Looking back, the recording process for my debut album ‘More Than Boys’ was very simple. I went to Martyn Joseph’s studio for two days and performed my 11 songs live in front of three microphones. We wanted to capture that live feel so we had very little more than my guitar and me on the whole CD, although Martyn put down some nice piano parts and harmonies just to add some texture. It took me and Martyn a total of just two and a half days to do a whole album!
The making of ‘Fumes and Faith’ was a very different process. I recorded the album with American producer, Mason Neely who is based in Cardiff and has worked a lot with Martyn. It was recorded over a period of about 3 to 4 months. I would drive to Cardiff and stay there a few nights and do days of solid recording. It was Mason, Martyn and myself who were involved in the making of this album and of course we had a lot more to consider this time around. We had to choose my 11 best songs and then decide how we wanted them to sound on the record. Of course, with three people who have musical ears and big opinions, there were disagreements and squabbles about how certain tracks should sound, where they should sit and even if we would keep certain sections of songs in. Eventually, we got a product I believe we are all very proud of!
Sister was the last track I wrote for the album. I knew I wanted to have an atmospheric and punchy song to open up the CD. When I first set out with the track I had not intended on writing lyrics with a story to them, I was concentrating a lot more on the vibe and dynamics. It was only when I came to writing the last verse I decided to add a bit of a story and twist. I must have only finished it off a few days before recording it in the studio but I knew immediately after writing it that not only did I want it on the CD, I wanted it to open up the album! We had great fun working on this track. Me and Mason built up a whole rhythm section by clicking our fingers, clapping our hands and stomping on his floors. We added bass, some harmony vocals and atmospheric drones. Although the song is not massively produced, it is a very big sounding track and that is exactly what I wanted.
Father and Son
This song tells the story of a father and sons bond through the relationship they both have with the mother of the family. The first thing I wrote for this song was the chorus and I knew after writing the lyrics for that section, I wanted it to be a story song. This track has some beautiful double bass on it played by Andrew ‘Wal’ Coughlan and some lovely simple drums played by Mason Neely. We did not think it needed anything more to it and didn’t want the production to get in the way of the story. When we tried to record it along to a click track it felt a bit robotic, so we ended up doing a live take. So I recorded this in Mason’s kitchen whilst he was in the front room listening on headphones and playing along on the drums.
Fumes and Faith
The title track Fumes and Faith was written about small town life and wanting to get out of the streets you have grown up in. I suppose it talks about the ownership local people have, and how they themselves feel free to badmouth their home town endlessly but if any outsiders come along and try to change anything, they immediately get very defensive.
It took us a while to decide how we wanted this track to sound. We knew we heard something more than just my guitar and me but didn’t know what. Once Andy had put his bass part down, me and Mason decided to add some subtle foot stomps just to give it more of a pulse. It immediately sounded full and didn’t really ask for a lot else to be added to it. You can hear what sounds like a shaker in the track adding to the rhythm section but this is actually Mason rubbing his hands on his jeans. We couldn’t afford a professional shaker player!
Answers Have Gone
I wrote this when on tour with Martyn Joseph. It was a song that came easily and was written within about 30 minutes. My initial idea for the lyrics was to make sure they all scanned in a rolling manner. This is about people in life who constantly try to please others, but in doing so receive no pleasure themselves. I guess I wasn’t concentrating massively on the story, I was more focused of the vibe, flow and feel. When I took this into the studio we knew it should have a real raunchy blues feel to it so we added some sleazy drums, which exaggerated the pulse and put down some electric bass giving it a nice low end. To bulk up the rhythm section and to give it even more of an old timey feel, we found some glass bottles, cowbells and various things we could hit with a drumstick and added them to the mix!
Out of Time
This was another song I wrote whilst away on tour with Martyn Joseph. We had a show in Cardiff and I had just finished my set and was in the green room having a breather before going to watch Martyn’s set. We was playing the room next door to St David’s Hall and I had sneaked into the main auditorium to have a look and it was completely empty. I ran back to the green room, grabbed my guitar and sat on the edge of the stage in the hall and started playing. The acoustics were phenomenal.
I had been away from my family and friends for just over a month and was feeling pretty sorry for myself after receiving a bit of unwanted news, so I ended up writing this song whilst sat on the stage as a way to get things off my chest.
