This EP is a loose collection of songs from 2008 - 2010. I had plans for it to be a full-length, but several of the songs required more production than I had time for, and I got impatient and shelved them for another project (which as of September 2013, I am working on right now!). 3 years of an off-and-on relationship garners a lot more than a few songs, let me tell you...
I wrote the title track in my bedroom in San Diego while thinking about how he moved to another city with no place to live, no job, and no plans to get either one of those things.
I moved to San Diego to escape, to free myself. I didn't realize that the physical freedom would not automatically bring me the emotional freedom I so desired. The liner notes do a better job of explaining this particular emotional aspect of the record.
"Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)" and "Undercover" are both unique songs for me in the sense that they were both written on guitar! I only learned how to play the guitar in 2008, so it was very rewarding to be able to put some of those new songs on an EP. I was thrilled to have Conor Deasy bring them to life for me. Over half the songs were written in 2008. "If Only" in particular has been a part of my set for over 5 years. There was an earlier recorded version which was released online as part of a now-defunct project called "Tuesday Tunes," but I did not record it, and I do not have access to the masters. When I asked my bandmate for those, he refused to give them to me. Many of the newer songs did not actually make it to the EP, which is pretty funny. "Do I?" and the title track are the only songs that were written in 2010.
In 2011, I went on a tour with Since Our First Guitar (a band from Sweden) and Biggles Flys Again (the solo project of Dublin-based The Gandhis frontman Conor Deasy) . Turns out that the drummer from SOFG has an uncle who happens to own Tambourine Studios in Malmö, Sweden... better known as the home of The Cardigans. I was invited to Sweden, and we planned a reunion of sorts.
Before taking off for Europe, I recorded the piano tracks at the lovely Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles with engineer Juan Lopez, who has collaborated/studied with Dave Trumfio on mixing and mastering. With the piano tracks in hand, I decided to book a day in Tambourine Studios to record vocals and some of the guitar songs.
In June 2012, the six of us reunited in Malmö, Sweden, and it was an absolute blast! Our session in Malmö was great fun. We recorded vocals for all six songs, Conor and I did a live take for "Undercover," and we recorded "Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)" as a full band. The process of recording as it should be: making music with friends. My friend Clémence and I had a lovely day wandering the streets of Paris in the summer to get this photograph. The sadness on my face was all acting at that point! We capped off the day with café (Clémence) and Perrier (moi) and the content for the record was done.
2012 was a rough year for me emotionally, but mostly creatively, and I didn't really push the record at all. I didn't even feel like it. I was, and I am, still very happy with the way it turned out, and I do plan on pressing hard copies and sending it along to some people, just because. A few San Diego publications enjoyed it, and I enjoy it, and that was enough for me.
The full liner notes are below:
At The Heart of Staying In Love
These humble songs are the product of the dissolution of a 3+ year relationship with my former bandmate. We created and released a CD together, we worked together, we toured together, we were together almost constantly and then we were not. I use the word 'dissolution' and not 'breakup' for a very specific reason.
Suffice it to say that when you spend a large amount of time with someone (anyone), whether that time is mostly good, or mostly bad, you will live with their presence and their ghosts for a long, long, long time. I wrote the title song quite a while after the relationship had ended, while I was sitting and fully marinating in the feelings of what it means to love. What it means to lose. What it means to go from seeing someone every day and every hour to hearing from them less and less and less, and exactly how that feels.
We have so many songs, so many poems, and so much incredible artwork devoted to the fine art of falling in love. There seems to be an almost infinite amount of creative outpourings dedicated exclusively to the delicate process of getting to know someone, first infatuations, discovering the smell of their hair on your pillow and the glorious moment when your love for each other is fully expressed. We also have a huge library of breakup, revenge, and heartbroken songs. Everyone I know has that one record or that one song you pull out when you feel your heart is so crushed it cannot continue on.
