“I conceived of the record as a compilation of myself, over the period of a year,” says Meilyr Jones. “As an anthology, a collection of my songs and of what happened to me in that year.” The year in question was 2013, a curious time in Jones’s life, when the weeks were scored by loss and pleasure and revelation, and when he made a short but transformative trip to Rome, drawn by a fascination with sculpture and Byron and Berlioz, and by a desire “to see something new and different.”
In Italy he lived differently. “I’d go out every day, walking for hours, go to churches, just to see paintings,” he says. He spoke no Italian but lived with Romans, joining them for late night dinners and early morning drinking, and in that way of living he found “There was this spirit - that again I’d felt in Byron’s poetry - that was sweet but also really resilient.”
The songs that emerged from that time proved quite different to anything he had written before; 13 songs in which joy and rapture are tempered by wit and keen-eyed humour, by jubilant pop melody and rock and roll muscularity.
Returning to London, he decided to set about recording. Five of the songs he had conceived as orchestral pieces, and so he assembled a 30-strong orchestra “out of friends, and friends of friends of friends,”. There was a saxophonist, a bassoonist, a clarinetist, some classical players, jazz, brass, a French harpist, and Lucy Mercer from Stealing Sheep on drums.
Over the course of a day they recorded the main body of the tracks Olivia, Return to Life, Passionate Friend, Rome and Be Soft, the songs later embellished with further additions - a community choir in Glasgow, field recordings of birds, three trombonists recorded in a cemetery, among them. “I wanted to make something that felt right to me and expressed my interests, which are classical music and rock‘n’roll music, and films, and nature and karaoke, and tacky stuff,” Jones says. “And I wanted to capture that feeling in Rome of high culture and low-brow stuff all mixed together.”
What Italy gave him was the notion of a “rich internal life” to be explored: the quiet contemplation of a church at midday, the wonder of sculptural form, a desire for grace, epic poetry and baroque violin. The collection of songs that it led to are as various, unusual, and contrary as all of the pieces that make up a person. It is the sound of a young man discovering just who he is.
1 How To Recognise A Work of Art
2 Don Juan
3 Passionate Friend
6 Rain In Rome
7 Strange Emotional
8 Return To Life
11 Featured Artist
12 Be Soft
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