A year ago (already) Miranda Easten created a Spotify playlist for NZM to go along with the NZ Music Month 2020 release of her uplifting single Only One. Once the Covid lockdown shenanigans passed, the Christchurch singer-songwriter brought several of her naturally romantic alt-country tunes north to Auckland’s Roundhead Studios, to be recorded with a crack band under the production baton of producer Greg Haver. Here, Miranda shares some unexpected insights to her upcoming album’s lead single Country Boy, which has racked up considerable love from fans in the United States.
I clearly remember writing the lyrics for Country Boy, it was a sunny morning and I was sitting on my bedroom floor (where I write most of my songs) and looking around for inspiration. I’d hung a dress up the night before, for a special occasion, and when I glanced at it the first few words jumped into my head; “I put on my best dress”. Such a simple concept, but those can often be the best songs! It then wrote itself very quickly for that simple germ of an idea.
Once the main structure, lyrics and melody were mapped out I ran it by Sacha Vee at the Sole Music Academy in Christchurch to get some feedback. We made a few small changes but felt the core of the song was strong and was ready for the production and musician input.
I’ve always been open to input from both my producer and musicians as they have an experience and perspective that can sometimes elude the songwriter, in being so close to the song and its content. As with the whole album we did a rehearsal room pre-production session prior to going into the Brick Room at Roundhead Studios to work on the feel, arrangement and structure, I like to give everyone involved a lot of leeway for interpretation.
Myself and my producer Greg Haver often have long discussions about the content and influences on each song, to really find the core, and to strip things back to keep it simple and direct. This song however was easy! We just wanted a full alt-country song and be unashamed about its content, cowboys, trucks, relationships, this literal approach carries right through the video.
The main challenge throughout the project was my health. I actually had to go into hospital for a major operation during the making of the album, and it was a constant battle throughout the process to retain energy and focus.
The team for this song was myself, Greg, Scott Seabright (engineer) Stephen Small (keyboards) Tom Healy (guitar) and Cass Basil (bass and BVs), we also had Mark Hughes on bass for some of the album. This song as mixed by Clint Murphy in the U.K. and mastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound in Nashville. All their contributions were invaluable.
Country Boy is a bit of an outlier as it’s so unashamedly country, but that was the plan! I think my delivery and writing does tie it in with the more introspective and darker songs on the album – Tom and Greg do like to bend guitar sounds out of all recognition! One of my favourite parts is of the song is the bridge, it has a cool almost Beatles-like feel that’s unexpected.
Greg always gives me veto power on anybody else’s ideas, but I rarely use it! One line I did make a stand on was; ‘My heart is beating between your teeth.’ It’s not that it resonates, it’s just I won the battle with Greg as he wanted to change it!
I really felt that this single and the whole album closed a chapter and was a real catharsis. I’d now like to collaborate more on new material, and I’m already underway on the writing process for the next releases. I’ve been working with some amazing writers in Aotearoa and plan to continue in Australia and the US next year.