I met English singer-songwriter Ralegh Long last year when he visited Singapore and found him to be an unassuming, down to earth chap. You can listen to my interview with Long here. What I particularly liked about Long was the deep commitment to his craft and that he found inspiration from cult singer-songwriters like Robyn Hitchcock and Epic Soundtracks. This dedication can be seen in his songwriting, which can be best described as ‘traditional’ and ‘old-fashioned’ in that it relies on sophistication, orchestration and courageous musical choices to get the job done. Certainly not a bad combination! On his debut album, Hoverance, Long delivers a robust collection of deceptively simple songs that beg for closer inspection. Utilising tools of emotional resonance like pedal steel, a string quartet and woodwinds, Long imbues a baroque-like feel to the songs that engender a melancholy ambience that is impossible to ignore. I caught up with Long via email to get him to talk about how he put this gorgeous album of heartfelt songs together.
What were your inspirations for the mood and atmosphere generated for the album?
The mood and atmosphere came from sounds I’d had in my head for a while. I’ve always heard woodwinds in particular as a kind of synthesiser. I guess the pedal steel element came more accidentally. I asked Jack Hayter (Ex-Hefner) to play on a song called “Elizabeth” off my previous E.P The Gift and then we worked more and more closely together until he now plays in my band.
Was it difficult getting the sounds exactly right – the strings, pedal steel, flutes etc – and did it match what was going on in your head?
Yes it was hard getting the mix right, because it came from a theoretical place. An idea. And that’s always a hard thing to work from. Also, I decided that if I was going to do something as ambitious as make a record myself with no backing I should enlist a producer to steady my hand. I co-produced the record with Michael Page from the Combination Of studios. We went at it together and learned and grew through the process. While this ensured that I finished the record it doesn’t mean it sounds like I imagined! I would say that it is warmer and slower than I envisaged it. The sounds I have in my head were more stark. There is an early demo of “The Light of the Sun” that has that quality.
What is the theme of Hoverance? There is a melancholy élan about the music even on faster songs like “Islands” and “Light of the Sun”. Almost a wistful resignation. Am I feeling the right things?
I think it’s probably a yearning feel. It’s the sound of settling, finding your feet in the world. I guess it’s very much a coming of age kind of record. Of course you’re feeling the right things!
What was the process in getting the chamber music sound?
The process was kind of just whatever works. It was the first full record I’ve ever made, and I was finding my way round the studio, and more importantly, the psychology of record making. We had a few takes that were lost due to fidelity issues, we had some songs scrapped due to musicians not being able to play the scores! It was hard work. I wrote the score to “Gulls Hovering” with Harpal Mudhar who’s an up-and-coming young arranger. Louis-Phillipe wrote the score for “The Ride” and we tracked the strings in layers. It’s just a quartet layered up.
“Song For Matthew” is particular favourite of mine – particularly due to its stripped down earthy nature. Was it a challenge to resist adding more instrumentation?
“Song for Matthew” is a song I wrote right at the end of the process. Actually I wrote it after we’d finished and I recorded it at home with Richard Ellis on bass in one take. I just knew I wanted it on the record. I knew it was the last of this batch of songs and not the first of a new batch.
“No Use” is a strong radio-friendly track albeit in a sad vein. What is the song about? Is it based on personal experience?
“No Use” is one of the more personal tracks on there. Yes, it’s about a relationship I was having with someone who was very closed-off emotionally.
How are you promoting the release?
Live launch: 2nd April Servant Jazz Quarters. I’ll be playing a show with a full band including French Horn and Pedal Steel.
How can fans get hold of Hoverance?
You can Pre-Order on Vinyl and CD from https://garedunordrecords.bandcamp.com or Pre-Order on iTunes from https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/hoverance/id959842775
Connect with Ralegh Long
Listen to Ralegh Long at Soundcloud.