Feature: The Ingredients of Blindside with Caswell

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
Photo - supplied

Neo-soul soloist Caswell last week shared her enchanting sophomore EP Blindside. Amongst Caswell's soulful vocals and the EP's stunning soundscapes are personal stories about destructive relationships, self-worth and hurt. She goes into depth on how the EP came to life.

Assault & Battery Studios
I've been working with producer Hugh Fothergill since my first release. We've written in different studios or houses in and around South London but he's more recently settled in this magical little room in a studio complex in Willesden Green, London. We kind of have our little routine, it's pretty un-rock-and-roll but we start early, break for a cheap veggie curry and work until last trains home. It's long days but it's always super productive and we can also just chat life/our music/new music/Netflix documentaries. Some songs end up in a totally different form to which they were when you first thought they were 'finished', so I've found it's important not to rush it.

'Girl' by The Internet feat KAYTRANADA
Around the time I was in the midst of writing this EP, I was definitely overplaying The Internet. I loved her melancholic lyric and nonchalant delivery, but most of all the electro neo-soul instrumentation. When I wrote 'Hurt Me Bad' in my bedroom it was a, by all means, a ballad, but I wanted to amp the energy up from my previous EP and make it more synth heavy, so I took it to a rehearsal with my keys player Merlyn Bruce. He started playing around with some sounds and found something that really reminded me of 'Girl'. Now it's probably the most upbeat tune on the EP!

When I was 17/18 I wasn't a hugely strong keys player. Sometimes I found writing on the piano a bit constricting, I'd spend hours trying to find inspiration but fall into the same limited chord progressions and get frustrated, so instead I tried writing over random instrumentals online. I found one by The Weeknd that just fitted this dark/sexy/lonely vibe, and wrote 'Stay The Night'. I put it up online and with my 100 or so followers it ended up spiralling to 20k plays. Properly taking it into the studio and pre-producing it for this project years later has given it a new lease of life.

My Bed
So when I’m in a certain kind of mood, I write lyrics just kind of staring at the ceiling. Sounds pretty bleak but the truth is when you're left alone with nothing but your own thoughts that's when you're most true to what you're feeling. There were points throughout writing these songs when I really was feeling rejection and unworthiness, and those are things that I found really hard to even admit to myself. I used to find those emotions embarrassing to display — like why would you ever want someone to know they've hurt you? However writing about it was one step forward in the healing process, putting it out into the public eye was a whole other thing I had to get to grips with! It's terrifying but almost liberating. Once you've offered that most vulnerable part of yourself up for people's judgement what else do you have to be scared of?

Writing with David E. Sugar was different to how I'd worked in the past. I was used to taking at least a half-formed song to a producer later in the writing process, but with David, I'd usually just end up ad-libbing lyrics over a cool but abstract beat or sound he'd been playing with. It's odd what comes into the mind when you don't allow yourself time to censor what you're about to say. In the very first verse this line 'I would dream in Turquoise' materialised and after it lots of imagery of water. So became the final track 'Surface' which is all above rising up from a dark place I didn't know I was in, which for me was an extremely poignant way in which to end the EP.

Listen to Blindside by Caswell below:

If you're in London, Caswell will be launching her EP on April 10th at The Servant Jazz Quarters in Dalston.