LP Walkthrough: Stephanie Cherote - Some Holy Longing
The Northern New South Wales based singer-songwriter breaks down her stunningly elegant new album
The journey to a debut album will always be filled with ups and downs, twists and turns and unexpected events, however the path Stephanie Cherote took to get to her beautiful first full-length of alt-folk meets neo-classical, Some Holy Longing, is perhaps just a tad more interesting than most.
After winning an Australian Songwriter of the Year and Unsigned Artist of the Year Awards, Cherote received a mentorship that saw her in L.A. in songwriting sessions with Interscope Records. During this time, she withdrew from the major label idea and retreated to a semi-converted laundromat in New York City, where the album’s inception took place before a move back to remote New South Wales.
Upon returning to Australia, Stephanie managed to raise funds for the album that enabled her to assemble a 12-piece orchestra featuring players from the Australian Chamber Orchestra to record the string parts, finish the record, release a few singles, sign with Native Tongue Music Publishing, and finally release the LP.
An astonishingly enchanting listen from start to finish, Cherote walks us through the story behind each track - have a listen and get to know what inspired such aural beauty.
This song grew over time according to the phases of a rather nomadic life I was living and the different impressions I was seeing at the time. Beginning as a candid poem, written one afternoon after a melancholy kind of day at the beach (in Sydney). I was exploring my picture of ‘love’ in an innocent and almost kid’s picture-book context. I revisited it later in Costa Rica, I was traveling alone and found myself by the sea again, thinking about the perspective I had of ‘love’ when I wrote that poem.
I played with some chords and found the melody but again it just got stuck in the back of my mind for some time. A couple years later I was in New York thinking about the song. I felt that the purity of that poem wasn’t true to me anymore and that was quite sad, but I decided to finish the song with some questions that were true for me at the time. This was the first song I arranged strings for, and it was an awakening process for me- I felt completely self-sufficient in being able to produce the music I wanted to make.
What Becomes Of The Things I’ve Seen?
This song felt a bit like fire burning through me when I wrote it. It was a heartbreaking and cathartic experience. It was quick to light (lyrically), and I enjoyed the tangents I went down exploring the chord progression. The guitar gallops along relentlessly under everything. The verses feel quite erratic and wayward, so I wanted the chorus to crack open with clear upward direction. I heard the strings vividly before writing them- I wanted them to poke around in the verses and then echo the openness of the chorus. I enjoy the dynamic energy of this song.
Weighing in with myself in this song- it is probably the most frank and confessional song on the album. The immediacy of the lyrics incited a conversational melody for the verses and that allowed for quite a classic chorus that could embellish the feeling with very simple words. It was a particularly satisfying song-writing experience.
Another song that began as a poem written when I was in New York. I’d written the chord progression some years ago and invited them to this “poem” – they seemed to get along. The recording has the arpeggiated electric guitar which lays a beautiful swampy bed for the rest of the instrumentation and the vocal. I wanted the sound of this one to hark back to a “Dusty in Memphis” kind of production, something stormy and swirly.
Big sounds and old reverbs and just a few microphones to capture it all. The rotational outro allows for everything to crescendo several times before it climaxes (a bit like a classic Roy Orbison resolve). This song reflects my deep diving into sixties music and the way it was recorded.
To Be True
Another gusty and galloping paced song. This song was pieced together over time in New York. I find the choruses have a hypnotic drawl about them and the verses/ bridge are off in full swagger. I often feel like so much arrives when I’m writing verses and then choruses are just brief summaries of the bigger picture. The strings were arranged by Brian who also produced the album, he brought so much colour into the songs with his sometimes-fantastical arrangements.
You Forever Elude Me
This one was written a in a cabin deep in the bush during the backend of the writing process. It was written on guitar (as all the songs were), but I decided to record this one with just the vocal and orchestra. Brian suggested approaching it this way and I was torn because I’m really satisfied by these chords being played on guitar, but when I heard Brian’s arrangement I was struck and there was no question. This song sits in the middle of the song sequence and feels like a welcomed trip to heaven at intermission time.
All Because Of You
This song was written by my brother Daniel. I landed at his place after being in the cabin, he became a huge part in piecing the album together. One afternoon I heard him playing this song out on the front porch of his house and I ran out like a dog with its ears upright wondering what this beautiful song was. He asked me if I wanted to sing the female part and I asked him if we could put it on the record. And so we did.
Probably the most bare-bones song on the record, very dear to my heart. Just my vocal & guitar and a few bits and bobs, including a wonky whistling section. The vocal performance is brittle, I recorded it very late one night at the studio and I was feeling a bit achy and tired. The mood is captured in the recording.
This song reveals parts of me that only this song can provoke. I wrote it while I was doing a 10-day meditation sitting. I wasn’t allowed to use pens/ paper/ phones, so it was written in my head. It spun in my head for so many stark hours that I didn’t forget it. It was all there waiting for me when I arrived home and picked up the guitar. It’s interesting that these topics came to the surface while I was intensely meditating - I guess meditation brings oppressed emotions to the surface- this was certainly a discovery for me.
I had no vision for this song in terms of how to produce it, other than in abstract terms. I wanted it to feel suspenseful and I wanted it to carry all the gusto I felt writing it. The string arrangement is completely mad, in the most wonderful way. It pulls all the triggers on the emotions I was writing with and Brian’s direction with the production houses this little world of angst and flight and fight so powerfully.
You Who Knew
This is another song I wrote in the cabin. There were a few nights of torrential rain while I was living there. It rained so hard and for so long that the only 40km road from the freeway to the cabin was flooded and out of use. I didn’t have a car anyway, or a phone. It was a conundrum to say the least. I stayed up all night in the tiny mudbrick cabin writing this song and arranging the strings for it, again using Garageband samples.
It felt like I may have been writing the last piece of music I’d ever write, if the cabin and I were to get washed away, so I was delving into some deep enquiry. It is essentially about what one’s soul intended to do when coming into the world and how that’s going for you now? I recorded the sounds of the storm and it was really the perfect symphony for this song. The orchestra melody through the outro felt very end-of-time. My brother Daniel laid the electric guitar solo on it late at home one night after we’d been in the studio, brought it to its apocalyptic completion.
Me & My Longing
The last song I wrote for the record, and very much intended as the last song. I wanted to bring the voyage full-circle and land somewhere that tucks the album into bed with a low-lit lullaby. This song recounts my footsteps in a sinuous montage and finds peace with much of what has been chewed on and torn apart throughout the record. I feel like I arrive somewhere that is a celebration of the nomadic way, the seeker’s way. The chorus unashamedly sings praise for the will of one’s longing- what it means to be led by this elusive energy.