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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The year of The Planeteer

Lying supine on my ikea mattress in London, listening to the new Coldplay record while I type through the night. I am one of the masses. Apparently everyone on Planet Earth bought this album. This is much needed proof that I am indeed human and not an observer from another galaxy. This whole 'lonley at the top' vibe was making me wonder. Before clicking computer keys behind Chris Martin's charasmatic wail, I ran down the 10 tracks that will make up my record, The Planeteer. Outside of the sequencing session at Metropolis studios next Wednesday, the record is finished, finn-ee-to, kaput! It is strangely depressing to deliver my major label debut nearly a year to the day of my signing. Kinda of like climbing to the top of Everest, looking out and posing that famous Julian Casablancas query, 'Is this it?'. One year for 10 tracks hardly seems a fair equation, but trust me when I say I have made the perfect pop record. This is not a boast, simply a mathematical reality. In the words of Roger Greenawalt, my former mentor, sometimes collaborator, and good friend, greatness is the absence of all things sucking. I have spent hour upon hour, day upon day pouring over these songs, my children, showing no mercy or favoritism, killing any sign of weakness, destroying all doubt in my way. No, the record does not sound like the robot called Britney Spears! Enough big-upping myself, you guys be the judge. Here's the track listing:

1. Love Again For The First Time
2. Joni
3. Automatic
4. Little Demons
5. Lawfully Wedded Wife
6. End Of An Era
7. Jimmy Dean & Steve McQueen
8. Merry-Go-Round
9. Do It Alone
10. A Dream

Those of you clamoring for Been This Strange, All in All, You Wouldn't Wanna Be Me, and All Right For You (which has been renamed Family Tree), do not fear: all of these are going to be available on the iTunes release, and as B-Sides as well. But for the physical release, only the strong survive, and these are definitely the strongest. You will not be disappointed. I have spend every ounce of my energy, used all of my musical superpower to ensure this record takes it's place alongside Coldplay's Parachutes, Bob Dylan's Time Out Of Mind, Van Morrision's Astral Weeks, Stevie Wonder's Innervisions, Elton John's Tumbleweed Connection, Bjork's Homogenic, The Beatles' Abbey Road, David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, XTC's Skylarking, Jeff Buckley's Grace, Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain, Charles Mingus' Mingus Ah Um, Steely Dan's Aja, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Tom Waits' Mule Variations, Laura Nyro's Eli and The Thirteenth Confession, Jellyfish's Bellybutton, Elliot Smith's Either/Or, Cocteau Twins' Heaven or Las Vegas, Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, Radiohead's The Bends, Daft Punk's Discovery, or any of the other great records ever made. My job is done. I guess the rest is on my record label. The ball's in your court EMI. Take me home baby.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Me and Mister Brauer

Rubbing sleep-filled eyes, lying in my sister's bed at 7:30 in the morning in muggy NYC, I am having a staring contest with Babaar. Babaar is winning. I'm too tired to be challenging the Elephant King to a duel.

Back home for a few days, mixing with the one and only Michael Brauer. Michael is one of the top guys in the game, the man behind the sound of KT Tunstall, John Mayer, James Morrison, Aretha Franklin, and one of my fave records of all time, Coldplay's Parachutes. Michael is also the mirror image of me. Born in New York, and shuttled between the Upper West Side and Paris in his youth, our backgrounds are disturbingly similar - we both have a French parent, went to some of the same schools. Chilling with him in Quad studios, running down neighborhood haunts over cappuccino, I see myself in 20 years time, discussing flip taxes and the best place to get sushi.

Michael and I went for sushi and a couple sakes after the session; talking with him about records is a bodily experience. He's constantly feeling grooves and rocking vocals. It's amazing how much the sound of a record is what makes the difference between it being relevant and outdated. I can say, without a doubt, he's nailed the mix for Love Again For The First Time. It's glorious and majestic and intimate and personal, and most importantly, I think it's a hit!

The drunker I got, the more I saw the myriad connections between myself and Luther Vandross. One voice, floating over a deep groove, singing about the Power of Love. It's a good sign I should go home when I start comparing myself to Luther. Swung by the Mac Store off Central Park South (did you know it was open 24 hours! That's what I'm talking about New York!) and got myself back in the internet game. This morning I've got about 11 pages of Myspace to look forward too. Yippie.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Westlife

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door. I had to find the passage back to the place I was before. Walking across a bridge in Belfast, two erstwhile companions at my side (the trusty Doctor Miles Christie, and the legendary Jonny Ray, my tour manager), that cheesy Eagles lyric popped into my head. Maybe it was trigged by the gloomy Irish skyline shrouded in mist, making me feel like a wizard wandering through Middle Earth. Whatever it was, there couldn't be a more appropriate turn of phrase.

The three of us were eagerly skipping, practically racing to the Odyssey Arena/Open-Air Mall/Monstrosity to catch the new Indy flick. Last time I was this excited to see a movie, it was 1999, and me and my crew drove two hours into the heart of Massachusetts with the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique blaring on repeat. The movie in question was Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. We stayed awake for 30 hours on the ticket line, and went to 3 screenings that day. To say I've never been so disappointed in my life would be the understatement of the century. How could something so perfect from my youth be so completely destroyed? Needless to say, I approached Indy with an air of caution, after witnessing what George Lucas could do to one of my favorite things ever, not to mention Steven Spielberg!

Coupled with the air of an impending Westlife concert in the heart of Northern Ireland, and it being the night of the Sex In The City premiere, I knew we were in for one helluva ride, not unlike Doctor Jones' wild one through the Temple o' Doom. I hate to do this, but I am compelled to give it to you straight, from one human to another: Indy sucked. I had hope the first 45 minutes, but as soon as an alien skull was introduced as the major artifact in the film, I knew it was a stinker. Not even a Russian Cate Blanchett, or a bumbling, stumbling, mad professor John Hurt could save us. Our trio emerged 2 hours and 15 minutes later with heasd swelled by the memory of Shia Lebeouf's face (how the hell did they let this guy get a hold of summer movies?!).

Walking out to the lobby balcony, we overlooked the ravaging horde of Westlife fans heading for arena exits, a river of bleach blondes carrying glow sticks, three generations worth. The sight was astounding, like something out of a National Geographic TV special. A large group of women were flowing toward a sleek, onyx-colored club called The Box. We debated going in, but decided in the end that a good night's sleep would be the best way to cure our LaBoeuf hangover. I had a Napster session the next day, Jonny had to drive home, and Miles had to be Miles.

Walking back in the rain, I felt a little poetic, even sentimental. Somehow, this was the most perfect, bizarre way to end my May tour. I felt myself at the beginning of a great adventure, one involving saber-toothed tigers, the Lost Ark of the Covenant, maybe even a girl. My future lay at the other end of that drawbridge, my past behind me. There would be no more Indy's, no more Lukes, no more Pee-Wees or MJ to fall from grace. I was my own man. Da-da-duh-da, da-duh-da! Sometimes I wish could get John Williams to score my life. That would be dope.