Starlings & Crows
I'm so pleased to be finally releasing this album. It does feel quite strange to be releasing it right now in these times. On the one hand very strange, and on the other reassuringly normal for me. I hope that it is meaningful and connects and can offer something in this incredibly difficult year.
I actually finished the album in terms of writing the songs back in late Feb, so they are all 'pre-pandemic'. What really struck me while I was finishing mixing and listening back to it in the Spring, in those first surreal months of lockdown, was how many of the songs seemed to be taking on another layer of meaning and poignancy. I’m never quite sure how much to say about my songs - once I send them out into the world they make their own way and start belonging to others, so I don’t want to intrude on that too much - I suppose I think my job is over really, and now it’s down to the album to communicate itself. I’d like to say a bit about how the album started and some of where the inspiration came from and hope that’s illuminating.
I started writing the title song in 2017 just as I was finishing my previous album 'Blood-Red Spark'.
For me, that album had been a lot about the sensuality of sound and the search for emotional connection through my voice - and developing how intensely I could conjure different sound-worlds with a palette of synth pads, beats and textures. The song I wrote at the end of that process felt very different to me. It was called 'Starlings & Crows' and was inspired by the 19th century poet John Clare. It had much more of a 'pastoral' feel to it. I think there is always an element of connection to the landscape or earth in my music, but this song was much more specifically placed in the natural world.
I didn’t really know what to do with this song for quite a long time. I wasn’t sure if I liked the arrangement or where the song fitted in my output. I kept going back to it though and feeling drawn towards the musical world it might open up. After a year or so I began building an EP of songs around it and then I began to really work on the song itself, made a new arrangement, focussing on the vocal and giving it space and I ended up with a song I was much happier with and that I wanted to make the centre of a whole album.
There are many layers to the album, but I think now it’s finished the most resonant to me is a sense of home - of searching for home within and without. This was sparked directly by the title song, and also as I wrote it I was feeling a dislocation from the natural world, a deep concern and love for our home planet and I was also inspired by my own early childhood in the Warwickshire countryside. I wanted to create songs with an emotional impact but with a sunlit slant. I was after beauty and emotion but with something a little surreal or unsettling emerging here and there at the edges. For me, I think of the album as a whole as a kind of broken idyll.
Inspirations for the album came from the physical, emotional and imaginary landscapes of my childhood, and also include the nature poet John Clare, the painter Pierre Bonnard, the Apollo 11 moon-landing, the children’s book 'Alice Through The Looking Glass', the seventeenth century metaphysical poet Andrew Marvell and by that place where the small and domestic lives with the infinite and mysterious.
I’ll be writing more about these influences over the next few weeks. Meanwhile I hope you enjoy these songs.