Collaboration 7 – Sandra Le Couteur

30.4.22

Here’s our finished song – Vent Fou!

It’s been a great joy to work, remotely, with the superbly passionate French Canadian singer, Sandra Le Couteur this past month. We’ve had a couple of obstacles to overcome: language (Google Translate has been a true blessing, as I’ve forgotten much of my “high school” French…) and COVID-19, which I have miraculously avoided so far (it feels like only a matter of time, though), but which had Sandra laid up in bed for a week at the point at which she was aiming to record her vocals for the song.

Sandra is a true professional though, and despite illness, has put in an impassioned performance for our collaboration, VENT FOU (crazy wind), for which Sandra first wrote the lyrics, to which I added the music. I include a translation of the lyrics below for those of us who are non-French speakers which I hope will be of interest, and perhaps help to make sense of my musical approach a little, too.

I am particularly fond of “prosody” – working to make the musical elements of a song fit with and support the meaning of the lyrics. I’ve tried, in this song, to capture the imbalance and urgency of the climate crisis in the imbalanced feeling 7/8 time signature of the verses, and the hope that we will indeed manage to slow everything down, and simply breathe, in the more restful 4/4 time signature choruses.

A huge thank you to the talented creative team who have helped me to bring the song to life – to Sandra herself, for contributing her stunning vocals, and to Nicolas Basque her engineer for recording for us in Canada; to Mattie Foulds (drums, production), Kevin McGuire (bass) and Mikey Owers (brass). It’s such a pleasure to make music in this way – and incredible that through technology, and hard work, such international collaborations are possible! I do hope my pronunciation is okay…forgive me, if not 😉

#nomusiconadeadplanet #greenmusic

Ce fut une grande joie de travailler, à distance, avec la chanteuse canadienne-française superbement passionnée, Sandra Le Couteur le mois dernier. Nous avons eu quelques obstacles à surmonter : la langue (Google Translate a été une vraie bénédiction, car j’ai oublié une grande partie de mon français “lycée”…) et le COVID-19, que j’ai miraculeusement évité jusqu’à présent (il cela ne semble être qu’une question de temps), mais qui a obligé Sandra à rester au lit pendant une semaine au moment où elle visait à enregistrer sa voix pour la chanson.

Sandra est pourtant une vraie professionnelle, et malgré la maladie, elle a réalisé une performance passionnée pour notre collaboration, VENT FOU, dont Sandra a d’abord écrit les paroles, auxquelles j’ai ajouté la musique. J’inclus une traduction des paroles ci-dessous pour ceux d’entre nous qui ne sont pas francophones, ce qui, je l’espère, sera intéressant et aidera peut-être à donner un peu de sens à mon approche musicale aussi.

J’aime particulièrement la « prosodie » – travailler pour faire correspondre les éléments musicaux d’une chanson avec et soutenir le sens des paroles. J’ai essayé, dans cette chanson, de capturer le déséquilibre et l’urgence de la crise climatique dans le sentiment déséquilibré de la signature rythmique 7/8 des couplets, et l’espoir que nous parviendrons effectivement à tout ralentir, et simplement à respirer. les chœurs 4/4 plus reposants.

Un grand merci à la talentueuse équipe créative qui m’a aidé à donner vie à la chanson – à Sandra elle-même, pour sa voix époustouflante, et à Nicolas Basque, son ingénieur, pour avoir enregistré pour nous au Canada ; à Mattie Foulds (batterie, production), Kevin McGuire (basse) et Mikey Owers (cuivres). C’est un tel plaisir de faire de la musique de cette manière – et incroyable que grâce à la technologie et au travail acharné, de telles collaborations internationales soient possibles ! J’espère que ma prononciation est correcte… pardonnez-moi, sinon 😉

Quand le brasier se lève / When the inferno rises

Qu’il boit le nectar, la sève / Let him drink the nectar, the sap

Quand l’arbre se dessèche / When the tree withers

Il hurle au ciel sa détresse / He howls to the sky his distress

Quand la mer vidée s’écroule / When the empty sea collapses

Que les déchets noircis la soûle / That the blackened waste makes her drunk

Le vent murmure sa peine / The wind whispers its pain

La colore d’un noir ébène / The color of black ebony

 

Souffle souffle, vent de folie / Blow blow wind of madness

Souffle souffle sur ma terre / Breath breath on my land

Souffle souffle sur ma mer / Breath blow on my sea

Souffle souffle sur nos vies / Breath breath on our lives

 

