When I was growing up, my parents tried their best to get me to play a musical instrument of some sort. From the trombone to the piano, they really did try their damnedest to find something for which I might have a talent. Eventually I think they soon realised that playing music just wasn’t for me. So I guess it’s pretty ironic that I am now so heavily involved in something for which I have no discernible talent. The one thing that it has done, is that it has given me a much greater respect for musicians. Having spent weeks failing to learn even the simplest songs on the piano, I have the utmost respect for pianists such as Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens.
I would now like to add Andrew Eaton’s new project, Seafieldroad to the list. Some of you should already know his main band, Edinburgh outfit Swimmer One.
Being the creative fella that he is, he’s set up his own wee side project, Seafieldroad and recorded an absolute corker of an album of piano based songs. If you are looking for a last minute addition to your Christmas wishlist, then his new album, ‘There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City’, comes highly recommended as it is a truly remarkable album that illustrates just how amazing the music coming out of Scotland is at the moment. This is also the last Scots Way-Hay of 2010, and I must admit I am chuffed that I can go out on such a high….
Would you care to introduce yourself?
My name’s Andrew, and normally I sing in a band called Swimmer One. But now I’ve recorded an album of my own songs under the name Seafieldroad.
How would you describe the music you make?
The description I put on Seafieldroad’s Facebook page is ‘melancholy euphoria’. ‘Me playing piano and singing’ would do equally well. I appreciate that anyone who knows Swimmer One’s music may be expecting electronic pop. It’s not that. It’s me and a piano, a proper one, with some lovely harmonies by Laura Cameron Lewis and beautiful string arrangements by Pete Harvey, who you might know from his work with the Starlets and Meursault.
Who are your big musical influences?
On this album, Mark Eitzel (of American Music Club), Jane Siberry, Rufus Wainwright, Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell, the Blue Nile, probably Thom Yorke and Richard Hawley a bit too. And Momus.
Does Seafieldroad mean that Swimmer One are no more?
Only if it’s hugely successful, in which case I’ll unceremoniously dump them, embark on a glittering Lady Gaga-style solo career, and keep all the money. Sorry, did I say that out loud? What I meant to say was NO, not at all. In fact this album has been put together by the same group of people. Hamish from Swimmer One produced it. Laura from Swimmer One sang on it, wrote lyrics for three songs, and helped with the music for two others too. And Daniel Warren, who has done Swimmer One’s artwork right from the beginning, put together the sleeve for this album too, from a photo by Laura. The reason it’s not called Swimmer One is that I wrote most of it. In theory I could have done something resembling this album on my own, but it wouldn’t have sounded anywhere near as good. Swimmer One will continue – there’ll be a single and some live shows next year. The four of us will continue to work together in other ways too, as we have done for years.
How did you start out making music?
I’ve been writing and recording songs since I was 13. I still have between 300 and 400 early demos, recorded on a four track reel to reel machine between the ages of 13 and about 21, mostly on my own, but sometimes with friends playing bass, or guitar, or singing a bit. I’m planning to inflict some of these on the world shortly on a blog called Might Make A B Side. It’s the weekly diary of a slightly obsessive singer-songwriter. Every diary entry will have a song you’ve not heard before. I’m going to include the rubbish, embarrassing ones as well as the good ones.
What process goes into the way you write songs?
With Seafieldroad songs I usually just play the piano until something emerges. My rule is that I never write anything down, and if I can still remember a tune the next morning then I figure it’s probably interesting enough to turn into a song. The downside is that I quite often record things then forget how to play them later, so live shows might be a problem. Lyrics are easier. Usually I start with a title. There’s a song on this album called All I Wanted Was To Be A Gangster, just because I thought that was a funny title and wanted to write a song called that. I wrote it by singing the words ‘all I wanted was to be a gangster, now I work in a libary’ repeatedly while playing random notes on the piano. If you listen closely you’ll notice the tune is basically I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue.
What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?
None that I’m particularly aware of, except that I’ve always enjoyed putting Scottish place names into songs, the main reason being that I like it when people from other cities or countries put evocative place names in their songs – like Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega, or Coles Corner by Richard Hawley, or Mario’s Cafe by St Etienne. It makes those places seem quite romantic, even if they’re probably not. So there are, for example, Swimmer One songs called Largs Hum and The Erskine Bridge, And Seafieldroad is named after a road in Edinburgh that Hamish, Laura and I find ourselves travelling along quite often, usually by bicycle, on the way from Leith to Portobello, or to our studio in Granton. But I suspect I’d write similar songs if I’d stayed in Carlisle, where I grew up. I’d just be called Stanwixbank instead of Seafieldroad.
What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?
Me singing and playing piano, and possibly telling bad jokes. Laura singing too maybe, if she’s up for it. And a string quartet, if I can afford them. If you’re a promoter and this sounds like a mouthwatering prospect, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?
There’s actually a second Seafieldroad album already recorded. So the plan is to put that out early next year. It’s quite similar to the first one, so if you like the first one you’ll like the second one too. And if you don’t you probably won’t. How’s that for a sales pitch?
Seafieldroad’s debut album ‘There Are No Maps For This Part Of The City’ is out now on on Biphonic Records. You can stream the album in full here and download on their Bandcamp, it comes highly recommended.
My series of Scots Way-Hay interviews will begin again in the New Year. Next week I will be running a wee feature asking some of the bands that have done interviews for me to give me their albums of the year.