26 May 2016

Chapter 20 – Moving to the big smoke and ‘Kissing Me.’

Now I had signed to Sony, it was time for Andy and I to re-locate. I had been paid the first instalment from my record and publishing advances, and as it was a sizeable chunk, so I needed to find an accountant (which I did, a nice man called Jonathan) and figure out how best to move forward.  My first inkling was to put it towards a deposit on a house, but Jonathan advised against it, stating ‘they’ll be plenty of time for all that.’ 

Jonathan also pointed out that although it was a sizeable chunk, I needed to make it last for as long as possible, as it would be my only income for who knows how long. This was true. I wouldn’t be receiving any more until I delivered the album, and I had no idea how long that would take. I could get a part time job, but the whole point of getting an advance is to free you up to work & write, so yes, buying a house probably wasn’t a sensible thing to do … especially since the 21 year old version of me was incredibly wet behind the ears (as you’re about to find out) and nowhere near as savvy as the 30-plus something version of me that is tapping away on this laptop. However, had all of this happened now, I probably would have bought the house, somewhere out of London, and I would have kept working part time. But hindsight is a bitch you just can’t slap, so moving on …

We went house hunting, looking for somewhere to rent in london. We liked North London but needed somewhere relatively central so we opted for Finchley Central. We found a small flat we liked the look of and went for a viewing … that was when we met Turkish Theo. 

Turkish Theo was our would-be landlord. He showed us around the flat, which was the top floor of a large town house. It’s main selling point was a wonderful panoramic view over north london. But hold your horses people, before you go visualising a ‘Notting-hill-type-high-ceiling-penthouse’ let me me be perfectly clear. This flat had a nice view, but it was not big enough to swing a rodent in. It had two small bedrooms (one of which would be a studio), one lounge; one wall of which was a kitchen and it had one small bathroom with a ‘built in jacuzzi’ (which was basically a small bath with little pumps in). Aside from being ideal for hobbits, It also had a mainline train that run past every few hours, but we didn’t find that out until much later, because Turkish Theo had rather cleverly arranged the viewing in between passing trains.

After showing us the flat, the three of us sat on the floor and smoked a cigarette. Theo asked us what we did for a living, and as soon as we told him we were musicians, this colourful character revealed himself in all his glory. He proceeded to tell us stories about his colourful past … one of which was he was once hairdresser to Brian May (!) We liked this guy, and remained clueless to the fact that he was actually robbing us blind, because this tiny flat was going for £1200 a month. We could have rented a castle with land in Hertfordshire for £1200 a month (and remember this was also back in 2002.) But we needed to be in London and we needed to find somewhere fast, so we moved in to the tiny hobbit flat in Finchley Central. I still occasionally want to punch the ghost of my 21 year old self when I think back to that flat, but we didn’t end up staying there long … we eventually woke up and found somewhere cheaper.

So we moved into the hobbit house, and the first thing we did was throw a party which was both a housewarming and a celebration of signing with Sony, as the ink had only just dried. My folks, band mates, close friends and family all piled round and we boozed the night away. I don’t remember much from that night, although the few snaps I have spark the memory slightly. The photo below is me and one of my best mates, Ben. (Ben was the guy that produced my earlier demo tracks ‘Good for Nothing’ and ‘Did you see her’ that I shared in an earlier chapter.) He may kill me for posting this pic, but I love the face he’s pulling, so it’s going up. 

Despite the high price tag, we had some great times in that flat, some great parties and we wrote some great songs there too … 

me and ben

We settled in quickly and got our little hobbit studio up and running. My publishers were booking sessions in for me with various writers but they were also keen for me to write alone, at home. One of the first songs I recorded in the flat was called ‘Kissing Me.’ I wrote this song a couple of years before in 2000, stoned, on the floor of my rat-infested student house in Liverpool, just as Andy and I were getting together. It was a wild and intoxicating time and the song reflects that I think. I was keen to bring it to life finally – so Andy and I set about recording it. 

‘Kissing Me’ was one of the first songs I recorded that seemed to have all the elements of my own style – it was still early days but it was there, even then. It’s my own voice (and by that I mean there’s not a producer telling me how I should sing it), it’s incredibly raw and honest (by that I mean it came from my gut) and musical it’s vivid, provocative and a little bit wild. Writing songs like that is what really turns me on, it’s not necessarily commercial but it’s the kind of music I love to listen to. 

Andy was only just starting out in production at this time, but I still love what we did with this song … he never fails to capture exactly what it is I’m after when it comes to recording. I love the raucous energy of his voice layered up behind mine in the chorus and I also love the guitar solo (it’s just a bit sexy isn’t it?) well I think it is anyway.

Ok well I’ve given you high expectations now haven’t I? I hope you realise that’s not my intention when I tell you these things. It’s more about giving you an insight and some context – because although it’s just a demo, it’s also a snippet of tapestry from a girls life (that wasn’t a game of thrones quote btw), it’s a nostalgic diary entry with sound and feel that takes me right back to how I felt sprawled on the floor of that rat-infested house. When you write a song that carries a piece of your history like that you can’t help but love it, even if it’s not your best work … that’s what I love most about songwriting, and it’s probably why I do it. While other songs are mere remnants of the turds you’ve stepped in along the way … but I’ll get to those in due course.

If you can’t see the song below you can listen by clicking here.