But when I think of songs that deal with the more subtle aspects of ending a relationship, I personally come up short. I cannot think of songs that described the way I felt driving by the house we recorded our old album in. I can't think of any artistic output that matched the feelings of horror, of lifelessness, of utter fear that gripped me when I came back to Santa Monica after 3 months in Europe and a couple months living in San Diego. I saw ghosts on the streets. I felt like I was a time traveler and that there was a distinct possibility that I would run into my former self and my former love in the past, walking through the tunnel under the 10 freeway as we used to do. Meeting at the sink in the McCabe's staff kitchen. Discussing plans and trading responsibilities back and forth. Giving each other rides. Rehearsing together. Fighting bitterly. Making up lovingly and with many tears. Fighting even more bitterly. Breaking up. Getting back together, predictably. I could barely stand to be in my old neighborhood for over a year.
I try to think about the fading process that happened once I moved to San Diego, which I had to do in order to preserve the tiny shreds of myself that were left. A friend of mine here in Paris was talking about a recent breakup and she said, “I don't want the past to be a myth.” I can't think of songs that matched my feelings when I went from seeing things that reminded me of him every day, to seeing them once a week, to not seeing, not noticing them at all. It reminded me of a dying star; rays of light and warmth long gone but still requiring the massive time and space to travel from the logical center of my brain to the feeling center of my heart. The depth of the feelings required an even deeper space to process themselves. We don't talk about these things too much in our culture, I don't think. We want to rush to the end of a relationship to play the blame game, to be the first to move on, and it sometimes does work like that. Sometimes we get dumped and we are heartbroken, sometimes we end things and do the heartbreaking. And other times it's just too intense to be simple.
My pain, anger, regret, sadness, happiness, and joy waxed and waned like a rogue moon during most of the first year that we were apart. I think the songs capture that. And the irony is not lost on me that many of the songs people love the most and talk about the most at shows are songs I wrote about my ex. When we were in a band, I had to sing songs with him about his unrequited love affairs. Every night we performed together, I sung songs with him about his crush on a friend; now I'm alone and singing songs about how I used to love someone.
I don't know if these songs will fill the gap in artistic output that I'm talking about; I'm not sure they even do for me. I'm just sharing what was on my mind while working heavily on these songs. These are vulnerable songs, they're delicate songs, and they're songs deeply and truly, incredibly, from the heart. My heart.
Things like auto-tune, heavy compositing, and especially “perfection” are not a part of my work ethic. My aesthetic inspirations come mostly from the school of 1950's and 1960's R&B: virtually everything that came out of Motown and the Brill Building. I am also heavily inspired by the songs of Cole Porter, jazz music (especially from the 1930's and 1940's) and the artistry that came out of Tin Pan Alley in the earlier part of the century. I am not into the “newfangled” thing and anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I spend most of my time living under a rock. In a mix or a song, I like hearing breaths, distortion when the recording technology can't quite capture the performance, slightly “off” notes, and anything that reminds me that I'm listening to another human being creating sounds with their imperfect body.
It's unusual for my work ethic to “sit” on songs for so long, but in this case, I'm happy I did so. I've been playing many of these songs out for two, three, four years and it shows. I've had time to develop these songs, time to let them breathe in front of a live audience, and that's been fun.
Thank you for listening. Please enjoy these songs.
released 15 November 2012
All music & lyrics written by Normandie Wilson
All instruments performed by Normandie Wilson with the help of:
Niklas Björk – bass on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Conor Deasy – guitar on “Undercover” and “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Leia Hohenfeld – flute on “If Only”
Erik Sunding – drums on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)”
Gabriel Sundy – clarinet on “My Careful Lover”
All piano, except on “Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)” recorded by engineer J. Lopez (Casa De Lopez Recording)
at Kingsize Soundlabs in Los Angeles
All vocals recorded by engineer Erik Sunding (Discrete Motion Recordings) except “Like I Do,” recorded by engineer Walle Richardsson (Discrete Motion Recordings)
in Tambourine Studios, Malmö, Sweden
“Nobody Loves You (Like I Do)” mixed by Erik Sunding
“Undercover” mixed by Normandie Wilson
all other songs mixed by J. Lopez
Mastered by J. Lopez (Casa de Lopez Recording)
Additional mastering by Nate Clarke
Photography by Clémence Veilhan in Paris, France
Design by Bacilio Mendez II in New York, NY
and Megan Tarr in Los Angeles, CA