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My Song: Mini Simmons – Railroad For Two

My Song: Mini Simmons – Railroad For Two

The mighty Mini Simmons are back with new single Railroad For Two. In contrast to the Auckland five-piece’s usual style of bluesy Americana rock that makes them the killer live act they are, this one is a lingering sentimental ballad more in the mould of classic roots rock, written collaboratively by all the band. Frontman Zak Hawkins takes us through the making of their errmm, two x two-tracks track.

Railroad For Two was written between separate houses during lockdown. Yoni (Yahel, drums) wrote the chords on the guitar and sent them to me as a voice memo. He felt they deserved a love song, so that’s what I wrote. Not a love song tinged with bittersweet anguish, or roman candles from 10 paces, but a sink-back-in-your-seat-with-a-cup-of-Earl-Grey love song that winds its way home through the English countryside.

I had someone to write about, so it came easy. Even though it began life on guitar, piano made a lot of sense as the main accompaniment. Railways and pianos should go together, or maybe that’s just me?

Emily [Mackie] wrote a beautiful, first-time piano line which is the bedrock for everything. I kept nagging her to add some Perfect Day trills, but apart from those she already had it down pat. Brad [Craig] had actually come up with lead and bass parts when Yoni first wrote the chords, so once him and Jess polished those, the bones were there.

The live tracking was done in The Lab with Jol Mulholland. We were recording two tracks with him that day and asked if he’d lend his production nous, but I’m pretty sure most of it went on the other (yet to be released) tune! He told us to leave Railroad For Two the way it was – isn’t that the best producing though? Knowing when to let the tape roll.

Our only real challenge was figuring out how to build the song without it sounding forced. Brad tracked all the overdubs and vocals at his home studio which gave us a bit of time to get this right. We went back and forward on the doo-wop style BVs in the second pre-chorus, whether we should have the harmonica at all, and how the mellotron fit in. The mellotron is one of the coolest things about the song. It sounds like we got strings, but it’s all a hoax. Bowie uses one and we thought, ‘We’ll have a bit of that’!

The best lyric is “English June was made for you.” All the lines are deliberately simple, but I wanted that one to do its thing a bit more because it’s the only lyric specifically about the subject. And it’s just nice to have a month made for you, isn’t it?

The track has roots in blues but finds its place in contentment. Everything a blues song shouldn’t be really. It’s languid and full, but for some reason doesn’t entirely keep out the cold which probably has something to do with being British. Thinking about it, all of this makes it quite the anti-NZ-summer-tune, but that’s kind of how we like it…