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Track by Track - Youth 

Youth - Track by Track 

The stories behind writing and recording. 

Warning- Another long one - only for the brave. 

1/ Hurt You (AKA 1982) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

It’s a funny thing. You never know what’s going to be that song that connects. I’d written many more obviously commercial songs in the run-up to recording Youth, but in retrospect, this one struck a chord with people, more than any others so far. I remember writing 1982 about a year before we recorded it. Some songs you fight to write and some come quick. I actually wrote this in Cheltenham one morning, whilst drying my hair. I strongly remember hanging my head upside down and just coming up with this song. I wrote the first verse and chorus in my head, then finished the rest of the lyrics during rehearsals. Lyrically, the song was written like a promise list of intensions. I originally heard the song as far more soulful. Kind of like Jeff Buckley’s Everybody Here Wants You, but when we played it, it just came out far heavier. The original versions had an extra verse, so the song was even longer. The edit came during pre-production. 

Recording: 

I remember recording this song like it was yesterday. We were at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales, Chris and Dom had spent a full day setting up the studio, so we could record live.  I think around 11pm (maybe even later) we started playing it. I think we did one take of it, with everything live including the vocals, and then perhaps a spare take in case. Then we moved on to the next track. Its release did well, charting top 20, featuring as the lead sync on ITV’s Monroe and getting picked up by Coldplay of all people. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

2/ Kangaroo 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I think I wrote this on an acoustic during some downtime. I don’t really have a clear memory of writing it, but it does sound like I’d have used a guitar to write it. I remember stealing part of it from another song of mine ‘Battleships’ (Eject) for the bridge, but that’s about it. 

I think it was far more folk than it ended up. Lyrically, it seems to be about insecurities, mixed with a certain resignation, Tangerines, and Kangaroos (obviously). It’s not my best lyrics, to be honest, but captures the vibe, and is abstract enough to hide most of its inner context. 

Recording: 

I believe we recorded this one in the daytime, unlike a lot of the others. Me and Dom certainly re-did a lot of overdubs at Metropolis in London. Dom might remember more about this one? 

Credits: 

Recorded at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, and Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

3/ Carnival Song 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

This song is so good I wrote it twice haha. Funny story, but around 2009, I was living mainly out of a car. Shortly after this, I was staying at Hils’ parent's house. I kind of just moved myself in bin liner by bin liner. Every morning I’d come down (Hils was at work) and I’d have breakfast with her Mum and Dad. It was lovely, but as you can imagine, I felt like an intruder (because I kind of was). Anyway, I wrote this song called “This Cornflake Situation” whose title was inspired by these daily breakfasts. I recorded it down and forgot all about it. About a year later, I wrote Carnival Song, in a sort of Jack Kerouac stream of consciousness, painting cartoon-like scenes of a carnival. I wanted to make it happier than the others. Anyway, fast-forward to post-recording, and I found my old recording of this song This Cornflake Situation, that I have no recollection of writing. Here’s the thing, it was almost identical. I’d re-written it with no memory that I’d already written this one. Strange but true. 

Recording: 

This one was really ‘Dom’s track’. When you work with two great producers, each of them has ones they “connect” with more than others. For instance, I remember Chris disliking ‘Sober’(ended up on Eject) which we also tracked. I think we layered this one. Recording most of it at Metropolis. I heard this very orchestral arrangement, which I wrote and Hils made sense of. It included flutes and brass, among other things, and I also heard a Children’s Choir (which are actually one of my pet hates) singing in the choruses. One day me and Dom, went to Emmanuel Primary School in West Hampstead, London, and recorded around 20 little kids singing my song. It was amazing, and they did so great. Most of them had graduated by the time it came out. 

This one wasn’t on the official album, but it should have been. 

