Motes of dust hang in a beam of sunlight and warm notes lilt from an old, weathered piano, filling the living room and floating out the windows of Peter Jackson’s house in West Derby, Liverpool. It’s a familiar scene; the unassuming and reflective Jackson perched on the stool, feeling his way around a new melody.
Recording as We Are Catchers, Jackson’s first solo album comes on the back of more than a decade of being in bands and writing music. No longer the ghost at the feast, his transportive debut sees an artist finally emerging from the shadows.
The eponymous album was partially recorded at Jackson’s home with the friendly helping hand of fellow Liverpudlian Bill Ryder-Jones, who not only co-produces alongside Jackson and Darren Jones but also contributes some typically flawless and alluring guitar.
It was important to record some tracks in situ at Peter’s home, as the delicate charm of that old piano was somehow being lost when played in the studio. It needed the well-worn homeliness that weaves its way through these songs; they’re pulled on like a favourite jumper and feel immediately comfortable.
Signed by Domino head Laurence Bell in 2012, Jackson has been working on his record for almost two years, meticulously making sure everything is just right. The time and freedom is something he’s clearly grateful to his label for.
“I feel honoured to release a record through Domino, and every single person I’ve worked with along the way at the label has been great. I honestly don’t think I would’ve been able to make this same record with anyone else. Laurence gave me the freedom to make the record I wanted and the time to get it right… and probably a bit of belief when it got lost along the way, so I can’t thank him enough for that.”
Jackson is also quick to thank his mate Ryder-Jones, too. “Working with Bill has been great. He was the first person to pick up on the music, so I’ve lots to thank him for. It’s an honour to have him play guitar on the album.”
From the opening track ‘Water’s Edge’ the album ripples with a sense of longing and nostalgia. It’s not an easy feat to capture such a real and present sense of emotion, and at times it feels like the musical equivalent of flicking through some old Polaroids of your favourite holiday. The single ‘Tap Tap Tap’ is infused with a childlike levity – it’s the sound of reluctantly waking up for school as a kid, and then realising it’s a sunny Saturday and bouncing out of bed.
Talking about his mindset when composing, Jackson explains: “I always seem to have a picture in my head of this better place or time when I’m writing. It’s hard to describe but probably like the thoughts people have of long old summers or seaside trips as a kid... just a longing for better, simpler times I suppose.”
There are some clear musical touchstones here, with elements of Simon & Garfunkel and Carole King, but the joy of The Beach Boys is foremost, as Jackson explains.
“Brian Wilson is probably one of the biggest influences on my music. The very first time I heard ‘Pet Sounds’ it just kind of made sense to me more than any other record before it. I always used to come up with strange little riffs on the piano and they always seemed a bit different to what other people would do. Then I heard that record and I realised you could use that kind of thing, if done in the right way. One thing I’ve always worked on with my own songwriting is to try and emulate how much the melody travels in his songs.”
‘We Are Catchers’ undoubtedly succeeds in taking the listener on a journey, and it’s a sun-dappled and bittersweet one, laced with romantic yearning and provoking a desire to lay back and warm your bones.
“I think the water here plays a huge part in shaping my music. I’ve always loved the feeling of freedom it gives you. The idea of untying the line and drifting away is something I always try to capture.”
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WHAT: A piano-led, sun-drenched trip to the land of wistful melodies
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Tap Tap Tap’ (video above), ‘Richer Man’, ‘If You Decide’
FACT: “My Nan started learning the organ when she was 60. She says she knew I was going to be a musician when I was three and she found me playing ‘Silent Night’ on the pedals of her Hammond organ. She still writes songs at 92 and says they are better than mine – that they are ‘proper’ songs.”
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Words: Nick Rice
‘We Are Catchers’ is released on March 24th, and Jackson will be playing some UK dates with details to be announced. Watch the Domino website for details.