I actually wrote the first version of I Don't Know Your Name several years ago, for my then band The Peryls. The bare bones of it came together pretty quickly; I wanted to write something about identity and the challenges of finding intimacy with someone else when we feel so "other" ourselves. The Chorus had a strong hook and the structure was together enough to take it to the guys. We were in the midst of writing an album at the time and this Waitsy little ballad was right up our street.
Songwriting within a band situation is a tricky beast. You rock up to the studio with a chord chart and a winning attitude, and gather everyone round for a rendition. You might begin with a bit of talk about vibe and how deep the lyrics are. You might look pointedly at the guitarist and talk enthusiastically about how much space there is for an extended solo. In short, you're trying to sell this song to your mates and get them on board to play it with you.
One of the absolute joys of writing with others is exploring your music from another perspective and being challenged to try something different. As I figured it would be, I Don't Know Your Name was an instant hit in the room, with everyone keen to get stuck in and pull together an arrangement. I'd presented it with much the same groove that it has now - 3/4, laid back tempo, hypnotic vibe - very much a signature Peryls sound.
As a band, it was a bit of a strange time for us. We'd picked up a publishing deal on the strength of our last album and with this next record, were keen to capitalise on it and get more commercial success. If I'm honest, we were hoping for some hits. I think it was that kind of headspace that led us into playing around the feel of this song and morphing it into a driving, massive, fuck off rock song. It was a huge departure for us and an awful lot of fun to play. We added it to our live set and it always got a really enthusiastic response from a crowd. It was recorded along with 14 other tracks for that album, and that's where its journey ended. The energetic, almost euphoric feeling that we captured live, just didn't translate on record and sadly, it didn't make the cut. I was pretty gutted as I knew there was a great song in there somewhere, but it was the right decision.
I've talked about this in another post, but as GTH is my first genuinely solo project, it felt really important for it's first release to be something that I took absolute ownership of. Revisiting I Don't Know Your Name and taking it back to my original imaginings has been an empowering process. As a solo artist, my recording process is very different from that of a band and I began by stripping this right back to my key elements - voice and piano. This gave me space to build the texture that would support the story this song tells. I wanted there to be a slightly sinister, other worldly feel, so I kept the vocal light and silvery, which contrasts with the dirginess of the bass. You'll hear a little mandolin, distant whispering and some beautiful, featherlike drums - it really brings the lyrics to life and I love where it has gone.
The journey this song has been on reflects my own path as an artist - the influences have been varied and many, but ultimately these are my words, my sounds and my songs - I can't wait to share them with you.