Today, I’m sharing with you my second single, ‘The Fountain’. While listening, scroll down and discover the story of how it was made.
A year and a month ago, I stood quaking before an audience of strangers in Berlin. I had a new song to perform and it wasn’t ready. They clapped politely; I sat backstage kicking myself.
I knew what I wanted to say: “Love used to rush like a fountain, now it only drips”. But I didn’t know how best to say it. In the months that followed, I made it a few keys lower, added, removed, retuned, rewrote: ‘Victory arcs, public parks…’
‘Now it’s finished,’ I thought. Do I ever learn?
That Spring, I took it on tour and shared it all around Germany. People hushed, clapped and but no-one latched onto it. It was alright, but I knew it had the potential to be better than alright.
I turned to my friends for help. I let an opera singer have his say in the verse melody and a pair of traditional folk musicians tweak the instrumentation. We recorded. It was a mess.
I asked for more help, this time from a producer friend. We stripped the track of about sixty percent of the accompaniment. We scrapped the drum kit entirely and re-recorded on a single military snare and tambourine.
The city’s a forest of stone, my dear,
the city is a forest of stone,
there once was a chorus of birds,
now there’s a chorus of phones.
I sat in the mixing room with the engineer and listened to this piece that had been forged and reforged, dismantled and rebuilt. ‘It’s nearly finished’, I said happily. He copied and pasted a cymbal roll from another project, and sent it off for mastering. ‘Now it’s finished,’ I thought.
Do I ever learn? The studio version – what you’re hearing now – is beautiful as it is, and it’ll be that way forever. But on stage, the song still evolves with each performance. The changes are more and more subtle, but they keep coming.
That’s the privilege and curse of making songs, not paintings: you can say, ‘It’s finished’, but you’ll never truly believe it.
A year on from its first appearance, I sang ‘The Fountain’ again on stage. Applause, whoops, hollering. When the night was over, a man came up to me and said “I really connect with The Fountain, it’s beautiful.” I was immensely proud. I might never get there with this song – but it seems like I’m getting closer.