Chris Lawson – the story so far…
(Told by Host Recordings MD David O’Connell)
We first met Chris in April 2018 when he was referred to us by Turning Tides charity as someone who’d like to try singing (he’d only ever done the occasional karaoke session way back in the day) and wanted to try singing some Sinatra, Perry Como, Neil Diamond songs. We knew very little about his background apart from that he’d been on the streets, was now in a hostel and was not doing too great generally.
From the first session it was clear he had something – his voice was a force of nature – the timing and pitching needed work but the soul was most definitely there. After the first month of sessions we had settled on a song called ‘And I Love You So’ by Perry Como as Chris’ song of choice and it was here that he was really able to settle his voice on a song. The vocals were recorded in one take at St Clare’s Drop in Centre. Here’s how it sounded:
We were greatly impressed and enthused about the progress Chris had made with his voice but were aware that we needed to be releasing original music as it was clear Chris had a story to tell. Chris had never written a song in his life and, at a Host session on July 4th 2018, asked me about the process. I explained there were a few ways of writing songs and one way that might work for him would be for me to play something on the guitar and for him to just improvise over the top.
‘Well play something then!’ said Chris to me so I started playing the first thing that came into my head while Chris sat opposite me and started improvising words and vocals over the top. It was a hugely important and powerful moment – in the five minutes of improvised music came the basic structure and lyrics what has since become Chris’ first single. All out of an improvised music session with someone who’d never written a song before.
Here is the first ever version of ‘My Facts’ – created on the spot in July 2018 and only interrupted when Chris started singing about how he’d eaten seagulls and foxes when he was homeless (2.30 onwards):
Encouraged and motivated by this session, Chris returned a few weeks later and, realising that in this song we were writing there was a chance for him to really express himself and what he’d been through, took it up a level. Listen from 3.30 and you’ll hear a singer find his inner voice for the first time in his life. As Chris says at the end – ‘That’s my own voice!’.
This was the birth of a powerful and restless talent – Chris started walking the streets at night recording vocal melodies into his mobile phone recorder. He’d bring the melodies to the Host sessions to play and, for whatever reason, I found I could write music to whatever he played – the only thing I knew about his life was what he sang about and I found I could fit the emotion on the words through music. It was an unexpected but very welcome songwriting partnership which is very much ongoing.
We developed the music and words for ‘My Facts’ and, in one incredible session, Chris sung the entire vocal for the song in one take. This is the vocal that is on the finished track. Over the course of the rest of the year we continued writing songs and developing Chris’ songwriting and singing skills and, after a few occasions where I thought we’d lost him, I felt confident about his belief in himself and his natural talents and it was agreed that we’d make ‘My Facts’ the debut single for Host Recordings.
When I came out with the idea of Host Recordings, it was to provide a musical outlet for those who needed one, who’d been through the kind of desolation, loss and desperation that comes from being homeless. Chris has truly been through it all and, through his tenacity, bravery and natural musical ability, is now able to tell his story through his songs. This is Host Recordings’ first success – it’s will be the first of many. This song is where it begins:
NB: So for those of you who want to buy the song and contribute towards Chris future as a professional singer-songwriter, click on the link above and head to Bandcamp where you will be invited to buy the song. It’s £1 but you can donate more if you wish. Profits from the sale of this song go like this: 40% to Chris, 40% to Host Recordings, 20% to the charity of Chris’ choice. Please give generously. Thank you!