AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

I have spent the day in the studio with Bo Jones.
Those of you that have been reading my blog a while, or who know us, will know what a trial this has been.

He is a pain in the bum to be frank.

But, as I have said before, he is the only one I trust to ask the tricky questions. He is the one that isn’t bothered about upsetting me. He insists on his questions being answered, and laughs at me while I fluff about for an answer.

He often makes me feel stupid and complacent and lazy.

A visitation from Bo is like being artistically poked with a very sharp stick.

He also said he could probably write this blog post for me, because he knows exactly what I will write! Smart Arse…. but yes, he probably can. That’s the thing about smart arses, they are usually right.


So… questions to ask then:

  • How are the bras related to the songs?
  • Are the bras or songs not strong enough on their own?
  • Why nine bras? wouldn’t three/six/seven/or more likely one say the same?
  • Is “nine” just an affectation? (oh I expect so)
  • Am I happy with that to be the case even if I end up choosing say five bras and seven songs?
  • I said I wanted all the songs done, and all the bras made, and then I would go through a selection process. Trouble is, by committing myself to this nine women concept, has that selection, in a sense, already been made?
  • Is that Ok?
  • Am I happy for that to be the case, at least for the July show in Dudley?
  • The reason this project carries on after the July show is so that I can continue to explore it, show it in different ways. Make some adjustments and developments.
  • How am I avoiding tautology? (I don’t think I am avoiding it!) (am I bothered?) (should I be?)


Bo likes the drawings.

The drawings were originally almost like a documentary evidence sort of thing, but I like them too. He’s the second person this week to say they are architectural/topographical…. how do they relate to the songs? Or to the altered, more sculptural bras? I think they deserve some sort of place here… but I’m not sure. Also, the drawings are saleable. This is no small consideration.

I suspect, what I have – or will – end up with are actually three lots of work, each that are able to stand alone. My question will be then, either before or after July will be how do I do that? I could do with some experienced curators etc to come look at this and talk to me about it.
(or I could really punish myself and ask Bo back)

My initial reaction, is to do the show as I planned. (“Cop out!” shouts Bo.) Nine bras, nine songs. Get them up in the space. Invite discussion and critique. Record this all, then spend August re-evaluating what I have, so that by the end of 2015, I have indeed moved on. What I’m thinking is that changing the plan before July is getting ahead of myself. At the moment, I don’t have anything concrete to review or evaluate.

I shall be interested to hear what Debra says about how the work in the combination of garment and song, is received in New York.

I acknowledged that the pressure is on when you get funding, to provide what you have said you will provide.

Don’t worry Arts Council, you will. Actually you have already got more for your money than promised. I’m getting more out of it than expected too.

My biggest ambition for this year though, is that I start 2016 in a different place. That I will have skills I didn’t have before, I will have experience I didn’t have before, and that I see a way forward.

I hope to god Bo or I don’t ever say anything that upsets us, and we stop being friends, because actually I have got more out of today than I have working and thinking on my own for the last couple of months.

He also said this blog has become my comfort blanket. Don’t care.

Over the next few weeks while I process all of this, I expect there will be doubts about what I’ve done so far, and where I’m headed. This is actually a good thing, because when it has all been thought about, I will come out of the other end with a fairer and firmer view of what I’m doing.

My brain is fizzing, and it hurts. I’m off home to lie down in a darkened room.

Did I miss anything out, Bo?



AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

The body clock thing is completely confused. Circadian rhythms have become a cacophony to be likened to that outside Farmfoods on a Saturday afternoon.
The rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has its ups, but this is most definitely a down for a woman of a certain age.

I have to admit, the spaced out feeling has been exacerbated this weekend by my husband and son going to Wembley, then having to get my son back to Liverpool airport at 6am, with the M6 closed for a big chunk. He had to get back to the Isle of Man for his teaching practice. So today I got up twice.
But having working days that sometimes go from 2-10, or 6-12 in the evening, and then maybe 9-5 just to throw a normal spanner in the works, plays havoc with my already wonky sleep patterns, and trying to get a balanced diet.
I try to have a bowl of fruit in the studio, and a pot of instant porridge, but when you’re cold and hungry and there’s a man in a van doing bacon and sausage…. It’s tempting. I try not to give in too often.