Je veux revoir mon ciel / I want to see my sky again

Le prendre dans mes bras / Take him in my arms

M’enivrer de son miel / Get drunk on his honey

Son nom comme un mantra / His name like a mantra

Tu es belle ma terre / You are beautiful my land

Tu es tendre ma mer / You are tender my sea

Je te veux comme amant / I want you as a lover

Comme tu étais  avant / Like you were before

Souffle souffle, vent de folie / Blow blow wind of madness

Souffle souffle sur ma terre / Breath breath on my land

Souffle souffle sur ma mer / Breath blow on my sea

Souffle souffle sur nos vies / Breath breath on our lives

Souffle souffle, vent de folie / Blow blow wind of madness

Souffle souffle sur ma terre / Breath breath on my land

Souffle souffle sur ma merBreath blow on my sea

Souffle souffle sur nos viesBreath breath on our lives

Sur nos viesOn our lives

Sur nos viesOn our lives

25.4.22

One of the unexpected silver linings of the pandemic in 2020 was getting to take part in Global Music Match through Showcase Scotland Expo. Along with many other musicians from Scotland, I  was supported to connect with musicians around the world, and a few of my collaborators for the CONSEQUENCES project were part of the team I was lucky enough to join, coached by Stevie Smith, the CEO of Americana Music Association UK. The project enabled us to connect online with musicians at a time when touring was impossible, and provided us all with a support network, as well as a chance for reflection, skills development and creativity.

I was delighted to get to know Sandra and her passionate, dramatic music, through the project –  and all being well, by the end of this month, I’ll share with you some reflections on our collaboration, as well as the song we have written together. I look forward to seeing you then!

Collaboration 6 – J-P Piirainen

31.3.22

Here’s our finished song, It Only Takes A Silence, which was written in celebration of all those people who speak out and take action against injustice. Thanks to the creative team who helped bring it to life – J-P Piirainen (guitele, vocals, programming, production), Mikey Owers (brass and backing vocals), Mattie Foulds (production) and Gillian Gamble (artwork).

For those of you who, perhaps, like me, aren’t hugely familiar with traditional Finnish music, it’s worth mentioning that we wrote this piece in the time signature 5/4 which is typical of Finnish runo singing. Also, the chorus melody line and rhythmic patterns have taken inspiration from traditional style, with the beats grouped into 3 and 2, and lots of close intervals between notes.

The lyrics spoken by J-P in the song were gathered from old traditional Finnish texts about silence and being quiet, and are as follows:

Jo mie kaik’ virret unohi

Kaik mie laulut lakkaelin

Hiljaa, hiljaa nuohinainen

Hiljaa, hiljaa hiitelästi

 

They could be translated as follows:

I’ve forgotten all the hymns

I’ve stopped singing all the songs

Quiet, quiet young woman

Quiet, quiet quietly

 

Let’s not be bystanders…

#standwithukraine #solidaritywithukraine #refugeeswelcome #peace #notowar #divisioncannotwin

 

8.3.22

“If we can break the silence

We’ll know that they have seen us

We’ll rise up and do something

When tragedies begin

If we can break the silence

No walls will come between us

United voices gaining traction

Division cannot win”

J-P Piirainen is a talented fingerstyle guitarist and composer from Finland, who I met through Global Music Match. In 2020 he created a hybrid instrument that combines guitar and kantele (a traditional Finnish stringed instrument) into one body – he calls this the GUITELE. In his creative work, as in his instrument, he combines contemporary and traditional material.

I met J-P online to collaborate remotely on Thursday 24th February 2022, the day that Russia began a full scale invasion of Ukraine. The horrors of war and the individual responsibility on all of us to respond to this human tragedy were at the forefront of our minds as we worked together. For each of us, the concept of taking whatever action we can – whether that’s to speak up, personally and politically, when we see injustice, or to help, practically or financially, when we see others in need – became connected to the concept of moving from silence to sound, and we’re working on a song that embodies this concept right now – we will share “It Only Takes A Silence” with you by the end of this month. It’s not much, but it’s what we have to offer – and it’s heartening to see that we are far from alone in articulating our solidarity with Ukraine through sound, art and creativity.

Gillian Gamble, the artist who devised the CONSEQUENCES image, kindly permitted us to use this hopeful image of support for peace in Ukraine for this month’s track. 

If you’d like to make a sound or act in solidarity with Ukraine, here are a few links that may be of interest:

@zestinferna teaches MNOHAYA LITA – a well beloved Ukrainian blessing song being taught on Instagram. 

If you’re based in the UK, HERE‘s a comprehensive list of ways you can help Ukrainians compiled by the Ukrainian Institute in London: practically, financially and also by emailing your local MP to ask for further sanctions and safe passage for refugees.

