Sunday, 28 June 2015

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

A couple of years ago I was asked to write a song based on Susanna Clarke's award-winning novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. The BBC had commissioned a TV adaptation of the story, and a friend who was connected to the production team suggested that if I wrote a song, they would pitch it to the director and producer for use as the theme.

So the following day I wandered down the valley to my local bookshop in Stroud, where I found the book on the ‘recommended’ fiction shelves at the back of the store. My initial thought was “you’ve got to be kidding”, as my hand struggled to fit around the spine and take it off the shelf for closer inspection. Being over 1000 pages long and printed in one of the smallest fonts I’d ever struggled to see, I have to say I was initially quite reluctant to commit myself to such an undertaking. But I bit the bullet and bought the book...

…and very quickly my life was entirely taken over by the story of the two magicians, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. With such superb story-telling and evocative imagery, there was no shortage of inspiration for a song.

Shortly after finishing the book, I sat down at my piano. After some time, a chord progression emerged, along with a melody; then came the lyrics; then came the ideas for the arrangement. I recorded the sound of different bells in my house and around town (this will make sense if you have been watching the series or have read the book); I asked my friend Misha Law (Truffleshack, Other Mother) to lend her violin skills; Dom Coyote provided backing vocals; and… voilĂ , my demo of ‘Beneath the Skin of England’ was complete. I sent it off and crossed my fingers...

…but perhaps I should have tried a spell instead. As is often the way with ideas we throw out there, it didn’t end up being used. The score had already been written and, sadly, there was no room for my song.

But when the series was shown on the BBC some eighteen months later, it reminded me of the song and I thought now would be a good time to share it...

Friday, 1 May 2015

Germany here I come!

Hello everyone,

After a week-long writing retreat in South Devon (pictured above) where I've been working on songs for the next album, I'm now heading over to Germany to play some shows in record shops and hifi stores!

Come and catch me at one of these May shows...

Tues 5th @ 25 Music, Hannover 5pm (free)
Weds 6th @ Zardoz Schallplatten, Hamburg 5pm (free)
Weds 6th @ Audiophonie, Hamburg 7pm (reservations only)
Thurs 7th @ Dodo Beach, Berlin 5pm (free)
Thurs 7th @ Boxengross, Berlin 7pm (reservations only)
Fri 8th @ Analogue, Bonn 7pm (reservations only)
Sat 9th @ No. 1 Guitar Shop, Hamburg 3pm (free)
Sat 9th @ Downtown Blues Club, Hamburg 8pm
Tues 12th @ Hifi-Studio Achterholt, Bremen 7pm (reservations only)
Fri 15th @ Strandgutfischer, Hamburg 8pm (free)

Best wishes,

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Toerag Sessions

The Toerag Sessions is officially out now!

To celebrate, I'm visiting some of my favourite indie record stores over the next couple of weeks, and I'll also be playing a launch show at Exmouth Market Centre in London...

All the dates are here:
Mon 6 Apr - BRISTOL Rise, 4pm
Wed 8 Apr - LONDON Exmouth Market Centre (album Launch show), 8pm Tickets
Thu 9 Apr - STROUD Trading Post, 6.30pm
Fri 10 Apr - MARLBOROUGH Sound Knowledge 6.30pm
Sat 11 Apr - LEWES Union Music Store 3pm
Sat 11 Apr - EASTBOURNE Pebble, 5pm
Mon 13 Apr - WORCESTER Rise, 3pm
Fri 17 Apr - DEAL Smugglers Records 5pm
Sat 18 Apr - SOUTHSEA Pie & Vinyl, 1pm (Record Store Day)
Sat 18 Apr - BEXHILL Music's Not Dead, 5pm (Record Store Day)
Fri 24 Apr - PENARTH Songwriters' Circle, 7.30pm Details

There are still a handful of the limited editions available from my Pledge Music page, but the album can now also be ordered on Amazon, downloaded from iTunes or streamed on Spotify.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Toerag Sessions - album cover

I'm very excited to reveal the album cover for ‪The Toerag Sessions‬!

The photo was taken by Ben Morse in the studio on the last day of recording - we chose this one for the cover because we think it captures the live, analogue, retro feel of how the record was made.

Read more about the album, and pre-order limited editions at my Pledge Music page.