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'Head Over Heels' - One Year Later

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Today marks the first anniversary of the release of my variety album 'Head Over Heels', a project that was very close to my heart. In this post, I'm going to reminisce a little about its conception, its creation and its development.

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The Inspiration

'Head Over Heels' started out as nothing more than a dream in 2018. Having performed for the Macclesfield Majestic Theatre Group on countless occasions up until that point, I was always struck by how much talent there was within the group and - consequently - right on our doorstep in Macclesfield. Yet this talent wasn't necessarily given a chance to 'shine' properly as when performing in musicals or pantomimes, they tended to have to stick within a character.

I wanted to work with all of these voices myself and wanted to write for several of them. However, that would be a lot of work - unless I found a way to give each voice their moment in the spotlight.

Sure enough, I came up with the idea of writing a variety album - something that could, if desired, be performed as a set concert piece.

The Songs

Usually as a composer, I work very much on a 'put pen to manuscript paper' basis, but songwriting takes a much different form. Because there tends to be much more structure in a song (verse, chorus, verse, chorus etc.), they had to be a little more simplistic and a little more melodic (i.e. singable). Often when I 'doodle' (i.e. my own term for improvising around on the piano hoping that an original piece of music will come to me) I come up with a riff, a chord sequence or a melody that doesn't subscribe to the narrative of the piece I am composing and stands alone better as a song.

It just so happens that at the time I decided to write 'Head Over Heels' I had countless undeveloped ideas like this. 'My Dying Day', 'The Midnight Hour', 'Kids Play', 'Back to Reality' and 'I'll Be There' all existed at that point in one way or other.

I never intended to be the lyricist myself, but I did have strong ideas about what I wanted the songs to represent. The working titles for the songs actually became the final titles in a lot of cases. Quite often I had a phrase in my mind for one line of the song and I had to work around that. For example, the phrase 'The Midnight Hour' came to me as I played the melody exactly where it is today and I liked it. So I had to work backwards. What could I surround this line 'The Midnight Hour' with to keep it relevant?

I decided - against my better judgement - that I would write the lyrics myself! Providing I did so entirely tongue in cheek and self aware then I may just get away with it. Deliberately writing songs that were to be 'narrated' by ordinary folk who are just thinking up their stories on the spot led to what I consider to be a charm in some of the pieces. Such as how in 'One Wonder' I allow for a myriad of hackneyed love lines (even making nod to this at the end) because this is very much his character.

Those aforementioned pieces I already had ready to develop were from my more 'basic' songwriting days, and I think that shows, as since coming up with them I had really developed a love for theatre. So many of the pieces that were subsequently written took on an incredibly theatrical approach - 'Dismissive', 'Thank You for the Call', 'It's True' etc. - and these pieces told a whole story within themselves, meaning that they had to be longer.

The Cast

Sourcing a cast turned out to be rather straightforward as before I depended on the aforementioned songs, I was creating new ones. Having seen the Macclesfield Majestic Panto of 2018 without having been involved, I became eager to start again. The lead (Cinderella) was portrayed by a Sarah Powell, and with her in mind I'd come up with the idea of this song which I'd titled 'Head Over Heels' (because, without having any idea what it was about, I came up with the line 'Head Over Heels in Love' on that line).

But I couldn't just contact her out of the blue because she barely knew me as it was her Macclesfield debut, so what I did do was contact my close friend of many years - Luke Stevenson - and see if he would be interested in singing a song. I'd provisionally written 'Notice Me' by this point.

He was very happy to and, upon hearing it, very excited to be a part of it. Although I dare say the words underwent some rewrites at that session.

Anyway, having had a good response from Luke, I pursued contacting Sarah and she was more than happy to try it out too.

And all in the meantime I'd been coming up with songs that had voices I already knew in mind:

'Take a Walk' was always going to be for Sid.

'Thank You for the Call' was always going to be for Nickie.

'Dreams' was always going to be for Alex.

'It's True' was always for Fleur.

And all four of them said yes too!

So now it was just a case of getting into the Macclesfield Majestic rehearsal rooms - which were very kindly lent to me in order to pursue this project in 2018 - to get a demo of the songs.

(The songs 'More Than a Word', 'Closer', 'Kids Play', 'Judgement Day' and 'Dismissive' were all written or developed with specific singers in mind. They all came to demo, but unfortunately were unavailable in 2021 / 22 to record the final songs).

Having written a cryptic song that I genuinely didn't know if I even like, I invited Calum Hogan down to trial 'The Man with No Identity', knowing that 'The Midnight Hour' existed and he'd suit that too if I didn't like it! I did.

So, I had a few spaces left!

Upon making a few pleas for singers, Pete Munro got in touch and was allocated 'The Midnight Hour'. Giles Hardwick was introduced to me for 'One Wonder'. Andy (original singer for 'Kids Play') introduced me to Emily Redwood who was torn between 'More than a Word', 'Back to Reality' and (the eventually allocated) 'I'll Be There', Rebecca Clulow was allocated 'Back to Reality' and Tom Blackwell' tried and succeeded beautifully with 'My Dying Day'. Simon Hoffman was put in touch with me and he did a fabulous job with 'Rulebook', and Harry (Eddie) Melling did a wonderful job with 'A New Life'.

When I was just needing one more song to make it the nice round twenty - I attended a wedding and overheard the delightful crooning of Simon Waring.

I knew that he could have his own special song, and 'Mister Illusion' - a song (a whole idea, in fact) that didn't exist prior to that event, was written specially for his voice, he was invited.