If you’re based in Finland, HERE’s the link to Red Cross Finland where you can find ways to help Ukrainians.

Collaboration 5 – Goodnight Louisa

28.2.22

Here’s our finished song – Fifty To One

A huge thanks to the creative team who helped me bring it to life: Goodnight Louisa (vocals), Mattie Foulds (production, synths, drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) & Mikey Owers (brass).

“the fantasy that keeps on fading”

My fifth collaboration with Goodnight Louisa, “Fifty To One”, came about after I was lucky enough to work alongside Louise (her real name!) in 2021 as part of a fantastic songwriting project for young people attending Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre in Edinburgh. The project was delivered in partnership with Edinburgh International Festival and Vox Liminis (with whom I’ve done quite a bit of rewarding work in the past around singing and songwriting in a social justice context, including “In Tune” family singing sessions with prisoners and their families).

The young people at Goodtrees had really risen to the challenges of the pandemic, and had been using their time and energy during lockdown to get food and other supplies to everyone who needed them in their community – and this led the Edinburgh International Festival to devise a way of giving back to the young people themselves, through a project called AMPLIFY, which gave them a platform to speak out and be heard, through songs and raps.

Discovering Louise’s unique aesthetic and voice through this project, as well as her confidence and skills in production, I was keen to collaborate with her as part of CONSEQUENCES, and to learn more about her personal songwriting process, which leads to unique and engaging work, as you may have discovered already, if you’ve checked out her debut album, Human Danger (if you haven’t, you can listen HERE).

Having settled on a theme of greed, and more specifically, gambling, in advance, we spent an evening together in real life, collaborating in a room, and it was most interesting for me to see Louise’s process which is quite different from my own – building up a melody by playing lines and chords on her synthesiser (which I also had a bash at!), and also building up a vibe using a drum machine that she had recently bought, and working at a speed which really impressed me to try out and then settle on the final pattern of electronic beats that feature in the track. Another thing that was really interesting to me was how films influenced Louise’s creativity, and how that made our developing lyrics very visual, in a way that greatly appealed to me.

What was also quite different for me (from my usual songwriting approach, at least) was that the song came into existence that night, despite not having many words – it had a real shape and an energy, and we knew what it was going to be about, but apart from the chorus phrases, it didn’t have many lyrics at this stage. That was something that we then worked on remotely afterwards… 

The first real COVID-19 challenge happened during this collaboration; although much of the track was recorded mid month, sadly after that, Louise was unable to join a planned “in person” recording session with Mattie to record her vocals, because she tested positive for COVID. Despite being under the weather, and not having a functioning microphone or pop shield at home, Louise was a trouper and managed to borrow and record remotely in order to add what I’m sure you will agree are very distinctive and beautiful vocals to the song last night! As you can imagine, Mattie’s had quite a bit of work to do quickly in order to make the final mix and master and still meet today’s deadline – hats off to him, and his calm approach! It’s been a pleasure to collaborate with Louise on this, and I really hope you enjoy the song 🙂

17.2.22

My fifth songwriting collaborator in the CONSEQUENCES project is Goodnight Louisa, a dark pop artist from Edinburgh, Scotland, whose debut album, Human Danger, is out now – you can listen to it here

By the end of the month, I’ll share a blog with reflections on our collaboration, and a recording of our song! Exciting…

Meanwhile, if you’d like to support the project by pre-ordering the CD of the album for delivery in October 2022, you can do so here:

https://www.kimedgar.com/product/consequences-cd-pre-order/ 

Thanks for all your support!

Collaboration 4 – Dan Bettridge

31.1.22

Here’s our finished song – The Rolling Sea!

I really hope you enjoy the song! A huge thanks to the creative team who helped me bring it to life: Dan Bettridge (vocals, electric guitar), Mattie Foulds (production, drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) & Mikey Owers (electric guitar).

#danbettridge #kimedgar #songwritingcollaboration #consequences #treadlightly #saveourseas

26.1.22

Dan’s voice, and the warmth of his songs, really appealed to me as soon as I heard them – if you’d like, you can check both out in this beautiful Mahogany Session music video. 

When I got to know Dan a bit better, I also discovered his commitment to the environment (check out his website here), and so it seemed like a perfect opportunity to consider the environmental consequences of human behaviour in our collaboration – I suggested a couple of themes including this one to Dan, and he was keen to focus on the environment, so before we’d met to collaborate online, we already knew what we’d be writing about (which I find really helpful!).