Credits: 

Recorded at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, Emmanuel Primary School, West Hampstead, London and Metropolis Studios, London 

Band: 

Normal-Line Up 

Hils also played Fifes and Flutes 

Deirdre Box: Trumpets, Brass 

Dom Morley: Alex’s Toy Piano 

Produced & Mixed by Dom Morley & Chris Potter 

Written by Si Connelly 

4/ Come Up For Air (AKA Air) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I wrote Air one morning quite late in the album process. I remember it being my attempt at writing a single for the album. It didn’t take long at all. I was going through some hard stuff at the time, and this was a kind of moving on, whilst looking back over your shoulder song. I remember writing the bridge during pre-production in minutes, as Chris said it needed a bridge. 

Recording: 

I may be wrong here, but I think we’d recorded most of the songs, and then I wrote Air, and we had to go back in and record it. I could be wrong. Dom/Chris? I remember recording it in the famous studio B at Metropolis in London, and it being the last time the band (in that line up) played together. It was layered and not done live, I don’t believe. 

Credits: 

Recorded at Metropolis Studios, London 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal Line-Up 

Written by Si Connelly 

5. Sparks (AKA And It’s Still A Long Time) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I remember writing this song very clearly. I was walking up the London Road in Cheltenham one day around 2008, and I wrote this one in my head. I originally wrote it for a friend of mine, Vince Freeman (fellow Singer-Songwriter) and I seem to remember offering it to him, but for some reason, it never found its way to him. I then brought it into the band a year or so later and we did it. It was one of my Ryan Adams type songs, which are always my favourite. I remember being really happy with it. 

Recording: 

I don’t have much memory of recording this song. I guess we must have used both Monnow Valley and Metropolis. The organ sounds like the one at Monnow Valley. 

I do have a strange brain problem where I completely forget things that happened, sometimes hours, days or years before. This one falls into the trapdoor of my head session wise. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, and Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

6. Catch The Sun 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

This is one of my earliest songs. I wrote it when I was about thirteen years old, so it dates back to 1995. I recorded it so many times and never ever got it right. Lyrically it's clearly about escapism. I played it live for so many years that it had started collecting dust. 

Recording: 

This was a Chris song. His work on this makes it. Again, I don’t really remember recording it. It must have been at both the studios. I think me and Dom layered loads of overdubs. I remember it really coming together when Chris delivered the mix for it. Hils’ vocals are great in this one. Again, not on the official album. Crazy! 

Credits: 

Recorded at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, and Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

7. Lights - (AKA Lately) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I remember writing this one at Slak (my uncle's bar/venue -  RIP) in Cheltenham. I’d go there every day after work and write while it was closed. I was trying to write better songs and improve, so I could potentially get another deal. I wrote this one about my childhood, and consequently, it uses a thousand hiding places to disguise the context. Written on the piano. 

Recording: 

This one was recorded very early on. Me and Chris went into Eastcote Studios in London’s Kensal Rise. Here I recorded piano and vocal live to many of the songs, that we would later overdub over. This really helped capture the live spine of the performance, making overdubbing more straight forward. We recorded the rest at Monnow Valley and Metropolis, and then I think we had to re-record the pianos for the instrumental versions years later at Sugarcane Studios in Wandsworth. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Eastcote Studios, London, Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, Metropolis Studios, London, and Sugar Cane Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

8. Shiver 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I remember writing this during a Sony recording session around 2008. We were between takes and I was really longing to do something else. I wrote this in about 15 minutes on an acoustic. I remember thinking “let’s keep this one to myself”. The lyrics are very abstract. I wanted it to feel like I was underwater in a new world. The title was taken from Coldplay’s song Shiver. 

