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When I started the Write, Co. project, one of the artists I contacted was a supremely talented singer/songwriter called Luna Keller, who luckily liked my music too and agreed to write a song together. As was the case with most of the other people I've written with she lived in a different country to me, but thanks to email and Skype we were able to able to write together without ever actually meeting in person!
Luna came to me with the basic idea of the song - a tragic character called the Midnight Queen who has been badly hurt in the past and doesn't feel brave enough to love again, so she embarks on a series of one-night stands, leaving a trail of broken hearts in her wake. Luna already had the main chorus hook and some ideas for what the rest of the lyrics could be - I took these ideas and shaped them into the verses, I finished off the chorus, and together we came up with the middle 8/bridge section.
Once we'd finished writing the song, we both knew it was strong enough to release as a single rather than just a demo, so the next step was to record it. You would think recording a song in different countries would be complicated, but it was actually quite simple. I recorded the piano part on my keyboard and sent it to Luna, we then agreed which lines we should each sing and recorded our vocals separately in our own homes. Luna's dad added the bass and the atmospheric guitar parts, and then we all decided the song could really benefit from having a cello on it, so we found a cellist in New York called Yoed Nir who did a wonderful job.
We sent the song to be mixed by Uli Pfannmüller at TonUP studios and mastered by Andreas Balaskas at Masterlab Mastering in Germany (such an international production, this song!), and the finished version was as hauntingly beautiful as we hoped it would be when we wrote it. The artwork for cover was provided by Luna's friend Lara Gimeno, a wonderful graphic artist. The single was released on March 20th 2020, and on it's premiere date the music blog NeverEnoughMusic.com gave it a lovely write up, which you can read here.
In November of 2020 the song was nominated for Best Musical Collaboration at the Wigwam Online Radio Awards, and as of February 2023, it is still one of my most popular songs on Spotify (with over 50k streams)..
I really cannot recommend Luna Keller's music enough - below are the links to her social media pages, so please check them out...
While I had greatly enjoyed the co-writes I had done with other songwriters for the Write, Co. project, writing and recording 'Midnight Queen' with Luna Keller was the most creatively satisfying collaboration I had done so far - we could share our opinions and feedback on performance and arrangement whilst always being on the same page regarding what we wanted the song to be, and we were also able to combine our musical resources to produce a professionally recorded single that we were both very proud of.
I decided I wanted to write more songs with singer/songwriters and bands, with the end goal of hopefully producing an album's worth of collaborations (this decision coincided with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, which actually made finding collaborators much easier, as there were a lot of musicians with home recording equipment who suddenly found themselves in quarantine with a lot of free time on their hands!) When I went back to Twitter to search for people, I quickly came across Stage Parades, a band who did instrumentals. They posted this video of 'Winter Sun', a track from their album 'Open That Trap Door', asking if anyone wanted to try writing lyrics for it. I loved the tune and so I asked if I could give it a go.
I started by thinking about what the title 'Winter Sun' meant to me, and the first thing that came to my mind was an occasion a couple of years ago when I was driving to work very early on a winter morning and the sun was so bright I had to pull over because I literally couldn't see through the windshield - this became the inspiration for the first verse. The second verse was inspired by the last time I visited my grandparents' old house in Denmark, and we actually ended up using a photo my dad had taken of that house many years ago as the cover of the single.
The process of recording the song was quite easy, since pretty much all the instrumental tracks were already recorded by the band - all I had to do was record my vocals, and I ended up recording seven layers of them! I then sent all the individual vocal and instrument tracks to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale, and he did a superb job fixing and mixing them until we ended up with the polished final song. Both me and the members of Stage Parades were very happy with it, and the single was released on July 3rd 2020.
Below are the links to Stage Parades' social media pages - they make beautiful music, so please check them out...
I discovered Jake Haws' music when I was searching on Twitter for other songwriters to collaborate with. When I read about his musical career on his website I found out that not only was he part of an acoustic Beatles tribute duo called The Fab Folk (which I thought was awesome) but he had done many collaborations with other artists in the past. I listened to an episode of his podcast 'Making Music With Jake Haws' where he and singer/songwriter Cody Butler discussed their music and then wrote a song together - they wrote a great song called 'Moving Forward' (you can hear the episode here, and the song here) and it sounded like they had fun doing it, so I got in contact with Jake and asked if he'd like to write a song with me.