We put aside a day to work together online, and we were literally starting from scratch; Dan has a home studio, and had set up his electric guitar as well as a vocal mic into his own recording software (he’s much further ahead than I am on the journey of becoming confident with recording technology) and so as we worked, he put down ideas and saved them for us. Occasionally, we took a longer break, so that I could do the same, slowly, and then email them to him 🙂

For some reason, The Beautiful South “A Little Time” had come into my head that day, and gave me the idea of an “almost-break-up” song, from the environment to humanity, really drawing the boundaries and saying what would need to happen to avoid humanity being kicked out of the house forever…I’m pleased Dan was up for the concept.

We really worked quite fluidly across words and music over the course of the day, and our work together reminded me of one of the main challenges of this type of collaboration; words. I feel words are so personal, and we know them so intimately, that it’s really hard to compromise on phrases that jar for anyone involved in the song collaboration. It has to feel right (some might say authentic, or true) to get into the song lyric. So we really had a lot of thinking time over the course of the day, and a lot of tweaking of individual words, and I think that by the end we’d found a way to express something that each of us felt fully behind. It’s also fairly economic with words – perhaps as a result of that challenge – and I think that’s a really good thing.

There’s one piece of learning from my collaboration with Dan that I’ll try to keep at the forefront of my mind. I often think of “the big picture” first; I’m concerned that my message comes across clearly, is fully formed, and covers all the points I want to make. When I chatted about this with Dan, he shared that he preferred the opposite approach – he prefers to start with something small, and see what he finds in that story, and what it might mean. It was a refreshing change for me, and it leads to songs where listeners can also find their own meanings, which is actually something as a listener myself I value. I’m going to try to do that more.

By the end of the month, I’ll update this page with a recording of our song! Hopefully see you then…

19.1.22

One of the unexpected silver linings of the pandemic in 2020 was getting to take part in Global Music Match through Showcase Scotland Expo. Along with many other musicians from Scotland, I was supported to connect with musicians around the world, and a few of my collaborators for the CONSEQUENCES project were part of the team I was lucky enough to join, coached by Stevie Smith, the CEO of Americana Music Association UK.

The project enabled us to connect online with musicians at a time when touring was impossible, and provided us all with a support network, as well as a chance for reflection, skills development and creativity.

I was delighted to discover Dan’s music, which I would probably never have come across otherwise, and you can discover it, too, at his website:

https://www.danbettridge.com/

By the end of this month, I’ll expand on my notes here, and share with you some reflections on my collaboration with Dan, as well as the song we write together. I look forward to seeing you then!

Collaboration 3 – Boo Hewerdine

 

30.12.21

Here’s our finished song – The Edge Of Shame!

It was such an honour to work with Boo on this song; what was most fascinating for me was the speed at which Boo’s ideas came…I confess, for myself, most of the finding of music, and indeed, words, is a slow process. I’m sure it’s something that will improve with more practice 🙂

We discussed some general topics that interested us; Boo was interested in how the law affects the ways in which people are treated – so for example, we talked about the fact that it’s not so long ago that homosexual relationships were illegal in the UK, and how more recent legal changes have led the way, or been a part of the journey, in challenging and changing thinking.

This topic tied in with my thoughts around shame, which I was keen to write about. I had seen something on television which profoundly moved me, and also made me think about how attitudes can change vastly over time: it was a short news article about women who had had their children taken away from them at birth because they were unmarried mothers. This was deemed shameful at the time, yet today in the UK, I think it’s fairly common for unmarried women or indeed any unmarried individual, or couple, to have children. It was heartbreaking to watch women in their 70s and 80s breaking down as they explained what happened to them, acknowledged their own sense of guilt that they hadn’t done something more at the time to prevent this from happening (though it’s very hard to see what they could have done), and their lived experience of loss of their children, every day since.

Boo, by chance, had had a gig in a venue which was a former convent, and had been invited to visit an unused part of the venue, where unmarried mothers had been housed while pregnant – so his direct experience of the feelings he had in that space also fed into the ideas for this song…thanks to Mattie Foulds (production, drums, percussion & synths) for helping me bring the song to life. It doesn’t feel right to suggest that I hope you might enjoy this song – but thank you for listening.

#boohewerdine #kimedgar #songwritingcollaboration #consequences #letconsciencedecide

22.12.21

I’m so pleased to announce my third collaboration is with Boo Hewerdine!

