Scarecrow was the first song I wrote for another artist that really captured people’s imaginations. When Bridie Jackson & The Arbour released it as their debut single in 2013 I couldn’t believe how well it was received, getting plays on Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6, even having its lyrics discussed and interpreted by chirpy prime-time pundits like Dermot O Leary. It even became Glastonbury Festival’s hold music. The Arbour’s is the definitive version as far as I’m concerned, indeed I never intended to record it myself. It’s about a doomed young bride after all – a little beyond my range (in more ways than one).
But nevertheless I am oddly attached to it. Which is strange really because I made a conscious effort to make it as traditionally folky as possible (I’ve always wanted to write something that feels like it’s been around for longer than I have). Still, there are strong personal ties – the narrator is loosely based on a friend of mine who died young and very suddenly, when she was only eighteen. She wasn’t about to get married like the woman in the song, but she did have a lot of expectations, as we all do at eighteen. I still think about her a lot, all these years later. I suppose that’s inevitable.
I originally wrote the song for Ríoghnach Connolly back in 2010 but then when Bridie joined the label it somehow became the Arbour’s (and they very much made it their own). Now it feels like it couldn’t be anything else. I guess one has a particular thing in mind that seems unshakable, but then a few random factors fly in from out of the blue and it’s impossible to imagine that resulting thing any other way. A bit like how Gene Kelly was originally cast to play Sky Masterson in Guys & Dolls before Marlon Brando eventually took the role. Two legendary performers, incomparable really.
I wrote a blog a few years ago about the imagery in the song, the geographical inconsistencies of the cited plant species etc, so I won’t go into that here (basically it centres on the idea that ghosts probably have a pretty inconsistent notion of time and place). The clips I chose for the lyric video above aim to express that singular mess of seasons and scenery – some of it is from the USA, some from Ireland, some from Norway, some from 1920, some from 1950, some from 1980. Captured moments of people going about their lives, just like the poor bride in the song isn’t.
Hopefully the next track I release won’t be quite so depressing though. I used to be fun didn’t I?
The album Gentle Songs Of Ceaseless Horror will be out on 11th March 2016.