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PostPosted: Thu Oct 24, 2019 3:42 am 

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2018 10:42 pm
Posts: 38 ... n-12-songs

The Colour Of The Earth (PJ Harvey - Let England Shake, 2011)

Having done a lot of work with PJ Harvey, I thought it was appropriate to include one of her songs. I’ve worked on several of her albums and have co-produced two of them. The first thing we did together was when I came in and played bass on about four tracks on To Bring You My Love.

For Let England Shake there were about four or five songs where she was unhappy with the basic direction of her demo and she said: “Oh, let’s start from scratch and do it a different way” and the band worked it out. The rest we followed the basic idea and feel of her demo closely, but we were given the space to add our own ideas, which isn’t always the case with Polly. There was a really good working environment on that album.

The Colour Of The Earth was one that followed the demo pretty closely. She said to me: “You should sing the opening verse because it has to be a male voice.” I said: “OK, I’ll give it a shot.” ‘The Colour Of The Earth’ is a folk song, a traditionally constructed little ballad. That was very deliberate. The way the music was written to go with that was very deliberate too: very simple chord shifts.

A few of the songs on that project – including this one – were based on stories about the ANZACs in Gallipoli. Oddly, she had an Australian in the band but it didn’t occur to me at the time. I was very familiar with the song by then and I wasn’t thinking about that specifically, but it was all very fitting.

There was also a common interest we had. We read quite a few things about World War One in preparing and that’s something I’ve been interested in for quite a while. Even when I was in my early 20s, I read books about it. It must be something about the combination of the humanity and the machinery being so out of balance. There’s something on a human scale in World War I that’s deep and tragic. Something I’ve found interesting is trying to understand what that experience was for those soldiers.

Both my grandfathers were in World War One. That gives it a bit of extra seasoning. One of my grandfathers landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula on ANZAC day. My great-uncle was killed at Passchendaele.

That gives it an extra connection but when you sing words, there’s a level of disengagement from the real meaning. That may sound odd. You have a connection with the feel, but if you engage too much with the specifics of the words, you can get yourself into trouble. I don’t think you delve too far into your own emotions. You have to listen to how you are delivering the words and see if that feels right, almost as an actor might.

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