“From the top of the bus
She thought she saw him wave
She’s all Tuesdays and forgetfulness
And a little money saved…”

In my first ever songwriting class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, we studied “Patience Of Angels” written by Boo Hewerdine. I was blown away by how the understated, emotive opening lines (like a good drama) landed you right in the middle of a situation, and left you keen to know and understand more.

Our first songwriting task was to write our own song which placed someone, positionally, somewhere, at the opening. I wrote Quietly Fantastic, inspired by my wonderful, unique friend Suzie, and the song title ended up being the name of my record label. It begins:

“High above the dirty and fury of the underground
There’s a little gem in a first floor flat in Kentish Town”

But back to Boo. Later, in Patience Of Angels, is one of my favourite parts of the song – a section which I’d call the bridge, and some people call the middle eight:

“There’s a door in a wall in a house in a street
In a town where no one knows her name”

What I also began to observe here was the real craft that was possible in songwriting; the conscious shaping of music and words for particular effect. I discovered this was a really fundamental aspect of Boo’s songwriting when I was lucky enough to hear him perform a full set, live, at Burnsong Live 2005 in Dumfries (the songwriting festival which I mentioned in a previous part of this blog led to me leaving my job as a primary school teacher to pursue songwriting as a career), and I happily left that gig with an armful of his albums.

I can remember clearly, after this experience, thinking “How would Boo Hewerdine approach this?” and in particular, I remember his approach was at the forefront of my mind when I wrote “Scissors, Paper, Stone”, which is one of my songs that I’m particularly proud of.

I was lucky enough to later perform a couple of times on stage with Boo in subsequent Burnsong events, but I confess my shyness got the better of me, and our interactions probably stalled after I said something like “I think you’re amazing” and then blushed and left the room…

Lockdown brought me an unexpected and most welcome opportunity to get to know Boo better; I applied for and was successful in securing a place on Bird On A Wire – a week long online songwriting workshop in February 2020, led by Boo and Findlay Napier, provided through funding support from Creative Scotland free of charge for songwriters who were currently unable to tour because of the pandemic. I absolutely love learning about other songwriters’ techniques and approaches, and it was fascinating for me to hear directly from Boo and Findlay about their own songwriting approaches. Both were generous in their advice and feedback as our cohort wrote individually and also collaborated in various constellations on a variety of songwriting tasks over the course of the week. Once again, a songwriter that I greatly admired from a distance didn’t seem so far away any more, and so when I had a final online one-to-one chat with Boo, and he asked what would be helpful for me going forward with my songwriting, I took the plunge and said “I’d really love to collaborate with you, if you’d consider it.” I was so thankful that he said yes! Watch this space to find out more about how we worked and the song we’ve now made together…it’ll be here by the end of the month – I look forward to seeing you then!

Collaboration 2 – Horse McDonald

30.11.21

Here’s our finished song – Save Myself (Run Away)!

I really hope you enjoy the song! A huge thanks to the creative team who helped me bring it to life: Horse McDonald (vocals), Mattie Foulds (production, drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) & Mikey Owers (brass).

#horsemcdonald #kimedgar #songwritingcollaboration #consequences #imstillalive #isavemyself #begintotrust #illdothis #survivor

24.11.21

“Silent, still – to survive”

My second collaboration with Horse, “Save Myself (Run Away)” has come from a very personal, emotional place. Horse was abducted as a child, and what happened to her during that time is blank. To survive, she was silent. She feels that this childhood trauma continues to affect her in many ways, including in relationships, and that the after effects of trauma on people is something that perhaps isn’t generally discussed or understood.

What Horse shared reminded me that trauma can really have a devastating effect on people’s lives. Horse is clearly a motivated, positive, and determined individual despite her experiences, but others perhaps don’t have that inner resilience. A few years back, I worked with young women in Cornton Vale prison in an under 21s choir project. It became clear, after getting to know them, that for many, their offending was by no means the start of their story. Rather, it was a response to their (often traumatic) experiences as a child or teenager. I came away from that experience with a strong sense that we judge (and even incarcerate) people because of their actions, but we often don’t understand what’s caused their behaviour. I felt that many of these young women had already been failed by us, as a society, when we took no notice of the traumas they were experiencing before they began offending.

After talking about Horse’s experience in video chats, we were both keen to shine a light on the issue of trauma and its consequences. Like myself, Horse has a home studio, and worked up a whole vibe and groove for our collaboration using sounds and samples in Logic (a digital audio workstation that I use myself). She also created a strong melody line for the song, some lyrics and a motif around the phrase “run away, run away”. Because I was going to be singing the lead vocals, Horse was keen that I would take all that we’d spoken about and let the story come out of my mouth in a way that made sense to me – so after meeting in another video chat and hearing all the initial ideas (which I was very excited by!) I set to work on developing the lyrics, running them by Horse in writing, and then in a rough recording. We made some further tweaks together – right up to the day of recording the vocals with Mattie Foulds in his home studio (after the drums, keys and synths had been recorded).