Jake agreed, and we arranged a video call during which he would interview me for his next podcast episode and we would try to come up with a song - you can hear the episode on the player to the left. Inevitably, when we were brainstorming possible song topics, our first thought was the panic and chaos surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, which was happening at the time. I was hesitant to go down this route as it seemed too obvious and easy, but Jake came up with the good idea of making it less about the pandemic specifically and more about wishing for the return of less troubling/fearful times, and for sunnier days (which was ironic, as the UK was going through a heat-wave at the time!). I came up with the riff that starts off the song, Jake suggested the chord variations that became the bridge and the end of the chorus, and we both had equal input on the lyrics. The whole thing took us about an hour to write, and we were both keen to preserve the simplicity and optimism of the song when we went to record it.
What I've loved about the collaborations I've done is how different every experience has been - 'Midnight Queen' was written over a period of several weeks by sending emails back and forth, 'Winter Sun' was me on my own trying to add something to an already-written piece of music, and 'Sunny Days' was written in one go during a video call! As Luna Keller and I did on 'Midnight Queen', Jake and I recorded our parts separately in our own homes - me providing vocals and keyboard tracks, and Jake providing backing vocals, guitars, bass, drums and percussion. Jake was very patient with me, as it took me quite a while to finish my parts and send them to him - in my defence I was in the middle of moving house at the time, and my wife was about to give birth!
The final song may sound like it has a simple arrangement, but there many more layers and tracks than you would think, and the disadvantage of Jake and I living in different countries and different time-zones was that changes and tweaks to the song weren't always easy to do. Therefore, rather than drive Jake mad by giving him constant notes, I took the great initial mix that he had done and finished it myself. After that, I sent the final track to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale for mastering, and the song was finally complete.
I wasn't sure what the cover of the single should be, so Jake suggested looking for inspiration on pexels.com - I went on there and found a beautiful photo taken by Adrien Olichon of a sunrise on an empty street, which we thought was perfect. The single was released on July 17th 2020.
Jake Haws is a great singer and songwriter - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Over And Out
Gavin Kaufman is another artist I discovered on Twitter. After listening to (and buying) his great album 'Aura Symphonia' I got in contact with him and he was totally on board with the idea of writing a song together. Even though we both live in the same country and could have met up in person to write, because of our busy schedules we found it easier to exchange ideas via email.
The writing process started with me sending Gavin a possible idea for a verse, consisting of a piano riff and an accompanying chord pattern. Gavin quickly replied with a voice memo of him singing two verses worth of lyrics he had written, plus a melody idea for the bridge, chorus and middle 8, and a suggestion for the title - 'Budge' (inspired by the first line of the first verse, "I'm not gonna budge an inch...") Continuing the defiant tone established in his verses, I wrote the lyrics for the bridge and chorus (the last line of which inspired the song's eventual title - 'Over And Out'), and Gavin wrote the lyrics for the remaining two verses.
As with my previous collaborations, given my limited home recording resources, all I was able to provide Gavin with was keyboard tracks and my vocals. I sent them to him and left him to finish the song on his own, which took a while as it was a big task (the only time he requested something from me was when he asked me to send him a recording of me saying the song's title a bunch of times - he didn't say why, and I didn't ask!). We only ever discussed the song's style and instrumentation very briefly - I suggested having the riff being played on a synth, an idea which Gavin liked, but other than that I left him to it - being a fan of his music and style I was confident it would sound great.
For some reason, I expected the song to have a mainly acoustic arrangement, so when Gavin sent me the final mix I was quite surprised by the electro-pop style he'd gone for instead. However, it very quickly became clear he'd made the right decision, and I ended up listening to the song many times that evening - and the recording he'd requested of me saying the title repeatedly now made glorious sense when I heard how he'd put it to use in the middle 8 and the coda. I'm so grateful to him for all the hard work he did producing, mixing and mastering the song, and I love the end result.
Since the song is about standing up to someone (or standing up for a cause), my first thought was for the cover to feature a picture of people protesting, so I searched on pexels.com and found several possible photos. I made a few mock-up designs and Gavin and I agreed that this photo of a man in a black t-shirt raising his fist in anger (taken by Marco Allasio) was the most powerful and iconic, so that's what we chose for the cover. The single was released on September 25th 2020.
