Can An Album Also Be A Personal Diary?

Can A Music Album Also Be A Personal Diary?

The process of writing new album ‘Signal Lights’ reads like a personal diary from 2014 for Adelaide troubadour Sam Brittain.


Having toured and busked his way around Australia, the United Kingdom & Europe multiple times in the last few years, Sam Brittain has been fortunate enough to share stages with acts such as Passenger, Matt Corby & Mat McHugh. In late 2015, Sam and his band reconvened in Adelaide to begin recording sessions at Mixmaster’s Studio with owner/producer Mick Wordley at the helm. The resulting album, ‘Signal Lights’, is set for release early next month with a huge launch show at The Gov to celebrate it.

The process of writing the ‘Signal Lights’ reads like a personal diary from 2014 for Brittain, as he toured Europe and charted the reflections that would shape the album. Sam has been kind enough to prepare recollections of how each track came to be as part of an exclusive album preview:

I wrote this song on my first day in London in 2014. I had just come off of a hectic tour in Australia and after losing a dear friend of mine I was struggling with the concept of being away from my loved ones. Severely jetlagged I got on the tube and somehow managed to miss my station and get on an express train heading the opposite direction from where I needed to go. I was just a sleep deprived country kid lost in the big city again.

I found myself in Venice towards the end of August 2014 in a moment where I didn’t have any musical commitments. I had bunt the candle at both ends for so long and found myself sitting by the water in this incredible city asking myself why I chose to live at the pace that I did? The reality that the hardest things to overcome are often the things you do to yourself is a hard pill to swallow. The song tries to convey the heartache that comes as you realise you’re on retrospective side of another wrong choice made.

This song was a bit of a turning point on that tour. I had arrived in Belfast for the night and was desperate to spend a bit of time playing guitar and getting some ideas I had recorded. As I was staying in a 16 bed dorm room at the time and the opportunity to write and record in peace and quiet was a rarity. This particular afternoon I took my guitar down to the kitchen to just get this riff down when about ten people came bursting into the kitchen. Such an incredibly diverse and energetic group of individuals, the mood in the room was electrified. We ended up drinking gin and heading out into the night enjoying new found friendships.

The next morning, I had a ferry booked for Scotland and with a sore head made my way towards the port, eventually taking my seat on board. I was feeling a bit under the weather, yet so incredibly fortunate to be on the other side of the world and meeting incredible people. I sat down and completed the lyrics to the rough demo I made in the hostel kitchen the night before, one sentiment resonating in my head…Remember you’re ‘The Lucky One’.

It was Friday night in Dublin and I had been busking on Grafton Street all day. The opportunity to play music there was something I had always hoped to do and after my first week it really was living up to expectations, most of the time superseding them. I walked down towards Temple Bar with one goal in mind, to get my first pint of Guinness in Ireland…bit touristy I know. I walked into a bar and sat down next to an older gentleman named Jim who as sitting there drinking his Guinness with a pink straw. We struck up a conversation and he was kind enough to share some of his life with me, the good, the bad and the utterly heartbreaking…’Slàinte’ is his story…

It can’t really be argued that will live in a highly disposable society. We don’t own houses, we rent rooms. We don’t want to be tied down to any particular place. The concept of having boundaries or commitments seems to be viewed with a negative connotation. The frightening thing is our generation seems to hold this same disposable approach to people and relationships. Too fearful to truly be connected to someone. Life is hard and thing fall apart however instead of facing the mess, trying to clean it up and repair the damage we turn and run. ‘Another You’ came from a moment where things fell apart and the further I looked around for something to fill the void the more I realized that the only thing that could was time.

The world moves fast and to opportunity to be where ever you want to be on the face of the earth at any given time is available to most of western society. With the vast array of options in front of you it Is easy to become distracted and never really follow things through till they reach their greatest potential. It is easy to see what is good and right for us in hindsight but in turn is is just as easy to be blind in the moment and make rash decisions, easier to take flight than fight. People come and go, places change and love is lost and found. Experience is important to embrace but not at the expense of the people you care for. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of life only turning around and seeing the error of your ways when its already far too late.

I was driving up to the studio for one of our final days of recording for the album. My energy levels were so drastically depleted and I was beginning to see why I constantly felt so drained. ‘Strangers’ is a song about how in time, in relationships or friendships alike eventually the mask falls away and peoples true intentions are brought to the forefront. It’s about that moment when you look at someone you have known for a long time and don’t even recognize them. You start questioning if you ever knew them at all…

This song is kind of the second part to ‘Stab in the Dark’. We have all been in that place in one way or another where you can finally look around, survey the wreckage and see the damage you’ve done, regardless if it’s to yourself or to others. ‘Bend’ related to the moment when I accepted my short comings and was pleading for the opportunity to do things differently.

This was one of the first songs I wrote for the album back in July 2014. I had just spent a week out on an island north of Holland called Ameland playing my first European Festival. It was a momentous occasion but one that carried an additional weight due to the passing of a dear friend. He had performed at the festival the year prior and we were meant to be heading up there together to play that year.

The week that followed was undoubtedly one of the most tumultuous weeks to date. The extreme highs of playing music in front of wonderful crowds but also connecting to a group of people all grieving the loss of our mutual friend. Tears were shed, many laughs were had and bonds were created that will last a lifetime. I arrived back in London sat in another hostel bed and started writing everything down, trying to make sense of the week that had just occurred. A group of complete strangers connected by the loss of a mutual friend. A group of like-minded kind hearted people united together on an island to laugh, reminisce, mourn, scream, dance, enjoy music and friendship. I fell in love with the madness.

Things go wrong, we all have our limits and we all make mistakes. I had made plenty of my own and I had experienced the fall out of other people’s, if they cared to admit so or not. Coming from a slightly more positive angle ‘How to Live Alone’ is about turning around and saying “You know what? I’m gonna do this anyway.” A friend told me once ‘resentment towards anyone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’. Better to just let the past be the past, live in the present and work hard towards the future you want for yourself.

We arrived at the studio for our last day of tracking as a band and this song was literally written the night prior. It’s funny as a writer you can feel really passionate about something by night and then in the harsh light of morning toss it aside like rubbish. This was one of those moments. It was about 10:00am when I sat down on the couch in the studio and re-wrote the entire lyric only keeping the melody line of the chorus from the original demo. What you hear on the record was the first take of a song that the band heard for the very first time only moments earlier.

It’s hard to say to much more about this song that’s not plainly stated in the lyric. I had spent a long time split between a few different worlds and had finally hit a wall. The reality was setting in that I had to let some things go in order for me to be better. ‘Signal Lights’ was the very last song written for this album, a bit of a personal resolution and turning point for things to come.

Sam Brittain will launch ‘Signal Lights’ at The Gov on Saturday, 4th June. Tickets available through Oztix. The new album is now available for pre-order via iTunes.

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