My Soul Is A Strange Country (2020) – EP

Liner Notes

The piano is the first instrument I learnt as a kid, and I have always been inspired by piano writing, particularly the contemplative pianism of Bill Evans and the harmonic approach of composers such as Debussy and Ravel. But until now the piano has been an instrument I have played mainly for myself.

I wrote these six pieces initially as private responses to the emotional upheaval of the past few years. I intended to release them in April 2020 but in amongst the initial pandemic chaos, it didn’t feel right. But now as the pieces must somehow be put back together I hope this music can be helpful in the rebuilding. ⠀

Nothing lasts. Everything changes. If I’ve learnt anything as I’ve got older it’s this: the challenge is to work out what, in the midst of it all, you have any control over. This holds for composition as much as for the maelstrom of life in general. For while the prevailing idea of the composer is someone who is god to their creations, with untrammelled power and an infinity of choice, I see the process as something altogether more humble.

I didn’t bring this music forth from nothing. I put myself at the piano and I poured myself out. What came out at first was lumpy, misshapen and ugly. Silent screams and black laughs. And love. But I stayed there and I cajoled and whispered and worked and the form that emerged from the stone was not an adonis but a man like me.

You can only work with what you’ve got, then let it go.

This record is dedicated to Rhia, always.

J x

The Life That I Have (2020) – EP

To make anything is to walk a tightrope between forcing ones will on the world and having enough wherewithal to know when all you can do is float amid the flotsam and jetsam of a life’s rolling waves. I have felt the acuteness of this balancing act more than ever in the making of this record.

The title of the EP is taken from a poem by Leo Marks that was written as a poem code for the agent Violette Szabo in the Second World War. It’s one of my Mum’s favourite poems and over the last few years has become one of mine. It captures the depth of love and loss and something of its bittersweet beauty, which I’ve tried to convey this music. This record is dedicated to my mother.

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours.

The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause.

For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours

Gentle Face (2019) – Single

I had the first seed of this song some years ago and it kept bouncing around my head, I had the first two verses and that was it. But I then forgot about it until I found myself singing it a lot in quiet moments over the last year as the general anxiety and collective loss of confidence of our present moment – our politics, the climate crisis and the state of the world – has grown. So I finished it. 

I realised perhaps that I wanted someone to just tell me it was going to be alright, that somehow if we could just go to sleep perhaps things would be better when we woke up- both an understandable and entirely naive response to the situation. 

To The Islands (2018) – Album

Liner Notes

The act of remembering and its challenges, has defined much about this album and me in the making of it. With profound personal and political implications, it is a wonder that the process itself remains such a mystery. For what and how we remember helps define the limits of our aspirations and shapes our understanding of, and expectations for, a world in which they might be realised.

The point where memory, hope and expectation meet therefore, is a fertile, febrile place. Like a delta, it is rich with the accumulated narratives and shared histories we lay down over time, year upon ever flowing year. It is here we sink our roots; here we sow our seeds.

But just as when looking in on Schrödingerʼs poor cat, the act of observation itself affects the outcome. The present tense recollection of the past is always biased by our current selves, the demands of the present and whatever colour glasses we happen to be wearing. In that sense we live in the moment, perhaps unwittingly, more than we give ourselves credit for.

This is important because although we cannot, as Einstein pointed out, ‘get around the assumption of realityʼ, we know our memories are fallible. However they get corrupted, challenged or lost, the effect is like trying to walk in a straight line on a rolling ship; the sudden destabilising of certainties can quickly spiral into an unravelling of the whole kit and caboodle – all hope and expectation reduced to the intensity of the moment. For who are we if not what we were? And what is left if we no longer know?

Memories, however imperfect, sent me back to my childhood home to Australia after many years away, where I began writing these songs – memories of who I thought I was and what made me who I am. Taking them for granted, I set off on a wild goose chase. And as the saying goes, assumption will make an ass out of you and me, and so it did. But it started me thinking about all of this and how fresh and fragile we are.

The making of this album has traced the journey I have taken over the last three years, through places geographic and emotional, in ways I couldn’t have imagined – as intensely beautiful as challenging. I’ve lent on friends and family and had to hold them up. And while I feel less certain about everything, I’m more at ease knowing how little I know:

That a delta owes its fertility to the floods that wash away much of what was. As the waters recede, what remains is the promise of a new beginning, but one which entails its end.

All love and thanks to Fred Thomas, Zac Gvirtzman, Chris Hyson, Dave Hamblett, Alex Killpartrick, Chris Sheehan, Adam Greves and Adam Lawson for their dedication and support in helping to make this record happen; and in particular to thank Rhia Parker, for reminding me to look up at the moon.

This album is dedicated, with love and admiration, to my father.

– Jamie Doe, Autumn 2018

Albatross (2018)

I wrote this song at a sliding doors moment during a tumultuous return to my childhood home in Australia. The single opens with limpid, crystalline piano chords, before the surprise entry of a driving drum figure introduces the idea that another world is continually below the surface. The song propels the listener along as textures of prepared piano, bass and drums build and break like waves on the shore. The voice drifts over the pulsing band, drawing on the the poetic im- age of being alone far out at sea, to urge a message of holding fast during these uncertain times.