Gavin Kaufman is a great singer and songwriter - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
I discovered Spencer Segelov on Twitter by searching for artists who had made music during the first Covid lockdown - i.e. people who not only had recording capabilities at their disposal, but a strong creative drive as well. I came across 'Mitigating Circumstances', a pop/RnB album that Spencer had written and recorded entirely by himself, and after buying it on Bandcamp I asked him if he'd be interested in writing and recording a song together. He'd never written with anyone before but said he was willing to give it a go!
Spencer had made albums in several different styles before, including rock, synth-pop and chamber music, but I told him I was interested in writing something in the style of 'Mitigating Circumstances' as I'd never really written an RnB song before and I thought it would be a fun challenge. I sent him a verse-and-bridge melody idea that was fast-paced and bouncy, along with a suggestion for a title and theme - 'Minefield', a song about how you have to be very careful what you say these days for fear of offending people. Spencer took the first five bars of the verse idea and slowed it right down, turning it into a chilled RnB groove that would form the basis for the bulk of the song. He also suggested a slight change to the proposed theme - making it more specifically about someone in a volatile relationship who has to be very careful what they say to their partner.
Writing this song was a very different process than the other collaborations I'd done - with them, once the chords and melody of the song were established, the arrangement usually came naturally, but because 'Minefield' was so based around that initial groove, getting the arrangement right was much more crucial to making the song work, and keeping it interesting. In terms of exchanging ideas there was a lot of back-and-forth, but what was great was we never rejected each other's suggestions - we would always either build on them or just tweak them slightly (e.g. I added a horn part, and Spencer changed a couple of the notes - Spencer wrote a chorus, and I altered the lyrics a bit). The song really ended up being equal parts mine and Spencer's because of this, which I'm very glad about.
It was a time-consuming way of writing and recording, especially since all our communication was done via email. Had we been able to be in studio together at the same time we would probably would have finished the song a lot sooner - but then again, without the luxury of being able to listen to an idea and consider it for a while before suggesting a change, we might have ended up taking the song in a whole other direction. I'm very proud of the finished product and how different it is to my usual style (I also got the chance to showcase my falsetto, which I hadn't really done since the end part of 'Shona Mona Mae'!)
Spencer produced and mixed the song himself on Garageband - he admits this was a challenge for him, but he did it brilliantly. We sent the song to be mastered by Charlie Francis at Synergy Mastering, who did a great job of balancing the song's pulsing bass as well as the brighter elements. I designed the song's artwork by taking a clip-art image of a single mine and creating rows that were increasingly smaller to give a sense of a field of them, stretching towards the horizon. The single was released on December 7th 2020.
Spencer is an extremely talented artist - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Spencer's YouTube channel
Spencer's Twitter account
Spencer's Instagram account
Spencer's Bandcamp page
Spencer's Soundcloud page
Spencer's Facebook page
The more collaborations I did, the more I was eager for the next one to have a completely different sound than the last, so I started seeking out genres I wasn't too familiar with. Synthwave was one of these genres, and I instantly fell in love with its retro 80s sound. I came across Dimi Kaye while I was exploring the genre, and what set him apart from other synthwave artists was his use of rock guitar alongside synthesizers and programmed drums, which I found to be an irresistible combination. Since I saw he had worked with other vocalists before, I reached out to him and asked if he'd like to collaborate, and he happily agreed.
I had a song I'd written years ago that I thought would suit Dimi's sound, so I sent him a rough version of it. He quickly sent me back a basic synth arrangement of the chords and melody, and it was immediately clear that the combination of my tune and Dimi's sound was going to work well. I had written a full set of lyrics for the tune I sent him - it was called "We Won't Be Here For Long", and it was about how mankind was likely to implode if we couldn't find a way to live in harmony. Although this seemed like a depressingly relevant topic for 2020, I was never satisfied with the lyrics and how they fit with the melody. I therefore threw them out and wrote a whole new set of lyrics for the song, about another topic that was also very relevant to 2020 - anxiety.
Anxiety, particularly amongst young adults, was already a rapidly growing problem before the Coronavirus pandemic came along and amplified it. I knew quite a few people who suffered from it, and the new lyrics I wrote were inspired by them and the mental 'demons' they were finding it harder and harder to face in such isolating and uncertain times. Even though it isn't mentioned in the lyrics, there is a reason for the number '23' in the title - however, rather than explain it, I'd prefer to leave it to the listener's imagination.
