The New Town EP contains four re-written/re-mixed/re-worked songs from the musical ‘New Town’ which I wrote in 2017 and which remains unperformed, (although it is licensed via an agent). The idea was that there would be backing tracks for a potential cast (or they could do their own arrangements with the aid of a ‘song book’). The backing tracks were developed over the course of 2017 with the script which was set at the end of the 50’s/start of the 60’s in a – you guessed it – ‘New Town’ in the UK. Coupled with this I created a ‘demo’ of the songs sung by professional vocalists, (meant only to be listened to by the prospective cast to gain an idea of how the songs are intended to be sung).
I was unhappy with the quality of the finished backing tracks – the songs are written in a ‘Motown’/’Stax’ type style and I attempted to create a partially ‘vintage’ feel to the recordings, (not wholly as I wanted to avoid pastiche). As such, I used a drum sample library recorded in the original Stax studio and mixed the tracks as I thought they might sound in the day. This was unsuccessful in my view, because whilst the tracks might work on a pair of speakers in a living room, I realised that higher fidelity is needed if used as a backing track on a theatre stage. I did a partial remix in 2019, during which I remixed the drum section and little else – the tracks were better, but still ultimately not as good as I felt I could achieve. At this point, I weighed up the option of spending even more time on these songs, (at this point at least 18 months in total) or moving on to something else. I moved on….
Fast forward to 2021 and having finished my ‘Standing Hours’ project I was unsure of what to do next and I thought, since ‘New Town’ has remained unperformed and there are some songs in it that deserve to be heard – at least listened to once, I thought I would re-arrange some to see if I could bring anything to them. I took the first six songs. I didn’t like what I did with one song, so after five weeks of working on it, shelved it and another, I felt the performance from the original demo was so strong by the original ‘demo’ vocalist, it was really for her and not for me. I may come back to it.
This left me with four. These are quite upbeat and more reflective of the feel I was searching for and….‘mixed better’ essentially. I had to change some of the lyrics as they didn’t make sense away from the musical as standalone songs and in one case, (‘By the Way’), completely changed the melody. I kept the lyrics very simple in most cases to maintain the spirit of the song it was originally (with only a few more ‘insightful’ lines…. ‘my head is speaking in tongues’….).
After living with these songs for a year in 2017 and then coming back to them again and then once again, over an elongated period (6 months essentially to remix/rework four songs), my patience waned and I did not contemplate attempting any of the remaining songs.
At some point in the future, I will go back to it the New Town backing tracks and remix all of the of them so they are of higher fidelity/mix quality for the purposes of live performance backing tracks . I doubt I will rework any more of the songs as I have done with this EP. It’s a one off and in a way, a bit of a conclusion to ‘Standing Hours’ which had elements of soul/funk, in a fairly roundabout, odd way.
Working on the New Town songs again, became laborious very quickly. These were not new songs to me and so I was quite bored of them (after already spending well over a year on them) and progress mixing was slow.
Recording new tracks i.e. live bass for the first time was a lot of fun, but the mixing stage became quite ‘bogged down’ due to transferring files and so on.
For some light relief I experimented on a few new, instrumental tracks – completely improvised, sometimes transferring tracks to an external tape machine, slowing the sounds down and processing them, transferring back to the computer and processing further.
I played a sampled piano on a full-sized keyboard just for the experience of playing – recording it and then responding to the music with a Rhodes piano emulation and other instruments. I even used one track to create environmental sounds i.e. rattling things, wobbling things etc.
This was a thousand times more enjoyable than laboriously working through the New Town tracks and felt much more expressive in some ways. It was definitely an escape and a lot of fun.
The atmospheres created have a lot of intensity and I really enjoyed that – the silences between the notes, etc.
Anyway – these two EP’s are available to listen to and download – they are kind of polar opposites and are a nice conclusion to 2021. Both are released on Spotify, Amazon, Bandcamp etc. on 31.12.21
Have a great 2022!