Ain’t Weak to Speak

It's Real Now It Has a Name

I started writing the songs on this EP shortly after I’d finished the recording of my debut album Mirrors. Because the songs on that album were with me for such a long time, it felt like a weight had been lifted when the production of it was finished, and it opened the creative floodgates. While it would be over a year between finishing Mirrors and releasing it, I was feeling a freedom to write new songs that I hadn’t felt for some time. 

I knew I wanted my next body of work to be an EP rather than an album, because with fewer songs, I’d be able to release it sooner. This proved vital because in order to work with my producer Nick Mason again, I had a real deadline in that he had a one way flight to Europe booked in May. In addition, I was moving house in March so I needed to record all my vocals before that to ensure they were all recorded in the exact same conditions. Once I moved, there was no going back! So we knuckled down in late January and got started. Working remotely in our own home studios, we quickly made our way through the track list and had the majority of the EP finished in record time. Nick has an amazing talent for understanding my vision of what each song could be, and I had made well fleshed out demos of every track, so we had a strong place to start from. 

The last thing that was recorded for the EP was the horn section for Moving On, which we recorded on Easter weekend at Crosstown Soundstudio in Preston. 

It’s Real Now It Has a Name gets pretty personal. The title comes from a lyric in the opening track Ain’t Weak to Speak – “I’ve been feeling this for years, but it’s real now it has a name” – and it felt like a perfect way to capture the emotion behind these songs, and the concept of acknowledging and naming something in order to take control of it. I’m really proud of the songwriting on the EP, and I’m so excited to release it. 

You can listen to It’s Real Now It Has a Name in full here.

Ain't Weak to Speak

This song is about the importance of talking about mental health. I think the chorus drives home a really crucial message – it’s okay to ask for help. Everybody has different experiences with mental health, but I’m hopeful that this resonates with people. According to the voice recordings on my phone, I started writing this on the 16th June 2021, but it’s telling a story that goes back over a decade. 

Here’s the voice recording from the day I started writing it

At that time, it was in a different key, with different chords, and it even had a different name! It was called “Goldfish”, taken from the opening line of each verse “Memory like a goldfish…” I liked the idea of subverting expectations – who calls a song about mental health “goldfish”!? This title stuck all the way until November 2022, when I wrote a new song called “Go Fish” and decided I couldn’t possibly have two songs with such similar titles. With a tinge of sadness I accepted the obvious title of Ain’t Weak to Speak, and quickly realised it would be hypocritical for me to sing about openly talking about mental health, but hide that behind a subversive song title. The title change was the right choice, and I love the title now. Hopefully one day I get to release “Go Fish” to really back up the decision.

New Flame

New Flame is a love song that takes you from slinky, sexy, minor key verses into the warmth of a lush, wide open major key chorus. I really love that juxtaposition of dark and light, and I think it musically represents the excitement of a new relationship where things are fun and flirty and sexy, switching to this bright, surrounding soundscape of what the depths of that relationship can become. I’m really hopeful that I can get this song in ads, because I reckon you could sell anything with this chorus playing behind it! 

In the second verse, there’s a lyric “When my baby sets her mind, there ain’t nothing gonna waste her time”. I had to make an effort not to make that second line “there ain’t nothing gonna break her stride” – I’d hate to plagiarise an all time classic song by the great Matthew Wilder!

Messing You Up

Statistically speaking, most relationships will end. This song is about one of those, and whilst I’ve definitely used some hyperbolic creative license, I think it’s probably a situation that happens a lot. I also took inspiration from the wonderful song “Mayday” by Cam. It’s about trying to leave a relationship that you can see is doomed. It’s a difficult thing. 

Messing You Up began with me coming up with the grammatically incorrect phrase “You miss me, I mess you” and liking how one small vowel difference provided immediate emotional tension. It was a short leap from that phrase, to the hook of the song. I think this song has some of my most clever songwriting, with some great rhymes, and lots of symbolism and metaphor. I really love the lyric change in the second chorus and the idea of breathing someone in or out as a representation of how you feel about them. 

