Singer/songwriter Jodie Marie signed with Decca Records while still a teenager. One album later, 2012’s pastoral-pop collection Mountain Echo, recorded under the tutelage of former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, she was dropped by the legendary label. 2015’s self-released Trouble In Mind showcased a more soulful side to the artist, and hinted at just what might have been had Decca committed to invest long-term in the musician. With the singer’s first album for Caru, The Answer, having been released last week, Jodie penned an exclusive track-by-track guide to her new album exclusively for Wales Arts Review.
‘You Are My Life’
I wanted to make sure I started the album with a couple of upbeat and positive songs. I felt this was a bold way to begin; starting with just lead vocal, tambourine and bass, it’s sparse, but I feel it invites you in instantly. I wrote the track on a racing green Gretsch Streamliner, which inspired me to write riff-based songs, something I’ve never really explored before. When I recorded the song with the band (Jimmy Brewer-guitar, Jack Beddis-drums, and Tom Sinnett-bass), I was playing the riff guitar part that the whole song was based around, but in the end we felt it sounded better without it. It’s amazing where you start in the studio and where you end up! We later added some overdubs: Owain Fleetwood Jenkins, the producer, on Mellotron and Jen Synth, Dan Moore on Hammond Organ and Toby Couling on Percussion.
‘Ain’t No Doubt About It’
‘Ain’t No Doubt About It’ was one of those songs that took longer to fall into place in the studio environment. I was really pleased with the chorus and felt we’d hit the nail on the head with the vibe of the track and the instrumentation. The verses didn’t sit right with the rest of the song, though, and it took us a while to get our heads around the idea that we finally settled on, which was tapping into a more ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ Marvin Gaye-style verse, but making it our own, combining drums and percussion to create the sounds you hear on the track, along with the vocal ‘oohs’. The track starts with the chorus, getting straight into the song groove from the beginning and building from there. The drums and percussion were a huge part of this song, driving it along.
‘Carageen’ was the first single released from the album. I wrote the song with Ed Harcourt at a time when I’d been feeling utterly lost within the music industry. I no longer had management or a label and didn’t really have a clue where to go from there. Ed and I actually had a bad case of demoitis when it came to recording the song in the studio, worrying that the final version wouldn’t be as good as the original demo, but it really came together beautifully in the end. I loved using the Dulcitone on this, its music box sound creates the sort of eerie atmosphere that you might hear on a track by The Mamas & The Papas.
‘A Whole Lot Of Loving’
I really wanted to tap into a Stax/Motown/Sun vibe, and also try out some interesting backing vocals, something Bonnie Raitt might have done in her music during the ’70s; she’s a big inspiration of mine. I wanted to get a ‘sassy’ backing vocal, and it was so much fun to record! In this song, Jimmy’s guitar ‘chanks’ are quite prominent and with his guitar on the backbeat, coupled with the snare hits and driving bass line, it carries the song. Jimmy also played Shadows-style on a baritone guitar in the middle eight. I love working with Owain in the studio, and he often knows what I want from a sound or a part before I’ve even voiced it – this album wouldn’t be here without him for sure!
‘Curse The Day’
I wrote this song with Ed and his wife Gita Harcourt, partly in his studio in London and finished at their house. Ed is always exciting to work with; there are always pedals, instruments and cables all over the studio and I think that kind of organised chaos comes across in the recording of this track. I have a great memory of Jimmy putting down the guitar part at the end of the song, where it all goes a bit mad. While Jimmy was getting ready to record his guitar overdub, Ed jumped up in Jimmy’s face and started shouting at him “Play like your hair’s on fire”. It definitely got the results we were after. The intro drums on this were actually taken from the demo that Ed (who also produced the track) and I put down, but Jack Beddis played drums for the remainder of the song and he really captured the energy we were trying to get across. We distorted my vocals on this track, giving it a grittier feel to match the lyrical content.
‘Kiss These Tears Away’
‘Kiss These Tears Away’ actually began as a ballad, more in the style of something you might hear Etta James do. I really didn’t want to just copy that layout and feel, so with Owain’s guidance, we played around with some really unusual sounds – referencing The Black Keys. This song was a real experiment in the studio, the backing vocals ended up sounding like they’d gone through a telephone and we ran the guitar and Moog synth through the tape echo. It all taps into the sorrow of the track but keeps it fresh too. I laid down the vocals for this track at the original StudioOwz and only realised when we were finishing off the recording in the new StudioOwz (a converted chapel at the foot of the Preseli hills) that I had completely over sung them. I decided to use the chapel’s big live room and sing more softly, using the natural reverb of the space to carry my voice.
