What are you hoping for in terms of audience response to the new songs – other than a positive response, of course!
I don’t even mind if it’s not positive! I just want people to feel something when they hear [the songs]. If I write something that gets them so enraged that they hate me, then cool. That’s fine, that’s totally fine. I just want it to make people feel something. Obviously, I’d prefer that people love it or they feel like they have an ally in it or that they have this reassurance that they’re not alone. I think there’s a lot of stuff like that in the EP. I think it’s quite a strong EP, I feel like [there’s] self-empowerment in there. So I hope that people feel that.
And also, entertained and that they want to sing and dance along and when they get to the end, they go ‘I think I need to play that again.’ Anything. [I want to] stir some feelings and I want it to get in their bones. So, nothing big!
It feels very different to anything I’ve ever done. This year feels different, the support has felt different. It almost feels like it’s the first thing I’ve released, which is exciting.
How did the whole process differ from Pilot?
SO different. It’s the complete opposite. Pilot was really quick. We recorded 80% of the album in two days. I’d made one single before that, in a studio with one other musician, and again, that was mostly done in a day. Then, Pilot – I went into the studio with ten acoustic songs, had a few meetings with the producer, and then we went to Parr Street in Liverpool with GREAT session players and they just played the album as we recorded it. Then we came back the next day and put some extra guitars down and did all the vocals. It was over and done with before I even knew what was happening. It was a great way to do it for someone who knows nothing about production, and who’s got no experience. It was a great way to make a first album.
With ‘the table’, it was mostly done remotely, but I’d met most of the people on the record before. [Dakota Jay] is the same producer as ‘Good Girl’; he plays drums, guitars, banjo, and piano. When I did ‘Good Girl’, I went to Nashville to record the vocals because it tied in with a trip, so I got to meet him and work in person. This time I had the songs written and would record work tapes at home. I’d try and set the tempo and play to a click track – which I’d never done before – then send him a guitar-vocal thing. He would put drums to it and then re-do some acoustic guitars and a few electric rhythm parts. Then just keep sending emails back and forth for months.
‘Husbands or Kids’ was the first track we worked on. When he was producing ‘Husbands or Kids’ I hadn’t even written ‘Match Made In Hell’ yet. So that’s how long the process [took]. I think we started emailing last April or May.
I got my bass player – who I met in London when we did a Masters together – she is living out in LA but I really wanted to work with her. She’s one of my best friends so it was a given that I wanted her to be a part of it. But she’s also so talented, she’s so good at what she does. So she put the bass parts down in LA and sent them back to Nashville.
Then we had another musician called Garry Wood who is so good – he plays slide guitar, pedal steel, mandolin and he also did the solo for ‘Husbands or Kids’. He was in Columbia, Tennessee so we sent them out to him and he sent them back.
I had a real meltdown over the vocals. [I didn’t know] how to get the vocals the way Dakota wants and the way that I want. He’s there and I’m here, and I didn’t really know what I was gonna do with that. So I ended up going to a studio in Leeds and putting all the vocals down. ‘Match Made In Hell’ nearly killed me. That was so not fun!
The recording engineer [said] “it would be really cool if we could triple up these choruses.”
[I did] three different takes of each chorus and we layered them up. This was the last song we did so I’d been singing all day. I had to get twelve good takes of that chorus. It paid off in the end. The first one went so well, and then I got to comp some of the vocals myself. So I ended up at home with about six takes of each song. Then I’d sit and listen through line-by-line and get the best takes to comp together to send to Nashville.
Then he’d do his mixing and we had a mix and mastering engineer who I hadn’t got to work with before. He took the tracks to this mind-blowing level – he’s a big part of why the EP sounds so good. He’s Eric Torres – the list of people he’s worked with is insane, so I was really lucky that he and Dakota were working together.
All of that took about 7-8 months, going back and forth over emails in different time zones. I’d be falling asleep and my phone would go with an email from Dakota with a new version of the track and obviously, I’d be wide awake. We’d only get one email a day, or every few days, within the same time. We went from a two-day process to a seven-month process, which is mental. But I got to have input on the music and the recordings and the sounds of things. [For example] we had a different part in ‘Late To The Table’ but there was something not right, so I suggested a mandolin part instead so we sent it off to Garry. So it was really nice to have input in the production compared to ‘Pilot’ where I didn’t know what I was doing and was trusting the musicians to instinctively know what I wanted.
