The Everlasting Mountain

I’ve been meaning for a week or so to write about some of the recording processes I’ve been going through.

My whole system has changed dramatically since making The Hollow. When I made that album I was living in a house in Streatham. I had a studio in the basement. In that Studio were a selection of mics always ready to go. A drum kit, guitars everywhere, percussion, my Fender Rhodes and other keyboards and just plenty of space to drape things and experiment.

I don’t have that space anymore and so when I started, the as yet unnamed, new album I knew I would have to contend with that. I went back to making beats rather than expecting to have a kit to pop downstairs and go play on. Something I’d got into the habit of doing to the detriment of my programming skills.

Much of the last eight months has been about that learning experience, a lot of experimenting, which has meant a lot of ideas by the wayside, but that’s just the process. The road to the final project is scattered with the corpses of half baked ideas. Each one represents a new approach or a technique I was experimenting with though, I guess, quite often where the technical elements outweighed the songwriting.

Those skills remain, those songs fulfilled their job as lessons and more often than not those key elements will be heard in the finished album in a better, more appropriate setting. You have to keep faith in yourself at this point.

I’ve always seen the writing process as a lengthy cycle of 12 to 18 months. Well, less of a cycle and more of a continuous climb marked out by plateaus. There will be months of, seemingly pointless, no-good ideas, bad from the beginning, uninspiring. Then all those little thoughts and endeavours begin to combine into a better me and a sustained period of joyful creativity ensues. Sometimes lasting just weeks, sometimes lasting a few months.

The plateau will always be reached again and that frustrating period where you feel like you’ve “lost it” or you “may never write another good song”. But as always, the skills and ideas discarded in those tough months assemble and, combined with a moment of energy and inspiration, rocket you up the next exhilarating climb.

I normally find that two of those plateaus and climbs are what it takes for me to get an album together. I guess in some ways that contributes to the variety of sounds you get on my albums too, which people comment on a lot.

Most important though, I think, is the fact that you have to keep working, keep turning up through those flat periods, they’re possibly more important than the successful periods. It’s like going back to school. It teaches me to be resilient to failure as well. Which is no bad thing.

Next week I’m going to share an EP of those tracks that came together in the process. Ones that are actually worth listening to (well I think so anyway). Sign up to my mailing list to make sure you get sent them.

Do you have a similar experience with your creativity? Please share below.

Next time… all about my personal nemesis: singing.

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