Recording: 

I think we recorded this one live too, but perhaps without the vocals. It was certainly a Monnow Valley session track. I remember recording the opening shimmery guitar at home in Cheltenham one day, and we took it from the original demo I did. I remember Hils playing in all these random notes, and Chris grinning to himself, as he knew where he was going to place every single one of them. It’s probably my favourite song and recording from the album. Very proud of this one, even though it made no dent in the world. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, and Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

9. Goodnight My Lover (AKA City Lights) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I clearly remember writing this one. In 2007, whilst recording the Sony album, I was living in a beautiful studio flat on Cardigan Road on Richmond Hill. I was very prolific during this period, and I remember sitting in my kitchen looking over London at around 3am and writing this one. Lyrically it was half a fantasy Romeo and Juliet thing, kind of a suicide pact gone wrong, and half inspired by my Uncle and his now Wife, living thousands of miles apart (New York and Cheltenham). Sometimes songs aren’t really “about” something specific but work more on a theme. This is one of those. I recorded it for Sony, but it was very different and more electronic. 

Recording: 

We literally recorded this minutes after Hurt You (1982) at Monnow Valley. Again completely live. One of the strongest memories of the album. I had refused to really rehearse the song before we recorded it, as I wanted to capture something spontaneous. It was real late and very dark in the studio, and we couldn’t all see each other whilst playing it, so it really was a brave thing to try and get right. We did it completely live, including vocals, in one take. My favourite bit is when, after 7 minutes of improvising, Tom (drums) comes back in at the end with a Hi-Hat pattern, which is kinda crazy, if you consider that it could have ruined it. But his instincts were so in tune after years of playing together, he jumped and it made it. Again I’m very proud of this one. To this day, I refuse to rehearse it with any of the musicians that play it. If fact, I kind of refuse to rehearse and we now only meet on stage. That’s more of a financial decision rather than an artistic one. 

I think Hils did some random note overdubs that Chris placed in later. Powerful moment. I still remember coming back into the control room after recording it and asking “was that okay?” 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios, Wales. Overdubs: Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

10. Wide Open 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

This is a really early song. I wrote it at around 18 years old, I think. It was when I was experimenting with different tunings. A guy I knew in Cheltenham showed me this tuning and I wrote this one. It came into its own live and became an audience favourite around the time. I recorded it many times, and still don’t believe I’ve captured it right. Lyrically it’s about departure and the death of my childhood dog, who died in my arms. 

Recording: 

This wasn’t intended for my album and therefore was never recorded during our session. It ended up on my second album Eject. It was recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios though, but this time with producer Sam Williams (Supergrass). Recorded the first time I went there back in 2005. We recorded it completely live with me on guitar and vocals and Sam on piano. I remember us doing numerous takes to get it right, and this one worked well. I wish I was a better singer then, as it deserves a better vocal. We subsequently, re-recorded it without the piano, at The Chapel in Oxford (that version is on my third album 13 Ghosts). An early recording of this song came out of my very first EP (Pure EP) back around early 2000. I decided to add it to my version of Youth where it belongs. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Monnow Valley Studios. 

Produced & Mixed by Sam Williams. 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

11. Simple Eyes 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I wrote this one around 2008 at home in Cheltenham. I loved the imagery of this song. It’s a song about seeing the simple things in life. It's also about being seen for the first time by someone. I don’t think it took very long to write but can’t remember fully. 

Recording: 

This recording was just piano and vocals live in one take at Eastcote Studios, about a year before we tracked the rest of it. We didn’t record it to click (a timekeeping guide heard in headphones, during recording), as it felt too restricted. It gave us a headache later when adding drums and overdubs, but it worked for sure. One of my favourites.  Hils’ vocal is great on this one too. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Eastcote Studios, London. Overdubs: Monnow Valley Studios, Wales, and Metropolis Studios, London. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

12. Dead Flowers (AKA Gotta Miles Davis In My Head) 

(Connelly) 

Writing: 

I wrote this at one of my Slak writing sessions in 2007. I remember working constantly and feeling this heavy blackness everywhere I went. I wrote this about giving up, sort of a resignation letter to myself. It was a very sad song, and one I play live a lot. I hate the new title but see the issues with the other. 

