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 The Hidden Backstory: “Mobilize, pelican dive : Better way to put it, get out of here” 

Song FREEWAY is such an upbeat number, a track based on the personal experience of an idyllic Gulf coast road trip with my brother Stephen; and largely about the joys of travel. So why include ominous lines, “Mobilize, pelican dive : Better way to put it, get out of here”?

The ‘Deepwater Horizon’ disaster happens not too long after our return from the trip. Almost by default a reference appears in Steve's post trip poem and subsequently ends up in a first draft of the song as a sombre interlude - lyrics as follows: 

“42 to a barrel 

Men will quarrel again tomorrow 

We are warm in the Winter 

Precious well set in motion 

The spoils of oil 

Have oil, will travel 

It is bleeding thick and fast 

From a hole in the ocean

Ocean…”

Such a tragedy - around an upbeat piano slap - just does not fit, and so this section is omitted from the final version of the song.

Meanwhile and all the while my heart goes out to the pelicans these large, prehistoric-looking birds quite comical of gait and yet so majestic in flight.

Florida and the Gulf coastlines are home to (specifically) the Brown Pelican. 

At Clearwater Beach I find them on the water around the pier and resting on pilings and at the harbor. They can’t help but grab the attention. I watch them fly gracefully in V formations along the breakwaters. It’s a fantastic and peaceful experience to witness a Brown pelican catch fish. It performs an awe-inspiring dive, head-first from as high as 65 feet over the ocean - tucking and twisting to the left to protect its throat. On plunging into the sea, its pouch fills with water while its throat expands and traps a tasty meal.

Pelicans being part of the Floridian identity, they have now also become an image that is representative of the wildlife so dreadfully affected by the oil spill.

And so, the two ominous lines remain within the song as an incongruous and reflective reminder. 

*   *   * 

More on the Brown Pelican, in historical context...

In 1970 Brown Pelicans are put onto the Endangered Species List. The pesticide Endrin kills them outright while DDT leads to thin shelled eggs that break under the weight of the parents. DDT is banned and use of Endrin reduced, and pelican numbers rise until – in November 2009 - they receive a welcome ‘delisted’ status. 

Only a few short months later - on April 20th 2010 - the British Petroleum ‘Deepwater Horizon’ oil platform explodes. Many human lives are lost. It is the worst environmental disaster in American history. Around 200 million gallons of oil pour into the Gulf of Mexico. Media share horrific pictures of oil-drenched wildlife that brings tears to the eyes of everyone watching. Pelicans harmed, are reported to be around 10,000. 

There are common daily risks for the species. Humans can panic them and cause them to abandon their nests. There are those who like to collect their eggs. Others will hunt and kill them. Around 700 pelicans die annually in Florida due to being entangled in fishing line. 

Brown Pelican populations have stabilized and remain delisted thanks to continued conservation efforts and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

They are still regarded as a Species of Moderate Concern. 

As much as we love to co-exist with these gracious birds and (seemingly) they too with us, this is a shout for the Brown Pelicans.

Credit References:

photo by Alison Fleming
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Brown_Pelican/lifehistory 
https://www.audubon.org/news/audubon-remembers-deepwater-horizon-accountability-matters

Creating the Freeway CDs 

[photo: St Augustine Beach, FL. By Frank Fleming]

The decision to create an album starts quite ordinarily, towards the end of 2012. I'm approached by Producer Paul Baggott (UK) who offers to tidy up a demo and...one song leads to another. With a canny chemistry of creative-understanding, the collaboration gains momentum and there is no stopping us.

2012 might seem a good while ago now and 'finally to mastering in 2017', you might view as a long time to create a couple of albums, but to me 2012 feels like yesterday. How long it can take to get one song in the bag to perceive it as sounding ‘just perfect’. Working over the internet is a great way to work and has its challenges too in that, working in studio is a flick of the switch, whereas working over the internet is an email, a revised demo and a new look-listen, and then repeat. We are not compromised by time. Paul has the patience of jobe, his mission being to reproduce what the writer wants to hear, and by hook or by crook we continue on track.

While Freeway is in progress, I also have the pleasure of taking a look at two stonking albums with Tony Lowe; I spend two weeks of 2013 in the UK for recording sessions at Tony's studios in beautiful Dorset, on the album 'Human Sleeping - dreams 1 to 8' coming out with super reviews, in July 2014. The following year I submit some lyrics and backing vocals towards the symphonic progressive rock project 'esp-Invisible Din' released November 2016 and includes iconic performances by renowned musicians come household names in the world of progressive rock music, including not least, David Cross (King Crimson) and David Jackson (Van Der Graf Generator).

