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JAY LEIGHTON - I WISH I WAS SPRINGSTEEN
PRESENTED BY MICKEY
The debut album by Jay Leighton contains ten timeless pieces of songcraft: ten earworms that bury deep into your skull and stay with you for a long time. These are heart-tugging melodies complete with decisive chord changes, epic choruses and soaring strings.
It sounds like an incredibly expensive record, the kind that many bands will spend years in the studio trying to achieve. But all these songs were written by Leighton on an acoustic guitar and recorded in little more than two weeks with a select bunch of high calibre collaborators. They've managed to create the kind of record that wouldn't have sounded out of place alongside some classic albums of the 1970s.
"My first experience of music was listening to my dad's old albums on this huge 1970s hi-fi we had," says Leighton. "I can still remember staring at these old LP covers, smelling my dad's aftershave on these big earmuff headphones! I think the most obvious influence on these songs are those classic albums that I was weaned on -- The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Nick Drake and all the rest, as well as the grungier stuff that I listened to in my early teens -- Nick Cave, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and, above all, Nirvana."
"Kurt Cobain once said that he saw Nirvana songs as nursery rhymes, and I like that idea. All of the songs I write are pretty simple -- I don't think that any of them have more than four chords. They're easy to sing, easy to get stuck in your head. In some ways, I'm constrained by my lack of ability. If I was a better guitar player, I don't think I'd be able to write songs!"
These songs were written after Leighton had all but given up making music. "After my last band split up I sold all my guitars and amps and vowed never to make music again," he said. "Then, late one night, at home in Bradford, I started watching a documentary about Nick Drake, and I was reminded of how I fell in love with music in the first place. I was suddenly inspired to write again."
The result was a self-funded five-track EP Polaroids And Stills and sparse 10 song acoustic album As The Sun Comes Up. Both were recorded fast and cheap and came out last year. Hours, by contrast, is a self-assured, full-length finished product. It's produced at Modern World Studios in Gloucestershire by Manic Street Preachers producer Greg Haver, also known for his work with Catatonia and Super Furry Animals, with lavish string arrangements by Andy Walters. Another key guest was double bassist Jon Thorne from electronic music duo Lamb, who brings his distinctive tones to five tracks -- Painting Flowers, Pictures & Memories, Sea Scenes & Skylines, Cause & Consequence and Don't Look Back.
"I've toured with Lamb a few times, playing solo support slots, and had some riotous nights around Europe with Jon. It's also fitting that his mentor is Danny Thompson, who played on all those seminal albums by Nick Drake."
The lyrical themes tend to jump between escapism and commitment. The lead track, Wish I Was Springsteen sees him dreaming of a better life. "That was the fastest song I've written," says Leighton. "It was the last song we recorded on the album, played with a live band for the first time."
The Devil And I is about the joys and perils of reckless abandon (inspired by those aforementioned hedonistic tours around Europe). Sentimental Things, the most ruthlessly poppy song on the album, is also the darkest ("it's an attack on sugar-coated phoneys and liars you meet"), while Cause & Consequence is an epic ballad that celebrates living in the moment.
Elsewhere Leighton sings of commitment, as on the Springsteen-inspired Don't Look Back, the Coldplay-ish Too Late To Turn Your Back On Me, or the love song to his wife Find The One You Love ("I wanted that one to sound like Tonight Tonight by the Smashing Pumpkins").
Towards the end of the album, the mood becomes more reflective, with three melancholic waltzes. Pictures And Memories was written after Jay attended his grandmother's funeral ("it's about what we leave behind when we die"), while the closing numbers Sea Scenes And Skylines and Painting Flowers both address death in a more positive vein.
"I don't believe in an afterlife," says Leighton. "I believe that the only thing you leave behind is your work, your creations, your art. All of these songs are about leaving something behind that will be remembered, something that you can be proud of, something that will move other people."http://www.jayleighton.com
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