Someone once told me that developing as a songwriter is a long – game, where you have to build the stamina of a marathon runner! This could not be more true of writing Tipping Point and then bringing into full actualisation. Some three years ago, before the climate summits hit mainstream awareness and net zero slogans were commonplace I felt drawn to writing a song about the environmental crisis. David Attenborough’s programmes, the green movement and the Extinction Rebellion protests made me want to use my talents in a small way to help people reflect about our world and become mindful in how we live and work together to help our planet.
I felt, like so many others, that we have been sleep walking into climate disaster and big corporations and governments are still largely concerned with the profit points on their excel spreadsheets. And as ordinary people we like to buy blue berries from South America, cash crop avocados and zip here, there and everywhere in our individual petrol fuelled car pods. So, the song starts with one lone voice in the wilderness; lamenting our heating world and calling for embodied cohesive action. As the song progresses more and more people “wake up” and join this call for action. Finally in the last verse we see we have to work together in a joined up way to save our one collective beautiful home, this green and blue treasure of a planet, which we most hold most dear. I had the story telling and slightly shamanic idea of bringing in other natural sound elements to add to the sense of urgency and sorrow, the whole world lamenting and outraged. I will not say what they are as I want them to be a surprise! The accompanying video hopefully also shows the world beauty, the mess we have made and our simple creation of this song as band.
After writing “Heartsease”, which was released last year as a single, I wrote a cycle of songs all about the world and how we live in it and so the side B for Tipping Point was brought into being as one of these fitted most beautifully. This song is called “Shape of Water” and looks at the qualities we need as humans to thrive and not just survive the possible pressure cooker of a future we all face. “Tipping Point” is all tension, urgency, outrage, desperation, beauty and resolution. “Shape of Water”takes us into a different space altogether.
I was inspired by three things whilst writing this song. The first comes from understanding of reality as a buddhist. In Buddhism, the ultimate nature of reality is emptiness, the Dharmakaya, in more scientific terms the field of potentiality. This is the rich source of everything and holds the mystery ,latent possibility and magic of all existence within it. As human beings we only use a small percentage of our brains and we hold the individual possibility of mental evolution, the possibility that we can become something bigger than what we currently are. For me, that is awe inspiring and means there is always hope! I try to create in “Shape of Water” a sense of this magical unformed world of beautiful potentiality that we could tap into.That was the brief I gave Stevan who did the sound design- he said it was quite a high bar to set, to illustrate the nature of ultimate reality through sound! To me, sound design naturally has that application as it is an endlessly expressive, free and creative use of sound.
The second thing that inspired this song was conversations with my sister who works in the environmental sector for Forum for the Future. To put it bluntly, those that work in that field are fully aware of how f****d we are! We have some serious macro thinking and acting to do to mitigate our past collective greedy thoughtlessness. We face emerging futures that hold strands that will converge to create chaos. These are: sudden extreme climatic events that will leave the world hungry, thirsty, possibly at war and on the move, a hyper digitalised world which has instant communication but stretches truth, reality and is open to clever fraudsters and crime. A huge global disparity between rich and poor which increases political divides and economic and social tensions. Within that we also have the emerging reality of creating strategies, philanthropy, creative endeavours in all fields which will seek to create new solutions, macro thinking and new ways of living. For the last element to thrive and become the mainstream global reality I figured that actually we need to do some internal homework first.
That is we need to create a fertile basis for these things to grow from and for that we need to actively embody certain qualities to encourage positive joined up action. We need the quality of flexibility; water exemplifies this in the song. We need resilience, conscious use and awareness of power, individually and collectively. Power gained through stillness and the gathering of internal wisdom. We also need to listen and watch the happenings and patternings of events and cause and effect so we act rather than react. We need to be innovative in our thinking, patient and above all hold a mind of love and compassion for each other for these qualities make all things, always possible. And so,” Shape of Water” was written. I hope the melody and interplay of voice and instruments and sound design allows the mind to float free, wonder and re -emerge, taking with it some of that awesome potentiality the song seeks to express.
Lastly I was inspired by some of the work of Brian Eno; I think he sometimes uses sound design in an almost spiritual way and so I wanted to use this too, in this song.
So these songs were written at different times and have been allowed to materialise through the kindness of my instrumental collaborators, Tamsin, Arngeir and Stevan and the financial assistance of Help Musicians UK. I can not thank them enough for giving me this amazing opportunity to grow and creatively flourish and give me the chance to flesh out the creative ideas for these particular songs. Whilst in the studio we also had time to record two other of my songs which are more minimal and pared back with just voice and guitar. These are not being released currently as I would need to find resources for a fresh PR campaign. But…..hopefully….in the not too distant future! They are different again.
It was a totally amazing experience for me to go to a proper studio, to work with professional musicians, work with a producer/sound designer and videographer. This whole experience was wonderfully growing for a mum who has grown song writing from around cooking her family suppers and teaching young children music from my home in my Scottish farmhouse. It has been a massive journey and this experience wasa keyhole birds eye view of what I could become and do next.
Making the video was an idea that slightly had me in a tizzy. Normally I am a bit like a highland sheep who is sheared once a year and I don’t give much thought to preening and pampering. I am too busy feeding the hens, doing the garden and working with kids- to think too much about all those kind of appearance things. So, my sisters and step mother took me firmly in hand. So, I duly arrived in the studio with tamed eyebrows, a fresh haircut, a gifted top and a borrowed necklace from my sister who picked it up in a market in India. The hill billy look was left firmly back in moray! Even my dentist played her part, for which I wish to thank her for! I have teeth that have uneven enamel- due to being born so early ,so they easily stain and get black bits. This obviously had to be remedied if you are having a video made of you singing- one’s mouth is rather wide! Unfortunately the waiting list was so long after Covid that there was no space left with the dental hygienist to fit me in, in time . My dentist rang me back and squeezed me in especially so, in her words” She could give me the confidence of singing with a nice white smile!” Thank-you dear dentist!
I am excited to announce that these songs will be released on Friday 22nd April, with a PR campaign run by Global Sound Group. I do hope they create a wide open doorway for collaborations with other people, gigs, more recordings and other onward developments. But, this has always been a dance between smoke and mirrors, unpredictable and uncertain. But, in the field of potentiality anything is possible! So, I take on the shape of water and flow….