My Inspiration: J R Gray | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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After a little time away from the music scene, Darlington’s Americana/folk troubadour J R Gray returns with his brand new EP, Extended Player 1, a ‘heart on sleeve’ collection of melody-rich songs with a much fuller sound than previous releases. Here, J R Gray gives us a track by track account of what inspired each song on the EP.

The new EP, Extended Player #1, was recorded over summer 2019 with Chris Burn on electric guitar & Paddy Jordan producing & adding bass & keys. We preceded it with two singles, Years & Years & Let Me Be Here as a little taster. 

After I’ve written a bunch of new songs, Chris then comes over and we both knock them into shape ready for gigs & recording. We felt these new songs lent themselves to a more expansive, band feel to them, so we hooked up with Paddy Jordan to produce. We recorded myself playing the drums to around fourteen ghost tracks in a village pub dining room then moved to Paddy’s studio. Everything then seemed to fall into place. 

Deny:  As soon as I wrote Deny I could here a band playing it. I play guitar in a percussive style, that probably comes from a Fink influence when I was learning, so I tend to play with the beat in my head. It makes the rhythm parts flow quite easily. The song has an early REM feel to it with the jangly guitar parts. The song’s about people & pockets of society holding you back, whether on a personal or professional level. Damn the naysayers! My Hiss Golden Messenger obsession is there in the groove as well.

Few Like You: This song is one man’s love letter to booze. I wrote it after watching a harrowing documentary on three aspects of alcoholism. One guy was so consumed by his drinking, even after three spells in rehab, he couldn’t help himself. Sad to say he did pass away. It was written as his ode to alcohol, a stubborn point of view. John Prine & Nathaniel Rateliffe are obvious influences on this track.

There You Go Again: Some songs are quite personal. This is one of them. It’s about a woman’s perspective of being trapped in a psychologically abusive relationship as she builds the strength to stand up & get out. Dark. We tried to create that atmosphere within the music. An eighties soft rock drum sound, some Foreigner style synths in the latter verses, subdued vocals. The outro came about when I got a bit carried away recording the drums. I just kept playing. I could here Chris soloing whilst playing. He channelled his inner Dave Gilmour. Paddy’s production is great, as it is on every track.

I’m Still The One: I love the drum part in this. I’d laid the acoustic part down & the beat just flowed. I wanted something that was away from a straight ahead pattern. Paddy did a great job with the sound. It’s a bit Matt Cameron sounding. Everything has to have a groove for me. Comes from a love of old R&B. This song went through a few versions but things fell into place when I changed the key & slowed the tempo. The Band is all over the middle eight as well as Black Crowes with Chris’s guitar lines & Paddy’s Hammond. The lyrics are very personal to me. Simple as that.

Escape: We recorded this track live in the studio. One vocal, acoustic guitar & Chris on electric. It’s always had a Ryan Adams/ Springsteen vibe to it. Is it ok to talk about Ryan Adams yet? Who gives a shit, the guy’s a genius. A song sung from the perspective of a kid who’s sick & tired of hearing the constant fighting & arguing by he or she’s folks in the household. We see throughout the song the kids’ efforts to grow & stand on there own two feet & get out, escape the prison they’re in.

This EP was a joy to record. We came at it from a different aspect & we think it’s turned out pretty good. Just being behind the drum kit was the added bonus for me!

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