The Lighthouse by S J Denney

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Not so long ago I shared the post ‘Introducing S J Denney’ in which I talked about this musician and his amazing lyrical talent. During my review I talked about how I was looking forward to hearing how his music would develop, well I didn’t have to wait too long as he is back with his new EP called ‘The Lighthouse’. Before I share my thoughts on this release I got to ask S J Denney about working on the new material and a little bit more. This is what he had to say:

What were your goals when working on ‘The Lighthouse EP’?

I had a number of goals really:

1) To make my strongest set of songs yet

2) To continue to up my lyrical game

3) To make a diverse record and create a clear identity.  Obviously, my influences will always shine through, but I’m beginning to feel comfortable with just sounding like S J Denney.

4) To make a concept record, where everything fits into a central theme

5) To make a record with a big sound that still stands up acoustically in a live environment.  For that reason, I was very keen to make sure that the electric guitar stuck to lead parts and he acoustic rhythm tracks were always audible.

During the process of putting this EP together, what were the highs and lows?

The highs:

– The songs just poured out.  They were all written quickly and the whole record was composed in a couple of weeks.  In fact, I actually woke up early one Saturday morning with ‘This Is Where It Rains’ written.  For some strange reason, I was performing it in my dream.  I’m also really happy with how the brass section (in my head) ended up sounding on that song.

– Writing a piano led song.  To be honest, I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing on that instrument!  It’s all guess work.  I’ve written about four songs on the piano and would not be able to play anything by anybody else.  Previously, I’ve come up with some odd lines to fill out a song, but it was nice to be able to do something a bit different.  For me, it just shows that a songwriter can get a sound out of anything.  I was also a bit unsure about whether I was good enough to perform the track on the record.  Mat Leppanen (my wonderful producer) convinced me that I was being stupid, which was nice (I guess).

– Refining the songs with Ville Leppanen…  Over Christmas we had a really productive session to play through the songs and be ruthless in cutting bits out.  He was also really helpful during the writing process.  I’d send him MP3s in the middle of the night entitled ‘my latest song’.  He’d come back quickly and tell me that I needed to write a Middle-8 etc.  It sounds silly, but it really makes a difference.

– Being told by Donal Whelan (at Hafod Mastering) that I’d made a great record.  Mastering engineers tend to keep their opinions to themselves, as they’re focussed on job in hand (making the record sound great sonically).  As such, getting such nice feedback from a guy who hears so much material was very encouraging.

– Finally, putting the artwork together.  To me, artwork is still very important.  If I’m honest, I think a lot of covers are boring these days.  I always want my artwork to represent the music and tell a story.  From the start, I had a clear vision of how I wanted it to look and I worked with Maxine Jones (a wonderful designer) to turn that vision into reality.

The lows:

– There’s only one low to the process and it’s a one of great magnitude.  The disc was recorded on the week commencing 11th January.  That morning, I managed to get to the studio (in London) without hearing or seeing any news.  When Mat got to the studio, he told me that David Bowie had passed away.  I never thought that I could be so shocked about the passing of somebody I didn’t know personally.  However, it knocked me for six.  In-between takes we jammed on a lot of his songs and I placed his picture on the piano for the sessions.  The only positive I can take from it is that it really encouraged me to follow my creative instinct and stopped me worrying about what people would think about ‘that different idea’.

How did it feel when you heard the final version of the EP?

It was the proudest I’ve felt about any of my work.  However, it’s also the most nervous that I’ve been.  I’m well aware that I’ve made a record that is quite different to my previous efforts. 

What is your favourite song from this release and why?

I’d probably have to pick ‘Across the Waves’ because I’ve surprised myself with my (acceptable) piano skills.

Now ‘The Lighthouse EP’ is released, what are your future goals for your music?

I want to promote this record more than I have with my previous outings.  Making this EP has made me feel like I’m ready to take the next step.  With this in mind, I’m going to bombard a lot of people in the industry.  I think it’s time to knock down the walls!  Additionally, I intend to make a video to support the release.  And as always, I will have a ‘cooling-off period’ where I start to enjoy the EP as a listener.  Then, I’ll be in a position to learn from the process and improve my craft.

S J has a great grasp on songwriting which can be heard on his previous releases that offer a sound that is a blend of indie Britpop and folk all with an acoustic twist. For me, ‘The Lighthouse’ EP feels different to all his previous works as it feels more personal due it’s delicate and intimate sound which I really like it. I am not sure what has changed with his music since his last EP or if he has approached it from a different angle, but the end result has surprised me and not many musicians normally do that to me.

From the start ‘Follow Me’ introduces you to a grounded acoustic sound. This gives the listener the opportunity to hear what makes S J’s music standout, which for me is his lyrical content. I like how he can he adds so much depth with his words and delivers them in a story telling manner that is just right for the listener to take in. Each song shares this quality. The title track ‘The Lighthouse’ shows off his way with words which is a highlight for me. I really like this song but if I’m honest the drum beat put me off on the first listen but when I listened to the song again and focused on the lyrics I appreciated the song a lot more. Just saying it as I hear it.

Musically, the arrangement is beautifully done which helps to give each song it’s own character. My favourite song ‘Across the Waves’ perfectly demonstrates this side to his songwriting ability. I love how the piano sets the tone and atmosphere on this song. I am not used to him using the keys like this in his music, and personally I would like to hear more in the future. This song also gives you the best display of S J’s vocal talents which sound amazing. It’s not just on this song but throughout the EP it definitely feels his voice has become much stronger and he is more confident on how he uses it to deliver his lyrics.

I was so happy to hear that S J was releasing new music but I did not expect what he has delivered with ‘The Lighthouse EP’. Head over to his Soundcloud page (click HERE) to listen to the EP in full and see if you agree with me that this is a great collection of songs. If you like what you are listening to and want to download a copy of it then head to the usual online stores like iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.

I have nothing but respect for musicians who evolve their music especially in the way that S J Denney has done with this EP. I can’t  wait to hear what his future music will offer, personally I hope he continues with this sound. If you feel the same about his music and want to find out more and about future shows then head over to his website at SJSongs.co.uk. You can also check out his social media sites on Facebook and Twitter as he likes to keep his fans updated on there too. Feel free to say hello as he likes to connect with fans.

As always, independent musicians like S J Denney need the helps of their fans so their music can grow and get to new listeners. So, if you are liking what you are listening to then tell your friends about the music of S J Denney by using social media or any other mode of communication. Support the music that matters to you today!