I recorded my vocals at home and sent them to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale to be edited and mixed. After that, the rest of the production was done by Dimi - he not only honoured the ideas I had regarding the sound and the arrangement, but the song is also full of creative touches he came up with that all greatly improved it. The solo before the final chorus is a great example of this, where he he took a basic idea of mine and tweaked it so it fit the tone and flow of the song so much better. The mixing process is often the most frustrating yet rewarding part of recording, and since Dimi and I are both perfectionists the song went through ten mixes before we were both happy with it. I'm thrilled with the result, and I can't thank him enough for his kindness, patience and skill.
The photo for the cover was taken by John Wu (LifeOfWu on Instagram), and for our names and the song title I used the cool fonts Dimi had previously used on the cover of his album 'Not Holding Back' (which I highly recommend). The single was released on February 5th 2021.
Dimi is an incredible guitarist, producer and composer - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Dimi's YouTube channel
Dimi's Twitter account
Dimi's Instagram account
Dimi's Bandcamp page
Dimi's Facebook page
Kiss The Sky
One of the internet radio stations that frequently plays my music is Radio WIGWAM, and it was through them that I discovered Keith Schwartz's music. His ambient soundscapes and gorgeous guitar solos reminded me of late-era Pink Floyd, so I contacted him asking if he'd like to collaborate on a song in that style. When he said yes I sent him piano demos of two possible song ideas, and the one we ended up choosing was a piece that I had originally composed over 15 years ago for my A Level music course at school, where we had to write a musical score for a film scene (in this case, for the montage at the end of 'Donnie Darko' where 'Mad World' by Gary Jules plays).
In terms of arrangement, songs we had in mind as touchstones were 'Brothers In Arms' by Dire Straits and The Corrs' version of 'Little Wing' - 'gently epic' was the sound we were going for! While Keith started laying down pad and guitar tracks, I re-recorded my piano part and started trying to come up with lyrics. I had the title 'Kiss The Sky' in mind already, purely because, for me, the music always conjured up imagery of a bird soaring across a cloudy sky (hence the picture we chose for the cover art, taken by Tim Mossholder). I only wrote two verses of lyrics for the song, because the intention was always for it to be a mainly instrumental track to showcase Keith's sublime guitar skills.
I recorded my vocals at home and sent them to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale to be edited and mixed. The piano part was the trickiest element of the song to get right, because it couldn't be perfectly 'in time', otherwise it would clash with Keith's more loose and free-flowing guitar. I therefore had to go into the MIDI file and individually adjust the timing of certain notes - it was a painstaking process, but worth it. The last thing that was added was a drum that Keith had got from a Native American reservation in Colorado - it has an incredible, majestic booming sound, and it gave the second half of the song so much power and atmosphere. The single was released on February 19th 2021.
Keith is an amazing guitarist and composer - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
What Music Is Now
I was searching Twitter for multi-instrumentalists when I discovered Nathan Snyder, a one-man rock band who writes, performs and produces all his own music under the stage name Vandarth. After listening to his superb album 'Space Coffin', I got in touch asking if he'd be interesting in collaborating. At the time he was putting the final touches to his latest album "The Way Through" (which he wrote and recorded entirely by himself during lockdown), but said he would be happy to once it was finished.
I shared with him a song idea I'd had for a few years - one that sounded like a typical song you would hear at a music festival, but which also made fun of those types of songs. I had the chorus already written, and from that we came up with a verse melody that was based on similar chords but held for twice as long. We had tracks by Coldplay and Eliza The Bear in mind as references for the 'festival sound' we were trying to emulate, but we also wanted a rockier Foo Fighters-style edge to the later choruses.
As I wrote the lyrics for the verses, the song became less a parody of festival anthems and more of a statement of our feelings as independent artists towards the modern music industry (I like to think most of our peers will be able to relate to at least some of the songs' sentiments). As an ironic reference to the line in the chorus "no solos or musicianship, 'cause that's not allowed", Nathan came up with an awesome middle 8 section where he and I could both rock out - it was challenging but fun to tailor my piano part around his guitar riffs! It is entirely due to Nathan's skills as a producer and a rock musician that the final song sounds as epic as it does - I merely provided him with the vocals for my sections (as well as my usual piano and keyboard tracks) but it was his mighty guitar and drum-playing that made our little home recording sound stadium-worthy!
