Track By Track...
"Built For Storms" is the 5th Nigel Stonier album. And the best favour you can do this album is... Listen To It!!!
BUT... I know sometimes its fun to have some hints and stories about the writing and the making ...
So here goes
THE LARK AND THE REAPER
A song about one of those days when seasons turn, plans get made, special songs come up on shuffle, random conversations resonate, co-incidences happen and anything feels possible.
Several good mates are amused that the first 40 seconds of this album contain sly references to trains, cryptic crosswords and iPods...in another words most of my tools for life.
Oh yes and my long standing friend Robbie McIntosh, who played the guitar solo (not the jangly riffs -they're me!) told me this is his favourite song of mine ever, which was nice.
THE BIG BECAUSE
I was always pleased with this song, but couldn't find an arrangement that felt special. Then just before making the album I worked with a new electronica band called Astrid's Tea Party.
On an impulse I handed my demo to Astrid, a seriously talented singer/programmer/producer, and without any hesitation or ceremony she sent it me back the following night with beats, keyboards and outro vocals - recorded at her flat in Brighton - all of which you now hear unchanged. She breathed new life into the song there and then, so I just added some guitars and left the rest as per her ideas.
I HOPE I ALWAYS
The title just appeared one day, a sort of inversion of an old Split Enz song.
I wrote the first few lines of lyric, probably thinking about my older son, and then the rest just arrived in a bit of a flurry. So I went with it.
BUILT FOR STORMS
I got the title from reading a description of a bridge in New England...the song tumbled out in about an hour. Then in the cold light of day I realised that musically it was an amalgam of two earlier songs, and I wasn't sure it should go on the album ... but Ms T Gilmore quickly convinced me otherwise.
And then I certainly didn't think it should be the title track but I did some consulting with a carefully chosen band of mates and they made my mind up for me. They know who they are.
LOVE IN HOPE
Another one that appeared quickly, words and tune in about half an hour, couple of quick changes the next day and that was that.
Sometimes you find yourself mistrusting songs that don't take long, as if they can't be right cos you didn't spend enough time on them. The opposite's usually true - you should trust em all the more cos it probably means you managed to catch the truth of the idea before you over analysed it.
Paul Simon has a great song called "Maybe I Think Too Much" and I feel much the same but without the maybe.
WHERE DID I GO RIGHT
I carried the title awhile, and wrote the song in spring 2011. I think I loosely saw it as a potential cover for, say, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell or one of the old country crooners. But hey they don't seem to be queuing up yet so I figured it was time to record it myself...
Started on a train home from London, during a time when I was writing songs for another artist on a project which didn't happen. I played through it a few weeks later and thought 'No, I'm not giving this one away'. The lyrics have a sort of cheeky grin to them, and Alan Lowles nifty accordion wanders in during verse 2 and re-in forces that.
MESSIN' WITH FIRE
Written back in the mid 90s with Clare Teal, and on at least 3 of her albums plus a few compilations and a hit movie soundtrack. Clare's versions are unwaveringly great but we wrote the song as a sly nod to the spirit of 'Cafe de Paris' Django Reinhardt Stefan Grapelli et al, and I thought I should do a pared down version which maybe restored some of the original implicit sneaky quality.
So I called my friend Michael Blair, percussionist on those great Tom Waits records of the 80s, and he duly sent me a rhythm section that sounded like a debauched Bavarian polka. Then Seadna Mc Phail, one of the heroes of this record, threw further madness at it, the next day Alan Lowles got his trombone out and the rest is hysteria.
Seadna eventually told me this was the closest he'd ever come to translating the sounds he heard in his head. I'm still hoping that was a compliment...
COLD BEERS AND ACOUSTIC GUITARS
I'm wary of sounding like someone who only listens to earnest types quaffing Kronenberg and trying to sound like Elliot Smith ... in actual fact right now I gravitate more towards Jon Hopkins, Washed Out, early Bob Marley and Real Estate.
But my schooling as a performer came as a teen in the late 70s folk club scene where I was the young upstart trying to foist my own songs on people. And theres no doubt that there's something special about hearing great words delivered in an intimate setting by the guy (or girl) who wrote them.
And yes, friends, I am still an unapologetic Donovan fan...
SHE'S BETTER THAN THAT
One of my fave albums ever is Squeezes "East Side Story" ... great song after great song and proudly eclectic, it never feels disjointed but moves from classic English pop to soul grooves to country - then just before the end they pull out "Vanity Fair" one of their most beautiful songs, and they bring a string quartet into the proceedings. Quite aside from the fantastic writing, I loved the audacity. Would the product managers and marketing gurus who now rule the music biz let them get away with it today? I don't know...
But anyway, when I didn't quite know what to do with my waltz of respect, I called John and Natalie Purton, leaders of the Manchester String Quartet. John came up with a marvellously inventive arrangement, the players came in one rainy Thursday and we cut it live with me singing in the control room.
My father Raymond Lea Stonier played violin. Not as a professional but very, very well.
His birthday was February 2nd, Candlemas Day, which is the exact midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring equinox, and which on the Pagan calendar was considered a time for light and reckoning.
Ray died when I was 20, but when my older son Egan took up the violin at age two it was impossible not to feel my Dads presence a little.
I still truthfully had no plan to write a song about him but in late January this year Egan - now aged 7 - and I were jamming, it set something off and this song tumbled out. And when recording time came, even though I had the best string players in the North West at my disposal, there was only one person who I could have play the fiddle.
So ... I hope you enjoy "Built For Storms". It was easily the most fun I ever had making one of my albums, and I'm really happy with it. I hope the team of wonderful musicians, co producers and great friends who contributed feel proud of it too.
Thanks for reading this, and do let me know your thoughts, or questions if you have any - via the web site anytime.
July 1st 2014