This (as with nearly everything else I’ve ever done) was going to be the big one. There was talk of labels in America (naturally more words than action) interested in me, my story and my songs, and so Harun, Ross and I set out to compile a mixture of my best new songs and my best songs up to that point on the kind of album that would get me a start in America, and the Christian scene in general. I even wrote a worship song or two (even though it was in a minor key, so was never going to be a “big deal”!). By this point, personally, I was living in a pretty entitled head space. Circles had done well, good shows had been played, I’d met some amazing people, and I thought it was my moment. It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to to deceive ourselves isn’t it.
I planned to go for a more band-based vibe on this one, so the loops of Circles were augmented with drums by the uber-talented Josh Eaves. Harun and Ross again played most of the bass and guitar, although Ben and Aaron Lewis were both involved as well. They were meant to do the whole of the album, but sadly it didn’t work out like that. Another instance of me not handling things right.
This was quite a different experience to Circles. For one, it was a lot (and I mean a lot) longer in the making. While I was working in the Midlands, Harun and Ross were in the South East working on the album. For a control freak like me this proved challenging! These days I’d be more savvy and be able to contribute more from my home setup, but back in 2009 I was still fairly green about home recording and very much relied on my incredibly talented friends to make things work. And they certainly did. There are some really good songs on this album, and we made a couple of great videos for Heart Strings and Lost My Heart. I’m particularly fond of King Of Glory, Lay it Down and Masterplan from this record, all songs I still play now live. Heart Strings, which I wrote with Ben and Aaron in Aaron’s Mum’s house one afternoon in 2008) has probably the best chorus of any song I’ve ever been involved in. From my memory it was mostly Aaron’s idea.
I was probably struggling the most around the time this album was finished – with how the release stuff for album went (or didn’t go) down, I was very low. I had a lot of maturing, repenting and developing to do. Again, this album is a snapshot of a time in my life. It’s a good album of good songs. It was through this album that I met Kevin Bruchert and had some of my favourite experiences. This also got me some of the best press any of my albums have ever had. I was finally starting to realise my potential as a musician. I was, though, carrying a lot of anger and disappointment, which was to mar the next part of my life. As you listen to these songs, I think you hear that I was hopeful, but really I was both hopeful and hopeless at the same time. Even though things were opening up for me, I didn’t really think they would, so I didn’t really make the most of the opportunity this album gave me. Instead I hoped for more, for bigger, for better, rather than rejoicing in what was in front of me. I wish I hadn’t done that. I think the conflict is there in these songs.
Harun and Ross (I think) both mixed the songs, and then the wonderful Nigel Palmer at Lowland Masters sprinkled some magic dust on them in his mastering process. Up to this point, Heart Strings was as good as it was possible to conceive of it getting for me.