These breaks away from my little solo project Freeway prove to be very helpful. We are able to come back to it with fresh ears and eyes.

The Freeway (songwriter album)  takes the lion's share of time to complete, followed fast on its heels with Freeway - The Remixes, the electronic dance version courtesy of Paul Baggott’s excellent muse. Paul also does a magnificent job of keeping things separate so as to not create confusion while working remotely. First songwriter, then dance, and everything in its place... then - after braving lots of editing to the betterment etc - on to mastering!

We opt for separation mastering, whereby audio files are split into a chosen number of respective groups such as drums, bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals. Then are mixed into what are called stems. Then the stems are put together. This allows a lot more control over frequencies and levels per group so as to retain clarity and create the best stereo mix of the whole. We are well-impressed with the results - warmth and clarity, breadth and depth, good job.

Now - all set - but just one thing...how to present the albums to the world...as a Double or two Singles? We are conflicted because although both albums are born of the same root demos, each album is best classed under a different genre. We decide first-off to keep them separate as two Singles, then we'll see.

Album titles. The track Freeway is chosen to be the songwriter album single, and so both albums take on the name, the dance version with the addition of 'The Remixes'. Freeway is also the first track on each album. Incidentally, it's the only track where song and dance versions sound similar. The Remixes really are a whole different kettle of fish, and so we decide to give all of them new names.

With the titles and distribution challenges sorted, now to the 'project backdrop'. How should the two albums be aired? Well...Freeway, is a musical poem about a coast road trip and - with all the name implies - it doesn't take long for imagery to unfold - of travel, freedom, sea, sky, beaches and horizons.

It all falls into place. We decide to present the songs as the imaginings and nostalgia of an open mind lost in thought on a beach somewhere having been lulled into an altered state by the ambience of the surroundings. Likewise with the remixes, with an additional inference of holiday and celebration. A poem inside the lyrics booklet introduces this notion. Still, we know, at the end of the day every song is an island for the listener alone.

Cover designs start off as the photo (top) - a shot taken by hubby Frank at St Augustine Beach FL. The skies and clouds are beautiful. The beach is almost deserted. A version of this pic might work for the songwriter album. However, it doesn't quite cut it for The Remixes. We need something generic.

With this in mind, Paul suggests a photo he's taken of a boardwalk in Tenerife. He creates cover artwork with a textured grungy feel and suggests blue for songwriter version and red for the remixes. Separateness and connectivity achieved, and a smart looking pair, these win in a walk and become the covers.

The two Freeway albums hit the airwaves 29th September 2017, are distributed through CD Baby, and both are receiving positive reviews.

Next, four of the Remixes tracks - Sine Wave, Driver on Whisky, Heart Dance and ROA Dance,  score featured status between 31 July and 17 September 2018 on Reverbnation.

May18th, 2018 the Double album of both arrives on the scene, though for download-only. New and orange cover too so as not to cause confusion. The Freeway connectedness triumphs in the end!

Latest! A Limited Edition Bundle of all three plus, is available while stocks last at Alison's Bandcamp Page.

 

Conjuring the Lyrics to Freeway 

Freeway – a song about a road trip and a free spirit

It all started with Steve’s poem. Stephen is my brother. While being a natural poet, he has spent a large part of his life working on oil rigs and in heavy industry. 

A few years ago, the winter holiday season presented one of those freak occasions…a need to bring a car back and the perfect opportunity to embark on a 1000-mile road trip just the two of us, from Orlando Florida to Springfield Missouri. 

Early January the weather in Florida was nicely warm and dry. The remainder of our party was to fly back to Missouri. After breakfast, goodbyes were exchanged and - not really planning a thing – our adventure began. 

We headed west the 2 hours or so from Orlando to Tampa then the short stretch to Clearwater Beach. What a beautiful ambience has that place - it’s ok to ‘do nothing’. I love to watch the sea birds, especially the pelicans. We found the most cheerful hotel, hung up our hats and headed to the beach. 

I caught a few rays and snapped a few photos, while Steve took a swim in the sea. He swam past the lapping waves into deeper water and I noticed he came close to a clanging buoy. Illogically, I began to keep a keen eye out recalling a scene from Jaws. It was a relief when he finally got out of the water! There was a beautiful sunset that evening.

Little did we know that the photos we took would come to be the Freeway Double Album cover. The next day we convinced ourselves away and drove the slow road up the Gulf coast. Before long we had turned the corner and by the end of the day rolled into Panama City Beach.

