My New EP,’Capacity To Change’ (and why I think Phil Cooper is the best thing since Strawberry Pop Tarts)….

It’s taken me a while but I’ve finally gone and made another EP…

When I first started in this whole singer songwriter business I realised very early on that I needed something to sell at gigs and so I put together an EP, ‘Peachy – The Demo Sessions‘.  I recorded it at home on an old BOSS BR-864 8-track digital recorder and, for all intents and purposes, it seemed to go down well enough (plus it kept me stocked up on baked beans when things got really tight)…

The problem was, I just wasn’t as proud of it as I’d hoped to be.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of the songs themselves – I wouldn’t have recorded them if I Peachy EP new no border copywasn’t.  It’s just that at that time I had neither the experience nor the resources to translate what was in my head into an audible format.  The result was a selection of raw, naked acoustic/vocal demo recordings that (in my mind at least) didn’t quite capture the vision – that’s why I added ‘The Demo Sessions’ to the EP title. Everybody tells me that it is still a great debut EP (which it is) and that I’m far too critical of myself (which I am)… but you show me an artist who doesn’t find holes in their work and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t invest the whole of their being into their creations.  I don’t care how proud you are of what you’ve made – you’ll more often than not hear/see something you could have done better….  That’s how it is for me anyway…

And then I met Phil Cooper – a great singer songwriter who works the same circuit as me. He’s one of the few performers on the scene whose a1209575529_10songs I could listen to all day and, to top it all off, one of the nicest guys I know.  When I first heard Phil’s solo album ‘Half Live‘ I instantly fell in love with it.  Not just for the beautifully crafted songs therein but for the raw, honest sound that Phil had managed to capture in his recording. So when Phil offered to help me record my next EP at his Number Nine Studios I all but bit his hand off.

Capacity To Change‘ is the end result. An EP that captures the raw honesty of a live performance whilst maintaining the integrity of the Capacity To Change frontCD Baby copysongs themselves.  As tempting as it was to insist on ‘that perfect vocal’ or to fix that fret buzz, Phil quite rightly reminded me of our objective to record an EP with a live feel – and he was right.  It’s the little rough bits that add to the whole in the end.  It’s not so much that Phil helped me overcome my self-critic in this regard – he just showed me a different perspective.  I will always be thinking ‘I could have done that better‘ but the difference now is that I no longer feel shame or regret at my imperfections – rather, I use them to my advantage – they have become a feature as opposed to a fault.

Working with Phil has proved to be an educational, valuable and surprisingly painless experience – he remained very respectful of my songs and, although we didn’t always agree on certain things (it’s always difficult to let somebody else loose on your babies), it was the easiest thing in the world to come to a compromise.  Phil would respect my decisions at all times (“It’s your EP Dude”) although I often found myself stepping back and putting my faith in his choices when it came to areas in which my knowledge or expertise was lacking (technical stuff, bass lines and so on).  Even though my initial reaction was to say “I don’t like that”, I soon began to realise that it wasn’t so much about not liking it, but more about it not being perfectly aligned with how I’d imagined it would be – once I realised this I began to see that, more often than not, Phil’s ideas and input, although different to how I would have done things, actually made it better.

We had a lot of fun working on this EP too.  I remember turning up at

Phil’s improvised approach to the snare drum…

Number Nine Studios one evening feeling really, really low (I’m sure it will come as no surprise that depression features quite heavily in my life.  In fact, one of the songs on the new EP, ‘Come Undone‘, touches upon this integral part of what makes me….well, me).  So, when I turned up at Phil’s I figured I was probably in the best place, both mentally and emotionally, to do the vocal take on this song, but Phil had other ideas.  He took one look at me, thrust a mug of ‘builder’s tea’ into my shaking hands and then, before I knew what was happening, he had us both crammed into the vocal booth doing the hand-claps on ‘Hey!.. Where’d Everybody Go?!‘ which lifted my spirits enormously.  We were both grinning like idiots by the time we finished…

Me playing cajon on ‘Denial

It was difficult to choose which songs to include on the EP – I have so many now.  In the end I decided on the five songs that best represented what I do – a mixture of upbeat and downbeat songs that I hope will appeal to a wider audience.  I’ve included ‘Denial‘, a song about unrequited love, ‘Capacity To Change‘, a somewhat philosphical yet humorous number and ‘Hey!.. Where’d Everybody Go?!‘, a tongue-in-cheek pop at fair weather friends.  I’m often asked at my live shows if ‘Not Going Anywhere‘, a song I wrote for my daughter several years ago, is on the ‘Peachy’ EP (which it isn’t) and so I decided to include it on this one as a live bonus track with my JuicyacoustiC bandmate, Claire Gilchrist, who kindly provided backing vocals and percussion.  This song I recorded myself on my trusty old 8-track, leaving the mixing side of things to Phil who, of course, did a great job.

My brother, Tim.. 

I also felt that it was an absolute must to include ‘Keep Your Head On‘ which has proved quite popular with many on Youtube.  This one I’d recorded (with my astoundingly talented brother, Tim) a couple of years ago and the audio was just too good to waste – once again, Phil’s mixing skills made this song shine.

Come Undone‘, as I mentioned earlier, is the song I wrote about depression and how it affects me from time to time.  It was inspired by the same brother, Tim, who one day looked up in conversation and said, “Bro, I feel like I’m The Wizard Of Oz…. but, today I need my curtain.”  I was so blown away by this beautiful metaphor that I scribbled it down on the first scrap of paper I could find.  For a couple of weeks, it ricocheted around in my head – I could hardly think about anything else, so powerfully did it resonate with me.  Eventually, I plucked up the courage to ask Tim if I could use the line and to my relief, he graciously consented.  I was relieved because, up until then, I had found it all but impossible to write about this subject matter despite the fact that it was such a huge part of my life.  Tim’s line opened things up for me and allowed the rest of the words to come pouring out.  It was an emotionally taxing song to write (and will always be a hard song to perform no doubt) but if it helps others with this condition to relate, then that makes it all worthwhile…  Sam Bitmead, a friend of Phil’s (and now a friend of mine), came and put such beautiful cello accompaniment to the song that it made me cry rainbows…

The final stage of the audio process was the mastering which was executed rather admirably by a guy called Pete Maher.  Pete’s portfolio consists of some top level clients (U2, Katy Perry, Paul Weller, Damien Rice, Snow Patrol, Goldfrapp to name but a few) and so I was pleasantly surprised to find that his fee for mastering was actually pretty affordable.  In the words of the man himself:

All projects will be given my FULL attention. Rates are based on the artists financial background.  I can’t offer lower rates to major labels and I wouldn’t feel good about charging full rates to unsigned artists. As a supporter of new music I believe that everyone deserves top quality professional mastering at a rate they can afford. Improving the quality of new music is a win/win for everyone!”  

True to his word, Pete did an outstanding job on ‘Capacity To Change‘ and was a thoroughly nice chap throughout the whole process.

When we started this project I’d told Phil that I wanted to make an EP I could be proud of. He didn’t let me down – I am immeasurably proud of what we’ve made here and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it…

Right….better crack on with the album then….

Capacity To Change‘ is available as a physical CD at one of Jamie’s shows or as a digital download from Amazon, iTunes and other major download and streaming services.

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