Long winded stream of thoughts on As You Are

While I’m still in promotion mode for the single As You Are, I thought I’d write down a few thoughts I’ve had on the song as way of bringing more out of it. Although, I do understand the inherent risks of tying the song down to my own thoughts rather than letting the listener work out for themselves what it means to them (which I’m happy to hear if you want). This is going to be a bit long-winded, so think of it more as an essay than a blog post.

Some people have said that it’s a love song, I don’t really see it as that per sé. I see it more as a friendship song. But hey, I guess love plays a big part in close friendships? I wrote the song in the middle of 2010 and released it as a demo in the Seven Songs EP. It took around 10 minutes to write the first draft, with many different combinations of hearts and souls and hopes and faiths in the outro before settling on what you hear now. In roughly an hour, I had the song and basic chords down.

The essence of the song, lyrically, for me was to think about how our past mistakes are what make us who we become, especially when we repeat them over and over again. We all at some point sound like a broken record when asking advice from friends but there’s learning through repetition. Sometimes we need to talk things through with ourselves in the presence of others to take stock of that.

I was very proud of it then, but for some reason, that was all I did with it. I didn’t think of giving it to the band to oompf it up a bit, and I think I only played it live once or twice when pushing that EP. I’m at a loss to explain why, it’s fun to play, means a lot to me and, well, I think I can do it justice live. Normally these things mean it’s a keeper!

Anyways, Woody (RFPB drummer) and I started to record the tracks for the new album earlier this year. We had a list of songs we knew and wanted to put out (such as Backwards We Play, Replacement, and also some older ones we wanted to re-visit). At that first session, As You Are came in to my head and I asked Woody if he wanted to try it. A few quick practices of it and we hit record. Later, the rest of the band over dubbed their parts and you have the basic track.

Around the time that Woody and I were tracking drums for the album, I had gone to Glasgow to see Chris T-T play a show at The Admiral. We were talking about stuff and I was telling him about the plans for the album (other guests, release plans, videos etc) and he offered his services on piano if I wanted them. This meant a hell of a lot to me, and I’m not bullshitting when I say that. Anyone who has followed my music ‘career’ will know how much of an influence Chris T-T has been on most of what I’ve done. When I started doing acoustic music, I wanted to write Chris T-T songs (A Box to Hide In being my idea of the perfect personal-protest song) but perform them like, I don’t know, Joe Strummer maybe? To have Chris offering to actually play on one of my songs was mind blowing for me. It felt like validation from one of my heroes saying “hey kid, you’re doing good”.

It wasn’t for a month or so later that I had listened back to the stuff that we’d recorded in the studio and worked out which song might work best with some piano (As You Are and Backwards We Play being the strongest contenders). I was a bit reluctant at first to send As You Are to Chris since it’s music was heavily influenced by Gaslight Anthem’s American Slang album, and I know Chris’s feelings on that band! In the end,  I sent it through with the brief of “make it sound like a Springsteen track”.

Some time passed and then Chris sent through his piano part to Gareth, our producer/engineer, for mixing. We had some idea of doing a pre-album single, with another track being primed and mixed for this purpose, but as soon as Gareth sent me the mix of As You Are, our plans changed. I can still remember my smile bursting across my face when the piano first appeared on my first listen, then the drums and lead guitar. I couldn’t actually believe that it was my own song. Everything just sounded very, well, good.

So that’s it, this track means a hell of a lot to me and the band. It’s the first time we’ve released a song that has the full Renegade Folk Punk Band (being me, Woody, Dan and Rachael) performing on it, and to have Chris colouring in the pieces with his piano made it perfect. The band and I are ever grateful for that, thanks Chris.

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