I started writing 'Amelia' over Christmas 2016, whilst reading Andrew Sachs' autobiography. I didn't realise this, but he was German - and grew up as the son of a Jewish man in 1930s Berlin. In his book, he paints an incredible picture of what it was like to be a Jewish child growing up in such disturbing and uncertain times. I came up with the piano part first, and a rough melody - but couldn't work out what the song was about; I just had the lyric 'Amelia'. It was at about 3am after wrestling with it for the whole evening that I realised the song was meant to be about a little girl growing up in Sachs' position. Some of the early pages of Andrew Sachs' autobiography became an important source of inspiration and information for this song.
Musically, I had most of the songwriting done by the end of January - but lyrically I was working on it right up until we recorded it in June. Each time I thought I'd finished it, I'd find a new way to really bring out this idea of an innoncent little girl walking through such an evil situation; I'd find a new rhyme scheme to experiment with or something. It was quite difficult to balance the narrative correctly for this song - I had to land certain words at certain points, so as not too reveal to much early on.
I released a little video of myself and Chris Camm performing a version of the song around Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year. At the time I thought the song was quite close to being finished, but it still had quite a way to go!
From the off, I wanted to give 'Amelia' an interesting melody. This Randy Newman song 'In Germany Before The War', has always struck me as really painting a sense of the era and scene through it's melody. When I analysed it I found this is mainly due to the interval of a 6th he uses in the verses - it's not often used in melodies anymore (at least as much as it once was), and really creates a sense of the past; of wistfulness.
I tried to implement this in 'Amelia' but it didn't work as well as I'd hoped. Instead, I use dissonance in the melody in other ways - throughout the song. Notably, I use major 7ths quite a lot. This was to create a slightly unsettling feel; a sense of 'Amelia' - this bright shining signal reaching out unreceived into this doomed scene. It's particularly effective when the major 7th isn't played by the band - I'm sort of superimposing it into the harmony. It feels a little uncertain. It's subtle, but I think it adds something.
Here are quite a few demos. Some are very rough (they sound like somebody playing piano for the first time!), and some of the later ones are a little less so - but still quite a way from how the song sounds on the album.
Like most of the album, Amelia was recorded with us all in the same room. It's a live recording - everything happening at the same time. This was probably my favourite day of recording we had. There was an awesome vibe in the studio, we all had a really great time. Greg (drums), Chris (piano) and Frazer (double bass) absolutely smashed this one - and Tim and Frankie did an amazing job engineering.
You can hear 'Amelia' on my new album 'Throwing & Catching', when it's released on 21st November...
You can pre-order the album here