When recording this song I did not want a lot added. We knew we wanted Andy to put some double bass to the track and Mason came up with the idea of laying down some piano on the song. I suggested we kept the piano part very simple, just playing the same notes as my guitar and letting the chords ring out. To my ears, it added just the right amount of dynamics to the track.
I wrote this around the same time as ‘Sister’. Although this is a story song, the story itself is very vague to allow the listeners to come up with their own interpretation as to what might have happened to the man in the song. I love those songs, which paint a picture in your head, take you on a journey and then leave you wondering what has happened and all you can do it conjure up various endings and go with the one you like best! I suppose this is my attempt at writing one of those songs.
The album version of this track is just my guitar and me, we didn’t think it needed anything else adding to it so we simply kept it as it was.
This was the first song I wrote after releasing my debut album ‘More Than Boys’. I remember at the time feeling pretty gutted it didn’t make it on the CD, but now I am thankful it didn’t. Getting to record this song with Mason was brilliant fun and it was in fact the first track we recorded and produced together in the studio. Because it has such a specific feel to it luckily we had the exact same sounds in our head and it didn’t take long for us to get these ideas onto the track.
I personally think it works so well on this album with the stomps, drums and bass! It feels like a real bluesy rock song and I am very pleased with the way it sounds!
Charlie in the Big World
This song is about people who tell white lies and tend to exaggerate when sharing stories to groups of friends. Every verse has its own little tale of people telling lies, some of them I have made up, other I have been told, others are from my own experiences like the lines about the conker tree. ‘He told us his father planted the old conker tree, 100 years ago today, but he is only 53′. When I was younger I was down the bottom of my village throwing sticks at a conker tree with a friend, a bigger boy arrived and demanded we stopped doing it. When we asked ‘why?’ he said it was his Dads and he had grown it 100 years ago. When we asked how old his Dad was, he did in fact reply 53! So, when I was writing this song I knew I had to get that little story in there somehow! There is also a dark humour to the lyrics so we added drones and bowed double bass to bring some tension and dynamics to the track. Other than that, it is just my guitar and me.
Down to the Sea
This is another track on the album which is just me and my guitar. Neither Mason or me could hear anything else on this song. We tried bass and even a string section but it always seemed best on its own. My album ‘More Than Boys’ talks a lot about growing up and moving from childhood to adulthood and after releasing that, I knew I had to prevent myself from writing more songs with the same topic. ‘Down to the Sea’ is the one track that can easily relate to the songs from my début CD. It is about how much things can change over the period of just a year. After writing this song, I did wonder for a long time whether to put it on the album because it talks about similar topics to the ‘More Than Boys’ themes, but it is a very personal song, and one I love playing so we decided to keep it on there, and I am very glad I did.
Ghost at the Crossroads
This song tells the story of an old American blues artist travelling around the States and having a hard time doing so. In the song he comes over to England and people seem to appreciate his music a lot more. Although he wants to stay and try and succeed in England, throughout the song there is this mystical, spiritual thing calling him back home.
There are a lot of references and name drops in this song. It talks about various blues artists and the music scene they were involved in. I grew up listening to the blues in our house and have always been fascinated by the history and myth’s this music holds, so writing a song involving that was great fun.
This was another track where Mason and myself heard exactly the same production! We added a raunchy bass line and some drum sections to give it guts and before we knew it we was on to the next song!
I wrote the song Notebook when I was about 15. It was originally written on a four stringed instrument called the Tenor guitar. It was a song I had not played in years, but the deadline for the recording was approaching and I didn’t have a song we felt closed the album in a completed form. I had lots of songs, quite a few that didn’t make the album, just not a finishing one!
I was flicking through rough recordings of old songs on my computer when I stumbled across ‘Notebook’. I transposed the song onto the guitar, changed a few words around and knew I wanted to take it to Mason and Martyn!
On the old recording I did in a nearby studio, I asked Debs Earl, a local promoter and singer to put some vocals harmonies onto the chorus and really liked the sound of it. When we were playing around with this current version in the studio we decided to do something similar and take it a bit further by building up a big section of my vocal parts on to all the chorus’s, giving it a real choral sound. I love the feel to this song and personally am very happy with the way it closes the CD.
I would really like to thank…
Mason and Martyn for all their help in the making of ‘Fumes and Faith’. The hard work they put into this CD is massively appreciated. I would also really like to thank Nikki Woodhead for her organisation and keeping us all on track so we made the deadlines!
I hope you enjoy ‘Fumes and Faith’!
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This post was written by Luke