Recording: 

This one was recorded completely live in one take too. Recorded at Eastcote Studios, London. We overdubbed the double-track vocals and other bits. We wanted to capture a kind of Simon and Garfunkel thing. The brass was taken from another earlier recording on the song and features Amy Winehouse’s brass section, although I couldn’t get to that session so I never got to thank them. I always wanted this to be the last song on the album, and think it really works. Although it’s very sad. 

Credits: 

Recorded live at Eastcote Studios, London. Overdubs: Monnow Valley Studios, Wales and Metropolis Studios, London, and Olympic Studios. 

Produced & Mixed by Chris Potter & Dom Morley 

Band: Normal line-up 

Written by Si Connelly 

-------------------------------- 

Band on Album: 

Me - Electric Guitar & Vocals 

Hils - Organ, Vocals 

Phil Brickell - Bass 

Tom Slaytor - Drums 

Other Tracks Recorded for the album: 

Sober (Released on second album Eject) 

You Made Me AKA Play (Release on the official album) 

Love Sick (Released on second album Eject) 

Smile (Unreleased) 

Thank You: 

All in all, my first album was my first story, told properly. Thank you for reading. You deserve a medal. Thanks to Chris Potter, Dom Morley, Hils, Phil, Tom, Deirdre Box, Sam Williams, Emmanuel Primary School, Jo at Monnow Valley Studios, Metropolis Studios, Eastcote Studios, Sugar Cane Studios, Olympic Studios, West One Music, Z Management, and all those important people, in all those drunk filled music bars, all those years ago. And thanks to YOU too. 

(I'll post a link to the album in the comments) 

SC x

 

Album: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2FjawCZz5JDULRu4YUfVHU?si=644U_sC2R92kBykSRYpqwQ

The Story of Youth 

To celebrate 10 years since its recording, I wanted to share a version of my debut album, as I originally intended it to be. It was an album that took me a lifetime of sacrifices, ups, and downs to make, and has a crazy history. The album itself was finally released in 2016 via the West One Music label, but its story dates back over a decade before it saw the light of day. The album’s final release was really a personal failure, wrapped in a success. Ironically, kind of the opposite to how I see myself. Although, I am obviously grateful and happy that it did come out on a label in the end. The tracks included, titles and ordering actually had very little to do with me, with certain tracks left off. 

The deal I had with the label (West One) was simply for ten tracks, so just ten randomly picked tracks were chosen, from the body of tracks recorded. Some we then retitled with more appropriate titles (the label specialises in TV and Film music placement, hence the more emotive and obvious titles) and then released. Even the front cover wasn’t really my choice, as Crimewatch as turned out. Having said that, I am very thankful. When you learn a little about why it took so long in the first place, you start to see that, third-party action, was probably the only way it would have seen the light of day. 

“That Was The Plan” 

The story of my first album actually dates back to 2004. After ten years on the UK gig circuit, I finally got discovered by the ‘big London manager’ during a gig at a place called The Cotswold in my hometown of Cheltenham. Cheltenham was a great place back then to build a following and grow. But apart from some brief sessions and interest from EMI and Blur’s A&R guy Andy Ross (Food, Parlophone), that fizzled out like a wet firework, I hadn’t had that lucky break. 

Anyways, this new sparkly London manager came down to my gig, after some recommendation. He liked ‘Catch The Sun’ and shortly after, signed me up. At 21, I felt discovered, as they say. After setting me up some shows in London, he instantly got me label interest, and in 2004, I signed my first big publishing deal with EMI. 

“Instantly forgettable” 

This is how in 2005, I managed to find myself in the studio with record producer Sam Williams (Supergrass), attempting to record my debut album (for the first time). 
It was an amazing experience, but I felt truly lost for most of the recording process. I’d gone from bedrooms to clubs and bars to studios, without any real idea of what you do then. I needed time to develop before being thrown in, but instead, I was in Monnow Valley Studios in Wales with this great team. 
In amongst the studios and laboured recording processes, it didn’t take me long to lose my way. I was struggling to believe in the recordings and in myself, and after a single release (Baby I’m Tired - 2005), and much touring, I shared my concerns about the album (titled ‘This Is The Plan’) to the label. 