I was delighted that unexpectedly, Horse was keen and able to join me for recording my vocals, and also offered to record backing vocals for the song – we had a real sense in developing the song idea that the main character was divided, with some of her coping, and some of her simply wanting to escape it all – and it seemed using both of our voices would be a good way to represent this. By chance, she was already travelling to Edinburgh to perform as a surprise at a wedding, and therefore without any additional environmental impact, she came a day early, came with me to the recording session and then stayed with me, before performing for the wedding the next day.

I learned so much from our time together. Watching Horse recording vocals was an incredible experience; and she was so constructively supportive while I was recording my vocals, that I learned a lot from that, too. On top of this, Horse is quite the storyteller – and she has so many fascinating stories to tell! And she is generous; gently and kindly offering advice and support based on her years of experience in the industry. To go through what she has in her life, and come out the other side of it as a positive, determined and supportive artist and human is quite an achievement. She’s an inspiration.

Watch this space for the final mix of our song, which we hope to share with you by the end of this month….

3.11.21

I’m so pleased to announce my second collaboration is with Horse McDonald! I’ve seen Horse’s powerful and moving live performances many times, and admired her work, her positivity and confidence and her powerful stage presence from afar…but during lockdown, I had my first interactions with her, when she was standing in for Iain Anderson on BBC Radio Scotland and played a few tracks from my album, HELD, which I released in December 2020, including Baby Steps,  which features my nieces and nephew – I think she was quite taken with their singing! She was kind enough to get in touch to ask me if there was anything I’d like mentioned along with the plays – a generous effort that I really appreciated. And again, somehow an imaginary wall between myself and one of my heroes seemed to break down…

By the end of this month, I’ll expand on my notes here, and share with you some reflections on my collaboration with Horse for the Consequences project, as well as the song we write in collaboration. I look forward to seeing you then!

Collaboration 1 – Ron Sexsmith

30.10.21

Here’s our finished song – Any Wishing Star!

I was honoured to collaborate with award-winning Canadian songwriter Ron Sexsmith for this song, which is focused on being kind, and taking positive action, rather than seeking to blame others. It’s timely that it’s being shared right now in advance of hosting COP26 here in Scotland, where we need to acknowledge, globally, where we’re at with the climate crisis and take positive steps forward.

I really hope you like the song! A huge thanks to the creative team who heled me bring it to life: Mattie Foulds (production, drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) & Mikey Owers (brass, guitars, synths, vocals)

#ronsexsmith #kimedgar #songwritingcollaboration #consequences #promiseswecantforget #iwishfortheworld #writeadifferentending #kindnessisourmission #musicforCOP26 #COP26

25.10.21

“Why do you write songs?”

This is a question I frequently ask others to consider during songwriting workshops, and since the pandemic, I’ve had more time than usual to ponder what I’m trying to do with my songwriting, and why.

As a teenager, the songs of Tori Amos, and subsequently Joni Mitchell, had a huge impact on me. Their songs spoke, it felt, directly to me at that time, and brought me solace and a sense that I was not alone in my experiences. I was writing songs back then, too. I can remember, as if it was yesterday, first listening to Tori Amos single “Silent All These Years” on my friend Louise McFadden’s headphones in the dining room at high school, and a few years later, in 1994, hearing Tori herself perform a cover of A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell in Edinburgh’s Queens Hall, with Louise by my side. Later still, in 2005, hearing Karine Polwart perform songs that touched and moved me prompted my next steps on my own songwriting journey. Karine’s concert was part of a weeklong festival that I had been invited to attend as one of 17 winners of a songwriting competition; inspired by the power of Karine’s performance, and the quality of her songs, I left my employment as a primary school teacher to focus on songwriting full time.

Songs have, literally, helped me – and that’s why I write songs myself. Songs can help people – to reflect, to not feel alone, to be brave, to be soothed, to empathise with others, to challenge their own thinking. I’m not a naturally confident person, but I am confident about gathering my thoughts into songs and sharing them on stage – and I hope that in this way, the things I make can be of some help to others.