For the cover I wanted to find a picture of an old form of music media. I looked through lots of pictures on pexels.com of vinyl albums, but none of them seemed quite right. I expanded my search to include cassette tapes, and that's when I found the iconic image by Swapnil Sharma that we ultimately chose. The single was released on April 30th 2021.
Nathan is an awesome singer/songwriter/musician/producer - below are the links to Vandarth's social media pages, so please check them out...
Vandarth's YouTube channel
Vandarth's Twitter account
Vandarth's Instagram account
Vandarth's Bandcamp page
Vandarth's Facebook page
Vandarth's Soundcloud page
Paul Thibault (or Paul Tebo/Tebovision, as he goes by on social media) is another artist I discovered on Twitter whilst searching for multi-instrumentalists. I soon realised he was more active on Instagram than he was on Twitter, and it was partly due to watching (and greatly enjoying) his regular one-man-band cover versions of classic rock songs that I started becoming more active on the app myself, having joined it rather reluctantly in early 2020. I saw that he also regularly collaborated with other musicians on TikTok (one of the few remaining social media apps that I haven't signed up to!), so I reached out to him about the possibility of writing a song together.
When Paul agreed, I sent him the opening chord pattern of the song, along with an idea for what the lyrics could be about. The intention was for the song to sound like it's about a guy who's in love with a woman and is jealous of the new man she's going out with. However, it was actually inspired by the fact that my wife used to take lots of pictures of the two of us, but ever since our son was born she mainly takes pictures of him - I would like to make it clear I am not actually jealous of my son at all (he needs and deserves all the love and attention we can give him), I just thought it would be a fun double-meaning to write a song about! We went along with this idea and finished writing the song pretty quickly - I wrote the verses and the middle 8, Paul wrote the chorus, and then we fine-tuned each others' sections to make sure the song flowed and worked as a whole. In terms of how we phrased the lyrics, I personally also took inspiration from the Beatles song 'You're Gonna Lose That Girl'.
Paul is an excellent musician, proficient in guitar, bass and drums. I sent him some basic organ and electric piano tracks and he quickly recorded the bulk of the arrangement over them. At his suggestion, I also contributed a piano solo - the first one I've done for a song since 'All The Best For New Years'. It took a little while to get the solo sounding right - to match Paul's slightly loose guitar I had to resist the urge to have the notes perfectly in time on the MIDI file, and I also ended up doubling it with an octave-higher electric piano to add some brightness. We mainly sang the vocals for the parts we had each written, but we chose to sing together on the middle 8, the final chorus and the end coda (which Paul was very skilfully able to assemble from several takes of ad-libs!). Both in terms of subject matter and sound, this song is very different from the other collaborations I've done. Paul was able to give it a 'classic soft-rock' vibe, and I'm indebted to him for his great work producing and mixing it.
I had the idea that the cover would feature stick figure drawings depicting the love triangle from the lyrics, and when I couldn't find a stock photo that was good enough I decided to take one myself! I bought some chalk and drew some stick figures on the pavement outside our house, and after a lot of adjusting and colour correcting I ended up with an image we were both happy with. The single was released on June 18th 2021.
Paul is an great singer/songwriter/musician - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Paul's YouTube channel
Paul's Twitter account
Paul's Instagram account
Paul's TikTok account
Paul's Facebook page
Paul's Twitch page
Song For My Angel
This collaboration was the first time another artist approached me first. New York-based singer/songwriter Meghan Pulles (now based in Nashville) had discovered my music through artists we both knew like Luna Keller and Allison Leah, and I happily accepted her offer to collaborate. I sent her a half-finished song idea inspired by my son, and how (especially when he was a newborn) I missed him very much every time I had to go to work. I actually wrote the melody for the verse while he was sitting on my lap watching me play the piano, so even before I wrote the lyrics I knew I wanted it to be a song about him. Meghan then wrote the beautiful middle section, and after that we felt the song didn't need to be any longer or more complex.
