UK singer-songwriter James Sullivan (More Kicks, Suspect Parts) shared the video for ‘You Kept My Heart Alive,’ the second single taken off his upcoming solo album, ‘Light Years,’ out Nov 5 on Stardumb Records (pre-order).
“The song is one of the most straightforward of the album. It’s romantic and kind of wistful. It references the shitty year that we all had but with the chorus acting as a balance to that negativity,” says Sullivan about the song. “It’s probably the poppiest thing on the record."
With another lockdown hitting London in November 2020, James Sullivan knew he had to do something to stay sane. "The concept of the album was simple: write 10 songs in 10 days and then record them myself on my little tape setup next to the warehouse where I was living,” continues Sullivan. “The initial plan was to play everything myself and that’s mostly what happened. But then there are a couple of things on the record that I just couldn’t do. On this song ‘You Kept My Heart Alive’ I knew it needed some big, lively, roomy drums played by a truly great drummer. And I also wanted a lonely violin weaving through it – I had ‘Isis’ by Bob Dylan as my reference.”
Luckily, Sullivan knew just the guy for the job and turned to Kris Hood from his band More Kicks. “I sent him my crappy demo and after we’d had a More Kicks practice one day, I took out two microphones and recorded him. He’s such a great drummer, it was instantly the correct decision. I think it was probably take two that we used. I don’t think there was a take three.”
As for the violin that is beautifully woven throughout the song, Sullivan remembered his old friend Marian McClenaghan (of the band Locks), who he had worked together with in a bar in Soho years ago. “I knew she played Irish fiddle-style violin. So she came over to my recording space ‘Chewed Up Recordings’ one afternoon and she arrived with this beautiful two-part violin melody. I take zero credit for it. It was actually the final thing I recorded for the whole record.“
Self-recorded on a half-broken Tascam 8-track, Sullivan describes ‘Light Years’ as the antithesis of overthinking. The album may have been born of frustration, but showcases an endlessly productive musician – a snapshot of an innately melodic writer holding a microphone up to a beating heart and a restless mind.