Understandably, they agreed with me about the record, but they gave me few options: “release the album as is, and see if it works out”. 
I completely got their views, they’d spent a lot of money and needed a release. On a personal note, I also wouldn’t receive the second payment (around 45K) until I released it, which obviously, I could not afford to do. For some reason though, I just didn’t think we made an album that was good enough. I knew that if I did release the album, I’d really regret it creatively and would end up getting dropped by the label anyway. Around this time, Jonathon Ross played Baby I’m Tired on Radio 2. He said “well that was instantly forgettable”, which of course, he was right, it was. Late 2005, I decided not to allow the release, and instead to go missing. I vanished, sunk into everyday life, changed my name, and got many jobs (call centers, cleaner, factory work). During this invisible period, I decided to work on my songs and performances. I felt like a ghost in a shadow of my former life, but also empowered by the new songs I was writing. 

“Play it again Sam” 

After nearly two years of writing and working crap jobs, it was safe to say, I was feeling more realised but even more drifting. To avoid being located by EMI, I was playing and living under a fake name (Sam Elliott). It was during one particularly dark period, that I played at a showcase night at London’s Cobden Club. I hadn’t played London in two years, and under my false identity, I pulled out a short set of songs to a half-empty room. It was the strangest thing, right after my set I was approached by an A&R guy from Sony Records. He said “Loved the set, but isn’t your name Si Connelly? Umm yeah, I guess. 
Fast-forward and this was how, after all the previous darkness since shelving my first album, I managed to find myself in another big shiny label, signing a three-album record deal to Sony. During this time, I also extended my first publishing deal to EMI, which was about to expire. I walked into their offices to be greeted with “When the hell have you been? We couldn’t find you!” I filled in the gaps and stated that I had just signed to Sony and that I was now remaking (different tracks) my debut album. It was 2007. It had taken years, but I’d somehow managed to come out of the wilderness. 

“Repeat” 

Because of the first time around, during my contract negotiations with Sony, I was very adamant that the album should be recorded live. 
I wanted to capture, rather than piece it together on computers. Sadly though, shortly after the contract was signed, I found myself being sidelined again. It’s funny, like chess, you don’t really notice the moves when they’re made, you just sort of realise that the game has changed. Now the plan was to record the album in a cheaper, more pieced together, programmed way. Before I knew it, I was trying to shoehorn in the spine of the songs, around the busy pop production flesh, grown by someone else. My requests to record it live were no longer options. Before you know it, it’s like check-mate. You’re out of moves and have to look at what you have. The producer was great, but it just wasn’t the right marriage. I finally managed to get it to the head guy at Sony, and he agreed that it lacked my rawness. 
They offered me some money to tart it up, but I guessed it wasn’t really enough to make the album right. It needed re-recording (again). 
It was now 2009, and my options were limited. I decided to leave the label and re-make the album, the way I’d be trying to for years. 
The problem now was money. I had none. I was out of lives, living out of my car and minus deals. I’d shelved two albums to protect some kind of artistic vision, but to make this worth it, I now had to create something from nothing. 

“Youth” 

One nothing day in 2009, I decided to try and reach out to any contacts I had left, with a half-baked plan. I only emailed one producer: Chris Potter (The Verve, Blur, Rolling Stones). I babbled on with my biography of nothings, and asked if he’d be interested in making my album via some kind of production deal (basically, a deal based on shared-ownership, with little to no money). My plan being, to make the album, then sign it to some big label. A few days later, Chris agreed to meet me, and I played him some new songs live in the studio. Chris asked me how much budget was no budget? and I said £1. Amazingly, Chris agreed to help in his spare time. He also brought in, the amazing Dom Morley (Amy Winehouse, Adele). Next, I had to sort out the studio hire costs. I emailed Monnow Valley and stupidly begged for some free time (absolutely crazy, I know), to my amazement, they agreed to give me five days over Christmas. Youth was now on. 