There were a couple of happy mistakes during the recording process - in the final verse, I accidentally played an extra chord on the piano, but we kept it in as the chord fit the melody and it differentiated the final verse from the previous ones. The coda, which is an instrumental version of Meghan's middle section, is in C major instead of F major because Meghan accidentally wrote that section in C due to a miscommunication in the email when I sent her my original idea. We kept it in as it made for a surprising and peasant key change after the final verse. Apart from the percussion (which was added by my regular producer Joe Lonsdale, who also mixed and mastered the track) all the instrument parts were recorded on my keyboard at home, which I feel adds to the personal tone of the song.
The cover art for the song is a combination of this photo from pexels.com by Lisa (welshie.wonders on Instagram) and a picture of my son, which I took at Weymouth beach in May 2021. I added filters to make it look like a Polaroid shot then edited it into the background. The single was released on August 27th 2021.
Meghan is a great singer/songwriter - below are the links to her social media pages, so please check them out...
Meghan's YouTube channel
Meghan's Twitter account
Meghan's Instagram account
Meghan's Bandcamp page
Meghan's Facebook page
Kian is someone I discovered early on when I was searching for people to collaborate with. I first contacted him in 2020 after being impressed with his excellent album 'Comfortable Skin', which I immediately bought on CD from his Bandcamp page. I loved his sound (as he puts it - “too country for rock, too rock for country!”) and the songs on the album showcased his impressive skills as a producer as well as a singer/songwriter. We shared several influences from the classic rock/guitar pop genre, so we decided to write a song together in that style.
The writing process for the song was quite similar to how I wrote 'Minefield' with Spencer Segelov - every time one of us sent the other a new idea, it built on the other person's previous idea and gave it a twist. For example, I initially sent Kian a rough chord and melody idea on guitar, along with a possible title ('Stepping Outside The Front Door') - Kian then added a couple of chords that made more sense with the melody and suggested simplifying the title to just 'Steppin' Out'. Kian also came up with the chorus and the main guitar riff, while I suggested the section that became the chorus ending and the solo, and we each wrote the lyrics for our own verses.
Although the song was written quite quickly, getting around to properly recording it took almost two years - this was due to us both having other projects that we wanted to finish first, as well as work and family stuff which naturally took priority. It's ironic that a song that was written during lockdown, and which dealt with the desire to go out and see people, was finally released in a time when we'd had that freedom back for quite a while! I provided keyboard/organ tracks, Kian provided the guitars, drums and bass, and we each provided our vocals. For this song I tried to sing in a slightly lower tone/register than I usually do, to better match Kian's vocal (hopefully without sounding like I was trying to do an impression of him). Once we agreed on a structure for the song, the mixing process was pretty straightforward, and I'm very grateful to Kian for taking my suggestions on board and for doing such an excellent job finishing the track.
I found the image for the cover on pixabay.com, and all I really did to adjust it was increase the white border and tweak the brightness and contrast. For the text I used the same fonts that Kian used on his 'Cold Morning Coffee EP' - I also used these fonts on the covers for 'Someone New' and 'Song For My Angel' (which were designed after I designed this cover, even though both of those songs were released before this one). The single was released on May 27th 2022.
Kian is an awesome singer/songwriter/musician/producer - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Kian's YouTube channel
Kian's Twitter account
Kian's Facebook page
Kian's Bandcamp page
Kian's Soundcloud page
Kian's Patreon page
I discovered Johannes Bruhn by searching for multi-instrumentalists on Instagram, where he had posted many impressive videos of his own compositions. I said if he was ever interested in doing a song with lyrics and vocals that I would be happy to help. He sent me an unfinished song idea of his, and I thought the melody and the chords he used were excellent. It reminded me a bit of 'Man In The Mirror' by Michael Jackson, and it inspired me to write lyrics that had a similar theme - about taking the first steps towards building a better life.
The song came together very quickly - I recorded my vocal layers, and Johannes built the 80s-style arrangement around them and the keyboard track he initially provided. The only suggestions I gave him were the chords for the synthesiser solo and to make the drums in the chorus bigger and punchier, both of which he was gracious enough to incorporate.
I found the image for the cover on pexels.com, and apart from tweaking the colour levels the only change I made was I slightly adjusted the size of the drawing being held up. The final cover shares similarities with the artwork of several other collaboration singles I've released - like 'Song For My Angel' and 'What Music Is Now' it shows an object being held up by a hand, it uses the same title font used on 'Over And Out' and 'Minefield's covers, and the piece of paper is the exact same size as the frame on the cover of 'Winter Sun' (if you go over the Gallery section of the site you can see how they all compare to each other). The single was released on October 21st 2022.
