'Homecoming' - Why I made it and what I learned

A lot of thought went into the making of this record. Having been signed to record labels for the past 15 years I’ve spent the majority of that time wondering what the benefits really are, and if there isn’t another way I could be releasing music that didn’t compromise my mental and physical health, my integrity as an artist and leave me in debt to big companies while I struggled to pay rent.

I believe that there are good record labels, and I believe there are good reasons for many artists to pursue relationships with labels. I also believe that this is not the only answer for bands and musicians who want to put their music out into the world and sometimes, there are better ways to do it.

For me, making ‘Homecoming’ has been an arrival at a turning point in my life that I’ve been travelling towards for a long time. As a 15 year old I would burn my own CDs to sell at shows, record and produce music at home and was fully intwined in every aspect of my work. I had nobody to convince, and nobody to convince me of what or who I should be. I was truly happy.

At 18 I signed my first contract, and although I’m more than grateful for the years of support from record labels, the chance to tour, the chance to release music, I’m not entirely convinced that was the only way I could have done things. Being signed to labels can give a sense of security. A feeling that someone ‘believes’ in you. After all, you’re working with professionals, people who have worked in the industry for 30+ years, you’ll get their expertise and support, they’ll work hard to promote your record and make good decisions about finances. They own the rights to your work, so that must be the case, right?

Not always. Being signed to a label often means you’re competing with 10 other bands for the attention of the label. If a band or musician on your label who is similar to you, or more successful than you, wants to put their record out in September, your record release may be pushed back to February. Once January rolls around it may be pushed back to June. And on and on until your debut album is finally released 3 years after you recorded it. Which happened to me with my first album ‘Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose’.

The album I wrote when I was 16 was finally released when I was 21. By which time I’d become an adult. By which time I wanted to play Classic Rock and Garage. I still love my first album, but in a way it’s like looking back at a diary from my youth to which I can barely relate but can still look upon fondly. It would be another 4 years before I could finally release a record full of overdrive and distortion, and even then it was a shock to most audience members who expected me to remain the child I was at 16, which in itself is weird and highlights the problem society has with the fantasy of youth, especially of those identified as female by the press. Assuming my burping screaming ultimate form seemed to offend an awful lot of people and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I was getting tired of working with people who told me not to talk about feminism in interviews as not to ‘alienate potential audiences’ (always dreamed of satiating sexists to make less than minimum wage). I was getting tired of waiting 3 years at a time to release my music, and I was getting tired of fighting tooth and nail for my creative ideas with people who also thought it was appropriate to massage my neck during business meetings.

So long story short I’m self releasing from now on, I work for myself, I own the rights to 100% of my music and the sexist, gaslighting sexual harassers of the industry can suck an egg.

In once sense, ‘Homecoming’ is the result of all of these things. In another, it’s also a fully formed piece of work independent of all that. I write about a person I love dearly, but am no longer with. I write about my anxiety and depression. I write about the role anxiety and depression have played within my relationships and I explore my own slow but sure acceptance of myself as whole, not in-spite of my mental health challenges but because of them.

I chose the title of ‘Homecoming’ because it encompasses several meanings here. The album is very much a ‘homecoming’ for me in the sense of returning to my musical roots. The album was recorded, engineered and produced entirely in my bedroom, by myself, the way I used to do it before I entered the world of record labels, press releases and album cycles. It was recorded in multiple homes; my home in London, a rented room in Los Angeles and my childhood home in Newcastle.

I’m 31 now, which is older than I feel and younger than I realise. However the making of this record has felt as carefree and fun as my teenage years making shit in my bedroom that I’d only share with my friends. Multiple friends of mine played on the record in a series of exchanges that made me grin with the thrill of exploration and a shared sense of joy. Ezra Furman, one of my closest friends and in my opinion one of the greatest song writers of our generation, recording her vocals for ‘I’m Glad That We Broke Up’ at her home in Boston before emailing me the tracks. The Farting Suffragettes worked together to record some of the most raucous, hilarious group vocals to be added to ‘I Can’t Help You There’, and Shirley Manson who has supported me in forging my own path since we met, sang her vocals for ‘Medicated’ in Los Angeles, recorded by her wonderful husband Billy Bush. A choir of friends ranging from housemates to members of Girl Ray and Tunng were plastered together from recordings made all over the globe for the chorus of ‘All The Way’, and bass for the song was provided by Andy Bell in an email exchange of musical ideas.

This all reminded me that musicians are my people, friends and audience members and depressed teenagers and anxious mothers and queer people and lonely people are my people. You are all my people, and I want to share my work and witness yours, I want to engage on a human level with humans in a human way.

All of these things were poured into ‘Homecoming’ and when I release it, it’ll be like opening a door and coming home to myself.

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