In the snowy Christmas of 2010, me and my new band, (Hils, Phil & Tom) headed to Monnow Valley Studios in Wales with Chris and Dom. We recorded Hurt You (AKA 1982) and Goodnight My Lover (AKA City Lights) in one midnight take, minutes apart, completely live. The rest of the songs came together over the following days. 
That’s how, after years and years of feeling destroyed, redundant and alone, two record deals, countless managers, two scrapped albums, I had managed to finally get in a room and just capture. It was all down to these wonderful people. This is how my debut album was finally mastered. 

“War” 

On completion of the Monnow Valley sessions, we started to lay down the overdubs down and mixes. Working in spare time, this did take a while, as I knew it would, due to my lack of money. Fast-forward a few years later (yes, years) we had finished the album. Obviously, this was frustrating for all of us. If we’d had money it would have taken months, but everything has a process, and I was just grateful to have something I was proud of. Upon completion though came the hard part. Figuring out, how without any money, anyone was going to actually hear it. My earlier plan of just signing it to one of the shiny labels wasn’t going to work now, due to the big industry changes happening globally. 

You see, in the time it took to do all this, the music industry and world had completely changed. There was always a way of doing things before the internet took hold. You either signed a deal and made an album, or you made an album and then signed a deal. Labels would sign, develop, and promote you, and use their machine to break you as an act. 
But now, an unprecedented landscape, stated that you break yourself, by spending a small fortune, and then, if you are somewhat successful, you may be eligible that deal. 
This obviously created some immediate issues, whilst fighting the gravitational pull into the dinosaur vortex, I had to now sign myself. Umm. 

By 2014, I was stuck in this limbo, Me and Hils spent significant amounts of money touring, paying PR, radio pluggers, musicians, distribution costs and generally trying to create enough interest to well…create interest. Then the world that I’d been somehow dragging backwards stopped, and started revolving the way it should. I had run out of money. I had run out of myself. It was 2015, and after years, I finally felt tired and out of ideas. 

“Joy” 

It was early 2016, and my previous songwriting agent told me that West One Label were interested in releasing the album, mainly for TV sync purposes. You know, the music you hear sheep grazing to on Countryfile. They would facilitate its release and ‘work’ the album in that field. You can imagine by this time, I was just grateful that it could finally be released. I was more than ready to move forward, and these guys gave me my finish line, and start line, all at once. 
It had been 12-years of battles and scars to finish it, after all. 

In 2016, West One Music hand-picked ten tracks and released it, so it could be heard by you lovely people. 

I think the best thing about the release, was that it drew a line in the sand. It may sound strange after so many years, but it’s not until you release something that you let it go. 
After its release, I decided to let more go. I released 2017’s ‘Eject’ (A 24-track double album) as my second album, followed by my third album, 2018’s ’13 Ghosts’. 

I am now in the process of releasing singles from my upcoming, self-produced, fourth album ‘Change’ (now released 2021). A sort of remixed version of an album I would have made in a studio with a band, had I had the resources. 
As I write this, I am also recording and producing my fifth album ‘Loneliness, in the making’. 

It’s been a long road, and I now have built up many scars for sure. But when I hear some of the tracks on Youth, War & Joy, I know every one of them was worth it. 

The album's original title ‘Youth’ was meant to cover my early life and battles. I added the War and Joy after one battle too many. 

SC x

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2FjawCZz5JDULRu4YUfVHU?si=T-bmleV0RqukKq3CasWWiA

New Single 

Okay, some nice music news. My next single 'If I Were' will be released 2 weeks today. I can't wait for you to hear it.