Creating the songs

The songs on This is the Sound of Adamsdown all derive from the experience of the singers. Each song began with an informal interview, recorded on a digital voice recorder. There was no set agenda for this discussion, but we’d usually talk about the singer’s life history, their experience of Adamsdown, and whatever was most important to them. If an interesting topic arose, one which might give rise to a lyric, we’d pursue that at greater length.

After the interview, I’d listen back over the recording, making notes and looking for a key idea around which to to build the song: often this would arise from a moment in the interview where the singer got most emphatic or animated – where their real feelings came out.

Sometimes at this stage the mood of the song and even a tune might suggest itself. While I was aiming to write some new tunes, I had plenty lying around in my bottom drawer which few people or anyone had heard – one of the few benefits of not having co-written multi-platinum selling albums like the guy next door!

The oldest tune on the album was written over thirty years ago – but I’m confident no-one will guess which one this is!

Having got the song concept, I had to settle on a tune and structure before getting onto the hard work of penning the lyrics – I never work the other way round. It was a big responsibility writing words that would express another person’s experience – but that responsibility inspired me to stay clear of vagueness, inaccuracy and general bullshit.

The lyrics were not solely my creation, however. Often the singer’s own words were eloquent enough to be incorporated directly into the song.

I also had to consider what kind of music the singer might like, though this wouldn’t necessarily be what they were used to singing.

I then made a rough demo of the song and emailed it to the singer. Waiting for their response was a nervous time for me – for some reason I never thought they’d like their song! Thankfully all the songs bar one were accepted, though there was still negotiation to be done – eg a middle eight to be changed, lyrics to be fine-tuned, melody to be altered to fit the singers vocal range. Only when the singer was totally happy with their song would we begin making the backing track.

The end result, I think, is the best set of songs I’ve ever written (though feel free to compare them with my own warblings at www.reverbnation.com/jonblake!)

Jon Blake

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