Outsider, Released 27th October 2014
London, July 2014
“I thought this album would be much more mature,” muses singer/songwriter John Forrester on this third long-playing solo outing, Outsider. “I thought the way I write would have changed drastically, but I think there are still some very recognisable characteristics in there. I couldn’t get rid of it all.”
Following a 10-year hiatus from releasing his own material, the Kent based multi-instrumentalist returns with his most accessible material to date. Hatched from an industrious burst of writing – part inspired by periods of self-imposed exile in New York, Berlin and Nova Scotia – the album serves as a travelogue, both literally and figuratively.
“I don’t want to sound like Bon Jovi dropping the word ‘airport’ into every song,” chuckles Forrester. “But a lot of the songs are about journeys. Saying that, there’s also a lot of observational stuff in there too. Someone said I write a lot about people’s hands.”
This rush of mojo wasn’t always a given though. Forrester took a temporary break from writing and recording in 2003 that slowly morphed into permanence. Session work as a sideman filled the time, but not the creative drive. Before Forrester knew it, years had passed from the release of his second album, the acclaimed All the Wrong Things, and he wondered if he would ever write music again.
“I think I became scared of trying to write in case it was crap. Then, in a field just outside Uttoxeter in 2011, the writing came back.”
Propelled by the break up of a long-term relationship, Forrester high-tailed it to a commune in Dorset, where he wrote. He jumped on a plane to Canada, and out of a plane over Kent, and on landing, he wrote. He found himself in Queens, New York and wrote – and made several return journeys to Berlin, where yes, he wrote.
Like the writing process, the recording followed an equally nomadic path: a week’s iPad pre-production in St Ives; sessions in a pro-studio in Kent; further iPad field recordings in the UK and Berlin; and a bunch of segments recorded remotely in Canada, Stroud, London and Cornwall.
“The two years that the writing and recording occupied was a transitional period. I found myself in situations I never would have dreamed of. I guess, without wanting to sound clichéd, I found myself and I changed.”
Yeah, whatever, but what about the music? Well, from the anthemic delta slide and piano chimes of Magpies, through the stripped back folk-with-intent of Hold Out Your Hand, to the upbeat goose-bumping Americana of Riding Trains (where the lyric dodges hackneyed formulas by name-checking the Circle Line over the Union Pacific Railroad), Outsider is an album of rolling diversity but is deftly anchored by Forrester’s warm, openhearted vocals, his confident yet un-showy musicianship and his raggle-taggle cast of ace supporting players.
It’s a contemporary take on folk and roots, but is steeped in the great traditions; it’s a subjective and meditative gaze at the mid-life psyche, yet its themes are universal; and it’s a testament to patience, exploration and determination, but still has time for humour and humanity in its hasty 45 minute running time.
Hopefully the wait for the already planned next instalment won’t be so long.