If you listen to Pilot now, and then listen to the table, how do you feel listening to them back-to-back?
I don’t think I’ve listened to them back-to-back, but I will! I still like ‘Pilot’, I like a lot of the elements on [it]. The biggest difference, I think, is in the writing, not necessarily the recording. I think they’re both really high-quality recordings and they’ve both got some beautiful work on them by musicians. When I recorded ‘Pilot’, I was barely a baby songwriter, I didn’t have a lot of experience, I hadn’t written a lot of songs. They were the best songs I’d written at the time. Whereas now, I’ve been writing a lot longer, I’ve studied it and immersed myself in songwriting and learned to edit myself and redraft and to get better at writing. That’s the one thing you can’t undo – the songwriting.
That’s definitely the biggest difference but I’m still really proud of that album, even if there are songs that aren’t great.
Which songs [from Pilot] would you put on your playlist?
I like ‘Alone’, still. I really love ‘Bottom of the Bottle’ – that’s my ‘go to sleep’ song; I find it really hypnotic. I think ‘I Don’t Know’ is kinda fun. I love the song ‘Pilot’ but I don’t listen to the recording of it a lot. I like to play it live. I do like [I Don’t Know], it’s a special song because that was the launch song for the album. And I think it would be so slow without ‘Tired’, it needs that lift in the middle. It feels like a lifetime ago, I feel like I don’t even know the person who wrote that album.
Are there any songs on there that might fit in with ‘the table’ and the music you’re making today?
Probably ‘I Don’t Know’. I’m going through the stories in my head! I think ‘I Don’t Know’ because there’s a lot of almost brutal honesty; that’s the definition of ‘I Don’t Know’ and there’s a lot of that on ‘the table’
Thematically there are a lot of similarities, I think it fits well with Husbands or Kids and Late To The Table.
I’ve had a few interviews with people who have REALLY listened to the EP. They’ve gone away and found their own things in it and come back to me and told me about it and it’s so interesting, it’s so fun. It’s amazing to think that someone else can have a totally different insight to your music. People have made really great points about it and I love that people are finding these connections. It makes me want to cry and hug everyone. It’s amazing, I’m so bloody grateful for it. All of the feels about this record and people spending time thinking about it.
I think it’s really easy to see where your influences have come from – but also how varied your influences are.
This is really interesting to me because I’m really terrible for listening to the same artists on repeat. If someone said to me ‘you can only listen to ten artists for the rest of your life’ I’d have no problem. I think where these influences are subconsciously creeping in is from the artists who have influenced the artists that I listen to. Uni used to have us think of it like a tree – think of your favourite songwriters, and then their four favourite songwriters and you’re off down a rabbithole. If you look at it that way there’s a broad influence but I really listen to a small number of people and that’s 90% of what I listen to all the time.
Listening to ‘the table’, the influences feel really defined.
Do I wish I had a more defined sound? I think of Kira Mac – you know a Kira Mac song instantly. She has her thing and she rocks it. Lisa Wright, who I love – you know a Lisa Wright song. She really had her unique thing. Do I wish I had that? Sometimes I do. I think marketing myself would be easier, coming up with things to say. But then I think about my favourite artists that I absolutely love, and that I love to see play live, and the thing that connects those artists is that they’re not known for one thing. Miranda Lambert made her name with ‘Kerosene’ and ‘Gunpowder and Lead’, then hit home with ‘The House That Built Me’. Then you’ve got Ashley McBryde; ‘Martha Divine’ to ‘Girl Goin’ Nowhere’. And The Chicks: I love ‘Let ‘Er Rip’ and ‘Sin Wagon’, and then you’ve got ‘You Were Mine’ and ‘Travellin’ Soldier’.
I’ve never really been able to fit into one thing. I love my country-rock set, that’s what I love playing live. But even when I’m playing ‘Dutch Courage’, ‘Match Made In Hell’, ‘Good Girl’ – I’ll always be waiting for ‘Waiting For You’, or that other moment where there’s that softness and delicacy. Sometimes I’m really grateful that I’m in that mixed category where you never know what you’re gonna get. Am I gonna come out feisty, am I gonna be this mellow songwriter – sometimes I get really jealous of people who fit really nicely in a box and you know exactly what you’re gonna get.