The north coast by comparison is more wild and windswept. Powerful waves crashed the beach. The wet sands were awash with big blue jellyfish that looked to have been kicked up by a storm. The beaches were deserted but for a security type guy stationed in a pickup. We popped over and asked, ‘what are the jellyfish?’. They were ‘Man o’ War’. Luckily - though pretty new and naive to these phenomenon - we left them well-alone.

Back at the hotel we were the only guests in the restaurant, with our own waiter at table. I felt like a queen on the set of ‘The Shining’ all so alone we were, in party-land. 

Like many of the beachfront hotels in Florida, our quarters had tile flooring and exited straight to the exterior - we guessed it was for easy wash-out of sand. Up a few floors, we said our goodnights early, and I walked the gamut of a windy walkway to my room. Opening the door, I saw an apartment that went back a long way, dimmed by wooden shutters and two single beds sat to the right. Through the windows was a fantastic panorama as far as the eye could see. Down below, the pool-bar was being buffeted, palm trees were lashing frantically. Feeling the glorious solitude I was lulled to sleep by the surround-sounds of mother nature doing its thing outside.

Next morning was crisp and sunny. The wind had stopped. Steve and I met out front. We packed up the car and walked across the road for a hearty breakfast in a little café busy with winter hotel-contractors. We had met one contractor the day before, teetering in a lift halfway between floors.

Then back to the car and on we went. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves in the sailing town of Destin. We parked up to stretch our legs - checked out the boats in the harbor and watched the fishermen and tour guides going about their daily business. Driving further west, we caught a tea break at Fort Walton beach, where we took in the brrrr-eezy pier and watched the die hard surfers - there was some pretty good surfing going on! 

We reached Pensacola by early evening, a little more happening of a place was this. Rock music wafted from a beach bar that opened onto the sands. A few young ones were playing pool and a sea dog sat in a corner with a beer and a newspaper (ok my imagination runs away with me at times!) We grabbed some food, quaffed a few scoops and enjoyed drinking-in the sea air equally as well. Steve went into 'oil rig mode' and decided to stay a while and chat to the locals. I happily crashed at the hotel, flagging after the long day's drive.

Next day early we said goodbye to the coast and turned the car northwards. 

Driving through Alabama, one can feel like the only person in the world (or at least on the continent of the United States). There is so much ‘empty’ space between each city. We couldn’t decide whether this felt good, or unsettling! 

On a quiet forest road a possible bear-sighting was added to memory. It was then we realized we needed to refuel! (and take a break). Fortunately soon we came upon a little gas station. The outdoor entry to the washroom though was locked; the key with the store keeper. I remained at the pumps filling up, while Stephen went into the store…and promptly came out again, muttering quickly ‘there’s a queue it looks like the cast of Star Wars in there’! Steve is hilarious the comedian of the family. A place you would miss if you blinked and yet pretty full of folk - and even a good British queue, albeit left to my imagination. We soon hit the road again. 

Through Birmingham, then NOT onto to a chilly Chattanooga. Super friendly chatty Chattanooga. Choo-Choo and aquarium too. That was a port of call indeedy on December's southbound leg to Florida...still, a 'done and dusted' worthy of a mention.

Just after sunset, we rolled into Nashville. 

The weather driving north had gradually turned bitterly cold. A stone’s throw from Nashville’s main drag we reached the hotel - a creaky old place that had a warm smell of wood polish. I remember its cramped and unnervingly rumbly elevator and Steve – admiring all things antique – advising it was likely as solid as a rock…which it was. We explored, went into a record store and met a dead ringer for Johnny Cash. I had to let him know. He took it as a compliment. We enjoyed the quaint downtown 'main drag. This time what I remember most is the frozen-to-the-bone feeling, walking along the river path past the big old bridge.

Next day we rode into Memphis. Beale Street looked a little worn around the edges, yet another place we had visited on the southbound leg so we decided to soldier on, crossing the wide river Mississippi, (which also forms the border with other States). Shortly thereafter, we hit Missouri turf. 

We drove through dilapidated towns of days gone by and cities with main streets so short they were gone in the twinkling of an eye. We crossed the Missouri expanses of the Mark Twain National Forest – its picturesque views and bluffs - until the trees parted and the scenery turned into rolling farmlands.

As the sun was setting, Springfield loomed an orange glow in the distance. On a frosty January evening we arrived back home. 

And so it was. The end of our 1000-mile trip. “Let's do it again!” we high fived. But like everything, would it be the same? One might say it was little or nothing, but as siblings who live an ocean apart who have not explored much of the States by car, it was a trip to treasure.

Stephen returned to England and wrote a poem as he often does as a memento. It was from snips of Steve’s poem that the lyrics to Freeway were originated.

