Hi! Can you share the inspiration behind “Black Crow White Dove” and its significance to the EP?

A: I looked out of my bedroom window one sunny morning to see a Black Crow and a White Dove sitting together on the roof top of my neighbour’s house.

The lyric is a prayer for peace and understanding in an increasingly brutal world.

Its significance is that it was the first song written and finished, and then imagined in an acoustic setting. And it convinced me that if I could finish two further songs in that style then a visit to KonK to record them would be possible.

This song was written in a couple of hours, which is quite quick for me as I normally develop songs over an extended period involving many re-drafts.

Can you share with us the message behind this track “Ask Me To Dance”?

A: (All you have to do is) ‘Ask me to Dance’ was originally conceived as an undercover/disguised conversation between two narcotic drug dealers in a nightclub.

However, after re-working the tune, I moved away from that idea and decided to redefine the lyric to reflect a seemingly simpler conversation between a man and a woman, who having just met, were now slow dancing together on the discotheque dance floor. Talking and getting to know each other as quickly as their mutual attraction rapidly developed.

How did the collaboration with Isabella Coulstock come about, and what did she bring to the EP?

A: I have been working with Isabella since 2017 when she was invited into Doz studios by music producer Al Drake Brockman to record the lead vocal on my song ‘Fragments’ from a collaborative album written by myself and Robin Nixon called ‘Fair Game’.

Following that session and album release, I realised what a potentially great talent Isabella would become and then started writing a series of duets for myself with Isabella to sing and record together both at Doz and Audio Sorcery studios. At this time, I was influenced by the material of Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish from their band ‘My Darling Clementine’.

I deliberately held back the 3 songs that were recently recorded at KonK because I could see the benefit of recording them in a stripped back acoustic setting, rather than giving them a full production sound trteatment.

Isabella brings class, composure, and an honesty to the recordings, vocally and in her piano playing and arrangement ideas.

Recording at KonK Studios must have been special. How did this setting influence the EP’s sound?

A: Recording at KonK is indeed very special. I had previously attended a weeklong creative song writing retreat hosted by Ray Davies (The Kinks frontman and KonK studio owner). This was a life changing event.

Following that I attended a recording session at KonK where the first version of my song ‘Charlie Rainbow’ was cut. (this version is included as a bonus track on the new EP)

On my second visit to KonK to record the newly written duets for the EP, I found that very little had changed.

Only that a stack of carboard boxes had been piled up on the pool table in the social/bar area.

The quality of the recording equipment remains superb and the dynamics within the walls are fabulous. The layout of the rooms within the building is like a maze and the history of the place creates its own excitement.

We were able to work quickly and efficiently, without rushing, thanks to the skills of George Chung (KonK staff engineer) and our recording engineer/producer Al Drake-Brockman.

Each track has a unique identity. How did you ensure they collectively represent The Midnight River Crew?

A: Yes, each track does have its own identity, and stands on its own two feet, so to speak. There is no lyrical thread tying them together. However, the production ideas with regard to singing in a duet and limiting the number and types of instruments used does suggest a unifying musical approach and gives consistency to the recordings. This EP represents The MRC in its basic understated formation.

Can you discuss the creative process for the EP? How did ideas evolve from conception to final track?

A: I made the decision to intentionally write songs that could be set in a vocal duet format.

I then decided to set aside and continually develop these three tunes to record them specifically in simplified acoustic arrangements.

Isabella and I rehearsed the songs together, face-to-face, at Doz Studios prior to the Konk Session. Myself with an acoustic guitar, and Isabella sitting at the piano. This rehearsal confirmed our preferred vocal key for each tune and our approach to singing them, our vocal interplay, and the dynamics of how we would play them.

At Konk I recorded the acoustic guitar parts first. The vocals and other instruments were then recorded/overdubbed against the acoustic guitars.

The final mix was done at Doz by Myself, Isabella, and Al Drake- Brockman.

What challenges did you face while producing “N8- The MRC At KonK Studios” and how were they overcome?

A: Identifying and confirming dates when everyone was available, that was certainly a challenge.

Isabella has become an in demand touring musician, now headlining her own shows whilst opening concerts for Jools Holland, Nell Bryden, and The Who including her first arena show opening for The Who at the O2 in London.

And our producer Al Drake-Brockman needed to learn how to capture our sound using ‘Pro-Tools’ as that recording software, used at KonK, was new to him.

But generally, I planned things out well in advance so that we were not rushing to meet unrealistic deadlines.

The EP spans various emotions. How do you hope listeners will feel or respond to these songs?

A: The lyrical content of ‘Black Crow White Dove’ and ‘Ask Me To Dance’ can be a bit oblique shall we say.

So hopefully the listeners will immerse themselves and enjoy bringing their own imagination to the subjects and then unwrap some of the layers to discover what lies beneath.

‘No Shame In Love’ is a more straight forward emotional conversation piece where the emotive force is laid bare right in front of you.

Looking forward, how does this EP shape the future direction of The Midnight River Crew’s music?

A: Yes, looking forward is something I always do. It’s fare to say that the material I write will determine how and where it will be recorded. i.e. the songs will dictate the next musical direction.

I wrote and recorded my first instrument piece a little while ago with my collaboration colleague Martin Howard called ‘The Zoo In The Sky’, I am very pleased at how that turned out, and the interest it attracted.

I would like to push that idea further in the future by recording more instrumental pieces for synch placement.

‘N8- The MRC At KonK Studios’ was a fabulous all-round experience from start to finish that I would also like to repeat. So, Volume 2 is a possibility. But the songs I write will tell me when that can be done.