I spent the last few days somewhere familiar – Watercolour Music in Ardgour. Just across Loch Linnhe from Fort William, the studio stands at the foot of a hill with Ben Nevis in full view from nearly every window. Deer roam the grounds, Rycote the dog brings you bones & waits patiently for sausages, the accommodation is spacious, modern, clean & well-equipped. The studio is big, sounds great & whilst I know nothing about Neumann microphones or Neve mixing desks, I doubt there are many rooms in the land with such a fine collection of modern & vintage recording kit. In the hands of Nick the engineer, there’s nothing you can’t do here. It’s inspiring & can be an intimidating space, done wrong.
But this time, we did it right. Josienne’s the boss. Her songs, her show. She brought Dave Hamblett (drums), Matt Robinson (keys) & me. I worked hard to earn my place in this band. I’m not the most elegant or capable musician in the room – Dave & Matt are experienced professionals and watching them compose & perform at such close quarters will bring a tear to your eye – but I worked hard and it paid off. I’m also not terrible, and I’ve been playing a long time. The moments when my bass-lines lock in with whatever they are playing stops my heart every-time. What a thrill to be involved in something this important, this beautiful. Just to play is one thing, but to play in the service of this is something else.
I can’t say a word about what it is we were doing, apart from Josienne is making exactly what the reviewers meant when they said they couldn’t wait to hear what she does next – this is it. You’re going to love it. I can only talk about my part and my part was every dream I ever had come true.
As well as playing bass, I took pictures, shot some video & made food. Everyone pitched in, there was friction, challenge, support, disagreement, resolution, tough bits, easy bits & most of all, respect, from everyone to everyone else.
Josienne has curated this finely tuned environment. You can’t make something properly beautiful if there’s a weasel in the room, an oxygen hammer, silently planning how to fuck everyone over in the most mundane ways, riddled with boring jealousy & dreary self-doubt dressed up as ‘humility’ & ‘shyness’, not a single idea to it’s name in a world where everyone wants them even though they are apparently worth nothing. Except, they must be, mustn’t they? Worth something. Ideas. Songs. Something to say. A reason to say it. A voice to say it with. Otherwise, why would everyone want to rabidly attach themselves to them only to then declare them things of no use? Too afraid to acknowledge the value of others because your own self worth is so fragile. If that sounds like you then it’s ok. There is hope. Tell the people that you value that you value them. Expect the same in return. Believe in yourself enough to leave if you don’t get what you want. Or work twice as hard for the right to stay. I dunno. Don’t listen to me. What do I know.
We all have self-doubt, it’s my fucking middle name, it’s what you do with it that counts and what I do is fucking work hard, try to be honest with myself & then own it. It’s nobody else’s jealousy. I am the only person who can manage it. It is not someone else’s responsibility. If I want a thing, I will ask. Not everyone does that. Years of experience of working in sickening, silently oppressive, credit stealing, claustrophobic rooms have broken parts of Josienne, so what she wants or needs isn’t always easy to understand or give, but if everyone cares, if everyone is motivated by the right things, then it can & does work, and that means not just making the beautiful thing, but making it right. It will always be hard, stressful work – the infrared microscope of the studio lights leave no emotional stone unturned – but it doesn’t have to nearly kill you. And we are all still alive.
Mixing happens next. Meantime, all I can do is show you. Just wait til you can hear the value of a thing that simply got plucked out of nothing but thin air, almost like she knows exactly what she’s doing.