Songs from the Arctic, the Desert and the Curious Heart
McGee's 8th full length album & first since Those Old Demons (2014): a unique songbook, drawing on old vinyl blues, gospel & '30s jazz
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Wed, December 19 2018 7:22 AM UTC +00:00.
New songs and a curious heart
Every song has a story. This is something anyone will tell you. The songs that will be my 8th album will have literally been through fire and ice before they reach you. With your help this collection of twelve new, old-sounding songs, will be finessed over the winter and be brought to life by many of the players and the studio engineer who worked on my seventh album Those Old Demons (2014).
Solo travels in America
By 2015, Demons - a collection that featured Marc Ribot, a lifelong hero of mine - had come and gone with very little fanfare. Feeling like I needed a change, I took myself on a solo journey across America as a ‘non-musician’ to see how long I could live without music…That’s how, later that summer, sitting in an old caravan in the Mojave desert…I began to think again about songwriting.
I was drawn to the sentimentality of 30s jazz and on my return home to England I began to collect vinyl - Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and the Cole Porter songbook rarely left my turntable and I found the songs strangely comforting. The songs that I wrote, inspired by these classics, form the backbone of the new album I’ll be making for release next spring.
This time, I thought, I’ll do everything myself. I’ll make a solo album. I need to make it special so I’ll make it an album of field recordings. In my head I could hear something sparse, stripped down and empty.
This January, 2018, whilst looking for an unusual setting in which to record, I stumbled across the offer of an artist residency on a small island in the Arctic. Just like the desert, my arctic trip - made possible through the help of kind folks on facebook - turned out to be a kind of stasis as soon after I arrived I fell ill. I took photos and experienced some intense time alone, interspersed with the stories of artists and fishermen.
Norway in midwinter had its own intensity: the suffocating heat of the wood fired sauna, the bone deep cold of bathing in arctic waters and the breath of frozen winds. These things carried their own stories, but no songs were recorded.
Plans to record the solo field album continued to be made over the summer. My Italian friend picked me up off the train in sweltering heat and over the next few days we split our time between his aunt’s wood-lined cellar in Moimacco, (where we timed our recordings between half hour church bells) and a 14th century church in the Italian mountains. The weather was humid. I sang with my feet on ice packs and was serenaded by mosquitoes. Over the space of a week, I recorded around ten songs that make up a solo record we’ll now be offering up as a kickstarter reward.
The Italian sessions taught me many things. One of their biggest lessons was that these songs needed more from me than I had been able to give them on my own. Finally I had my stripped down songs...but when I heard them now, I could hear clarinet, brass, double bass, woodwind…In short, I could hear the production values that no field recording was going to provide.
Perhaps even a lone wolf like me can finally recognise that going it alone is great but that sometimes sharing an experience with others is even greater. Especially when it comes to making music.
New album plans
Way down below you'll find a video for one of the songs that will be on the new album, recorded in Italy earlier in the year. Currently, the album has a working title, but I’m not worried. I’ve made enough records now to understand that sometimes you have to be patient. Two of my albums were named in the studio. In this case, I wonder if bringing my band in will be part of choosing that name. (Should you have any good & pertinent name suggestions, do drop me a line!)
With the money from the kickstarter campaign, I'll head into the studio in January 2019 with drummer, reeds player and co-producer Howard Jacobs, long time engineer Barkley McKay, Clive Mellor, Biff Roxby and other Hobopop Collective stalwarts. We'll spend a week recording and several days mixing before the album goes to Russ Hepworth Sawyer at MOTTOSound to be mastered. Once this is done, the record will be pressed at Cyclone Disc Manufacturing and I already have mat martin on the case who will be updating the website and designing the artwork.
In March and April there will be UK tour dates and the autumn will take me to Scotland and back over to Europe. If you'd like me to fit in a house show for you, there should be plenty of opportunity to work this around existing tour dates. As the kickstarter unfolds, I'll be posting videos, new songs and updates. Watch this space - first update & a new video due 19.11.18!
You can also see social media updates at:
I’m hoping that you will join me & my friends in bringing this 8th collection of songs to life. In your hands, the rough diamonds I hewed in the arctic, in Italy and in California, will be polished to a fine shine & I’m looking forward to being able to send you ice, sand and diamonds through the post.
Thank you for sharing in this journey & for keeping me company. Even a lone wolf needs company sometimes.
Risks and challenges
At my first actual rodeo, in 2016, I bought a shiny silver bracelet to wear anytime I felt like I needed to be reminded I was capable, experienced and that I had already been to a rodeo. Every project has its own issues and delays but I’ll be working in a familiar environment with a bunch of trusted colleagues and now that things are up and running I have a team in place to make sure this project runs smoothly and on time. This will be my third kickstarter funded project and I’ll keep you up to date on all the exciting and important stages of the album from start to finish. I will manage the kickstarter funds to make sure the money is spent wisely and will give the project my full attention.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- All gone!
Help Wanted Labs
Making music videos is difficult. If you're an illustrator, designer or animator who would like to make a video, please drop me a line.
Looking for someone who does letterpress to collaborate on some lyric postcards and posters.
If you have marketing expertise, particularly online / podcasts I'd love to hear from you about how to reach more people with the new album