Johannes is a great musician/composer/producer - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Johannes' Instagram account
Johannes' YouTube channel
In late 2022 I was introduced to Roy Benson, a veteran of the UK film and music industry, who's worked on such films as 'Lawrence Of Arabia', 'Dr Strangelove', The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour' and several pop promos for Paul McCartney. He is also a poet and a supporter of the charity Babusya Galyna UK, which was set up to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine. After hearing my music he suggested we create a song to support the charity, with his poetry serving as the lyrics and with me composing the tune. Having been impressed with Meghan Pulles' vocals on our previous collaboration 'Song For My Angel', Roy suggested contacting her about singing lead vocals on the song, and she happily accepted.
I already had the opening and closing melody composed, and the rest of the tune only took me about half an hour to write. Arranging the song was more challenging - I downloaded new orchestral software so that I could include realistic-sounding flutes, clarinets, horns and strings. We felt that other than the piano there should be another instrument that was a 'voice' in the song, so I composed a violin part that would interweave with the vocals, and I found a session musician called Irina on fiverr.com (who, co-incidentally, was from Ukraine) who performed the melody beautifully.
I produced and mixed the track myself and sent it to Joe Lonsdale at Joe Public Studios to be mastered. Having worked in the film industry, Roy had access to a whole library or sound effects, and he suggested creating an introduction to the song using military sounds to emphasise the song's theme of soldiers returning home from war. Since I knew radio stations would be hesitant to play a track with 30 seconds of bombs and machine-gun fire at the beginning, we compromised by creating an Extended Version of the song (with the sound effect introduction) and a Radio Edit (without it).
We considered a lot of different photos for the cover, and in the end we settled on this one from pexels.com by Kostiantyn Stupak. As well as being a peaceful image of the Ukraine countryside, the yellow field and blue sky call to mind the Ukrainian flag. The single was released on March 17th 2023, and it received lovely reviews from the following blogs/sites...
Indie Music Flix
Good Music Radar
Please consider downloading the track from Bandcamp to support the Babusya Galyna UK Fund and the incredible work that they do. Below are links to the charity's social media pages...
Babusya Galyna's website
Babusya Galyna's Instagram account
Babusya Galyna's Twitter account
Babusya Galyna's LinkedIn account
Babusya Galyna's Facebook page
And here are links Meghan's social media pages...
Meghan's YouTube channel
Meghan's Twitter account
Meghan's Instagram account
Meghan's Bandcamp page
Meghan's Facebook page
Any Day Now
Like Johannes Bruhn, Ryan Everly is a multi-instrumentalist I discovered on Instagram, where he frequently posts snippets of original compositions. I contacted him about collaborating and he happily agreed, so I sent him an old song idea of mine. It originally had a whole different set of lyrics, as well as a different title - 'No' - which I chose because I pictured the song being similarly produced to 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' by the band Yes. The idea was to base the whole song around the same chord progression, and to differentiate the sections purely by arrangement, having new parts and instruments constantly entering to keep it fresh and exciting. Since the old lyrics I had were pretty much meaningless, I wrote the new set based on the political turmoil that was engulfing the world back in late 2021.
The song's new title became very ironic, because due us both having various work and family commitments, it took almost a year and a half for Ryan and I to finish the song! I would send Ryan ideas for riffs that I'd recorded on my keyboard, and he would respond with versions recorded using real guitars and percussion instruments etc. The intention was for his 'real' tracks to replace mine, but as so often happens when you work on a song for so long, you become attached to the 'placeholder' sounds that you start with - therefore, the final mix of the song featured 36(!) tracks, with almost every different riff and melody part being played on both a real instrument and a synthesiser. I think the combination of organic and digital elements on this song gives it a very cool and unique sound.
Both in terms of arrangement and structure, the track gradually evolved over the long period we worked on it - i.e. I added the middle section when it became clear we needed to break away from the main chord progression at least once to keep things interesting, and I added several more 'chorus' sections so that all the riff ideas we came up with could each have their own 'moment'. I mixed the song myself, and even though I'd also mixed 'Coming Home' the month before, this song was a huge learning curve for me. Having the luxury of so much time to spend on it definitely helped, and now it's one of my favourite of my own tracks to listen to with earphones. My regular producer Joe Lonsdale (of Joe Public Studios) mastered the track, and he also created an alternative mix that was given away as a 'thank you' to fans who pre-saved the track on Spotify.
