Watch Liam Bailey Play “Fight” and “Paper Tiger” in South London for “Neighborhoods”
Along with the performance, the U.K. songwriter breaks down his recent LP Ekundayo for us track by track.
This is the part of the album cycle where Liam Bailey should be hopping in a van and performing the tracks from his soulful new record Ekundayo across his native U.K. and beyond—though, obviously, live music is a rare sight these days. Instead, we asked Bailey to give us a brief acoustic set of a few of the songs off the record he released back in November without leaving his neighborhood—which he delivered on in the video below wherein he strums through “Fight” and “Paper Tiger” on the steps of South London’s Crystal Palace.
Along with the impassioned performance, Bailey repackaged what would be his onstage introduction to each of Ekundayo’s songs into a track-by-track breakdown, which you can read below for a little context, specifically detailing his work with producer Leon Michels and the point of origin for the record’s frequent allusions to dub. Watch the performance and read about the album below.
This is a recording we came up with on the spot. Freestyle vibes. I did one take with Leon and one without I think. Fast forward a few hours and Leon started playing what would eventually become the organ part, and I just started singing from the heart. These words were being mined from memories, feelings, and something other. Anyway, to write the song I channeled the feelings and thoughts I got at a time in my life when I was yearning for an old something I didn’t have.
I love dancehall and I’ve always wanted to record a song like that. We had the drums from an old session Leon did with Nick Movshon. I’m playing bass on the keyboard giving it a slight twist as it’s a little ’80s indie funk. The production is unique, I’m very proud of this.
3. “White Light”
Finally I had written an upbeat positive song! It’s about looking into the future and being excited. This is a song I didn’t overthink, and it’s better off for it. Me and my girlfriend have danced around to this song when we’re in a good mood a few times, I won’t lie.
I wrote “DBNY” about returning back to London with my tail between my legs after a short stint living in Brooklyn. I’ve battled a lot with depression and it ruined a couple of my previous relationships, so I wanted to take some accountability and put it into a song. It was just a song title in my head for ages until it eventually started to come together over two separate sessions. One in London and one upstate at Diamond Mine North.
5. “Cold & Clear”
Another song I wrote in the bathroom at my old House in Croydon. The acoustics were really good, and it was long and narrow with a bath along one side that I would sit on the edge of. A mirror on the opposite wall. The acoustics of the guitar played percussively in the bathroom were insane. Good vibes, man. I’m trying to talk about my weaknesses and how I’m trying to overcome.
6. “Angel Dust”
Another bass-heavy song. Dub roots, all of that. I’m imagining a woman who is going to play you in my head and how I would describe that to a friend or counsellor even. Somehow Leon put together this crazy section that we were kinda using as a middle eight until it ended up on the back end of the track, which made us both freak out. It’s all a no-brainer when we have cuts like this, man.
So this started in my bathroom, then I forgot about it until I got upstate and I’m looking through my ideas to see what to play Leon. Lyrically I’m just trying to be honest about how I feel, and stick to that. I’m trying to talk about my weaknesses and how I’m trying to overcome them. I’m a sucker for high-pitched, catchy melodies, I can’t lie. I love vintage falsetto.
I haven’t recorded in this way for a few years and it came about naturally because I was on my own in the studio. Lyrically I’m channeling some inner truths and imagining some past relationships all at the same time.
9. “Ugly Truth”
The opening line is a direct reference to how you could interpret how I was born: into angry hearts. I have had to start doing some getting to know thyself over recent years in regard to family matters, and this is kinda about all that stuff, really.
10. “Young in Love”
This is a classic-type song. The arrangements nearly made me cry when I first heard them. I also love the laid back, lazy, soulful background vocals. Leon had some old Nyabingy recordings and we wrote to it. We got a carnival feel going, it’s sick. I imagined wavy days in a sunny East London park with cider.
11. “She Hates This Life”
I made this story up. I’m thinking of all the different souls I’ve met on the streets of London. In the clubs, bars, penthouses, and trap houses. All the manky wave gods and sleazy good souls. All mixing and chasing nothing and everything at the same time.
12. “Where Do I Start?”
If I have studio time booked sometimes a month before, I like to visit the seaside and rent a room somewhere and write. Something basic for two nights. Have a smoke with my guitar and come up with ideas alone. I had a night where I came up with a few little mini-songs. Catchy little dittys, and this was one of those.
13. “Paper Tiger”
This is a song that I wrote without thinking too much. I’m glad we persevered with it because I wasn’t initially sure where to start with it. I’ve often thought about how to write a song that is not very complimentary about yourself and it still sounds cool. I didn’t wanna whine and moan, so I’m super happy with this.