A Perilous Thing
Ahh the live album – a perilous thing! I loved them as a child growing up, beginning to find my taste in music. Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Live in Central Park‘, Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live and Dangerous‘, Rory Gallagher’s ‘Irish Tour ‘74’ or ‘Pulse’ by Pink Floyd are genuinely some of my favourite albums / collections. That said however, what you hear isn’t always as it seems. With talk of studio overdubs and thousands, maybe millions, spent in both pre and post production – are they truly my live? Well, who am I to judge? All I can say is that I learned that the recording of a live show was a daunting prospect and a hard night’s work!
Back in the summer of 2013, a plan was hatched. In between the release of my third studio album, ‘Scarecrow’ and while gathering the songs and funds to record my fourth studio album, ‘Tough Love’, we put plans in place to record a live show in Switzerland in December 2013. The final part of the plan was to release the recording as a “Live” CD which went on to become ‘Hope Live‘, as it exists today.
I had been invited back to play at one of my favourite festivals: Songbird Festival Davos; high up in the Swiss Alps in Davos. Along with this show, I was performing a few more shows in Switzerland, including my second visit to play the Grüningen Sessions, just outside of Zurich. In fact, I had been the first ever act to play these sessions, which was started by the Yorkshire- turned-Swiss legend, Caroline Edwards. I’m delighted to say they’re still going strong and have had a host of great acts come to play in a stunning Swiss hamlet!
We decided upon the Wy Galerie Wine Bar & Shop as the venue for the show and recording. Wy Galerie is a beautiful little wine shop located in the ‘Keller’ (cellar) of a 15th century traditional Swiss town house, owned and run by my good friends Susan and Thomas.
Tobi, my Swiss agent at TOURBOmusic and great friend, was instrumental in the organising the recording element of the show. Tobi approached his friend, top musician and engineer, Martin Hofstetter, to be the man at the helm to capture the night. That was all great however, it was up to me to put on a show worthy of all the effort!
I was lucky enough to be able to convince my good friend of many years, Eoin Jordan, a renowned musician from Cork, to travel to Switzerland and join me for a few shows and in particular, for this live recording. Eoin has always been a musician I’ve had great respect for – he has a great ear being a traditional musician but also a deep love for American roots music too. Since we first met, I always wanted play music with him. I knew he was the perfect man for the job as I have found that his bazouki and guitar playing always really elevated my songs!
Things however got off to a rocky start. I had flown out a few days earlier for a couple of smaller shows and Eoin was to join me on the Saturday morning for the Songbird Festival show. So my nerves weren’t in great shape when I received a message from Eoin saying that due to fog the plane had been grounded. Eoin was due to land in Memmingen Airport in southern Germany at around 11am but didn’t end up arriving till nearly 4pm! This meant thatToby had to drop me to the train station in St. Gallen to get the train to Davos to ensure I’d make the show, while he carried on to collect Eoin in Germany. Somehow, they made it in time to have a 15 minute sound check, half a hang sandwich and we were on!
It was Eoin’s first time playing in Switzerland and he turned to me after a few songs and whispered “Is it going ok?” I replied: “Yeah, great! Why?” I wondered as we’d been getting great rounds of applause thus far. “There’s no noise” said Eoin in a mouse’s whisper. “The Swiss are a quiet audience” I whispered back and laughed. With a half panicked face turning into a smile, “You’re telling me!” he replied. How and ever, what I didn’t tell Eoin before the show was that our gig was also being broadcast live on Swiss radio! I got a good dig in the arm after the show when I told him this after the fact, but we had a good laugh about it in the end.
So after a great show high up in the Swiss alps, we set our sights and descended on the beautiful village of Gruningen for the recording of ‘Hope Live.’
We spent a good deal of time in the setting up and checking to ensure we could capture the essence of a live show, with Martin putting us through our paces.
Both myself and Eoin are not the type who often get nervous before a gig but there was plenty of pacing and cigarettes smoked as we waited for the doors to open this night. Not only by just me and Eoin – all involved were another level up on the stress-o-meter! Thankfully the show was sold out and the Swiss being the Swiss, they were all there in plenty of time which helped alot with the tension. It is also worth pointing out that the Swiss being the Swiss was such a great thing for such a recording project. As before we started, we obviously explained about the recording and that there could perhaps be call to retake a song and the whole audience were SO good to go along with what we were trying to achieve. Pin drop silence during songs is an understatement.
Often live shows are a compilation of several nights of shows or a tour that has all been recorded, with the best from each night edited together seamlessly into ‘one night.’ However what we undertook had no such safety net, which makes what we achieved all the more satisfying.
Thankfully the whole show flowed fairly well from start to finish. If my memory serves me, we didn’t have to retake any songs, but that may be a haze of time clouding my memory.
I have to say while it was a stressful thing, it was a great feeling when myself and Martin got into his mixing studio to have a listen back. We could hear and feel the night that had happened, not just some songs randomly recorded and put together.
Lastly but certainly not least, there is a further interesting point of note regarding creation of the album artwork. I commissioned the album artwork from a my very talented friend, Markus Stadelmann. Markus is well known as a top Radio DJ in Switzerland, but he is also musician who has won the Swiss equivalent of a Grammy with his band. However he is most fondly known, to me at least, as ‘sexy deep voice announcer man’. Markus is the go-to-guy for concert advertising radio ads – believe me when I say that hearing him say “Rammstein” or “Shakira” is a treat to behold! Anyway, I digress. Markus very kindly undertook the project for me. It was his first time doing working on such a project and I’m sure you’ll agree he did a fine job.
I had kept ‘Hope Live’ for sale offline and at live shows only but during this lockdown, we decided to make it available for the first time for sale online.
So I hope you liked the tale of it’s making and hopefully you’ll enjoy the album!