{photos by Alison Fleming} 

 

Sipping Pensacola, Mississippi in Mind ~ a poem by Stephen Hugill

Flip the top, Hit the gas, 

Precious moments coming thick and fast, 

Ships on a wacky tack, 

Clear way freeway, leaving water behind, 

Drivin’ on that tacky black, 

Young ‘n’ fun, beach, balls and bums, 

Shades and braids these careless days, 

Flip-flops, ice-pops, melting me away, away, away 

Big blue skies stinging my eyes, in a dash my feet are on 

Tears streaking the face my cheeks are on 

These days so hot and so long, and on and on 

Slappin’ eyes, cutting bends top-gun pretends 

Pulling the hood, needle’s on red 

Scootin’ bears, playin’ dead 

42 to a barrel, men will quarrel 

It’s comin’ thick ‘n’ fast that oil 

Bears in cold beer traps 

10 gallon hats talkin’ caps 

And again tomorrow, so hollow, so hollow 

Through cotton fields under cotton clouds 

Balmy Alabama playing hard and loud 

Flamingo land behind 

We got Birmingham in mind 

Big teeth in a dog a tendency 

Chomping tender steak a certainty 

Chiming to the Nashville strip 

Surely it’s Tennessee we’ve hit 

Fast over the ironer we go 

Big slow black water down below 

Missing that town, homeward bound 

Shades down to the setting sun we ride 

Slappin’ the tacky black, a tear in the eye. 

© 2010 Stephen Hugill 

(PS note an inference to the ‘Deepwater Horizon’ oil spill of 2010) 

Steve continues to write poetry, record-engineer music and is an inventor of many extraordinary things. He also runs a successful antique radiator business in Yorkshire UK. http://www.pigironco.co.uk/

Songwriting and Romanticism 

Valentine's Day brings to mind all things romantic. Somehow on that day I landed on a Wikipedia page about Romanticism, and was pleasantly surprised to realise it bears many a resemblance to the process of songwriting, as follows:

A strong emotion is the authentic source of the artistic experience. Spontaneity is a desirable characteristic harnessing the power of the imagination to envision and to escape. This spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings can include confrontation with the sublime quality of untamed nature. Of primary importance is the free expression of the feelings of the artist. The artist's feeling is law. 

In order to truly express these feelings, the content of the art must come from the imagination of the artist, with as little interference as possible from artificial rules dictating what a work should consist of. The influence of models from other works would impede the creator's own imagination; originality is absolutely essential. 

Natural laws govern these matters, so the imagination at least of a good creative artist would freely and unconsciously follow through artistic inspiration if left alone to do so. 

The concept of ...the artist who is able to produce his own original work through this process of creation from nothingness, is key to Romanticism and to be derivative would be the worst sin. This idea is often called ‘romantic originality’.

[adapted from Wikipedia notes, see under Basic characteristics at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanticism]

Introducing Freeway 


'Freeway' songwriter version (blue)

It's about freedom and travels of the road and spirit, heart and mind. A dynamic blend that pulls like the waves. The songwriter tracks are kindred to the original demo recordings. Working with Paul Baggott over the internet between the UK and USA it took a few years to get things polished. Very proud of what we've achieved and looking forward to rattling your ears. 

Freeway has its own freedom. You’ll feel a shift of atmospheres from song to song. There are hard and soft edges, dark and light flurries. It is soulful, soul searching, melancholic, romantic, intense, nostalgic, even magical/mystical. What else! An experiment weaving the likes of electro-acoustic art rock, electronic pop, folk and orchestral with some sections having a ‘soundtrack’ lent. Lyrical contexts are somewhat ambiguous leaving the meaning open to interpretation.

'Freeway - The Remixes' (red)

Freeway – The Remixes lets loose the Producer’s EDM Cut. Using jigsaw snips of vocals Paul created brand new tracks. The beats and arrangements echo the passion and dynamism of the original material, likewise an emotive and eclectic mix, but (bar the first track) you’ll wonder at times “which one is this supposed to be?” The album oozes a drama with its progressive beat- and bass-driven energy including an edgy military-esque verve. Laced with the breaks of progressive-trance and the rhythms and percussions of house it links genres of alternative dance, techno, trip hop, R & B and jazz and not to forget the ambience of some downtempo electronica.

Songs by Alison Fleming : Produced and mastered by Paul Baggott : additional contributions by Paul Fleming, Paul "Buzzy" Bosomworth, Stephen Hugill, Mike Serrano, Brandon Welch. Boardwalk Cover art design by Paul Baggott.

PROJECT ‘FREEWAY’ TWO ALBUMS RELEASED THROUGH CD BABY, ON FRIDAY 29TH SEPTEMBER 2017