Earl Lane – Aled Hughes – In His Own Words

Earl Lane

Aled Hughes is a singer/songwriter from Llantwit Major and his album Earl Lane is both musically and lyrically diverse. Musically, the songs range from country to waltz in style and lyrically from the traditional like love and loss to the 21st century with themes like CCTV and internet dating. The album's title comes from the fact that it was recorded at Earl Lane Studios, Cardiff owned by Lynise Esprit, himself a multi-instrumentalist who added bass, drums, piano and keys to the album. I sat down with the bilingual Hughes to discuss the album:

Little Problem [Also on the album in Welsh as Problem Bach] – “I used to be a teacher and when the kids were out on work experience, I saw one of the girls walking down the street carrying her bag. I asked why she wasn’t at her placement and she said; ‘They kicked me out because I’m pregnant’. I felt so sorry for her in that situation so young that I wrote a previous song called ‘Nothing But Trouble’. This is a kind of follow on where a girl in this situation has to face her parents about her ‘Little Problem’. It’s not meant to be nasty, just a reflection of the sympathy for her situation.

I Am The Sniper –“I’ve got Jonathan Browning doing some blues harp on this and Lydia Maxwell doing backing vocals. I also included some finger snaps and tambourine to get the right feel. Believe it or not, the inspiration for this song came when I was trying to buy a motorbike online on Ebay and three times in a row I was outbid in the final second which led me to the phrase ‘Ebay Sniper’. Some people think the song is about war or even character assassination but it’s actually about being pipped at the post online!”

Tall Girl – “This is quite a soppy song and it’s about my better half who just happens to be taller than me. I’ve been told that there’s something a bit ‘Beatles’ about it. I wanted a female voice in it and it took me a while to get it to flow but I’m happy with the end result. It’s a relatively simple song and I think the keys help give it a bit of a dreamy feel.”

I’m Crying For My Heroes – “I wasn’t going to record this one but I was doing some songs with female backing and I really liked the way our vocals went together on this one. It was quite long because I went for a double chorus but I saved some time by splicing two verses to keep the story intact. It’s drawn from looking at black and white clips of people like Gene Vincent and Marilyn Monroe and imagining how great it would be to step into the screen and into their time; that’s really what the song is about. It’s very different to what I normally do but I’m pleased with it. Being a lone performer, I have freedom to take songs where I want but it can get complicated playing them with a band since I tend to follow the vocal melody. One girl was wondering why I had half-bar changes and I had to explain I was just going with my voice!”

Crying on the Train – “I’d been tutoring in Cardiff and, funnily enough, was on the train when the lady sitting on the other side of the table just started bawling. I asked if she was ok and she didn’t respond – she was inconsolable. This song was born from this two minute snapshot into someone’s life. I was writing a lesson plan at the time and just thought: ‘There’s a lyric here!’ and a tune came into my head. I think it has a very country-esque Jim Reeves feel to it.”

Where Do You Live, My Friends? – “This song is a nightmare if you’re a drummer! If they play it a couple of times, it’s fine; but there are some very peculiar timings to get used to! I wanted a big acoustic sound to this one – almost like an acoustic ‘Wall of Sound’. I originally wrote the song a long time ago after seeing a documentary about Stonehenge and the Incas and how some star patterns  matched up to certain constructions and monuments. Did we have help to build them or were our forefathers just cleverer than us? I have no answers but I was inspired to write the song. There aren’t too many chords but they move around quite quickly – when you play it live, you really know about it by the end of the song! It’s quite a tempo to keep up!”

Wake Me – “This was a song I used to play as a guitarist in a band called Mr Spoons and it was in standard 4:4 time but it’s changed a lot since then. For some reason, I could really hear it as a waltz and I kept hearing an orchestra in my head. After recording, I realised I didn’t have an orchestra! I filled the space with a mellotron and love the result. I think it would have sounded nice with a flute too, but I didn’t know a flautist!”

Cariad – “This means ‘love’ in Welsh and it was originally meant to be called Cariad.com but apparently you can’t use .com in song titles. It’s about meeting people online and a virtual relationship between a man and a Russian lady. I picked Russia simply because I liked the idea of ‘a message to the Kremlin’. The guy eventually wonders if the woman exists. Computers can be great but they can also give anonymity.”

Monterey – “I wrote this song when I was in Monterey on holiday and it was the build up to car week and there was a really nice feel to it. I wanted a lazy bluesy feel to the song with maybe a hint of Beach Boys to it.”

You’ve Got To Believe – “This was a left over song that I had and it eventually led to me making this whole album. This was the one old song I really wanted to do something with. My take on it is politicians bending the rules and bending the truth to the left or right as it suits them. Like all the rubbish with Brexit and lies from both sides. Whichever way you voted, the weak link has been our politicians!”

Love You Too – “This is based around having received a ‘Dear John’ letter and then seeing all these couples go by so there’s some bitterness in there. When a guy has been kicked out with all his stuff in black bags, all he had is gone. It’s got a country feel to it; some people have said early Beatles but I don’t see it myself.”

Camera Republic – “I enjoy playing this on guitar and I’ve shortened it a bit since writing it but it stems from the fact that we’re one of the most ‘watched’ countries in the world and despite recording crimes, they don’t actually stop them and I also wonder what we’re going to do with all this data in the future? There are some counter melodies in the backing vocals on this track that I enjoyed doing.”

Tsunami – “This is another Welsh one and I used a storm drum to get the right effect on this track and it has a lot of tempo changes. When the big Boxing Day tsunami happened a few years ago, I started writing this and came back to it last year with some ideas for what it needed. I put a hook into it and then it fell into place. It’s about a guy being with his loved one and her being ‘swept away on the cusp of a wave’. There’s something about human resilience and the good shining through in this one. In the last verse, his loved one is at peace in an underwater city with all the people from everywhere who also got swept away. It’s not a happy song, but not totally bleak – it’s more poignant and I’d like to think there’s some hope in there too.”

Problem Bach (Welsh version of Little Problem) – “I’d love to do all my songs in Welsh and I’ve had feedback from people who say they prefer the Welsh version even though they don’t understand it! I actually wrote the Welsh version first. Two thirds of what I write is in English but when you’re trying to do the same song in two languages, the words don’t always fit, so sometimes you have to go with meaning; I have a song I’m working on at the moment called ‘Radiation’ and I had to change ‘the sea life are trying to tell us’ to ‘the fish are trying to speak’, but the sentiment is the same!”

Gwahoddiad (Arglwydd Dyma Fi) – “This is originally from around 1870 and a church song used in funerals but I reimagined it with more tempo to give it a really different feel. When my father heard it, he said he wanted it at his funeral and he never gives compliments, so I must have done something right! I’m not sure if there’s too much reverb on it – but I’m stuck with it now!”

Find Earl Lane on Apple Music here and on Amazon Music here.

Aled Hughes on Twitter

Aled Hughes on Facebook