’ kind of thing. It felt like the perfect message, tone and final track to close Safe Hands.

This was the first complete song I wrote with my electric guitar (proud moment!), which I’d put in a bit of a strange tuning. I like assigning tunings to my guitars and I remember not being able to play many chords on it at the time, so it’s a pretty uncomplicated song because of that. I ended up using the guitar from the demo, because my electric refused to stay in tune when I wanted to record with it at Blank, so we re-amped the demo guitar take, which I hilariously and so-typically stopped recording before the last chord had chance to ring out. I asked Luke to mute the last guitar chord and I replaced it with the piano. I thought it was a bit cheesy, but it felt like the perfect way to close the album and this chapter; just me and a piano in a room, right back to how my journey started.

Bad Dream
Another Frequency
Pity You Had to Leave
Embers
Situation
Limit
Love, I'm on Fire
Flesh & Blood
What If I
Starlight
Here I Am
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