Embers

After years of writing songs and performing in various bands in and around Glasgow, I wanted to finally capture some of those moments from across the years and document them in an album. This turned into my debut album, “Embers”, and my main objective with it was to have fun with the songs, experimenting with different arrangements, sounds and instruments. I recorded and mixed the album at home whenever I could find time out of my everyday working and family life. This didn’t happen very often which meant it was a very start/stop process. However, after a couple of years “Embers” was finally ready to be heard and was launched on 4th November 2016.

You can buy a digital copy of the album or stream it from most online music distributors such as Amazon, Deezer, GoogleiTunes, Microsoft, Spotify and Tidal. If you prefer lossless audio quality then you can buy a FLAC version from CD Baby and if you’d like to own a signed CD digipak edition of the album then these are available for £10 and you can arrange this by using the contact form.

You can listen to each song on the album below as well as read some comments and the lyrics for each one…

Hold On

The album opens with a simple upbeat pop song of encouragement that weighs in at just over 2 minutes long. The song was great fun to produce with drum machine and synth patterns gradually being built upon with various vocal layers, strings and guitar. The origins of this song lie in one of my earliest songs which had more of a ballad feel. I planned to record that song for the album and tried experimenting with different timings to give it more of an upbeat feel. The song didn’t really work but the experiments formed the basis of this new song which borrowed elements of the original, including the title. You can here the original song on Soundcloud.

We are discovering plans that were there from the start
I can lead if you’ll follow so hold on if you can, if you can
I can lead us…hold on

Draw The Sun

I wrote this song back in 2002 and it started life with the alternative title of “Tie Me Down”. I played it occasionally at solo gigs and the original version was slower with a more laid-back feel. I recorded an early demo of this which you can hear on Soundcloud. Like “Hold On”, this song was written in open E guitar tuning which I usually had my 12 string guitar tuned to. As well as speeding it up and changing the key, the album version of the song features a lot more layers with a prominent harmonising vocal, 4 drum parts, 2 acoustic guitar tracks, 6 synth parts, 3 lead guitar parts, a couple of violin parts, string pads and my bass. The end result is probably my favourite song on the album.

Tie me down and talk me round
Don’t let me go, take time although
Do anything you can to stop me
Falling down and starting again
I’m on the edge of the smallest ledge
Take my hand – don’t let me land
Among the other failed romances
There were other circumstance
This is where I realise my world ends in your eyes
Sometimes we walk in falling rain
But love will draw the sun again
Make it clear you want me here
And talk me through what we should do
To stop us joining failed romances
Taking time and taking chances
This is where I realise my world ends in your eyes
Sometimes we walk in falling rain
But love will draw the sun again

Love Without You

The third song is my most recent composition on the album. It started out with a bit more of a country feel when playing it live on my acoustic guitar but when it came to recording I thought it worked well based around the synth parts. There’s a bit of a nod to its country influence near the end of the song when I recorded a slide guitar part which is probably my first and last attempt at that although I think it worked out ok. I was experimenting with different synth sounds on this song and there’s a combination of a Boards of Canada style lo-fi synth, a mellotron and a delayed sound which reminded me of All Saints/Pure Shores. There’s also some interesting percussion sounds in the background which create a different vibe to most of the other songs on the album.

How did this happen again?
Did I lose control, did I ever even have it?
How am I supposed to feel?
Broken in three – no one rescuing me
What am I supposed to do
If I’m in love without you?
Surely we were meant to be
A part of me dies every time you look at me
Silence is giving me
Is giving me a way to feel alive
Sirens are bringing me
Bringing me closer to demise
Inside, inside these worlds collide
Inside my mind these worlds collide
How did this happen again?
Did I lose control, did I ever even have it?
How am I supposed to feel?
Broken in three – no one rescuing me
What am I supposed to do
If I’m in love without you?
Surely we were meant to be
A part of me dies every time you look at me
Inside, inside behind these eyes
Outside I hide my open eyes
How did this happen again?
Did I lose control, did I ever even have it?
How am I supposed to feel?
Broken in three – no one rescuing me
What am I supposed to do
If I’m in love without you?
Surely we were meant to be

Not Here

This song is primarily about people moving on but wanting to cling on to what they had. It was often a song that I closed sets with when playing live and I recorded a version of this with my band in 2007 which you can hear on Soundcloud. That version of the song was more acoustic-based and a bit slower than the album version. On the album, I played the main guitar part on electric for the first time which steered the song in a slightly different direction sound-wise. The song doesn’t really have a traditional chorus – not exactly uncommon for my songs – and so the instrumental section at the end of the verse is really the equivalent of a chorus here. I have a few different lead guitars layered in that section as well as multiple vocal oohs and aahs bathed in reverb. I was listening a lot to Beck’s Morning Phase album at the time and think this was a bit of an influence.

