My Inspiration: Alistair James – Run For Their Money | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Eston-based singer-songwriter Alistair James is set to release his latest single Run For Their Money on Friday 20th November, via all good streaming platforms. The song, which was recorded in just four hours in October by Paddy Jordan, is about hope, escapism and the need to find oneself again. It’s a crisply produced offering, with drive time vigour, upbeat indie sensibilities and an abundance of ear-pleasing melodies. 

Here, Alistair shares with us the inspiration behind the song…

Run For Their Money is a song that I’ve had around for a long time and I’ve always played it live but for some reason I never felt the urge to put it out there until now. When I close my eyes and think about writing it I remember my parents had not long been divorced, me and my old man had moved into a place that was really just somewhere to live to get a roof over our head ASAP. Like many of the songs I wrote around that time I was sitting on the bedroom floor and could hear the traffic outside and I guess some of these moments were the fuel for writing about themes like escapism and the search for something better.

The song started with the ‘La la la la’ melody on the guitar, but I remember specifically wanting something that would draw you in even more, so I switched it to the vocal and for me it gave it that sense of urgency that I feel in the song. The idea of that vocal hook was inspired by songs like She Loves You by The Beatles and Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison, I became addicted to those immediate hooks that stuck in your head for days.

The title ‘Run For Their Money’ came to me before actually writing the song, for me it conjured up a sort of ‘you and me against the world’ scenario. I suppose a little like Born To Run created similar images for Bruce Springsteen. Although I wasn’t listening to Bruce Springsteen at the time, the first time I heard BTR I related it to it on the same level from my scenario in Run For Their Money. The opening line “you’ve found yourself again” suggests a new lease of life and the line “the times are moving too fast you’d better get out now” as if to say you’ll get stuck in a rut if you do the same routine for too long. That line is also interesting how it came about, I have an obsession with reading about organised crime. When I read books that look back on RICO cases and other investigations into La Cosa Nostra, both ex mobsters and the FBI all say the same, that the times and the technology all moved on and the mob couldn’t keep up. It’s true in life I think, if you don’t keep up then you get left behind so you’ve got to push forward.

The main chorus line of “we’ll give them a run for their money tonight” and the use of repeating the word ‘run’ in the chorus signalled getting out and showing the world that you can do whatever you want despite what others think or even what you might think of yourself. It’s a song of hope as well as escapism and I think subconsciously one of the reasons I wanted to release it now was because of the situation we’re all in. I know this sounds cliched but some of us are stuck looking at the same four walls and being told mixed messages, when something comes along that provides hope or an escape it’s like a breath of fresh air.

I recorded the song with Paddy Jordan, a fellow Teessider, I’d also done my previous single ‘Darling Let It Be Me’ with Paddy so I was keen to work with him again. I remember having in my head the idea of jangly guitars to go with the ‘la la la’s’ and I was thinking of The Byrds and Tom Petty for that sound. In the end I don’t think much jangliness made its way on to record but it morphed into more of my own sound which I’m proud of. Paddy played drums and I did everything else and we had the song finished in 4 hours, they say rock n roll is dead huh? The good thing was I didn’t go into the session with a particular plan other than keeping it very organic in terms of instruments, so it found its way very naturally which makes me even happier to share it with everyone! At the end of the song the chorus does a switch around with the structure and I remember discussing with Paddy how we wanted it to lift. The drum beat pushes this along and I get the images of a car speeding or a person sprinting. When we were at the very end of the session I felt like it needed a guitar solo at the end to lift it even more. For things like this I look to people like Mike Campbell (from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), George Harrison and Pete Townshend. But yet to me it has a Fleetwood Mac vibe, I’m over the moon with it but isn’t that strange it was laid in my subconscious somewhere.

The artwork came pretty easy for this, usually I sit around for hours thinking what it could be and end up with a picture of me. This time I didn’t want to be on the cover, from the moment we finished recording I had a picture of an exit sign. Easy to do as I just had to get a sneaky photo of an exit sign in a shop (not telling you which one), but also it seemed to fit with the idea of escaping, moving on and also where you would run to in the event of emergency to rescue yourself or be rescued.

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