The West Penwith Hit Factory and other stories

Hello, all. Apologies for the long silence, but it’s been a busy time. I was on the road for most of March, first in Holland and then in Ireland, and since my return I’ve been up to my eyes in a very exciting new project. Living just a couple of miles up the road from me is a lovely and prodigiously talented woman called Zoë, who had a hit single back in 1991 with a song she wrote called ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day’ – look her up on YouTube and you can see her performing it on ‘Top Of The Pops’! She still has an awe-inspiring knack for coming up with unusual melodies that lodge in the brain and stay there for days on end, but she’s not so keen on writing lyrics, which is where I come in.

We’ve developed a reasonably organised style of working (I’ve taken to referring to it as “The West Penwith Hit Factory”), whereby she gives me a rough demo, sung mostly in nonsense language with the odd intelligible phrase thrown in, and tells me any thoughts she has about where it might go thematically. Those thematic ideas frequently send me to the Internet, where I find myself looking up information on all sorts of topics – the Kathakali dancing tradition of Kerala, the painter Frida Kahlo, the Rider Tarot deck, to name a few. This last item led me in turn to the woman who designed said deck, one Pamela Colman Smith, a fascinating character who was a great friend of William Butler Yeats, illustrated his poetry books and co-edited a literary journal with his brother, the painter Jack Yeats. Interesting stuff.

Thus far we’ve written twelve songs together, with a half-dozen more nearing completion. We’ve started work on an album, which we’re hoping to release within the next year under the band name Mama (a name we chose in part because we both have small children – who’ve become great friends over the past few months!). Zoë has just finished recording a new and very different version of ‘Sunshine On A Rainy Day’, more true in style to what she had in mind when she originally wrote the song, with myself on guitar and backing vocals as well as members of the band Thistletown. Jarvis from Thistletown also plays drum kit, percussion and trumpet on the three Mama songs we've recorded thus far, and we’re hoping to entice him out on the road with us when we’re ready to tour the finished album.

All this activity has put the release of my own new solo album, I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning, on hold until early next year. However, I’ll go ahead and put a few taster tracks up on MySpace as soon as I have the cover artwork to accompany them (Mary, if you’re reading this, I hope your paintbrush is at the ready!). In the meantime, you can hear me performing one of the songs from I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning live on RTÉ Radio 1 by clicking here. On the same page is an interview I did on Dutch radio during the Holland tour – have a listen if you fancy a laugh at my valiant attempts to speak Nederlands! Fortunately for me, the very charming DJ kindly switched over to English after the first few seconds. There are also some new items on the reviews/articles page, so do check that out as well if you have a spare moment.

In between stints of songwriting and recording, I’ve been doing the odd gig, including a lovely one the weekend before last at the Sandford Festival near Crediton, Devon. For the Saturday evening concert, I was honoured to be on a bill with three great singer/guitarists – Martyn Joseph, Andy Jencara and Kit Hawes – every one of whom played at least one number in DADGAD, for what it’s worth. The sound engineer was none other than Andy Manson, the maker of my beautiful guitar, and he and his wife Debbie not only put me up in their house but made me a present of a gorgeous blue and grey mug made by Debbie, who’s a wonderful raku potter. It’s been my mug of choice for tea and coffee ever since. That’s all the news for now!