And so I ended up with 20 demos of each song from 'Head Over Heels', most of which barely changed.

The Band

As much as I would have loved to have done live recordings of the band in professional studio setups, it was too much for the low budget nature of this album. So I advertised for the parts individually and we built up.

Upon enrolling a band member, each was sent a copy of the demos we had done, as well as a click track which I had programmed to incorporate all tempo changes, featuring me playing a very rough piano guide to start and - as they developed - more and more parts would be added so that each band member knew exactly what they were building on.

It began with drums, then moved onto bass guitars, then electric and acoustic guitars, then I recorded proper piano parts. Following this, woodwinds, brass and violin were added around a similar time and at the very end I added the electronic keys.

The only exception to this, of course, was 'My Dying Day', for which I recorded a piano part freely on the understanding that if Tom struggled to keep up with it for his final recording, we could revert to recording that one live.


Eventually - come 2021 - we were ready to record properly. I managed to bag myself access to the rehearsal rooms again with the intention of recording the vocals finally, and invited each and everyone back.

Unfortunately, the gap had meant there had been some changes, meaning that not everybody could get down, and so I had to source new singers. However, this didn't do any detriment.

So, in addition to recording each and every returning cast member, I was thrilled to introduce Becka Gill and Kate Darlington to the mix to record 'Closer'. They didn't know each other prior to meeting at that recording session for the first time and they only heard the song about two days before, doing most of their learning at the time!

Also Alicia Whittaker and Danny Gilman who were already close friends, but didn't have much notice for the song either. However they did a great job too!

A friend of mine - Claire - said she'd be happy to provide vocals for 'More Than a Word' if nobody else did, but on the understanding she be kept anonymous past her first name, and Louise Colohan was put in touch with me when I reached out for somebody to sing 'Dismissive' - along with the warning of it being the wordiest song of the lot. She came down for the last 'in-house' recording with great enthusiasm, and had been listening to the demo version of the song from 2018 a lot in preparation, leading to an incredibly strong take.

As by this time I had already teased the release date of 'Head Over Heels', I needed to be sure I had all recordings down. I was one short; a friend of mine from school - Joe Ryan - had agreed to sing 'Kids Play', yet as well as been busy, he was overseas in Dubai and struck down with a very sore throat.

However, he did provide a remote recording of this, and I have to respect him for doing so!

So now I had all the pieces. I just had to mix them down, master them and upload them ready for release.

The Artwork

The artwork for 'Head Over Heels' was designed by Samantha Oates.

head over heels macclesfield Congleton Cheshire Jack Mitchell Smith musical album variety music
This lesser seen artwork is on the CD copy of 'Head Over Heels'

Getting A Copy

'Head Over Heels' was originally released under West Kingston Productions Ltd., who has since been dissolved. The ownership of all music under them has been transferred to myself and so you can download 'Head Over Heels' directly from my website.

There are still CD copies knocking around, however I am not allowed to sell them officially due to them being branded with the West Kingston Productions logo and details.

The Songs

A brief rundown:

'A New Life'

The perfect opening song, I feel. An anthem about breaking away from your insecurities and taking the bold steps towards a new life or a new chapter in your life.

'Take a Walk'

A narrative about a man who tries his luck using his one chat up line; 'Take a Walk with Me' and how, on this one occasion, it worked.

'Back to Reality'

When a dream takes you so close to the answers you need to find true love, but you know you're just on the cusp of waking up again. The plea - don't take me back to reality.

'Rulebook (Sing "Yeh, Yeh!")'

The mantra of 'Sing "Yeh Yeh!'' whenever you feel down, scared or overwhelmed is one way of dealing with problems.

'The Midnight Hour'

A Cinderella story in which the man knows of the girl's background really.

'Head Over Heels'

A song about travel and the joys of discovering new lands, new people and new cultures and how it provides the ultimate escapism.

'One Wonder'

A man's desperate attempt to list all things he loves about someone whilst the inspiration hits - never whilst she's there, so it's got to go on an actual list.

'Thank You for the Call'

One girl excitedly waits for a call back from a guy having met him one night and exchanging numbers. However, it's never him that rings...


A young girl from a long way away is inspired to create a new civilisation based on love thanks to one man's tales of how the human race is succumbing to greed and corruption.

'Notice Me'

One man's love for his landlady seems to go persistently unnoticed. Or does it?

'Mister Illusion'

Is this song even real? Nobody really knows - it comes and goes, seemingly out of place.

'More Than a Word'

If dogs could talk to their owners from the other side using plain English words, perhaps this is what they would say...


A girl struggles with her negative inner thoughts as she tries to break away from them and speak to a man at a nearby table.

'Kids Play'

Growing up in a house in which there is a child who never grows old. What is his story?

'It's True'

Sometimes a quest for something magical is doubted and shunned by friends and family. But what if you find what you're looking for?

'Judgement Day'

Two lovers on the last day of the world, keeping the situation as positive as they can in spite of their impending doom and surrounding panic.

'The Man with No Identity'

If you sin, he comes for you. But if you don't, it'll be someone you loved. You only need fear death if you've done wrong yourself.

'My Dying Day'

A reminisce of a man's happiest times as he wanders a seemingly metaphoric place of memories of his loved one.


There's no place for stereotypes - not on this album. Don't judge - she won't tolerate it. Let her be and she may just discover love herself in her own way by the end.

'I'll Be There'

Losing someone is hard. Losing someone to suicide is harder. Knowing that you could have done something is harder still, but sometimes there is comfort in places you didn't know.


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