Where’s the time gone?
I don’t believe that I’m still waiting
Write your name on a piece of paper
For me to take in
I’ve been too far, too deep to focus – you’re not here
I had a dream that I’d never lost you
It seemed so easy
Is it decided that dreams won’t come true?
So misguided
You’ve been too far away to notice – I’m still here
I’ve been too far, too deep to focus
You’ve been too far away to notice – I’m still here

Safer

This song is all about the build up through each of the repeated verses. At the time I wrote this song, I was playing bass when playing live with the band and the song was built around the hook of the simple bass line. The intro originally featured backwards guitars but I found an atmospheric synth patch that worked well as the setting for the rest of the song to which I added a wobbly sounding delayed piano. The drums are important in building up this song and it took a long time to get those sounding right. As the song progresses, more guitar parts are added and in the end section this includes some guitars with Nashville tuning which was an interesting experiment. There’s also a round with the violin parts near the end which was fun to play.

Safer than you know you are, you are
To find answers go but not too far
Close your eyes, your eyes can deceive you
Reach out as you rise to receive truth
You can find me here

Everything Is Motion

This song started out as a song called “What Did We Do?” which had a chorus that took the song from the minor key into the major and you can hear a live recording of me playing this on Soundcloud. For the album version, I dropped the chorus to keep everything minor sounding. I replaced it with an instrumental section that started off as a bit of a chaotic sounding mash of guitars and a Speak & Spell toy voice saying “Another union you built for comfort / Another bullet I couldn’t see coming / Another promise I couldn’t believe / Another echo of trouble”. I was looking for that version of the song but think it might be lost in the mists of time unfortunately. I eventually replaced the toy voice and guitars with a cello part alongside the piano riff.

Here I am waiting for what I know has been
Haunted scene
Can it be I know this is pointless to extreme?
Recurring dream
Everything is motion leaving you behind
Paralysed
Have you wanted – everything you need?
Driven indeed

Fly Away

This is the oldest songs on the album and it was originally called “Talking To The Sky”. The album arrangement remains relatively untouched from the original song which  I recorded with my first band at Chem 19 studios (you can hear that version on Soundcloud). I think the version of the song on the album is a little more chilled sounding with the violin parts throughout the song adding a different flavour to the arrangement. This is one of the simplest songs on the album and is a lighter moment before the next song kicks in.

Lightning striking, falling down today
Hearts of glass will shatter too easily
But learn what fragile means and you’ll be okay
If I could fly I’d fly away, fly away
Confidence is only there for show
No need to explain you already know
Don’t throw yourself into the wind to go
Cause if we could fly, we’d fly away, we’d fly away
Why’d you feel you had to end it there
We can’t help but think it over
But get nowhere; I still hear your voice
Lightning striking, falling down today
Hearts of glass will shatter too easily
But learn what fragile means and you’ll be okay
If I could fly I’d fly away, fly away
Fly away, fly away, fly away

Where This Is Going

This is one of the heavier moments on the album and it’s one of two songs to feature Paul McShane on lead guitar, the only guest to appear on the album. In a busy mix, there’s also acoustic guitar, Nashville tuned guitars, baritone guitar, various synth parts, piano and the violin section with me playing various combinations of double-stopped notes. The drums were key to the feel of the song so I spent a lot of time working on them. You can hear a stripped back live solo acoustic version of this song on Soundcloud.