Bolstered by new connections and support in terms of my online communication through a project called Global Music Match during the pandemic, I shared a post on social media with me performing a cover of A Case Of You (here’s Joni’s outstanding original version) from my front room, along with some reflections on my own motivations as a songwriter. I was surprised, and pleased, with the way people responded to this – and it motivated me to continue to share aspects of my work on social media. I resolved to post a performance of one favourite song a month in 2021, along with my reasons for loving the song. This is where Ron comes in…

In February, I performed Gold In Them Hills by Ron Sexsmith (you can here his glorious original here). I adore everything about this song. The music itself is gorgeous, but on top, the song’s powerful message is so eloquently put into words. “Though our troubles seem like mountains…there’s gold in them hills.” I have taught this song to many others since I first discovered it, in the hope that those who hear and sing it will experience the same comfort and solace that the song has given to me.

I was taken aback when Ron himself retweeted and complimented my performance:

“Thanks Kim! That was beautiful RS”

– and suddenly a songwriter I had greatly admired from a distance didn’t seem so far away. Through the magic of Twitter algorithms, I received more and more content from Ron – and the more of his pun tweets I read, the more affinity I felt with him. Those of you who have known me for a while are probably already familiar with my love of puns! I have done “a pun a day” for the run up to Christmas some years, and then there’s The Balloon Joke (containing my favourite pun) which I’ve told at almost every solo performance for around 13 years, since I first heard it…My Grandpa Jones loved puns, and his joy in them was infectious, and I caught it directly! So reading all these puns on Ron’s Twitter feed, felt familiar and comforting. Alongside these, Ron also regularly shares what I now know he calls “Twitter thought poems” – concise, strong lyrical ideas. I really enjoyed reading these, and several of them particularly caught my imagination, and also seemed to link together thematically.

An idea had been brewing in the back of my mind: a project that would help me to do one thing I struggle to do myself – to reach out to others and ask for their help. I love (and I mean, truly love) to collaborate with other songwriters – it’s a fascinating chance to delve into how someone else’s creative mind works, and to learn from it – but approaching others and asking them to collaborate involves a level of self confidence that I don’t really have. It reminds me of freshers week at university, where having summoned up enough courage to enter the student union, I struggled to start conversations with strangers, stood in a toilet cubicle for quite a long time, and then returned home. Still, I began to work on plans for an ambitious project that would support me to do that hard thing, and reach out to collaborate with others – and once again, I was taken aback, and deeply grateful when Ron offered a letter of support for the project, and said he’d do his best to collaborate, despite being already committed to writing and recording his own album at this time.

The whole focus of the Consequences project is to look at the personal, social or environmental impact that human actions have – to consider how we live, and how we could live. It seems that right now we’re facing many challenges in the world and it’s a good time to see if songs can be any help with considering how we meet them. Ron’s thought poems connected strongly for me with discussions that Ron and I had via email about the need for kindness and understanding towards people living with mental ill health, rather than shaming, shunning or ostracising them. Ron’s thought poems seemed to focus on asking ourselves to be kind, and to make an effort to make things better, rather than seeking to blame others, which I loved. So I asked Ron if he’d already used these in songs or if he’d be up for me weaving them together to form the lyrics for our song collaboration, and was delighted to discover that the lyrics were indeed not yet in use elsewhere, and that Ron was happy for me to do this. With just a couple of edits, we were able to create a full lyric from a selection of his thought poems.

“You may not have gone the farthest
But far enough to see the light
You may not have caused the darkness
But it’s up to you to make it bright”

That’s one thing that I really love when collaborating with others – sometimes, it takes someone else to see that you’ve got a real gem of an idea, when you haven’t yet seen that for yourself…Ron’s lyrics are really beautiful, and it was a great pleasure and challenge for me to try and do them justice with the music. I worked in my home studio to create the melody and harmony for the song, then emailed Ron a rough home recording of it to get his feedback before starting to work on the final recording with the full creative team’s input. I was honoured to receive this response:

“That’s really lovely…there’s nothing I would change or do differently, it’s perfect. It reminds me of something Judee Sill might’ve written.”

Knowing now that we were both happy with the completed song, I was able to record my final vocals and piano parts and then pass this on for further contributions from Mattie Foulds (drums), Kevin McGuire (bass) and Mikey Owers (brass, guitars, synths, backing vocals). I’m excited as the project progresses to hear the final song emerging, and can’t wait to share it with you by the end of the month!

5.10.21

Several years ago, touring with the Edinburgh based Scottish Americana artist, Dean Owens, I was fortunate enough to be introduced, as we drove the roads of the UK, to the captivating songwriting and voice of Canadian singer songwriter, Ron Sexsmith. I was particularly entranced by his open, honest lyrics, and the beauty, and vulnerability, of Ron’s unique voice. You can experience both by listening to the stunning song, Gold In Them Hills, which really captures, for me, how joy and sorrow sit alongside each other in most of our lives. I also really love that Ron’s message in this song is that how we choose to look at things can make all the difference. I’m certain that this song must have helped countless people who’ve been lucky enough to hear it.