The recording of ‘The Answer’ actually resolved itself in a similar fashion to ‘Kiss These Tears Away’. It was one of the last songs we recorded in the new studio, and I was working with Owain Fleetwood Jenkins as producer and Gethin Pearson as co-producer. Whilst Owain had shaped the song, along with myself and the band, Gethin suggested that I sing it in a more reserved manner than I had originally intended – almost like I was whispering it to myself. He asked me to sing in a mournful, wounded way, and I’m so pleased we did that, because it’s territory I hadn’t explored before. This was written initially as a bit of a rock number, and we’d gone as far as to record it in that style, but it didn’t sit right with the rest of the record. I decided to re-work the melody, change the time signature and chord structure and I came up with the version of the song that became the title track of the album.
I wrote this with Gita Harcourt in London. I wanted to write a song about the kind of love that lasts a lifetime. I was heavily inspired by my grandparents and how they’d been through so much together but always stayed side by side, not imagining a life apart from one another. I wanted a male voice choir kind of backing vocal, so when it came to recording it Jimmy and Ed placed contact mics against their throats to try and capture that. When Ed and I went into the live room to do the soundcheck, we just played the song instead, and that’s the version you hear on the album. We only played it through once, I remember really trying not to burst into tears. The emotions in the room were pretty raw and I’m so proud of that one take of ‘Saving Grace’.
‘Hanging By A String’
I’ve listened to a lot of Aretha Franklin over the years and I love her backing vocals. Really, they are the main lead parts most of the time, as on ‘Do Right Woman’. I wanted to create backing vocals, throughout the whole album, not just this track, that emulated the energy and atmosphere Aretha has on her records. This was another track we re-worked in the new studio, recording a lot of it live. It’s funny what a change of location and time away from a song can do to your creative ideas! I love how this track builds throughout: it begins really sparsely, but there’s quite a big payoff when you reach the end of the track. Saying that, you don’t always need to use every instrument to make it sound big or have a huge effect – in the second chorus, where the song starts to kick off, the drums drop out, which is quite a bold move. I think it has a huge impact on the feel and power of the song.
‘Don’t Go Telling Me (That It’s Over)’
I was stuck at traffic lights on a drive back from North Wales when this melody and lyric popped into my head. The idea came out of nowhere, and the start of the song that you hear on the album is pretty much exactly what I sang into my phone app in a layby on the way home to Pembrokeshire. I love the vibe of this song, for some reason I always imagine an American school prom in the ’50s. It has a real nostalgic feel to it. I have been heavily influenced by Lesley Gore, and if you listen to her music she often sings really, really dark songs (lyrically) but the music always seems upbeat and positive, so you almost don’t hear the sadness in her voice. That’s something that I wanted to play around with, not just for this track, but for quite a few songs on the album. I just love the juxtaposition! Toby Couling was a big part of this track, his percussion part really shapes the song.
‘This House’ was a song that kind of wrote itself. I was listening to a lot of Free, The Guess Who and Janis Joplin. I started writing the riff at the beginning and it just took off. Tom Sinnett’s bass part is the driving force to this song. Owain Fleetwood Jenkins played the Wurlitzer part through an Octavia pedal (which is the Jimi Hendrix pedal), and that keyboard part, sometimes doubled with the bass and guitar in unison, makes a much fatter sound that I really love. I remember being anxious that it was too ‘heavy’, but it sounds great. Dan Moore played a ‘pulse’ part on the synth; we’d actually tried this part on guitar, but it didn’t really work for what we were after, so Dan put it down and it just made sense. He’s a real joy to work with in the studio.
‘You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I’m Gone)’
‘You’re Gonna Miss Me (When I’m Gone)’ is a favourite of mine from the album. I feel I channelled an anger in me that really needed to come out, rather than writing from a beaten and forlorn perspective. I wrote this with Dan Smith (of the Noisettes). I went to Brighton, where Dan lived at the time, and wrote and recorded the demo in his living room, which had a beautiful bay window that looked out at the street with the sun pouring in. For the recording, he brought down a Farfisa organ, which was great for this track! Sonically, this song heavily influenced the rest of the album.
The Answer by Jodie Marie is available now from Caru Music.