Williem Vincent - Rising Slowly
With Rising Slowly, more than anything I wanted to make an album I could listen to over and over. Some performers and songwriters come across as notorious for not listening to their own music - I didn't want that. The effort involved, what gets put on hold in the rest of day to day life, the favours that are pulled - and the absences from the family - to record something that I didn't listen to and love would have been a huge disappointment.
A great list of material was culled and culled, one demo after another, until I landed at the final track listing - a mix of material that felt they lived well with one another and stood as an album, not simply a collection of songs.
I had to do justice to the key influences - Kate Bush (especially the first two albums, Nick Drake (I was a late-life fan) and Bowie, for the voice, the voice and the voice. And as much as the songs were pretty well formed, I still wanted to reflect those great studio moments using whatever marked out that particular environment from any other - the harmonium in the corner, tuning the old piano, using the analogue synths, the guitar on the wall or the melotron. Not everything was a success but it was great fun trying.
Above all I wanted a great acoustic sound, like Nick D's or Dean Dyson's, as I usually perform on my own - this still had to be key even if it got layered over and over in production. My own instruments - guitar, bass, piano (heavily influenced by Agnes Obel) and the gravitational pull of a classical background meant I had to play both viola and violin - all had to be meaningful contributions and performances I could point at and smile (even when on my own). And then there were the instruments I didn't play - I wanted harp from my Irish home - thank you Sheila Moylan, I wanted french horn, I miss it in modern music, and I wanted sax - no idea why this is so baked into my mindset of what constitutes recorded music, but it has always been part of my vision for Rising Slowly.
Finding the right producer was fundamental and in Grant Strang at Silver Shark Studios, Perryvale in Forest Hill, London, I found the perfect talent. Grant had that rare ability to make every moment in the studio productive - I never left the studio once feeling drained, I was always elated - tired but elated. Grant had ideas and could listen too, he knows his desk, and his outboard - and is a risk taker. And Grant had great contacts - Pascal Glanville who nailed that great solo in No Reason, Ed Swinburn of AfroBeats who graced the album with sax, Ellie Dorman on french horn and trumpet, and Lara Smiles of the Australian Pink Floyd who layered in that great voice of hers across the tracks - especially on No Reason. And Grant himself who's chosen instrument - synths - weaved its spell on Beautiful and dotted across the album when something needed - something.
Then there are my own friends too who gave of their services - the supremely musical Mark Roberts on drums, Alex Mungo on piano for Everytime - just perfect, Sheila Moylan on harp and my old friend and composer Simon Speare who very graciously provided the string arrangement and played cello on See the Girl - helping build a string quartet with just the two of us!
A special mention has to go to Alex Vald of Dream City Film Club and latterly United Sounds of Joy who washed the entire album in electronica and ambient orchestra, delivering that esoteric spirit that I would have never been able to achieve. And of course there's the extra mural activities - shipping gear into Crouch End in North London one evening for a 15 minute take of the community choir Songworks for the outro of Looks Like Rain, and the discovery of Dylema's "What if a black girl knew?" as the spoken word juxtaposition for Beautiful. I wanted to resist it but it kept coming back and the words and performance of Dylema somehow had to live with the lyrics and melody of the song.
The result was an album I'm proud of and yes, absolutely, an album I can listen to over and over. I hope you enjoy it.