Saturday, 18 August 2012

Upton Heath

Upton Heath is the sixth song on English Electric Part 1.

Big Big Train: Oxford August 2012
L to R: Greg Spawton, David Longdon, Dave Gregory and Andy Poole
Photograph by Amy Mumford

The words and music to Upton Heath are by Greg Spawton and I. Upton Heath is a place in Dorset, UK and Greg has chosen this title because it is one of his favourite places to go walking.

I initially received the audio files which contained an arrangement of the song with the addition of a few sketched out lyrics. It also had a delicate 'world music/roots style rhythm' beautifully performed by Nick D'Virgilio. I was told to avoid being seduced by this rhythm and not follow it down the 'world music' path. 

Those initial impressions are very important and when I listened to the track I thought it would be a good idea to give it a campfire sing along feel. I kept as many of the original lyrics that I could and keeping it simple, I then repeated them. I used a call and response theme between the lead and backing vocals, to give it that campfire feel.

I severely re-arranged the structure of the song because the chorus section (that you will hear) was only a very short four bar phrase in the original arrangement. I decided to use it and extend it as the chorus and so I edited a new structure together. The audio files were bounced and sent down to Bournemouth.

Other than shortening the length of the piece and changing one chord in the reprise of the bridge, that (as they say) was that! Structure in place, it was now time to colour it all in.

I came down to Aubitt Studios in Southampton to record the vocals and added the folky riff which is played in unison on mandolin, accordion and violin. It also features Dave Gregory playing banjo for the first time! 

Upton Heath was a track that could have gone either way, it could have worked or it could have been abandoned. In context of the album, it is a moment of calm amidst the frantic, flamboyant and epic moments elsewhere. Some Big Big Train songs can be lengthy, dynamic and intense, Upton Heath is none of these things, it is uplifting, relaxed and has its own sense of peace.

The track also features Rachel Hall who has added some lovely strings along with Abigail Trundle who plays the cello.  Danny Manners plays double bass. Lily and Violet Adams are in fine voice and they seamlessly blend their voices with the moving wave vocal sample patch, giving Upton Heath an etherial quality.

' And all that we are
And all we shall be
Walk with me
Up on Upton Heath'

I will be in the chair once again next week when I will tell you the story behind A Boy In Darkness

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