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Reunited - and it feels so good.

OK, so you haven't seen much activity on this blog in quite some time. The irony is that I published more when I was doing less. It's the way these things go, I suppose. But 2019 has actually been a very busy year. CREATIVE JUICES I've done a fair bit of songwriting this year. I wasn't expecting that but it feels great to be flexing that muscle again. I had already been quietly noodling about with a few melodies and lyrics, not expecting to do too much with them. Then, out of the blue, my old friend and songwriting partner Gavin Murphy got in touch. He had some new tracks for which he needed lyrics and vocal melodies. Despite not having written together for more than 20 years, it was like we had taken no time off at all. Demoing new material - Sligo, June 2019. We wrote a bunch of new songs together and they surprised us both by being very good - which we didn't dare to expect after all this time. I went to Gavin's place in Sligo during the summer

I could never take the place of your man

Buh-bye, Zayn It’s been 24 hours and still nothing.  My phone remains suspiciously silent.  I imagine that Simon Cowell already knows that I’d have to turn down his desperate plea to me to consider replacing Zayn Malik in One Direction.  On the one hand, you can see the sense in Cowell’s thinking.  After a few trips to the gym, a dab of Grecian 2000, and a few lick'n'stick tattoos, I’d be ready to fill the Zayn-shaped void in his cash-cow boyband.  Added to that, the avuncular maturity I’d bring to the scenario would mean that I’d most likely dissuade them from any youthful misbehaviour and ensure there were no nasty fine-inducing herbal cigarettes in the environs of the tour bus or dressing rooms.  I can see your logic, Simon, but no.  Really, I couldn’t. We both know that replacements in pop bands tend to suffer.  I mean, just look at poor Shelley Preston. Who? Exactly!  Je rest ma valise. Making your numbers up Pop is littered with the heartbreak of

So yeah, I'm still here.

Hello there.  Long time, no see.  I hope you were not feeling too neglected.  My daily stats indicate that – amazingly – there are people all around the world checking in.  In fact, I seem to have an unexpectedly large readership in the United States, which is an extremely nice surprise (and leads to ridiculous fantasies in which my album storms up the Billboard charts).  You’d think that if I had time to indulge in such silly daydreams, I’d have time to update my blog.  Life got in the way of blogging since last we met.  Real life:  technical issues; family events; crises of confidence; clashing diaries; common-or-garden laziness.  But it has been very gratifying to see that people are still reading.  Seriously, it’s fantastic.  I will post a more in-depth blog entry very soon but, in the meantime, I’ll bring you up to speed on the album’s progress.  That is supposed to be the blog’s raison d’être , after all. I’ve told you before about our tendency to play with perfectly

Eat the music

In their article on Monday, The Guardian asked “ Is 2014 the year the platinum album dies? ”  Apparently, no album released in 2014 is likely to achieve platinum status (1 million+ sales) this year in the US.  The advent of the download has turned the entire music industry into a giant jukebox, and potentially every album into a collection of singles.  In a way, it means that artists will have to do something special to make their lovingly crafted sets desirable in their entirety.  When CDs became the main format in the 1990s, artists looked at the available playing time (at least 74 minutes, as opposed to the 45 minutes or so allowed by vinyl) and opted to make their offerings more attractive by cramming on extra songs and remixes.  By focusing on quantity, too many lost sight of the need for quality control.  Where albums released in, say, the '70s and ' 80s would usually have 9 or 10 songs, these new offerings often boasted more than 15 tracks.  CDs were expensive

Outrageous name-dropping

Over the last couple of weeks, audiences of the X-Factor (yes, it's back) spent a good chunk of time hurling missiles at their TV screens in frustration at Louis Walsh's decisions and, occasionally, his indecision.  But he knows a thing or two about the entertainment industry and a tenner says he was milking the situations for every ounce of melodrama.  Not only has he been judging a TV talent show since God was a boy, he has created and steered the careers of two immensely successful boybands – Boyzone and Westlife.  Before that, in the 80s and 90s, he managed Eurovision luminaries, Linda Martin and Johnny Logan. Linda is still a close friend and collaborator.   Louis knows that entertainment value can be every bit as lucrative as a beautiful singing voice or an ability to write music.  Sometimes more lucrative.  So he’s not a snob when it comes to the novelty acts that TV talent shows so often churn out.  His fierce devotion to hyperactive pop twins, Jedward, has paid o

Big hair, leather, and escaping Peppa Pig

A whistle-stop tour For those of you who have never been in a recording studio, I’d like to take this opportunity to give you a sort-of-virtual tour.  This may involve shattering a few illusions.  Few studios look like the ones you see in pop videos.  For instance, I have never stood behind a microphone, head-to-toe in leather, holding just one side of the headphones to my ear, while grinning through a huge plate glass window at a big-haired producer who is giving me the thumbs up.  Area 94 has a compact control room, with a sofa, a lamp, a swivel chair, big speakers, and tons of computery stuff.  A toy xylophone (with which I wreck Seán’s sanity) and a little Nintendo Wii guitar are token nods towards rock’n’roll irreverence.  The expected mixing desk of twiddley knobs and sliders is conspicuously missing.  All of that is done on the computer.  Next to the control room, is a “live” room, where vocals and other instruments are recorded.  There is a window between the two

A progress report

After a period of telling you very little, I can now bring you up to speed on the current state of play. All ten songs have been knocked into shape.  The arrangements have been agreed and we have recorded guide vocals that will give us a rough idea of how the finished track will sound.  But more importantly at this point, those guide vocals will help us to identify where there might be any little gaps that need to be filled or where we might need to adjust the embellishments.  For me, it's a tantalising part of the process because it vindicates decisions made and helps me feel like we have the finish line in sight. Listening back to these recordings, I now have to analyse how the songs are bedding down and look carefully at how I sing them - not only in terms of them sounding as good as I can get them, but also in terms of telling the stories. When I decided to make this album, I chose songs that I had a strong feeling for.  The style of the album meant that a fair few song