a while ago, i had an idea for a song. there was just a melody in my head, but i heard it as a choir. i wrote the melody down, and as i was singing it, words started to form. i very rarely write songs quickly, but in this case, the song just started to come together fast. the first part of the song was mostly a list of phrases that i felt would likely fit there, but the ending came together whole, now i just needed a choir.
through the wonders of the internet, i put the call out for people who would be interested in helping me with the project, i wanted about forty people as, from experience, a lot of people tend to say yes, but then can’t do it for whatever reason. i went to a studio and put down some guide tracks with my good friend Kate doing the high tenor and soprano parts (i’m a baritone), only later realising that the midi keyboard we’d used was out of sync with the tempo click on the track. (tip – always record to the click if you’re doing a guide track, rather than the accompaniment), not really sure how it happened, but there we were. after several hours of moving and stretching things using Melodyne, i sent out the guide tracks, and waited for the tracks to come in. in the end i got 17 people and some were kind enough to record two different parts of the harmony. then it was a case of editing them to fit more perfectly to the timing, and achieving a balanced mix – as everyone had recorded at different volumes and quality. it’s all on there – everyone who recorded a track is on the album.
i was still struggling with the arrangement for the first part though, all the rest of the album is acoustic guitar driven, but it just wasn’t sounding right to me for this song. then an amazing artist, Josienne Clarke (https://josienneclarke.com) dropped a fantastic new single called Things I Didn’t Need. i fell in love with the song, and particularly the sparse feel that she’d given it. it inspired me and i picked up my trusty old Gibson ES335 and borrowed a really old VOX AC30 with the modulation unit on it, built a percussion loop by tapping and scratching an acoustic guitar, and that was the sound.
the song itself is really about the impotence i feel in the face of the violence committed against minority communities and the rise of nationalism in the west, and also my anger at the way conservative/evangelical Christianity has come to represent the face of intolerance and the antithesis of the ministry of love the biblical Christ performed. the lyrics disturbed some people of faith, and they dropped out of the project, but i needed to speak the truth as i see it.
the lyrics are below
i saw you in a photograph, you had a baby in your arms
the sea stretched out behind you, to the blood upon the sand
a child washed up upon the shore might shock us for a day,
but the ones we keep in cages, are a million miles away.
they say “well, keep on rocking” but there’s no free world any more,
and freedom’s price at any price, is other people’s lives
none of us are saints, though we’re living on our knees
in the shadow of your phantom god, i see he looks a lot like you
oh yes, i’ve read your holy books, i’ve felt their poisoned hooks,
now you come to me like Lazarus, and you try to raise up Christ
you say somehow he died for me, but keep me on his cross
and you’ll only let me live again, if i’ll say that i believe
you talk like you’re so loving, but you save it for the few
no gays, no blacks, no immigrants, no starving refugee
so, i’ll believe it when i see it, when you care about the poor,
when a child shot down in anger, is worth more than the unborn
the rich reach for the moon, while the hungry cannot eat
wide oceans full of plastic, a climate laid to waste
but, your strength it is not power, and your power is not love
you’ll pay the price enough to kill, but not enough to heal
well, you’ll never build a wall, so high it can’t be climbed
tho its from Berlin to China, one day its gonna fall
so we’ll stand against your hatred, and eventually you’ll see
that flowers grow in killing fields, at the borders of the heart
can we love without borders, can we live without walls?
can we break down the fences that divide us?
can we open our arms, can we build a new world,
where the lines on the map, are not the boundaries of the heart
you can buy the single here https://theashen.net/product/lwb-single/
and you can hear it on Spotify here