Lydia (2018)

Holding Hands (2017)

About ‘Holding Hands’

‘Holding Hands’ is the first single to be taken from my third album ‘To The Islands’. I wrote ‘Holding Hands’ during a moment of desperation, having travelled half way across the world only to run out of road. Strung out and alone, I found myself writing this song for the true love I hoped to meet, as much an act of faith in their existence as a beacon to guide myself home. Originally written for voice and guitar, it was after hearing Bjork’s ‘Anchor Song’ late one night that I decided to arrange the song for saxophone trio. The timbre of the brass, the groove of the band, The Bad Plus style piano solo – it is an arrangement that brings together some of my key influences, which I’d describe loosely as the lyrical directness of folk, the harmonic openness and improvisational freedom of jazz and the craft of great songwriting. It’s a good example of how much more confident I have become as an arranger. I can’t wait to share the rest of the album with you.

We’ll make, somehow. I know we will.

Love of Too Much Living – Remakes (2015)

One of the great joys of doing what I do is the inspiration and love I draw from the other musicians around me. We’re like a family, we don’t all agree all of the time, but we’re there for each other when it matters, and the respect for what we each do, however different, runs deep.

For the past three years, I’ve spent most of my time playing alone, and the last album ‘Love of Too Much Living’ was very consciously a record I wanted to, needed to, make on my own. But once it came out, and having played these songs hundreds of times over the last year, I started to hear the relationships implicit in this music and the musicians around me. I am delighted to say that the product of this exploration is a record of ‘reinterpretations and reimaginings’ of my songs from ‘Love of Too Much Living’ by some of the members of this diverse musical family of which I am lucky enough to be a part.

It has been a revealing, emotional and at times overwhelming experience to hear my songs remade in such different ways, by people whose own music is a constant inspiration to me. I can’t thank all the artists involved enough.

I see this record is an act of love, a demonstration of the communities we build around us, what they mean and why they’re important. As such all proceeds from the sale of the record will go to a charity that’s very close to my heart – the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). Check out their work.

Love of Too Much Living (2014)

Liner Notes

We are each of us in a process of becoming, with all that that entails however painful or uncertain. Leaving aside the seemingly paradoxical alternative of quantum mechanics, for the most part we cannot be in two places at the same time. And so coming to terms with what we’ve left behind becomes the essential act in understanding why we are where we are and in trying to chart our future course.

So far, so obvious. But these are fast moving times and in our near perpetual interaction, picking out what is significant is a struggle historians of the future will burden them- selves trying to understand. That is to say, only as the light of a particular period begins to fade can we start to unravel any of its broader significance. In the meantime, all we can do is our best, knowing that tomorrow hindsight will judge what we did today.

Love, loss and doubt remain human constants and however attractive the digital perception of ourselves as fun-loving, empowered consumers may be, it can’t shake the very analogue reality of blood and bone human beings, our search for acceptance and a meaningful frame of reference. ‘Content is king!’ they say, well good for them – but in the hailstorm of information, creating and recreating oneself is just as difficult as it’s always been.

When I was a kid, my dad used to tell me a poem, always the same one. It seemed impossibly mysterious as a child, but as I grew up it took on real significance and whenever the world threatened to close in, the words would come to me. When I left home, ten years ago now, the poem came with me and its been with me ever since along the sometimes bumpy journey of growing up and becoming a man. I discovered some years ago that it was in fact one approximately remembered stanza of a much longer poem called ‘The Gardens of Proserpine’ by Algernon Charles Swinburne.

As a whole the poem is beautiful, telling the story of Persephone and her garden of ever flowering poppies, but for me the stanza as I learnt it from my dad remains elemental:

From love of too much living 
        From hope and fear set free 
We thank with brief thanksgiving 
        Whatever gods may be 
That no man lives forever
        That dead men rise up never 
And even the weariest river 
        Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Deep love and thanks to my family, friends and fellow musicians for all your support over the last few years. Special thanks to Max Jones who gave me the confidence to make this record and whose dedication to living life beautifully is a constant inspiration.

This album is dedicated to Alice Bayer, mit Liebe, and to Richard Church, out there somewhere, guitar in hand, showing us how its done.

Here’s to what we’ll become.

– Jamie Doe, Autumn 2014

A World in a Grain of Sand (2011)

Liner Notes

The total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time. A consequence of this law is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be transformed from one state to another. Nothing comes from nothing. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We take inspiration and energy from the world around us and transform it into songs, stories, films, photos, paintings, buildings, sculptures, ideas, conversations and every possible hair brained scheme imaginable. But how fragile the creative process and the creators! Once planted, seeds need nurturing and love, lest all their promise, beauty in potential, wilt in the crowding, claustrophobic jostle for the light.

We need support. An oak tree’s roots are twice as long as the tree is high – for every creative project, there’s a root network of friends and lovers, family and fans, teachers and students, who keep us grounded where the wind would have us on our sides. This band, let alone this album wouldn’t exist were it not for the continued love and support of those chemical bonds that bind us together, taking individual atoms to make stronger, more vibrant and creative molecules. To see a world in a grain of sand, each one identical until you really look, is an act of faith. We hope to start repaying that faith here.

This album is dedicated to our friends.

– May 2011.