My soundtrack album Jocasta: A Musical Tragedy was launched at The Lowry on Saturday 29th April. It was a wonderful event, ending in a standing ovation. I couldn’t have been happier. Below are some photos from the night (there are also rehearsal photos here if you are interested).
All posts tagged bridie jackson
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.
I was checking the stats for this website the other day and found that a handful of people had arrived here as a result of using the search term “Bridie Jackson Scarecrow chords lyrics tabs” (and other variations on that theme).
Since The Arbour released Scarecrow back in February this has happened quite a few times, the frequency increasing with every appearance the band makes on radio. I’m expecting a few more after everyone at Glastonbury has got home.
As far as I’m aware no one has put Scarecrow on any Guitar Tabs websites. I’d do it myself but I’m a self-taught guitarist and never learned about tablature. Indeed I often have no idea what notes I’m playing.
So, whilst we wait for an interested party with time on their hands to upload something more useful I’ve made a rather rambling video about how to play the song. I hope it’s of some help. Apologies for the high notes, they aren’t exactly my specialty and the song was never intended to be sung by me!
Here’s Bridie Jackson & The Arbour‘s version (just to cleanse the palate!)
When I was a stage actor I tended to play villains and insane people. That’s what I enjoyed and that’s what I was best at. I’ve never been the good-guy and I’ve never been the love interest (except when I was Theseus in the school play aged eight – but the girl who played Ariadne broke my heart the week of production and I’ve never been the same since). There’s a line in one of my songs that goes “he could’ve been a tragic hero, but he never had the height” – well that’s me: five feet, eight and a half inches tall… sometimes a little bit less if I’m stooping like Richard III.
Bad guys are always more interesting. In any given situation there is usually one way of doing the right thing and infinite ways of doing the wrong one. Villains are complicated. They are easy to imagine yet hard to explain. They have forged their own immoral compass. Theirs is a dark perverted alchemy concocted from riddles and intrigue. Where good is transparent, its nemesis is opaque.
And the wonderful thing is that villains hardly ever really exist. They are just a trick of perspective; their horns and hooves typically being drawn on by the opposing side.
Which is why they are so much fun to play. They are the ultimate fantasy. If you imagine someone good you imagine someone static. Someone who is entirely good cannot become even more good – their character has nowhere to go. Someone bad, however, well… the possibilities for further corruption are almost endless. It’s amazing how far one can sink.
The narrator of my songs started out as a villain. One of those moustache-twirling scoundrels that inexplicably tie helpless women to railway tracks in silent movies. I was happy for him to be two dimensional. In the Bedlam Six’s first album he is always the low-life, he is cruel and petty and vengeful and angry.
But now I don’t see him as a villain at all. I see him as someone who repeatedly gets trapped in his mistakes, endlessly entangled in a deadly mixture of pride and folly. I’ve played this character too long for him to be a bad guy. No one can be the villain in their own story. It’s an utterly impossible way of looking at the world.
I’m writing this because we just made a new music video. The song is called “Waiting For Bad News” and will be on the new album (lyrics are here if you’re curious); it is directed by Andrew Ab who made the recent videos for my label-mates Bridie Jackson (Scarecrow) and Felix Hagan (My Little Lusitania). The film portrays the disintegration of a relationship, with the warring lovers in question being performed by myself and Ellie Cowan.
In it there are a couple of moments of violent struggle. So far, so Bedlam Six music video. But for the first time I found myself really concerned about how people would perceive my character – perceive me. It seems so stupid when in the past I’ve written creepy stalker songs like “You Can’t Run From My Love” – I really should be past caring what people think. Still, I’ve become rather protective of the guy that crops up in all these narratives. Yes it is always the same man. Yes it is always me.
Ellie and I spent most of the shoot giggling as we went through the different scenarios. Particularly the ones in which we had to fight (I grab her hair, she slaps me in the face etc). But when we actually had to wrestle it just looked horribly like a rape. So we adjusted the scene so that I was seated and she was looming over me, to put me on the defensive. It was really important to me that the narrator, whilst so often an object of ridicule or disdain, is never one of outright hatred.
This man is the projection of all the things in myself that I wish to put on trial, but he is not someone I ever want to see injured in any permanent way. He is, after all, a huge part of who I am. His twitching outlook is the filter through which I compose nearly all my songs. He fails and he fails and he never learns his lesson. He is constant in his stupidity and fragility. And yet he is also that most tragic of creatures: a cartoon that has begun to notice the frame around him.
I have stopped laughing at him. I am fond of him. I am ashamed for him. I completely understand him. He is precious to me.
And I am the only person in the world who can protect him from harm.
The song Scarecrow (that I mentioned in a blog post last month – a folk tale I wrote in 2010 and was then recorded by Bridie Jackson & The Arbour late last year) is now on general release. There’s also a beautifully morbid music video for the track. Can’t believe they actually managed to make it snow for the verse that mentions snow… now that is dedication!
It is one of the great pleasures of my life when other people sing the songs I write.
I am absolutely in love with Bridie Jackson & The Arbour‘s recording of “Scarecrow”. The subject of the song suits Bridie’s voice so well – far better than mine!
My background is in folk music. Mostly Scottish, Irish, English and North American. They all have their moments of singular beauty, particularly when they overlap, Irish immigrant songs about travelling to America are a good example of this. Tunes about uprooting oneself carry so much emotion, there is a mix of nostalgia for the past and expectancy/optimism/fear for the future. A sense of place is very important, but also placelessness.
When I wrote the song I wanted the geography to be detailed but simultaneously nonspecific (even confused), or possibly a homogenized location drawn from elements of all the aforementioned countries. There are mentions of plants that do not cohabit (fern and long-leaf pine for instance). Fern is special to me as it holds early memories of my grandfather’s house on the Isle Of Skye, where I’d wade through acres of the stuff as a child, its rough leaves coming up to my chest, as exhausting as walking through deep water. Long-Leaf pine is significant as it’s what poor people’s coffins were mostly made out of in the USA at the end of the nineteenth century (I did quite a bit of reading into this while fact-checking my metaphors!). The seasons are also mixed up (it is simultaneously winter and autumn). In the song we find the lost soul of a young bride looking at a scarecrow dressed in her wedding gown. I figured both time and place probably get confused when you’re dead.
The most important thing for me was to write a story where there was no story. Too often folk songs feature characters who are the victims of extreme circumstances, but too often in real life we are the victims of a complete lack of extreme circumstances. This dead narrator was not killed by a jealous lover or a sinking ship or an ancient prophesy or a war. She’s just one of those people who dies of nothing.
I had a school friend who died suddenly aged eighteen. No one knew why. It happened instantly – there was nothing to blame, nothing to hate. It had a profound effect on everyone in my school year. Retrospectively it is where I draw the line between my childhood and adulthood. The moment I heard the news is one I have revisited many times in songs, in all sorts of ways, some direct and some less so. This is the most recent example.
I can’t imagine any singer who can pack all that into a single vocal delivery better than Bridie Jackson. I am very lucky.
Louis will be celebrating his birthday this year by presenting an open recording session in the theatre space above The Black Lion pub in Salford on 21 January.
The evening will feature acoustic sets by Richard Barry and Bridie Jackson as well as Louis himself.
The record will then be out later in the year.
Tickets are priced at £5.