Ruthless Window by James Walsh: the story of a debut album

The problem with life, like history, is that it’s just one thing after another. I’ve always struggled to process things while they’re happening, both in terms of what I’ve done (good and bad) and what has been done to me (ditto).

Time whooshes by like one of Douglas Adams’ deadlines, and so it’s taken me over a month to write about my debut solo album, which was released in early February and “officially” released[1] a couple of weeks ago.

It’s been a surreal experience, particularly in terms of people a) seeming to like it and b) expressing this by buying it and telling me how much they like it.

Like a lot of people I am a complicated mix of anxiety, terror, self-doubt, fear, and occasional bouts of extreme creativity and self-confidence. When I sat down in cold, cold January with the idea of writing a new song every day until I had enough to release an album, I wasn’t being serious.

It was an ironic joke to tell friends: “ah, another lockdown, guess I’d better write an album”; a sequel to that period in my early twenties when I told everyone I was writing the next great American novel.

Well, it turns out that somewhere in the depths of my subconscious, somehow, I wasn’t being ironic. I have written and recorded the album; and, more unexpectedly, at least to myself, I have had the confidence to tell the world about it. Want to listen to it, or even buy it? You can!

I wrote a bit about the genesis of the album on my bandcamp page, and I also gave an interview with Phoenix Remix about how the thing came together, so I won’t repeat myself here. But if you are interested, do click through and read about it all.

The most exciting thing so far has been hearing back from songwriters and musicians who I have long respected, telling me the thing I have done is good. You see – and this might be linked to some of the things listed above – I sometimes find it very hard to accept that anything I have done has worth. This is a longstanding issue, and something I’ve been talking through with the appropriate professionals.

But if Chris T-T, Elizabeth out of Allo Darlin’, MJ Hibbett, and Tjinder Singh out of Cornershop[2] say they enjoyed it, then I will have to bow to their superior talent and experience with regards to my songs’ objective worth.

I also had the very surreal experience of hearing my song on the radio, specifically White Heat, on the Folkhampton show. Given Top of the Pops no longer exists in any meaningful form, getting on the radio is probably the most exciting thing that could ever happen, and I am so happy and grateful for this to be a thing that happened.

I’m very grateful to all the people who have taken the time to listen, especially those who have got in touch to tell me what they thought about it. Some friends with excellent musical and production talents have already said they’d like to be involved with the follow up, so hopefully that will be something that will happen later this year.

And – who knows – maybe I’ll even get on stage and do some live dates.

I must also thank Bill & Ruth, whose spare room and conservatory doubled as recording studios, and also Ruth and her cat made their way onto the recordings. Probably the funniest thing about recording the album where I did is that Bill is a ridiculously talented guitarist, and did I ask him to play on any of the songs? No I did not. He’s a teacher, he seemed busy. But I hope he will on the follow up.

[1] I posted about it on Twitter.

[2] Ok, technically, the first three liked it, and said so. Tjinder just said it was good I was keeping busy.

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