I don’t know what you’re saying
I don’t know what you’re saying
I don’t know what you’re saying to me
I don’t know where we’re going
I don’t know where we’re going
I don’t know where we’re gonna be
Do you? You?
Everyone here is talking
Everyone here is talking
Everyone’s talking so slow
What is it that they’re saying?
What is it that they’re saying?
What is it, I think I know
Do you? You, you, you you?
Everything here is buzzing
Everything here is buzzing
Everything’s buzzing in my head
People contented humming
People contented humming
People that know what was said
Do you? You?
You, you, you, you
I don’t know where we’re going
I don’t know where we’re going
I don’t know where we’re gonna be

Reborn

This song nearly wasn’t on the album as I struggled a lot with the mixing of it and was never quite satisfied with it. I had to draw the line somewhere though and thought it would be a shame to leave it off the album. The song has its origins in an old song of mine called “Melting Ice” which you can hear on Soundcloud and I still like that demo version I recorded and it was once featured in a student film. The first part I came up with for “Reborn” was the bass riff and I discovered that the verse lyrics of the older song fitted well so I started developing the song from there. Paul McShane again provides the main guitar part on this song which we originally recorded for a Four Minute Mile EP.

I have just come round
Woke up to the sound of melting ice in my heart
I can’t deny the pain – to feel the beats again
The strains that tore me apart
Touched by love – can I give enough
In a world so torn – can I be reborn
I’ve been here once before
I’m always wanting more – I just can’t seem to say no
With each mistake I learn but each mistake returns
If only I could let go
Touched by love – you can give enough
In a world this torn – let me be reborn
(Embers in my heart still glow)
Everything that I’ve seen, everywhere that I’ve been
Suddenly falls into place
Everything that I do I want to be for you
In a life reborn
To be reborn; to be reborn

Disappearing

I remember playing this song for the first time at an open mic night in front of the person it was written about – quite a daunting experience. Similarly to my approach with “Not Here”, I wanted the album version of this song to be faster than I’d previously played it as well as playing the lead guitar on electric guitar rather than acoustic. I think it worked out well with much of the rest of the arrangement staying true to earlier versions. I always liked playing the simple layered violin parts and this time I added some additional layered guitars and piano for the final verse which add a bit of emotion. You can hear a couple of previously recorded versions of this song on Soundcloud

Two weeks till you leave
I find it hard to believe
The time has passed too fast
My first move, your last
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view, you
I’ve waited till the end
When there’s no time to mend
And all the words I say
Just get in the way
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view
Disappearing from view, you
Was I waiting for one word; one touch; one dream
To let me know that you want as much as me
The kind of games that I play in my mind are so sad
It’s killing me, it’s killing the you I thought I had
You
No wasted words of love
Our time here is not enough
But one day I’m sure you’ll learn
That these words are yours

The Lighthouse

The penultimate song on the album is an alternative version of my single, “The Warning”. The single is a big sounding recording based on how the track was played live with a band. However, after arranging strings for that version, I cut the song right back to acoustic guitar, vocal and strings to hear what it was like. I thought it was quite haunting and had a totally different feel to the song I was used to playing. I rearranged it to shorten this version and then focussed more on arranging the vocal layers. Once I’d mixed a version of the song like this I didn’t want to ditch either one and that led to me using one as a single and including one on the album. I’m really glad I kept both.

I’ve lost inside – I’ve lost my tongue
Faltering, I need to run
Simple words – I can’t find one
Surely the answer is going to come
I tripped on the way here – abandoning all fear
I thought I was so near
And as I knocked your door – I realised so much more
I’d chosen to ignore the warning – the lighthouse
Those warning signs were everywhere
Beauty hides what isn’t there
I realise now but had been unaware
I wave goodbye to this love affair
I tripped on the way here – abandoning all fear
I thought I was so near
And as I knocked your door – I realised so much more
I don’t want to ignore

Waiting for You

The last song on the album is a very simple repetition of the lines “At any given time, I’ll be there waiting for you”. This was the chorus of a song that I’d never finished and had always meant to come back to. I played around with it for a while but the line that’s sung over and over really sums up what I wanted to do with the song so I decided to keep it simple and let the music do the talking. This approach also kept it quite ambiguous as to whether this is a song of joy, hope or hopelessness. The song is full of emotion and I tried to capture that with the descending piano line and delayed vocals that appear in the middle of the song. I think I took inspiration for that piano part from Blur’s “Battery In Your Leg” as I’ve always loved how the guitar part works in that song. It’s obviously very different sounding but conveyed to me a similar emotion. I decided to keep the sound of me putting down my guitar and walking over to the desk to press stop as I didn’t want it to end abruptly and I knew this would be the last song on the album and it felt like a fitting end.

At any given time, I’ll be there waiting for you
At any given time, I’ll be there waiting for you

embers-back-cover

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