Every once in a while an artist comes along and truly knocks you off your feet and reminds you why you fell in love with music as an art form in the first place. For us, that happened with George Baines’ debut EP Something Deeper. Taking influence from the worlds of acoustic folk (think Father John Misty dabbling with the inventiveness of Bon Iver), with a sprig of chart-worthy melodica thrown in for good measure, it’s truly a thing of beauty; subsequently showcasing Baines as a natural musical storyteller as well as an artist with a true knack for honest, expansive and shrewd songwriting that truly packs a tender emotional punch.
Simply put, it’s a record that we haven’t stopped spinning since its launch on the 29th March. To celebrate the release of the EP, we decided to chat to Baines about the inception of the record and the project’s musical influences. Very kindly, too, he’s taken us through the record track-by-track to explain the ins and outs of one of the finest EPs we’ve heard in a very long time. Welcome to the mind and soul of George Baines, and get ready to meet your new favourite artist…
George Baines – Something Deeper:
Tell us a little bit about the inception of Something Deeper…
Before this release, I put out a couple of singles that were much more ‘pop’ & although in hindsight I didn’t entirely loathe them, I did have a bit of an identity crisis. I knew that I had to return to acoustic folk. My problem was, I didn’t know of anyone willing to produce these less commercial songs that I’d been stockpiling, so I decided to do it myself. In May last year, I drove up to my mate’s cottage in the Peak District & recorded the basis for the 7 tracks that make up the project. I later finished off tracking the recordings in my flat in Brighton, recording my brother Sam’s drum parts in the front room. After mixing them, I took them to Alex Gordon at Abbey Road Studios, who did an incredible job of mastering the tunes, he really helped pull it all together with the finishing touches.
And what were the musical touchstones for the project?
I think there a quite a few nods to my biggest influences that you can hear in the project, I’ve been told that a bit of Bon Iver, James Blake and Pinegrove comes through so i’m obviously very pleased with that! But I think my main influence in terms of how it sounds is probably Elliott Smith, the double tracked vocal & acoustic guitar was something that I wanted to be a theme throughout.
Take us track by track through Something Deeper…
I usually like to think that if the meaning of the song doesn’t become apparent to the listener by listening to it, then the song may be shite. But there are definitely some things I’d like to say about these songs:
“I wrote Off Key around 5 years ago & never knew how it should sound recorded. I wrote it at a time when I was stacking shelves every day before I came to Brighton to study songwriting. It’s about the confinement of village life & how quickly your aspirations can become pipe dreams. I think I could’ve easily arranged this song as a smooth 6/8 jam, but it’s supposed to feel more irritant & frustrated than that. My mate Sergio Selva played the keys and string parts on the recording & he did bits, I’m really proud of how it turned out.”
“This is a relatively new tune, quite a bleak one, too. The main theme is moving away from home and missing your friends, but the other message is about not wanting to speak out about being down – for fear of bringing others down with you. It’s hard for some blokes to talk about that stuff I think. I really like how the acoustic guitars turned out on this one and most of the tracks were recorded without a click, so it moves at it’s own pace (conveniently, I’ve got a very patient drummer…)”
“Something Deeper (Interlude)”
“This song started life as an instrumental but I thought it would be nice to focus it around a verse that summed up the whole concept of the project. I think our attention spans are getting shorter, probably because of the way that social media formats our entertainment.. I used to get so invested in albums like Bon Iver’s For Emma when I was younger & I feel like that doesn’t happen so much anymore. So I set out to create a project that, hopefully, you can get more out of with every listen. Also, I really went ham on the vocal auto-harmonies on this track, I’ve been such a fan of that effect since the early James Blake stuff & it features on all 7 tracks of this project!”
“I wrote the riff to this when I was 22 (I’m 24 now), and the words are what took me so long to finish it. I wanted to start the song off by talking about my own insignificant issues like the “holes in my socks” and end up talking about the real horrid shit that I’ve seen happen in the world in my lifetime – basically to remind me of why I should consider myself lucky. The synth that you can hear is a 1981 Omnichord, which is like a cross between a synth harp & an accordion. It features in some way on every track, kind of like a theme, I love it, you have to tune it with a screwdriver in hole in the back.”
“I initially wanted this to be the chorus for 22, but it never worked so I decided it had to be another song. I had the most trouble recording this tune, I was so close to cutting it from the album, but I managed to salvage it I think. I’m glad I didn’t cut it because it seems to have been a few people’s favourite, which is crazy, because it was a complete state. Then again, it’s supposed to be a bit of a mess, so I’m just going to have conviction with it.”
“I wrote Sorry from the perspective of somebody who has taken their own life, and what they might say to the person they love. Seems very dark I know, but it’s more about the reasons NOT to take your life, the idea of leaving that person to then take on life without you there. Noteworthy: there is also a guitar break at the end of this tune which is my amateur impression of a guitar solo.”
“December (Quiet Christmas)”
“Out of every song I’ve ever written this has been by far the hardest to articulate. I think it’s difficult as a songwriter to get the right balance of personal experience and detail in a song without being overly blatant and matter of fact. The real craft is to tell the story by giving away as little as possible. My hope with this tune is that everyone who listens to it will relate to it in a way that’s personal to them. In hindsight, releasing a Christmas song in spring was probably not my most strategic play.”