So that’s the bad bit… The good bit is this…

I don’t have a clock in my studio, and I usually pop my phone in my coat pocket while we are working. To be free from time is liberating. To not have a bell ring after 20 odd years in education, to not have a family to cook for, to have a retired husband that’s willing to go with the flow is great. I have 100% focus on the job in hand, at least while I’m doing it, and a lot of the time when I’m not!

I have a sense of euphoria after yesterday (although it may be sleep depravation).
We finished off “Reputation”. This was the last song of the 12 we will work on, that I have a demo/sketch for. It is constructed entirely from my vocals… Patched… Pieced…. Overlaid… Manipulated… Altered…. It’s taken us hours to do, but I think it sounds great. I’m doing that thing where every song we finish, as I finish it, is my favourite.

So we sit back, listen, save it and back it up to various devices, and put it away for a few days. Once you do this, then listen afresh, it is easier to be objective about any changes that might be needed.


Cup of tea, trip to the weirdest pub for lunch…(“it’s not bad, it’s just……..WEIRD”) then back to the studio to look at what’s left of the 12 songs: “Delicate”, “Someone”, and “Cautious”.

“Someone” is just about ten lines, and I have a bit of melody in my head for the first two of them. “Delicate” is more like a piece of prose. I hear no obvious rhythms when I read it aloud. I have embroidered all these words onto a bra, so I don’t feel they all need to be sung, in this way, or even in a way that they are discernible. I wonder about it being spoken rather than sung.
“Cautious” is five, four-line verses, standard formation you might say. But no melody ideas. We put that on one side for a while.
Starting with “Someone”, I sing the bit of melody, Dan noodles about a bit on his guitar, and in no time we have a decent thing going for verse. A couple of the lines turned into a chorus. To me this is magic. When I got home, and listened again, I remembered what had inspired the song, and I shed a little tear or two. Overtired and overwrought perhaps. This song is my favourite!

“Delicate” is about my son, born a few weeks prematurely. Dan said he had a few delicate riffs we could try… I have to say, he is a generous and caring, supportive and encouraging collaborator. He played, allowing me to explore my words, humming, singing, adjusting words as I go… When it seems I’ve found something that fits, he plays it repeatedly, and I sing it over and over till I’m sure, then he hits the record button just to capture the thought before it evaporates, then move on to the next section. This one’s my favourite!

I’m never quite sure how it has happened afterwards… He played an enormous part in the creation of these songs, he guided and suggested, but while it was happening, I felt it was all about my ideas… That has to be a true gift doesn’t it?



AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

Today I have been getting my geek on.
The next song is to be constructed, collage and patchwork fashion, purely from vocals.

Dan is an analogue kind of man.
Acoustic would win over digital every time when it comes to the sound of something. Same with me. We had a discussion about it right at the beginning: where at all possible, it would be real instruments and real musicians…being paid real money for their work.
But we work with the technology of the digital age. Some discussions we have weigh the pros and cons… Sometimes, like today we start doing something gloriously low tech, only to discover we have wasted our time, because actually, we need the help of the digital to make the task feasible. For the totally vocal then… We needed to work to a backing track of something rhythmic and percussive. Much time was spent recording and looping, only to discover that nothing we layered over the top of it fitted, everything was very very slightly out of time. So, irritatingly, after having had the discussion about NOT using a click track, we used a click track…. Actually we used a drum loop, which once used, will be removed, but it has given us the framework upon which to build the rest more easily. Lesson learned!
So having given in to the technology… Actually, if you’ve seen the photos, it isn’t actually very analogue… It’s a bit of an Apple-fest on my studio desk… But in spirit, we are singing round the campfire, with a guitar with a rainbow strap.

One part of the process I hadn’t really given much consideration to, was the sequencing of the songs. We have just sent six completed songs to Debra Eck at the 3rd on 3rd Gallery in Jamestown, to be shown with six of the bras as part of a joint show with Jodi Hopper that Deb is curating.
I wanted to send a complete piece so that Debra could just press go and it would play, no faffing about… So of course more decisions had to be made.
We could of course have just plonked the songs randomly into a playlist and be done with it…. But actually, with a little (or a lot) more care and thought, this becomes a single piece of work.
I found myself ensnared in detail… How did one song end and another begin?
Some things were obvious… “Invisibility” had to be the opener as it has become a sort of theme tune to the show, and ” Numb” the closer as it has a bit of dirty laughter at the end, which would prove difficult to lead into another song. “Composure” ends with the sounds of birdcage walk and the bus station next to my studio, “Crewe” starts with a train, so those merge together. The first notes of “Numb” follow on well from “Crewe”, so they go together… I find myself engrossed by this painstaking process… Where to cut, where to cross-fade, where to have silence, and how much?
(Actually, silence is stark and horrible, spaces between songs are better when filled with the not-quite-white-noise provided by the street outside)

