Carla J. Easton – Impossible Stuff (Premiere and Track-by-Track)
Ahead of releasing her debut solo album Impossible Stuff, Carla J. Easton talks us through the album track-by-track with an exclusive first listen
As TeenCanteen's Carla J. Easton prepares to release her debut solo record, Impossible Stuff, The Skinny are delighted to bring you an exclusive first listen to the album along with a detailed track-by-track explanation from Easton herself. You can listen to the album via the Bandcamp player below (click here if it's not displaying correctly).
"I wrote and recorded this song at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Canada in March 2017. One morning I woke up about 6am (still suffering from jet lag) and had this melody in my head. I didn't want to lose it – sometimes I wake up with a song idea in my head and then by the time I've had a coffee and, generally just woken up, it's lost. So I grabbed my iPad to do a quick 'sketch'. Over the course of a few days, the lyrics came quite easily and I fleshed out my sketch into a drawing and demoed it for Howard Bilerman when he visited my studio.
"During the residency, I discovered that fellow songwriter Kev Corbett had been a percussionist in an orchestra. I also discovered the Banff Centre had an entire timpani kit and tubular bells. Naturally, all this information came together in my head to create a grandiose arrangement under two minutes long. Thankfully Howard was more than on board. I remember sitting at the piano playing this song and singing it and being so nervous as to what he would say. After what felt like a lifetime of silence he said, 'Loud singer aren't you?' and we laughed.
"Recording this was incredible. The Telus studio at Banff is an audio playground. I was the last out of all 24 residents to get my three-hour recording session with Howard. With ambitious plans for this song and Impossible Stuff, I knew my three-hour recording session was going to be pushed to its limit. So I took in a bottle of whisky that I'd procured from the town of Banff just down the hill from the centre. Fats Kaplin walked in and said, 'Now this is what I call a recording session!' and I had to remind myself that this was real life and he was about to play the violin on my tracks (he's recorded and toured with Jack White and Beck).
"We got the timpani and the tubular bells and then all the residents came in and assembled a choir and Howard walked into the room and said: 'I'm going to Quincy Jones the fuck out of this,' and we all sang the lyrics: 'If I never see you again...' The next day we all parted ways and left the Banff Centre. Dreamers On the Run is my end-of-the-night-everything-
"This song was also written during my residency at Banff. My studio was next to Lisa Crawley's – an exceptional pop performer with a talent that shines so bright that she quickly became a hero! We shared a wall through our studio and I remember her saying to me one time over lunch, 'What's that piano riff you keep playing over and over?' – which I can only assume must have been tremendously annoying for her! We laughed about it.
"I constantly fall in love, whether that be romantically or with burgeoning new friendships. When I crush, I crush hard and this song (pretty much) explains the nonsense going through my head during these times. My Best Banff Friend (BBF!) was Brett Nelson – we realised we both really loved New Order. I told him I had a new song but wasn't sure how to finish it so he said to bring it round to his 'hut' (I had a studio, he had a wooden hut in the woods). I was pretty nervous about playing him this song – mostly because our styles of writing are quite different and it's essentially a 'silly' song. So Brett stood at the door smoking a cigarette whilst I played. He started laughing so I shouted at him. He finished his cigarette and picked up his guitar and we wrote the outro – turned out he wasn't laughing at me but smiling.
"Mike Stack in the hut next overheard us practising and, with a gleefully stoned expression, came over to say it was the best song he had ever heard! I recorded this song at Banff too – using a Steinway grand piano which was life-affirming. Mike joined in for harmonica and the ever-smiling Tim Buckley (his words) got to 'indie-rock' out on acoustic guitar. I think it's at exactly this point my mind was made up about making an album with my new friends. My Banff Family. Subconsciously this song is probably about each and every one of them."
Lights In the Dark
"Also written at Banff! The two weeks there was intense and I left with four-and-a-half songs written (bear in mind that in 2016 I wrote a whopping four songs, one of which was a co-write). Lights In the Dark was the first song I wrote there. I find it really hard to put myself in the position of someone else when I am writing a song (perhaps something to work on). Everything is personal and based on personal experience – which can sometimes make it hard for those closest to me to listen to. Writing helps me find closure with certain situations, allowing me to reflect and ultimately put things in order so I can move on. Lights is one of those examples."
Meet Me In Paris
"For my mum's 70th birthday in June 2017, the entire family (both brothers and sister-in-laws and three nieces) all decamped to a big house in Leuchars for a weekend. We went to the beach in St. Andrews. Me and my brothers, Murray and Ross, used to come here every Summer as kids on a caravan holiday and loved running among the sand dunes. On this particular trip, I grabbed my eldest niece Zoe's hand and we ran right out to the edge of the tidewater. It felt like we were running for miles. It also felt wonderful and free.
