Desert Life is the moniker of Welsh indie Folk/Rock Singer-songwriter Chris Swales. His music draws upon many influences including Wilco, Neil Young, and The National, but naming only a few, is like going to the cinema and only seeing the corner of the screen. His songs ranges from multiple variations. Tender to loud, alternative-country to alternative, all has the intention of taking the listener on a journey within themselves or to a distant visitation.
Desert Life released their singler “Not My Girl” which was a delightful, up-beat song that takes its listener on a positive journey. The rhythm of the drums and instrumental melodies has you dancing along. What I liked most about “Not My Girl” was the storyline it projected. While listening to the single you found yourself following along to the lyrics and the painted images it gave us. There’s nothing i love more than a song that creates an experience and just like they claimed, Desert Life fabricates an entire experience for their listener. From the moment “Not My Girl” begins to the minute it finishes, you’re hypnotized by the song and your mind instantly begins creating pictures to complement the story of the record. The melody is highly contagious. I mean, every good song needs a great hook right? The hook is what catches the listener attention. It’s probably the most memorable aspect of a record so “Not My Girl “ has a refreshing and infections hook in which you become embedded in. Desert Life doesn’t deliver the song too abrasive nor too soft, instead it’s just right. Ever walked outside and felt the weather feeling as comfortable as possible? Not too hot, not too cold, but just warm with a little bit breeze? That’s metaphorically a representation of “Not My Girl” which reflects on the perfection of comfort.
Catch "Not My Girl" here, and don't forget to scroll down for Desert Life's exclusive interview.
How challenging was it to create “Not My Girl” ? what were some obstacles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Actually, it was surprisingly easy writing ‘Not My Girl’! The biggest challenge was finding the self-belief that the song was good enough to be shared! A number of years ago, I’d given up on music to concentrate on raising a family/building a home, and although I still wrote the odd song (for myself) my confidence was shot and dared not release anything. It was an off-the-cuff conversation with a friend (Brian 'Old Pa' Mackenzie), who had started to write some poems/lyrics and I asked him to send me some to "take a look at". I picked up my guitar and wrote the melody, phrasing and song structure for Not My Girl within an hour! I sent a rough demo of the song back to Brian and he said he was "blown away", so I continued doing it for other songs. Although I was happy with the demos, my confidence still remained my biggest obstacle. I eventually hired Mwnci Studios in West Wales and brought in some session musicians to play on a couple of tracks. Once recorded, I was desperate for the songs to get heard, so I settled on the moniker of Desert Life and put them out there. Not My Girl, was played by BBC Radio Wales before release and the great feedback I received really inspired me to continue.
“Not My Girl” is a beautiful record and seems to have a storyline behind it, what was the theme of the song and the motivation behind it?
The lyrics were written from the perspective of an individual who doesn't believe it when a friend tells him that their partner is cheating on them. I guess anyone that this has happened to can easily relate! The protagonist won't accept it when he's told that his girlfriend ("Lucy") has been seen out with another guy ("Joe"). They've been seen going together for lunch, "walking in the park", "I think they hold each others hand", but the guy still doesn't believe it is true. "That's not my girl!, that's not the girl that I know!". Throughout the song, more things come to light and eventually he says "that's not the girl that I know, anymore!". When I've been asked who is "Lucy", or "Joe", I just say that their names have been changed to protect the guilty, then smile!
Out of all your inspirations and influences, who do you believe served the most reflection of “Not My Girl”?
Lyrically, it's 95% Brian's words - I added some minor changes to fit the melody - but musically, and because I am influenced by a lot of American singer/songwriters, notably Ryan Adams, Jeff Tweedy and Bob Dylan, I wanted it to go the Alt-Country/Indie-folk route.
How would you describe the arrangement of this record?
The original demo felt a little "darker", but as I started writing the guitar hook, I was intrigued to see if I could give the song a "happier" feel. I loved the juxtaposition of the happy feel of the music compared with the heart wrenching lyrics. When you first hear songs like "I will survive", "Heard it through the grapevine" or Courtney Barnett's "City looks pretty", you'll often first hum the melody, and sometimes you even sing out the lyrics without actually thinking about them, but once you do, you actually realize how dark the song actually is! It gives me a wry smile when a few people have told me how dark the song actually is! Killing for Company's Steve & Andy Williams played guitars/bass, while session drummer Jack Beddis played drums and percussion - their input and support was invaluable!
What’s next for you this summer? Any exciting upcoming performances?
I have been playing a number of open mics to "live test" the songs of which I've had great support. I also have another batch of songs ready to record that will be released over the next few months. I am also delighted that Steve & Andy Williams have agreed to play in the full band setup, this allows the studio versions to be heard by live audiences. We are currently lining up a number of shows for the latter part of the year.
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