Good Good Blood Interview: “I owe this place so much, probably my life.”

Good Good Blood

Songs From Where I Live is out now via Team Love Records.

Good Good Blood, the singer/songwriter from Mirfield in the UK, has only been in Overblown’s life for a little under two weeks, but already we’re pretty much in love. His new album, Songs From Where I Live, is a nostalgic and melancholic trip that calls to mind the delicate beauty of masters of songwriting like Bon Iver or King Creosote.

We’ve been listening to Songs From Where I Live pretty much non stop for the last two weeks and so are absolutely delighted that the rest of you can now also share in the pleasure. We also managed to catch up with Good Good Blood (aka James Smith) to take about field recordings, his love of his hometown, and his love of nature.

Order Songs From Where I Live via Bandcamp.

Overblown: The first lyrics sung on the album are “I just need the peace and the quiet of the morning” during ‘Away Away’. For me, I love that time between around 3 and 6 am when no one is awake. It hushes the noise and chaos in my head. What do you find appealing about the morning?

James Smith: I definitely function better in the morning than I do at night. I used to stay up really late working on music but I just can’t do it anymore. The morning is better. I had quite a bit going on in my life when I was making the album and so that feeling of peace in the early morning, when the world is quietly stirring into life, was and continues to be such a beautiful and healing time for me.

O: Good Good Blood is an interesting name. I associate blood with pain so the name kind of suggests to me that sometimes pain is a positive thing. What does it mean to you? Where did it come from?

JS: The initial idea was one of lineage. That we all come from someone and somewhere and it’s our blood that links us all up. Like the blood running through our veins is who we are and who we were and who we are going to be. Also, I really struggle with issues of self-worth and negativity around everything that I do so doubling up the “good” is a way of me trying to constantly remind myself that I’m not all bad, there is some good in there, somewhere.

O: It seems to me that the album has a similar atmosphere to For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver. Was that album an influence?

JS: Ah wow, that’s quite a compliment, thank you! I do get a lot of people say that my sound is reminiscent of Bon Iver’s and for sure ‘For Emma’ is one of my favourite albums so it’s a nice thing to be compared to. And it definitely is an influence. I was listening to lots of Mount Eerie and The Microphones when I was making the album and so nods to that are pretty unmissable too. Also, Iron and Wine’s first album continues to be a constant inspiration.

O: Where is 10 Hagg Wood on 6th January 2017? What happened there on that date?

JS: Hagg Wood is just outside of town and where me and my family go for walks on the weekends. There is one section that is like my favourite part and which played into so much of the album. It’s just a beautiful little stretch of woodland and for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, means so much to me. The 6th January is when I recorded me walking through this special part of the wood which you can hear on the track and the song is kind of like a diary entry for that walk. How I was feeling and what I was thinking whilst walking. When I got home I immediately recorded the song, it just came out of me and into the microphone. I was coming to the end of spending the week making the album and it was the last song I started so it felt right for that to be the last song on there.

O: The album is called Songs From Where I Live. What impact did the place you live and grew up have on your songwriting?

JS: Oh more than I probably will ever know. Like, this little town where I live is just woven into my very fabric. It is me and I am it. Every note and lyric I ever record is pretty much influenced by this place. I see the world through its lens. I guess some people think it’s a little odd to be so emotionally tied to a small northern town and it quite likely is, but I just cannot ever see myself living anywhere else. I owe this place so much, probably my life.

O: With songs called ‘I Was Cold And So I Light A Fire’, ‘Fallen Leaves’, and ‘Sunken Tree’, it seems that you write about natural elements a lot. Why do you think that is?

JS: I’m drawn to using nature and my surroundings as narrative for how I’m feeling. Where I live is semi rural, you can see lots of green hills from our windows. On these songs I wanted there to be an honesty shine through. I’d been to see my therapist and she’d suggested I keep a diary of my thoughts and feelings. That sounded like hard work so I decided to make some songs instead which turned into this album. The day I made the fire and recorded it I was feeling really sad and cold. The Sunken Tree refers to a part of the woods where the dirt has worn away and you can see all the roots of the trees. I guess I was trying to be the most direct and honest that I could be on tape.

O: In certain sections of the album there is an influence of ambient music and maybe even some avant-garde noise too. What draws you to this type of music?

JS: I listen to a lot of ambient and experimental music especially in the early mornings when I’m sat on the train or whatever and I guess it infiltrates my methods of making music. I wanted this record to be quite organic and acoustic but also interesting so having the more ambient and experimental sounds on there just keeps me and the listener guessing which way things will go next.

O: There also seems to be some field recording elements such as someone walking on leaves or snow on the track ‘10 Hagg Lane, 6th January 2017’. I feel it helps to create an intimate atmosphere akin to the King Creosote/Jon Hopkins collaboration Diamond Mine. How did you get the idea to add these elements?

JS: I’ve always played with trying to weave field recordings into my songs. Like the kids playing or a street musician that I’d record on my phone. I wanted to add in elements and sounds from this house and this town to help root it and to also help the listener identify with this place in some small way. Like make it more real and intimate and not just me with a guitar singing.

O: As I write this question I’ve listened to the album just once and I think it is a beautifully heartfelt creation that insistently grabbed my attention from the first note. What impact would you like your music to have on people?

JS: Oh wow! That’s so nice to hear! Thank you. I initially made the album as more of a diary for myself and didn’t have any real plans to release it until I’d finished it and shared it with a few friends who encouraged me to find a place for it to be released. That’s where the directness and honesty of the music comes from I suppose. It is my diary of a week where I was pretty much the most depressed and sad I have ever been in my life. So, if people identify with it in some way or find something in there that they enjoy then that is totally amazing to me and pretty much all I can ask for.

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