A strange but true story about songwriting

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King Crimson, featuring David Cross, second from the left.

Sometimes, you look back on a moment in your life and realise it was pivotal: a test that might change everything. In this instance, it was an email requesting help with writing a song.

Having not written any music for over a decade, it was hard not to doubt my credentials as a songwriter. Was the passion still there? Or was it time to put the whole thing behind me and move on? The only way to find out was to click on the file.

I clicked.

Okay, let’s rewind…

It all began, pleasantly enough, on a sun lounger beneath a cloudless Goan sky; the beginning of a cheap midwinter break. Life was good: tasty food, lots of beer, friendly service.

A text message pinged. Reaching over in anticipation of another reminder about local phone rates, it was a surprise to see the name of Sean Quinn, from my band days. Hadn’t heard from him in years. So why now?

The message said (something like), “I’m making an album with an English musician who you will know. Wondered if you’d like to help out on a couple of tracks?”

Intrigued, my reply was in the affirmative – obviously pending my return to London. In the meantime, there was another beer to order.

Back in London

The track started.

It was based on a simple but affecting guitar figure, like the ones we worked on in Dubh Chapter. But who was the mystery collaborator? Steve Hillage was one candidate. He’d produced the Dubh Chapter album back in the nineties. The secrecy was perhaps down to contractual issues.

Anyway, my creative process clicked straight into gear: it started with some dithering… followed by a bit of procrastination… and then a long nap. Even after all these years nothing had changed. You can’t rush the muse.

Hours later, after waking up, making a coffee and checking my email, inspiration struck: A sweet bridge chord opened up a chorus idea, and soon the whole thing was coming together with almost indecent haste.

A rough version of the track (recorded and sung on my iPhone) was emailed back over to Sean in Dublin…

… and he liked it. Actually it felt quite emotional.

So, we started having these long, rambling phone calls

There was so much to catch up on. It was just like the old days ranging back and forward across all kinds of music-related topics. At some point, we talked about our favourite track of all time. As it happened, only a short while before, it dawned on me that mine was probably ‘Starless’ from the King Crimson album ‘Red.’

Sean didn’t react to this innocent revelation, which must have required considerable self-control on his part. Why? Well, that’s what makes this story so strange.

You see, it turns out that the identity of the mystery musician was David Cross, the violinist from King Crimson who co-wrote and played on… you guessed it… ‘Starless.’ It turns out, he was responsible for the beautiful melodic theme that begins and ends the track.

Think about this for a moment:

Yours truly was about to get involved in a musical project with the guy who wrote his all-time favourite track – quite a comeback! Anyway, the album ‘Cold Sky Blue’ by Cross & Quinn eventually came out to positive reviews.

So, to say a big THANK YOU for wading through this rambling story, here’s a link to a digital download of the track (now called ‘Counting All The Stars’) for free – no strings attached (you’ll hear enough of those on the track itself!).

Download ‘Counting All The Stars’ here.

But… go easy on my singing! The old vocal chords were a bit frail when this was recorded. The journey to getting my singing voice fully-functioning (and some tips for other aspiring crooners) is a story for later.

 

Happy listening!

Talk soon,

 

Brendan

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