Thursday, 19 November 2009

Without Fear Track #2 - Lighthouses

I'm going to blog about the music, lyrics and background to each of the 10 tracks on Without Fear as they get uploaded. Obviously it's to drum up more interest ahead of the release, but they'll also act as more detail to back up the track-by-track guide on the brand new Without Fear minisite.

This means I have to backtrack a bit and cover two tracks (or three in a way) which have already been online. The first one is track #2 Lighthouses, which you can hopefully hear on the player thusly:



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Music
Lighthouses is the first song I started writing for my renewed solo project, coming together during the dying stages of F451 in November/December 2007.
The chords that make up Lighthouses' chorus had been knocking around for some time - I'd often play around with chords that use those top two open strings that really ring, even if the notes (B and E) don't especially fit with the chord (or sometimes especially because they don't fit).
The riff is nice and simple, but sometimes the best ones are - most great riffs aren't about the riff itself, but the relationship between the individual notes and the backing chords. This is one of the most frustrating things about being a solo acoustic guitarist or even a single guitarist in a band, becuase you can't play a riff and chords at the same time (much as I try), and listeners can't hear the brilliant mixture that you can in your head.
Originally the song had a middle part, which would break down into quiet - often prompting people to clap, thinking it was the end of the song, a genius idea if I do say so - before striking up for one last chorus. However, I tried this on an initial demo at Matt's (of The Library Suits) though, and it came to a ridiculous 5+ minutes - so with the end fading out anyway, I scaled it back to a nice and sensible structure of just verse-bridge-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus. The chorus repeats the same first line four times anyway, so I think it's quite enough for pop and indie fans.
Have a listen out in the second half of each verse for the backing keyboard-esque sound. This was made by playing a guitar chord, fading in the volume from zero, and adding chorus and delay effects. I struggled when mixing the track to make it sound loud enough as a part in its own right, but then I remembered its a backing part, and even if you can't consciously hear the sound, it still makes up part of the music.

Lyrics
Lyrically this marked quite a change for me, since it wasn't a) railing about politics, or b) railing about politics. I've always resisted writing songs about myself or my own feelings because I'm the only one who's seen them, and I'm egotistical enough without expecting everyone to hang on my every word about my life, plus - most importantly - there's far too many singer-songwriters whining on about their small, narrow, personal experiences which vary from boringly domestic to sadly pathetic. I don't want to be one of those people.
Still, here it is, a personal song from Jez Kemp. It's hard to pin down the theme and the feeling - it's guarded yet hopeful, it's about regret yet it's positive. The general idea is that we shouldn't forget the mistakes and regrets we have, because they're what make us the real stuff that we're made of far more than the bright, happy, easy times we're lucky to have.
There's several references, including those of self-harm and prostitution (using, not providing!). I'll probably blog about self-harm in greater detail another time, but here it's enough to say this: it was a part of my youth, I'm up front about my scars, and - apart from the upset it caused my friends and family - I don't regret it at all.
Regarding prostitution, I think most human beings find the topic a big grey area - while it's wrong that many women through history have been forced to sell sex for money, we shouldn't criminalise or demean those women who do it either unwillingly or by choice. (Don't let "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" mislead you about how unglamorous, upsetting and dangerous prostitution is for most women around the world.) Anyway, the song refers to one experience I had, which I admit to - the incident itself was a drunken blur and something I never deliberately set out to do, which sounds ridiculous but is true - and while I can't claim to be a saint over it, sometimes you only know where the line is after you've crossed it.
Another line refers to the Atlantic - this is an admittedly rather ordinary link to my first experience couchsurfing, when I stayed with a lovely girl in Lisbon (Portugal) and we saw the sun setting over the Atlantic. I can't describe in words here how it was meaningful, it was just one of those points where the spirit of the moment captures how your life is changing.

So there you have it, a song about identity, regrets, and personal hope. To the casual observer it might appear a wholly negative song with the dark lyrics, but real humans can deal with varying degrees of dark and light in the same situation - it's a song about understanding yourself, so you can accept your past and make your future.

To finish up, here's the lyrics:

I know what you’re here for
The wisdom of the traveller in blazing sunsets
But you won’t find it here no
You won’t find it now if you don’t know what it is yet

And I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you how to live
Without fear of the past or the future
And I’ll tell you now, I’ll tell you now
To live without scars is to paint with water

And I will be your friend, and I will take my time
Tell you all the things that you shouldn’t have to hide
And I will be your friend, and I will take my time

I can see by the lighthouse
All of the regrets and the scars that are mine
I can see by the lighthouse
Out across the sea, for what feels like the last time
I can see by the lighthouse
To live without scars is to paint with water
I can see by the lighthouse
Hold onto your regrets, they’re what make us who we are

The sex that I paid for
Sometimes you have to cross the line to know where it is now
And the scars that I made myself
Sometimes you have to draw a map if nobody else will

And I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you how to live
Take your youth and please never waste it
‘Cos all I have to offer you now are my scars, and the view across the Atlantic

And I will be your friend, and I will take my time
Tell you all the things that you shouldn’t have to hide
And I will be your friend, and I will take my time

I can see by the lighthouse
All of the regrets and the scars that are mine
I can see by the lighthouse
Out across the sea, for what feels like the last time
I can see by the lighthouse
To live without scars is to paint with water
I can see by the lighthouse
Hold onto your regrets, and the crazy times we’ve had

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