Finlay Cowan in conversation with Natasha Grey
City By The Sea
“This was one of a ‘suite’ of songs that came out of the summer of 2005 and sits with ‘My Favourite Drug’, ‘Fading Star’ and ‘Have To Say’. The lyrics for all four were written in a long rambling document, I was working on all of them at once not really knowing which lyrics would land where, eventually the songs separated themselves out like oil and water. The production process took place over a long period of time and it seemed as though the songs were competing with each other, at different times one song would emerge as the strongest and then another would take over, all thanks to the input of Wes who just kept going at them,trying different approaches. I would come back in and suggest changes (God knows, he has the patience of a saint ). At times we thought it would never end and things just didn’t seem right but they all came together in the end. I was sure that ‘Have To Say’ was the strongest but Wes did such amazing work on ‘City By the Sea’ – he added a lot of new instrumentation to the track which allowed it to grow in a different direction. My original version had all the basic elements but it didn’t really work as a whole. I am still amazed by how Wes managed to craft it into something so cohesive, he managed to find a ‘through line’ which stayed true to the vision and emotional drive of the thing but managed to add much more.
It also contains my favourite lyric:
‘Your silences that cut my nights,
A second chance another life,
A secret passage in a book,
A page that turns, a glance, a look,
A turn of phrase, a parting shot,
The words we have, the days we’ve lost,
And in the end we’ll find our place,
No more mistakes to be erased’
Elliott Randall came in and loved it so he contributed some guitar. It was inspiring because he’s a legend and I thought his work would really stick out but he had a deep understanding of it. He resonated with it and I felt embarrassed because Wes actually had to point Elliotts work out to me, but that was because it sat in there so perfectly, it was just an inherent part of the fabric of the song that my ears just accepted it on first listening and that is the talent and experience of a musician such as Elliot. He has an ability to see deeply into the structure of a piece of music, to understand it and see exactly how it can be complemented. There’s also the fact that he’s a great guy so his genius kind of creeps up on you – you know he’s a legend but you still don’t see it coming”.