But it’s no different to the visual at all. The decisions are the same! It is, to me, a visual thing. These songs are pictures, paintings, snapshots, video, stories…. They are people too.
Where the joins are and how they are made is no different… Cut according to cloth. Be mindful of the accidental and incidental. The flaw in the cloth that I choose to embellish is no different at all to the accidentally captured yell of a bus driver, or the beep of the pelican crossing.

Some of the incidental details are a joy, really. Dan and I do understand that the majority of people won’t hear them, or notice them. We also realise that some people might just think they are “dirty” recordings. To me, these bits are as much the art as the writing of the songs. In these details are the context… The texture… The life…. The reality.

So, when/if you hear this, the squeal of bus brakes is there intentionally. As is the birdsong, as is me going “hmmm” and Dan’s whispered “fffuck!”



ok folks…
not so many words
just a song…

and credit where credit is due:

Lyrics: Elena Thomas
Music: Simon Coverdale

Vocal: Elena Thomas
Acoustic Guitar: Simon Coverdale
Electric guitar: Dan Whitehouse
Bass: Dave Sutherland

Production: Dan Whitehouse


Invisibility is not a Super-Power
(click on the blue to go straight to the track on soundcloud)

Invisibility is not a super power

Curse of the middle aged woman

I could dye my hair orange

and wear silver shoes and no one would bat an eye


I’ve never been the sort to turn heads

But at least I am seen if they look

I might get a man to gaze in my eyes

At least if he wanted a ffff…..


I’m not 24 – not any more

I don’t have skin like a peach

I’ve laughed all my wrinkles in place

Touch me I’m not out of reach


Invisibility is not a super power

But sometimes it helps

I walk this life all on my own

I get a good view from this shelf


You’ve no idea of the power that you have

When you look at me with those blue eyes

The fact that you see me at all makes me shiver

And any resistance just dies 



AUDIOBLOG – Please click here

It’s hard to define why it’s so much fun really…

You sit in a room with the same people for hours. You record stuff, sometimes repetitively. You drink tea and eat biscuits. Then you sit and listen to what you’ve recorded. Sometimes you listen to the same bit over and over. Then you record it again. Then you listen again.

Chris Cleverley came in to record guitar and banjo for the song “Numb”, and worked up the most beautiful vocals – he has a great voice. He had an idea for some harmonies, so we recorded those, then another bit: three part harmonies over a chorus…. Oh it sounded so sweet…. It’s playful, this process, if it is allowed to be, if there’s breathing space for people to try things out. That was part of the remit, The Agreement between Dan and I, that there should be time to play, and to allow the session musicians coming in to be part of the creativity. If you don’t allow that, you might as well do it all digitally. Where’s the joy in that? Experienced musicians come up with stuff I couldn’t imagine in a thousand recording sessions… little moments of magic that lift a whole song. One chord change can rip your heart out.


Then I put the kettle on, go to the loo, walk about a bit and listen some more. Eat some crisps.


But then when we’d had the cup of tea, we listened and decided, wonderful though they are, they are unnecessary. As Chris said, this is a tragic song. My vocal is intimate, real… Not always where it should be… There is fragility, vulnerability…. This woman’s song doesn’t require the extras. This woman’s tragedy isn’t a big production. It is lonely and sad.

So we stripped them back out again. When we play it in the car, we can do the harmonies ourselves… But for the recording, less is most definitely more.

And yet this morning, I’m wavering again… Maybe just my voice, just a little on the chorus? It really did sound good, but, as Chris wisely questioned “Does it service the song?”

So we have another one in the bag. Thats two totally finished, one finished other than a violin, and this one that is finished, but I might just record some harmony vocals just to make sure.

Next week hopefully we should record no 5 and no 6… possibly no 7 if there’s time…


(Dan had captured me saying “yep” and pressed play whenever he required an answer. Small things become hysterical after five hours… maybe that’s where the fun is too, in the bits in between?)



Chris Cleverley on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/chris-cleverley
and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chriscleverleymusic?fref=ts

and of course, Dan is found at: www.dan-whitehouse.com