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POCKETS OF HOPE – by Lewis McLaughlin

POCKETS OF HOPE – by Lewis McLaughlin

📷 Photo by Sophia Rose Lockley

I’m always running out of pocket space in summer. Growing up in Scotland, I’m used to being wrapped up in jumpers and jackets with so many different pockets to keep all my change and keys and other trinkets in. It’s not unusual for me to have multiple books crammed into jacket pockets amongst keys and a wallet, capos, plectrums, train tickets etc. All the things I think I might need at any given moment. So when summer comes around, I find myself having to be much more picky with what I take with me when I’m out and about. There’s a certain lightness to that though, having nothing but the bare essentials weighing you down.

My pockets (and mind) were pretty full of ideas when I first started working with Andy Monaghan (Frightened Rabbit) on my latest single ‘Summer’, back in January 2020. Blissfully unaware of what the world was about to experience, we had a wee look at a very early, very rough version of this song of mine. I was very unsure of how this song was going to turn out. In fact I was very unsure of a lot of things then. Who I was as an artist, a human, where my career was going to name a few. After a bit of wizardry on the laptop from Andy, we had an inkling of what would one day become something quite special.

After a long break from recording (for obvious reasons), we finally got back on with things over a year later. Layers of drums, percussion, fiddles, pianos, guitars were laid down and edited, sometimes until they were barely recognisable as actual instruments. The power of a digital audio workstation opens up so much scope for experimentation which, for this song, we went for! Reversing pianos, splicing fiddles, doubling up drums to create this slightly mad sounding track. Then came the vocals! I can’t remember how many vocals there were on the final track but it was scarily close to triple figures. With a Bon Iver inspired loop as the base, constantly building harmony lines, the occasional random line jumping out here and there, and a finale of full blown choral sing yer heart out fun!

The vocals for me are the thing that pulls the track together and makes it what it is. I’ve been playing this song live more or less since the start of my solo project. One for the end of the night, to bring everyone together in song and leave them all warm and happy for the journey home. I wanted so badly for this feeling to be recreated on the recorded version, and for a while was so stuck on how to make it work, as I obviously couldn’t arrange for a big group of people to come into a studio to sing a choir part. Luckily, after a bit of thought, I reached out to my wonderful network of singing pals and asked if they would be able to record some vocals from their own flats and send them back to me through the ether. I then collated and edited all these parts into one mega choir. I spent a lot of hours at the computer lining up multiple parts, taking out breaths etc. Every new part that came in got me more and more excited, I could barely contain myself as it was starting to sound very epic!

As well as the music for this single, which came out via Monohands Records on the 30th July 2021, I had a music video to make! I first mentioned the idea of a music video to Ellen Francis in December 2020 while she was on FaceTime to my flatmate Imogen. She said she was up for it and we arranged to have a Zoom call in the new year. After many calls over the coming months, we slowly etched out a plan for the video. Ellen made use of many amazing contacts she has on the scene, getting the amazing dancers from Barrowland Ballet involved, talented dance choreographer Amber Dollin and D.O.P. extraordinaire Jourie Fraser-Harris. I also had a group of some very lovely and willing pals that kindly offered to lend their dancing skills. We had a team, we had a location (Pollock Country Park in Glasgow), all we needed was some good weather! Knowing Scotland, it wasn’t looking good. With flash flooding about the country days before, and Covid scares left, right and centre, I remember a slightly desperate and stressed out Zoom call the Sunday before the shoot on Tuesday with the four of us. I was pretty certain the video wasn’t going to happen at all. But fortunately, by some summer magic miracle, it did. And the weather! It was fine indeed. Scorching hot sun for more or less the entire two days of shooting.

There was a lovely atmosphere in the air those shoot days. With the good weather, being outside, dancing, a group of people being together and making something creative. It felt special, especially after the last year or so we’ve all had. And from the response when we put the video out a month or so later, people felt that too! I certainly managed to empty my pockets of worries for a day or so, and I hope you can too.

I have more music on the way very soon so be sure to keep up to date on social media or sign up to my mailing list to stay in the know! I also have a few shows in Glasgow this month (September) so please come along if you’re around!