Chris de Burgh re-visited, re-invented and re-recorded material from his extensive back catalogue for his latest album.
In the following exclusive interview, he talks about the process of creating ‘Home’.
The new album might be considered a departure for three specific reasons. Firstly, you recorded it – and hence the title – at home, in your own studio. Why did you decide to do so, and did you find it difficult to separate home from work?
When we were rehearsing for my recent ‘Moonfleet & Other Stories’ tour, I decided to do the rehearsals in my studio at home, and I found it so relaxing being able to take a break and immediately be back in my home environment, that we decided to record ‘Home’ there.
Secondly, ‘Home’ is an acoustic recording; an ‘unplugged’ album, by any other name. Of course, the very origin of your music is acoustic, but what made you record in this way, at this time?
‘Home’ is a project I’ve wanted to do for some time. As I look back across my career, there are certain songs that I felt were very personal and which I would have liked to have done in a different way. It was a great opportunity to strip these songs back to the way they were originally written and look at them in hindsight, which is something you rarely get an opportunity to do. My last studio project, ‘Moonfleet & Other Stories’, was such an intense 18 months with the writing, recording and storyline – and having so many musicians involved in the project – that I really wanted the chance to record in a much simpler way.
Thirdly, ‘Home’ features new recordings of material previously released by you. What gave you the idea to do this, and how did you select the songs for the album?
All of the songs chosen were those that I felt could have benefited from a more intimate style of recording, and the criteria for this record was that every instrument had to be acoustic with the arrangements as natural as possible. Each song means something personal to me, and was chosen with this in mind.
When was the album recorded, and how long did it take, from start to finish – including selecting the songs?
The song selection process was over a period of some months. As you can imagine, I’ve recorded so many songs over the years that it takes some time to go back and listen to each one and remember the circumstances it was originally written in. The actual recording took nine days in June, 2012; the mixing was then done over another two weeks in London. From start to finish, everything was performed acoustically in my studio with me singing live, either playing by myself or with musicians.
Who produced the album and who played on it?
The album was produced by myself and Chris Porter and the musicians were my band, who tour with me, plus Phil Palmer, who has played guitar on every album I’ve recorded since ‘The Getaway’.
Did you find that recording the songs acoustically – perhaps stripping them back, compared to their original recordings – brought out any new dimensions in the material?
The whole reason for doing this was to bring out a new dimension in the songs. I hope what it gives the audience is more of an insight into the lyric and the depth of the meaning. Again, this was one of the criteria in choosing the songs – to give the listener a completely different perspective.
You write your songs and work on them initially with either an acoustic guitar or a piano. In that sense, recording ‘Home’ must have been both a ‘back to basics’ and a ‘back to your roots’ process.
Once the material was chosen, I had to bear in mind that I needed to be able to perform these songs on my own. I’ve done many solo tours over the years and it’s a different approach to performing the songs with band. I spent many hours playing through them on my own before any musicians were involved, and by doing this, I knew the exact direction I wanted to take each song in.
Your song selection spans almost three decades of recorded work – from your debut album, ‘Far Beyond These Castle Walls’ in 1975, right through to ‘Timing Is Everything’ in 2002 – but your biggest commercial successes and best-known songs are conspicuous by their absence on ‘Home’. Was this deliberate?
‘Home’ was never intended to be a ‘greatest hits’ record, it’s an intimate retrospective across my career. Therefore, some of the bigger songs were left alone, to focus on gems within the albums that perhaps a large portion of my audience today have still never heard.
There’s at least one particularly ‘obscure’ song included: ‘Forevermore’ from ‘The Love Songs’ album in 1997.
This is exactly my point – ‘Forevermore’ is obscure to you, but a great deal of fans request it at the shows all of the time. Likewise, you could say that ‘Love And Time’ is an obscure song but, again, some people request it. In fact, I’ve already had a request to perform this on my next tour. This is what makes the selection of songs on this album so interesting.
Rather like the concept of the two ‘Footsteps’ albums – a series based on particular song choice (i.e. material which has influenced and inspired you, simply put) – the idea of‘Home’ has equal potential to be re-visited, whether by recording again at home or, more specifically, by digging into your own back catalogue once more. Do you plan to repeat the exercise?
I very much enjoyed the recording of ‘Home’, especially in the more intimate environment of working with just one or two musicians and my producer at any given time. It’s certainly something I’d look at again in the future. In the meantime, I’m already working on the songs for my next studio album of new material, which is due to be released at the end of next year. As we speak, there is no title for it, but I do intend to record some of this at my house in Ireland, too. It will be a much bigger production, but I love the idea of being able to sing whilst looking out at the view from my own window, and spending time with my family during the breaks from the studio. If I carry on enjoying this experience as much as ‘Home’, this will be something I plan to do a lot more in the future.