A fan of film scores, instrumental music and Dream Pop, artist J Churcher has crafted an album filled with Indie-folk tracks that will transport you to another world. Working part-time as a gardener, Churcher spent all of his free time creating music, eventually writing a mind-boggling 500 songs. His songs “In The Summer” and “I Remember” were the first tracks that he put online, but in the beginning, he kept it real low key. Just when Churcher was starting to feel defeated and thought about quitting music altogether, the light at the end of the tunnel revealed itself in the form of a deal to sign with label, 37 Adventures.
His latest venture with 37 Adventures is an 11-track album booming with dramatic orchestration, wistful melodies and silky smooth vocals. The theme of the album is inspired by memories, and the untrustworthy nature of a memory as time goes by. Churcher explains how he uses memories to make songs, and then in time, new memories will be created from that listening to that song. It’s about constantly being in a state of in-between, which is exactly where the album gets its name from. We caught up with the man himself.
Where did the name Borderland State come from? It’s also a track on the album, so how did you decide on that song being the album title?
Since I was about 16 I’ve endured several episodes of sleep paralysis. It’s a kind of place in between dreams and reality in which you can often hallucinate strange, dark things. I saw the term Borderland State used in relation to this and it made me think of some kind of lost, forgotten place in which you are “in between” or “on the borderland”, essentially in a kind of purgatory. The song itself is a about a reunion of old lovers who both fade away into this nowhere land. Borderland State, fittingly, is also an area in Massachusetts that I’ve never visited, and probably never will.
Talk us through the themes in this album, and the story behind it?
The evolution of memories. Memories are constantly changing, often to the point where we can’t trust them anymore. They inevitably involve some sort of romanticism, like a painting hanging inside your head. Each song on this album both relates to telling a story about a memory, and creates a new one as I listen back to it.
Do you have a favourite track off of the album? Which is it and why?
I think it’s probably “Yesterday”, It’s was the catalyst for Borderland State and started me writing in a totally different way. It’s also one of the oldest songs on the album, so carries with it some nostalgia.
Describe your sound to us in 3 words?
The Last Hurdle.
What is your creative process like when you’re creating music? Do you start with an idea or do you just go with the flow?
I think there are two different methods when writing music, there is the rough and the smooth. The smooth is that effortless eureka moment, a gust of inspiration that takes you through the moment where you barely have to push the idea at all. The rough is where you feel you have a great idea but no matter how hard you push it you find something is missing.
I’ve been stuck on songs for years, some of them have been trashed but some have been salvaged and made it on to Borderland State. Sometimes those songs that I think I’ve trashed can make unexpected returns in my song writing to this day, just to haunt me once more. My actual song writing process usually begins with me on my acoustic guitar, once I have the main hook, I take it to the computer where I write and produce simultaneously.
Lyrically I tend to mumble the melody into the microphone for the first couple of takes, I’ll listen back to these and I’ll hear words and sentences starting to form. I always write lyrics like this and I think this method really helps to get into my sub-conscious. It’s rare that I would start writing a song with a definitive idea on how the completed track would sound. I think the things that inspire me take a while to sink in, usually it’s stuff that I’ve seen or heard over the last week or month. So by the time I sit down and start writing I’ve almost forgotten what inspired me to write the song in the first place.
How did you get signed by 37 Adventures? How does it compare to working without being signed?
I was on the cusp of quitting music altogether. I had taken a part-time job as a gardener to allow myself plenty of free time to write. I would get home from work and start writing – I wrote over 500 songs over the space of about three years – but I wasn’t particularly happy with any of them. It got to point where there was a library of songs that only I had heard. I would occasionally play them to my girlfriend, she loved them and she encouraged me to send out to my family and friends. One of these friends was Keith Anderson, a band manager I had known for years. He forwarded them on to 37 Adventures and a deal was struck pretty soon after I met with them. I’m really happy that at least half the album is made up of those songs that were written during that difficult period, there is a lot of soul and a lot of darkness in there but they deserve to be heard.
How did you meet Dreamtrak? Do you enjoy producing or do you prefer working with another producer?
Dreamtrak was a kind of left-field suggestion put to me by 37 Adventures. At this point I was working with a handful of really talented producers in order to find the right one for the album. I listened to some of his music and I was really unsure of how well we would work together seeing as his stuff is way more electronic than mine but it ended up working really well. I love producing, it really dictates how I write because I do them simultaneously. I would work on a song from home then upload it in the studio with Dreamtrak and sort through any problems I might be having. We started to build an understanding after a few sessions, to the point where he would know exactly the kind of sound that I wanted to achieve without me asking for it. He was also an important part of the record as he understood that I did not want the album to sound like a generic studio album. The production had to reflect the songs themselves which they do, there is a muddy, haziness to them, and also a Lo-fi element which is important to me.
You featured Anna B Savage on backing vocals in this album. Do you like collaborating with singers on your music? Do you enjoy singing yourself?
I love the combination of male and female voices together. So I was desperate to use a female vocalist on the record. I love the vocal style of Emmy Lou Harris, Bonny Raitt, and Elizabeth Fraser. I really wanted her voice to be sensual and longing so I asked if Anna could almost whisper the lyrics. This was my first time collaborating with another singer and something that I would definitely do again. I’m not the kind of guy who will pick up a guitar at a party and start serenading the crowd, I’m quite introverted. Although I enjoy singing I think I’m almost too self conscious to really love singing, to really lose myself in that moment. That could be because I’m so used to writing and recording at the same time, I’m producing my own voice so I put it under a lot of scrutiny.
What’s your favourite genre of music to listen to, compared to your favourite genre to create?
They’re pretty much the same to be honest. I listen to a lot of Dream Pop, Shoegaze, and some singer songwriters, (mainly Neil Young) I do listen to quite a lot of instrumentals/scores. I’m heavily influenced by film and I often mute the movie I’m watching and play my tracks over the top. If they work together then I’m happy. I remember watching Once Upon a Time in the West and being blown away Morricone’s score.
If you could collaborate with any artist in the future, who would it be?
I love Daniel Lanois’ production, he would be great to work with.
What’s next in store for J Churcher? Any big plans?
I’ve just finished shooting the video with Silent Tapes for my next single “Finding Roxanne”. That will lead up to the album coming out on September 9th. Then I have another video being shot in Georgia by Jaro Minne for “Riding On your Love”.
Borderland State is out on 9th September. If you pre-order Borderland State, you can get his new single, “Riding On Your Love” as an instant grat track.