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'Head over Heels' - Two Years Later

Today marks the two year anniversary of the release of 'Head Over Heels' - my two disc musical album that was initially an outlet for my burning desire to write something, only to develop into a project that showcased the best of local talent.



head over heels macclesfield Congleton Cheshire jack Mitchell Smith music musician musical theatre Samantha Oates
Original Cover Art, designed by Samantha Oates


Featuring no less than 22 singers from around the Macclesfield and Congleton area, I'd love to take this opportunity to share with you what it is, how it came to be and more!



The Story



There is no narrative throughout 'Head Over Heels' as an album, so to call it a concept album may be quite misleading. However, the story behind the album might be brought more into question:


Music was and always has been a passion for me, but back in the year of 2017 I wasn't particularly feeling it. The idea of writing something such as a variety album was always in the back of my mind but it would take too much commitment for me - then in full time employment - to want to do.


Over the years I had done a handful of shows with the local amateur musical society - Macclesfield Majestic Theatre Group - and in doing so I had come across a wealth of people who had voices that I just wanted to explore, but my time was taken up by either working or - if I did have time to devote to music - somebody else's project (such as musically directing pantomimes for MMTG).


Perhaps it was the eventual tiredness of music that led me to turn down their very kind offer for me to musically direct their 2018 pantomime, but I did and I felt immediate relief.


I did, however, go and support them by booking a ticket.


Ordinarily the excitement of a pantomime is the crowning glory of a lot of hard work, but because I hadn't done any hard work towards this one the excitement I felt actually became the push to do something! And what was that to be?


An album. Featuring some of them and plenty of other people I knew from the area who weren't involved in that particular production.


By now it was 2018 and what followed was a series of contacting friends and asking them to come down to the Majestic's rehearsal rooms - which they very kindly lent me keys for - to teach them a song and to record a basic piano and vocal demo. By the time I had started seeing people, all of the songs were written...



The Songs



I had opted to write lyrics that were to be publicly available for the first time in my life. I never considered myself a lyricist and approached the job from a much more tongue in cheek way than many others might have done.


'Head Over Heels' was the first brand new composition that I came up with music and lyrics for after seeing the pantomime, but many others followed and underwent several rewrites.


'A New Life' and 'The Midnight Hour' were ones I had already composed, so I just set lyrics to them.


'Dismissive' became an incredibly wordy piece as I just needed to keep adding to it to be able to resolve the narrative!


'The Man with No Identity' was written with so much abstractness that when I reread the words I had no clue what I had been writing about. And, despite this - or maybe because of it - I actually kept these lyrics!


But most of the songs were quite easy to divide between people who I already knew:


For the purpose of both original demo and final release, Eddie Melling sang 'A New Life', Sidney Smith sang 'Take a Walk', Rebecca Clulow sang 'Back to Reality', Pete Munro sang 'The Midnight Hour', Sarah Powell sang 'Head Over Heels', Nickie Simms sang 'Thank You for the Call', Alex Bingle sang 'Dreams', Luke Stevenson sang 'Notice Me', Fleur Evangeline sang 'It's True', Calum Hogan sang 'The Man with No Identity', and Tom Blackwell sang 'My Dying Day'.


Luckily, these people collectively knew lots of people, and I was pleased to be introduced to Simon Hoffman ('Rulebook'), Giles Hardwick ('One Wonder') and Emily Redwood ('I'll Be There') who demo'd and went on to record their songs on the final album.


And by being introduced to somebody completely new for whom I did not have a song - Simon Waring - his voice alone inspired a brand new song - 'Mister Illusion'.


With all of this and some provisional demos of 'More than a Word', 'Closer', 'Kids Play', 'Judgement Day' and 'Dismissive' - all performed brilliantly but by people who sadly couldn't commit to the final project - I was armed with my 20 songs!


Phase two...



The Tracks



In order to create the tracks, I used my then notation software - Myriad's 'Harmony Assistant' - to create the most basic scores to pass along to a drummer, bassist and guitarist. The drum parts consisted of mere hits and the word 'fill' when I wanted a fill. Occasionally I would notate a specific bassline (such as in 'Notice Me') or guitar part, but generally these parts were based around chord symbols and I gave free rein to the guitarists.


Have a browse through the slideshow to see some example scores that were sent to musicians:





Using an exported MIDI file from Harmony Assistant, I uploaded this into Logic Pro and was able to alter the click track to account for all rises and falls of tempo, on top of which I recorded a dummy piano part so that the instrumentalists had something to play along to that was more interesting than just the click! (I did keep bouncing updated tracks as new musicians came along).



head over heels Logic Pro X music technology macclesfield Cheshire congleton jack Mitchell Smith
'Head Over Heels' - final Logic Project (unmastered)


First to the table, Glenn Charles put down his drum tracks.

And then two bassists - Liv Baker-Mendoza and Chris Thompson.

Then a guitarist - Ryszard Kolendo - who put down both electric and acoustic guitar parts.


I did a little bit of orchestration and sent this off to Michael Kearley (who had provided bassoons towards the recording of 'Morella' and played flute in 'Spectroscopy') to lay down a few flute parts, and for the title track itself I scored out a very basic violin part which was recorded by Sarah Jackson. Colin Jones - another player on 'Morella' (trumpets) gave me some more trumpet tracks for a few songs on this project and even did some trombone (on the song 'Dismissive').


Whilst the orchestration was being done, I recorded piano and keyboard parts.



Recording



It was time to bring the original cast back together!


Well, most of them.


But it was OK - most of them came back and they all did a fabulous job!


head over heels macclesfield Congleton Cheshire jack Mitchell Smith music musician musical theatre
Sarah Powell recording the title track - 'Head Over Heels'

But to finish the project I had to reach out again.


I was introduced to a few people - Becka Gill who would record 'Closer' alongside Kate Darlington, who I had met in 2020 (after I'd recorded initial demo), Alicia Whittaker and Danny Gilman who recorded 'Judgement Day' and Louise Colohan who recorded 'Dismissive'.


The only vocal that was recorded remotely belonged to an old schoolfriend - Joe Ryan - who recorded 'Kids Play' from Dubai!


Meanwhile, advertising had begun with little teaser snippets - such as this one featuring Alex Bingle:





Once everything was recorded, it took a while to be mixed and mastered but what followed was the release!



Showtime!



Showtime for the album was 22nd April 2022 - the official release date of 'Head Over Heels'. Initially released under West Kingston Productions - my company at the time - it proved a success.


But there had been a showtime prior to this!


On Saturday 9th April 2022, we showcased some of the songs from the show!


And what a show it was!


Whilst we did miss Sarah Powell for the title track (Louise Colohan stepped in expertly - below), the night was a resounding success and we managed to shift a few CDs prior to their official release - and give away some download codes (again prior to their official release!).



head over heels macclesfield Congleton Cheshire jack Mitchell Smith music musician musical theatre louise colohan
Louise Colohan sings 'Head Over Heels' in Sarah Powell's absence




Where To Get It



That's right - it's still available!


Whilst you won't find it anymore on the commercial MP3 download or streaming services, it is very much available to download from my website.


So give it a download and give it a listen - it's great fun and I know you'll love it!


 

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