Having discussed the change in style from rock 'n' roll worship to the more mellow mini-albums of "Favourite Place" and "Wonderful" in part 1. Noel and Tricia have been writing together for years but how do they work? We also touch on the changes with their move to Spain, the Catholic culture in the country and bring it full circle to discuss a track on their new album "Wonderful".
Join us as we continue the conversation...
So when you have a dynamite song writing partnership how does it work? Noel and Tricia have tried setting aside a formal time to write together but this was less than successful. “I remember sitting in our front room at home and I would have my guitar out and Tricia would be standing doing the ironing. She said well I'll do the ironing while you play the guitar, and other times she would just nod off. All the songs that we've written tended to come because suddenly we've got a spark of creativity.”
Tricia unpacks this a little more, “Sometimes Noel would play the guitar and I would think ‘oh that's a good tune, that's a good riff." and then we would say "Oh I've got some words to go with that.’ because I tend to be writing words I get an odd phrase or I'd hear something and I'd think, ‘oh that's great, we should write that.’ So there is always a bit of a pool. Noel gets an idea for the tune, mainly and so he'll put it down on the ipad, and just record it, because we forget things! So there is a bit of a pool and sometimes it's just a spontaneous thing, more often than not with us, we're not very prolific.” Tricia confides that sometimes they get stuck and they put songs on the back-burner, they have some songs that they have been working on for over two years!
...the fact that we have ever actually written anything is amazing
Noel has a confession too, “I tend to try and tweak lyrics, we'll finish it and then a few weeks later I'll go back to it and say "I think we can do a better line than that", and then she'll say "No you can't" and I say "well, I'll try" and in the end… I might.” As a married couple they work well together, even if they have very different ways of working. “Yeah Noels sitting at the computer writing things down and pasting and that. I've got to do paper and pen, I've got about 10 sheets of paper and he says ‘that was a good line’, and I say ‘It's here somewhere’, it drives him crazy! So actually the fact that we have ever actually written anything is quite amazing.”
“Tricia is much more of a splurge it out and I’m much more measured in that I won’t commit to paper until I’ve got it all. Actually what has been really good is not writing songs for congregational use means that we can just write without having to worry about the second verse following exactly the same meter as the first verse.” Tricia adds, “I’m saying [to Noel] that nobody’s singing this, it doesn’t matter, you haven’t got to bear in mind that people are going to be trying to sing it, I mean, your hope they sing them to themselves, but there’s not that restriction.” Both of them agree that this new opportunity has been a liberating experience.
Talking of experiences I want to find out about their move to Spain. I ask if that has taken the pressure off, and has it affected how they write? Tricia responds “Yes I think it has definitely. Obviously it's a different life, we've been there 5 years. Yes your horizons have expanded, just because you've gone to a different culture. Learning a language has been very good in terms of vocabulary, you suddenly start using different words in a different language, but it makes you think more about what you are saying, I think that's been good. Also meeting completely different people, we've met people outside the church that we wouldn't have met if we hadn't moved!”
Noel starts reflecting on something new about being in Spain, surprisingly not the language, culture or food. “We never had to make friends before. When we were in a community church just outside London, where we were for twenty five years we had a readymade group of friends. Although we were in a small town, where we were all based, I think we had a ghetto mentality. All our friends were Christians, but when we moved to another country and left our culture behind, our British culture, our Church culture and had a clean sheet we had to make friends!” Tricia adds “You find out a lot of things about yourself as well, your strengths and your insecurities...”
Noel adds, “Then you suddenly find that you have got a circle of friends some of whom have faith and some of whom have no interest whatsoever, but it's great to have discovered a whole new way of living. I think that has affected our writing as well because then you think, for those of our friends who have no faith, "how do they get what we are about?" Sometimes a song is a great way of conveying the values that we have. So I think our language had to change in terms of our learning Spanish, but it had to change in terms of how we communicate what we believe. So I think it has been a great help to us.”
Obviously Spain is a hugely Catholic country, what views did they have of the Catholic Church in the country? Tricia explains “Obviously there is a big negative from a lot of people, perhaps that they are not interested, perhaps it was their grandparent’s faith. The Catholic Church is alive and thriving as far as I can see in a lot of areas in Spain and also a great lot of the social care that is going on is coming out of the Catholic Church which is wonderful. Not being involved in it I couldn't really pass a comment on it. It's not a problem, but Easter is very interesting because that is the major Catholic festival and it's quite - phew!”
Noel begins to explain how every tiny village and town has an Easter Parade. “You know, we'd never seen anything like it the first Easter we were there. Suddenly there was this parade of maybe 100 people or more coming down the street all dressed in robes with the pointy hats...” Tricia adds “looking like the Ku Klux Klan dressed in green or black or red but not white.” Noel continues “Basically it is a sign of penitence, there's like an anonymity about it because you don't know who is behind the mask.
Tricia continues to share what she has seen in this culture. “There would be great big statues of Jesus and it would take 10 people carrying these things on their shoulders and we're like "what is this?" and then you realise it's this religious hold that there is. People who, obviously some of them go to church, but a lot of them don't. We've got a couple of friends who are not practising catholic, but they do this whole thing of crawling up steps, penance, it's like 200 steps and they do that every year, like "I'll be alright if I do this." It's superstition, but it's never a problem and I think if you said to people "why do you do that? It's not my experience of loving God. Have you ever considered..." So there's a great opportunity.”
At this point time was moving on, the hot drinks were drunk and people were starting to arrive for the concert, so I wanted to bring the conversation back to something “Wonderful”, namely their new album! For me when I reviewed the mini-album the stand-out track was “It’s Not Over” and it sounded like there was a story behind it, so I thought I would ask.
Read our review of Wonderful here (opens in a new window)
Noel explains that it was about someone they know who is suffering from cancer, which according to the medics is terminal. Noel explains “I was talking to a mutual friend about this person and saying how he is keeping his spirits up and he's getting on and living life and making the most of the time he has left and every time I have seen him in recent months, you wouldn't know he's suffering because he looks OK. When I was talking to this friend of ours he said "It's not over 'til it's over" and I wrote that down on my phone, "It's not over, 'til it's over, it's not finished 'til the end" and I just put it on the back burner. Then we had this melody and I said to Tricia "Look this is what I've been thinking that we should write a song that says that it's not over, there's still hope and until I take my last breath I want to make the most of these moments." So that's how we started writing the song.”
“There was a documentary we saw about someone being paralysed from the waist down and then through some pioneering medical technique they are now able to walk again, albeit very falteringly but there is hope. He said, this guy was Polish we saw on this television documentary, he was saying "Never give up without a fight, some door will open for you." I think "It's Not Over" is a song of hope saying there is still room for a miracle, miracles do happen. I think people with faith and without faith understand that concept. "Oh I had a miracle escape from that car crash, but I was fine." People talk like that. Also there's the whole thing of friends are very important and we get support and we draw on the strength of our friends. It's in those crisis times when friendship and love are very important so again it's a song about how the strength of friendship and love will see us through and continue to keep our spirits up as we go through these dark places.”
It was great to have a chat with Noel and Tricia, they went out to tell more stories to the gathered audience and shared their songs in a lovely intimate way. They really bounce off each other, both in their songwriting and as they share their stories. There is a passion still to share Jesus, but just in a different, more relaxed and intimate way, letting people into the moments of their life.