I found the image for the cover on pexels.com, and tweaked it slightly using the photo app Prequel. The single was released on April 7th 2023.
Ryan is a great multi-instrumentalist - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Ryan's Instagram account
As I've said before, I'm always eager for my collaborations to be as different-sounding as possible, and in 2021 this led to me the discovery of a relatively new genre called 'Bardcore', which is basically modern songs performed on medieval-style instruments. There are several people on YouTube (like stantough and Hildegard von Blingin') who do lots of covers in this style, but I was keen to find someone to work on an original song with.
I came across the YouTube channel of Ellyn Storm (real name Eylül Şenödeyici) and was very impressed - unlike the people I mentioned above, her music is played entirely on real instruments, and all of them by her. I contacted her suggesting a collaboration and she agreed, although due to her being busy with studying and moving to another city it would be over a year before we properly got started on our song (I seem to have a bad habit of contacting collaborators at very inopportune times!)
I sent Ellyn a tune I had written over a decade ago - I had always imagined it being arranged as a Spanish Flamenco piece, but after hearing Ellyn's beautiful, ethereal recordings I knew it would work equally well in her style. I wrote a set of lyrics that were inspired by a loved one of mine who, at the time, was having frequent troubling dreams. Ellyn built her arrangement around my piano track, and as well as playing mandolin, guitar, harp, saz, flute and percussion on the song she also sang the lead vocal (with me providing monk-like backing vocals in the bridge sections!). I finished off the track by adding several keyboard pads, and after mixing it we sent it to my regular producer Joe Lonsdale (of Joe Public Studios) for mastering.
I was keen for the cover to reflect the kind of fantasy imagery I hoped the music would evoke, so I started searching for pictures of misty forests and mountains. I originally found this image on pexels.com, but Ellyn said she had seen another artist use it as the artwork for one of their releases, so in the end we went with this image by Marek Piwnicki. I cropped the image, flipped it horizontally and adjusted the colour settings to make it more orange and pink - the end result is intentionally similar to the cover of 'Kiss The Sky', my collaboration with Keith Schwartz. The single was released on May 19th 2023.
Ellyn is an amazing multi-instrumentalist and singer - below are the links to her social media pages, so please check them out...
Ellyn's YouTube channel
Ellyn's Twitter account
Ellyn's Instagram account
Sean Buckley is an artist I discovered on Twitter when I was searching for multi-instrumentalists. I saw that he composed and produced his own music, and that he’d already done several collaborations with other artists. I got in touch to ask if he’d be interested in doing a track together and he happily agreed. A few years previously he had released a triple album called ‘Mintball’ of eclectic instrumental tracks, and he asked if there were any of them I’d like to try writing lyrics for. The track ‘Waterway’ immediately stood out to me as having great pop-song potential, so I restructured it slightly and started writing lyrics for it (a similar to process to what I did on 'Winter Sun', one of my earliest collaborations).
Although I had dabbled with electro-pop before (like on 'Over And Out', my collaboration with Gavin Kaufman) this was the first song I’d worked on where all the instrumental parts were synthesised samples - the only 'real' instrument on the track ended up being a guitar part in the chorus I asked my regular producer Joe Lonsdale to provide (which Sean had the great idea of repeating in the outro). I wrote all the lyrics, sang all the vocals and re-mixed the track myself, and when it was finally ready we sent it to Joe for mastering.
Although it’s not obvious, the single's abstract artwork is actually a photo that was taken inside a waterslide! I found the photo on Flickr, and I chose it for several reasons – firstly as a nod to the title of the instrumental track the song is based on (‘Waterway’) and also because when I started writing the lyrics my wife and I had recently taken our young boy to a swimming pool where he insisted on going on the big waterslide many times, which involved going up lots of stairs. This inspired the first lyrics I came up with for the song, which were the opening lines of chorus - “we can take this step by step if you wanna, or we can leap in headfirst”.
The single was released on August 4th 2023.
Sean is a great composer and producer - below are the links to his social media pages, so please check them out...
Sean's Twitter account
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