"Zoe was wearing a long skirt and didn't want to get it wet from the sea water so I pulled a bobble out my hair and tied up her skirt into some weird DIY harem trousers. She responded by picking up a huge amount of wet seaweed and subsequently ran after me trying to throw it all over me. Sometimes life is brilliant. Paris is my favourite city in the world and my mum has always wanted to go saying she would 'love a man to take her.' I thought, 'Fuck that!' and took her in February before her birthday so she could experience it before turning 70. She loved it."
Never Had the Words
"I get insomnia now and then and can't sleep for days on end. But then I must sleep at points during this because I can get the most vivid lucid dreams. My friends say I have a terrible poker face and though I might not say what's on my mind they can clearly see it in my facial expressions. There's one time in my life that I didn't tell someone that I loved them when I did and I often wonder if they could see it in my eyes and on my face the whole time."
Wanting What I Can't Have
"Sometimes I never feel 'good enough'. Like an impostor. One of my sister-in-laws says I have had more boyfriends than she has had clean socks. Like Elizabeth Taylor minus the costume jewellery and divorce settlements. The lo-fi, twee Glasgow version. I read Alain de Botton's Essays In Love and felt like some parts of my life made sense. I lose interest pretty quickly as soon as I feel loved back. Probably due to not feeling 'good enough'.
"I wrote this late one summer evening while staying at my mum's (moved back home for a bit last year to sort myself out). I was hanging out the window with a cigarette with my old drum machine blasting out. It was really quick to write. Mishka Stein plays bass on this. When he recorded his part, every single one of us watched with our mouths hanging open. I love playing this live."
Milk & Honey
"Partly inspired by the film Sweet Charity, my good friend Blair Young (who I'm making a documentary with) gave me a copy on DVD last year and said I would love it. I did. It quickly entered my top 10 films of all time. Shirley MacLaine as the protagonist is outstanding. I identified with her character – in spite of my determination to be fully independent, sometimes I need to ask for help and don't. My first time ever on a recording playing drums. We tracked two kits – me on one and my best friend in the whole wide world, Debs Smith (TeenCanteen) on the other, side by side. I got a blister. Howard said that was the mark of a "true drummer." Shouting 'SUGAR' at the top of your voice with all your friends is one of the best things you can ever do. Silly pop."
Girl From Before
"I wrote this song start to finish in the space of two hours. I just started singing along without really thinking too much about it. This is the last song I wrote during my residency in Banff. I had a one-to-one session with Kim Richey – one of the greatest songwriters I've ever encountered. I went into the room and spoke to her about all my worries. That I constantly feel under pressure and never seem to be getting anywhere, I don't know where I want to get to and I always feel like I should be doing more. She just said 'FUCK THAT – I didn't get a deal 'til I was 38. Play me a song!' So I said I'd just written one and wasn't even sure what I was doing with it and played her Girl From Before. Her response was, 'I have no idea what the hell that was about but that was an anthem! Go and write one more verse and come back in an hour!' So I did!
"I have a past, and so does everyone else, and I've often encountered situations where people have made their mind up about me based on one experience of meeting me before, or even in music – sometimes someone's mind can be made up about you based on one song. I went to Michelle Joly's hut in the woods one night. She is a singer and songwriter to be reckoned with. She played me a new song and I played her this. She said she felt like a girl from before too."
"I guess you could say that this is technically the first song I wrote for this album. It was originally recorded as a B-side for the self-released TeenCanteen single You're Still Mine way back in 2014. Before going to record the album in Montreal last year, Brett [Nelson] flew over to Glasgow and we did some shows together and I started playing this song again – it had always been one of my favourites. He couldn't understand why I hadn't played it before. I love the TeenCanteen version but I think this new recording is what I'd always wanted to achieve with it. Vagabonds can be hard to be around."
"As soon as I wrote Lullaby I knew it would be the final song on the album. The full stop. On an Indian summer evening in September in Montreal, I sat outside Hotel2Tango in the dark with a cold can of beer from a vending machine and cried big fat tears of overwhelmed joy. We'd just finished recording the choir section at the end of the song which I had just finished writing. In that moment I knew me, Debs, Laura, Brett, Jesse, Kev, Shae and Howard had made something special and unique and that was an audio snapshot of a friendship that would last forever. Drums, timpani, strings, trumpets – all the things I constantly hear in my head finally captured on a recording."
Impossible Stuff is released on 5 Oct via Olive Grove Records; Carla J. Easton plays Leith Depot, Edinburgh, 20 Oct