I knew while I was writing it that there would be a huge drum fill before the final chorus. Nick (producer) and I call these a “Phil Collins” – I love a big drum fill a la In The Air Tonight and it was such a perfect way to lift the energy up after the stripped back bridge. I also enjoyed adding what I call “diva” vocals over the final chorus to spice things up, it’s a lot of fun playing around with runs and ad libs.

Hard to Pretend

Hard to Pretend is about a different (to Ain’t Weak to Speak) aspect of my experience with mental health, and it covers a darker, more negative side of it. I’ve jammed a lot of words into the verses, and it was a fun challenge for me to sing quickly and accurately, as well as not run out of breath. 

Perhaps contradictory to the message of AWTS, it’s about trying to hide from having to face your problems and talk to people about them. Despite these darker lyrical themes, I enjoyed contrasting with really upbeat, happy sounding music, and I think this represents the sentiment of the song perfectly – hiding something troubled beneath a happy exterior. That wasn’t an intentional choice when I started making the demo, but it soon became clear that it was a perfect metaphor, and I really leaned into making it fun with the backing vocals that come in from the second chorus. 

For the music theory nerds, the chord progression in the bridge is one of my favourites – I use a diminished chord to transition between the major five and the minor six, and then end on a major to minor four (IV-V-#v°-vi-V-IV-iv is the full progression). Bloody beautiful stuff if I may say so myself. I’m also especially proud of my vocals coming out of the stripped back pre-chorus to final chorus where I go down the octave and jump back up on the line “sink or swim, baby I might drown” so keep an ear out for that.

Moving On

This song is so much fun to sing, and an absolute ear worm for me. Throughout the recording process it lived rent free in my brain. I’ve had so many nights where every time I woke up, Moving On was playing in my head. And I couldn’t be mad about it because it’s so fun and catchy! It’s about looking at a previous relationship with the gift of hindsight and knowing things worked out for the best for everyone involved. It’s largely inspired by a relationship that ended many years ago now, and it’s certainly the most positive break up song I’ve ever written! 

Moving On makes me groove every time I listen to it, and a big part of that is the latin-inspired percussion and rhythm section. I’m a big Santana fan, and took inspiration from their music to arrange a rhythm section including guiro, cowbell, shakers, and brushes. 

From the moment I wrote it, I knew it needed horns. Early on when I was practicing it, I was doing mouth trumpet through the instrumental section to flesh out melodic lines for the horns, and getting so excited about the idea of having real horns on the track. When I made my demo, I arranged for Baritone Sax, Trombone, Trumpet, and Alto Sax – my first time writing and arranging horns and I had a blast doing it! It was such a joy heading to Crosstown Soundstudio in Preston with some professional musicians to bring my arrangement to life. Huge thanks to Cal, Tom, and Caleb for your expert musicianship (and for letting me know when I’d written notes that weren’t possible for your instruments – oops!) and to Josh at Crosstown for engineering the session along with Nick and I. 

I’d be remiss not to shout out Nick’s guitar work in this song. Keep an ear out for it coming out of the bridge/solo section and through the final chorus. He knew what I wanted and delivered it perfectly. I’m so pleased with every element of this song, and I challenge you not to start moving (on) when you listen to it!

Up and Not Just Onward

The closing track of the EP, Up and Not Just Onward is also the most recent. While camping on a beautiful farm in Carrajung with friends over New Year’s, my partner Sarah made a comment about the hilly view reminding her of home, and how she liked that it went “up and not just onward”. I thought there was something poetic in that, and I immediately wrote it down. A few days later after getting home, I cranked out the whole song on the 4th of January. It doesn’t often happen that I start and finish a song in one sitting, but it feels bloody good when it does. 

UaNJO takes themes of feeling stuck but wanting more out of life, and explores a desire to truly experience things rather than just be a bystander. 

This is the most vocally challenging song I’ve ever written, sitting right at the top of my range in the chorus, and then of course I had to go and put a key change in to make it even harder! I’m really proud of the chord progression through the key change, and it gives a huge lift for a triumphant final chorus, underscored by a beautiful orchestral arrangement from Nick. I think it closes out the EP really perfectly with an optimistic feeling of “What’s next?” I’m excited to find out.