How do you usually write the lyrics of your songs?
Normally, I’ll play some random chords on an acoustic guitar until I find a progression I like, then sing whatever words and melody come into my head.
It’s not just about ideas and meaning, but how the words flow and how they interact with the melody.
When I get a line or two I like, I’ll grab a pen and paper and write them down. From there, I’ll start to flesh out the track. It usually involves singing those one or two lines over and over until something else sticks. You have to keep going until the ideas start to flow, which is getting harder and harder these days as the internet and social media have decimated my attention span.
Often, I will need to revisit the track over the course of a few weeks to get a whole song written. Or I’ll have a verse and a chorus before I take it to Adam (the composer/producer half of Empathy Test) and then write a second verse once the track is laid out.
What is the best verse you ever wrote?
That’s tough, because there’s a few songs now I’m very proud of. But as a couple of the next questions cover two of them, I’ll go with the first verse of ‘By My Side’.
Adam said it was the best thing I’d ever written, although he had “no idea what it was about”.
I think that’s why he liked it, because the meaning is deliberately obscured.
Oh, how we carry with us traumas of the past
Faithful to the moulds in which we’re cast.
Hand-me-down dysfunction, recidivist desire, watch me
Throw another lover on the fire.
There’s a great, white elephant, hidden in the room
Maybe you didn’t see him in the gloom.
You say that I am empty, emotionally devoid
Blame it on whatever, happened to the boy.
Maybe it’s better we don’t talk about it all
Maybe it’s better we don’t talk at all.
And one of your favourite songs ?
‘Lovesong’ by The Cure. It’s such a simple song and message, but somehow Robert Smith is able to deliver it in a way that never sounds clichéd, and with a weight of emotion that sends shivers down your spine.
How many times have we heard the words ‘I will always love you’ in a song? But somehow, he manages to make it sound like no one has ever sung those words before.
Can you tell us more about the song “Everything Will Work Out”?
When I was at university I had a very intense relationship which took me a very long time to get over. I wrote a lot of songs about it and a lot of Empathy Test’s most popular tracks, including Losing Touch, Last Night on Earth, Demons and Throwing Stones are about that relationship.
Everything Will Work Out is one of the last songs I wrote about it. The epilogue, if you like. It’s about realising that it’s finally over, that you’re ready to move on, and the feeling of relief that comes with that realisation.
It’s about letting go of regrets and finding closure. Adam’s composition is very effective in telling that story in a non-verbal way too, opening out at the end into this euphoric crescendo, which captures perfectly the rush of finally embracing the possibilities of the future.
What inspired “Losing Touch”?
Losing Touch comes before Everything Will Work Out, chronologically. It documents a dark time in which I kept going back to that person and they kept letting me in, despite the fact they were seeing someone new (the ‘him’ referenced in both tracks).
I remember at the time, Adam telling me I could do what I wanted but he didn’t want to hear about it anymore, he had told me enough times what he thought of the situation.
The song is full of mixed messages. At one point I’m saying I will always be there for that person, they can call me any time and I will be there, then I’m asking for space to move on. I was pretty mixed up.
Your new EP “Everything Will Work Out’” will be released at the beginning of November, is there a link that connects all the songs, lyrically speaking?
There are only two different songs on the EP; Everything Will Work Out and an acoustic version of Losing Touch. I think I’ve covered what links those two songs, lyrically! The other two tracks are remixes of Everything Will Work Out by Furniteur and Waterbaby.
What does music mean to you?
Music has always been a cathartic thing for me, a way of getting out all these complicated emotions that I had bottled up inside.
People don’t necessarily have to understand everything you are singing about or the situations you are describing, but they can feel what you are feeling and apply it to their own experiences, creating a higher level of communication that goes beyond words.
In that way, music creates empathy. All good art creates a safe space for us to explore and process difficult emotions.
That’s why, in part, the second of our twin debut albums is called Safe from Harm. Whether or not it is good art is open to debate.