By the end of this month, I’ll expand on my notes here, and share with you some reflections on my collaboration with Ron for the Consequences project, as well as the song we write in collaboration. I look forward to seeing you then!

CONSEQUENCES LAUNCH!

I’m excited to announce the launch of a new collaborative songwriting project: CONSEQUENCES.

I’m passionate about songwriting; I love the way that words and music can interact to tell stories that open hearts and minds, and build empathy. They can also prompt reflection on, and conversations around, difficult subjects. And there’s a powerful sense of solace that comes from hearing songs which let us know we are not alone in our experiences, whatever they may be – I hope to provide this in my songwriting, too.

I’m committed to continuing to write songs that aim to do these things, and I’m conscious that previous collaborations with other songwriters have greatly enriched the way that I write. That’s why I’m excited that with Creative Scotland’s support, I’m now taking bold steps forward on my songwriting journey, with an ambitious project that will enable me to collaborate with twelve songwriters I admire, from Scotland and around the world, over the coming year, inspired by the word, and the game, “Consequences”.

The songwriters will be revealed on a monthly basis – and I’m delighted to announce that my first collaboration (October 2021), is with award-winning Canadian songwriter, Ron Sexsmith.

In collaboration with the various songwriters, I will be writing a collection of songs on the topic of the personal, social or environmental consequences of human behaviour. The methods of each collaboration will be uniquely devised between myself and my fellow songwriters, and we’ll be mindful of COVID-19 safety and environmental impact when we make our plans. Once written, the 12 songs will be unfolded (recorded, mixed and shared publicly) one at a time, like the paper in the game consequences, alongside a blog documenting the project, adding up to an album of work, early copies of which will be sent to those who pre-order it in October 2022, in advance of its official release. You can follow the “Consequences” project and hear the new songs online each month, right here on my website.

As well as helping me to learn and grow as a songwriter, through the funding support from Creative Scotland, “Consequences” will enable me to purchase gear to upgrade my home studio, and be mentored in recording techniques, so that I’m better able to work from home in the future, should that be necessary. I also hope that the songs will open up conversations about how we live, and provide moments of reflection on human behaviour and its personal, social and environmental consequences.

THE CREATIVE TEAM
There are always risks and challenges in making an album, and this is a particularly ambitious project, collaborating for the first time with twelve songwriters around the world, to a fairly tight timescale. Writing, arranging, recording and then sharing a new song every month is going to be a particular challenge that I’ve never attempted before! However, I’m not alone: there’s a fantastic creative team who will support me to record and produce the songs and the final album, along with accompanying artwork and music videos, and I’ve worked with each of these magical folk before, so I’m confident in the team, and in the album. These talents include Mattie Foulds (producer and drummer), Kevin McGuire (bass), Mikey Owers (brass/guitars/vocals), Gillian Gamble (artwork and animation), and Louise Mather (film).

HOW YOU CAN HELP
I had a Crowdfunder campaign (which is now closed) to help meet some of the costs involved in bringing the album together, including:

– Fees for musicians and songwriters

– Fees for recording, mixing and mastering the album

– Album design and manufacture

– Marketing and publicity costs

However, you can still support the project!

It’s been a challenging couple of years for most of us in the creative team, and your support to bring this project off the ground is hugely appreciated!

If you are in a position to pre-order the album HERE and think it might be something you’d enjoy listening to when it’s ready, we’d be most grateful.

Thanks!

 

ALL THE LITTLE SUNBURSTS!

Today’s my birthday! There’s much in the world to be deeply concerned about, but I’m grateful to be alive, and today I’m celebrating the glory of nature, and the human potential for love, generosity, compassion and positive action…powerful tools to overcome the challenges we face. A huge thanks to those of you who contributed your beautiful photographs and stories to help celebrate “the stuff that doesn’t make the news” in a new music video for “All The Little Sunbursts” which you can watch HERE.

NEW CARA ALBUM & LIVE GIGS!

I’m delighted to share the news the new CARA album, Grounded, is on the way! For those who have pre-ordered copies, they will be in the post very shortly – we’ll be sending them out while we’re on tour…what’s that, you say? Yes, tour 🙂 Finally, our first gigs since October 2020 are taking place – I can’t wait! All the details are on my  Tour Dates page.