Te Whanganui-A-Tara folk singer-songwriter Nigel Parry has released a new album enticingly titled, ‘Tales of Common Folk, Salt & Sweet Kisses’. Storytelling is rife throughout, and reflective country-folk single The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors is full of warmth and nostalgia, any sadness lifted with a sense of dancing in old village halls. Parry kindly provided NZM with this in-depth explanation of the song and its genesis.
The first time I played this song was in a small town pub. On the same street there’s an old bank building; closed, decaying, no longer the grand bank it once was. It’s the inspiration for the song.
I was passing a couple of days earlier and stopped to suss out the venue, and the disused bank seemed to be a symbol; towns not what they once were, high street doors closed forever. I awoke the next morning with the main line going around in my head and, within an hour, the first version of The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors was written.
I wanted the song to have a slightly empty, ‘country’ feel to go with the story. You can even waltz around an old village hall to it! The first big change was playing the guitar in DADGAD, and the song seemed to come alive. It’s my home tuning (I even play covers gigs in DADGAD).
The next big leap was going to an APRA organised songwriters weekend. Jason Blume, the workshop leader, stood at the front on the Saturday morning and said, “You think I’m here to talk about songwriting. No! I’m here to talk about song re-writing.”
I’ve taken that to heart ever since; good isn’t good enough and you keep looking for ways to make a song better. I did that here – doubled up the verses and made one of them into the bridge. That thinking can make it tricky deciding when a song is ‘finished’ enough to record, but there are some miles under this one now.
Most of the track, vocals and double-tracked Larrivee acoustic guitar, was recorded in my own studio in Wellington. Local Pat Higgins adds some lush Irish low whistle and a few BVs. To add to the “last dance at the old village hall” feel I asked long-time supporter of Wellington acoustic scene Murray Kilpatrick to play accordion, just on the bridge. And to fatten up the bridge a little more I added U-bass and drums, with more vocals. Subtle, but they’re there.
Chris Penman who is an amazing singer heard me play the song at a folk festival and wanted to drop some harmonies. Well, yeah, obviously. She sounds awesome! Chris is near Hamilton, but luckily that’s where the producer, Jake Booth of Mordecai Records is based. So she dropped in and added the perfect vocals.
Jake may be mainly a metal-head, but he’s great to work with on my acoustic stuff. He really listens, ‘gets’ the story and what the song is trying to convey, the feeling. Then makes the tracks so much more than my demos (sometimes the professional polish like this, sometimes interpreting what I send him and adding a new twist).
I record in Reaper, do the comping and initial editing, run a demo so he can hear my thinking, then send him the stems so he can get to work on the raw material. We may have some back and forth over Dropbox, but he’s usually pretty damn close from the get-go. A final sit-down to wrinkle out the last details and the work is done.
The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors seems to really strike a chord wherever I go (even around the world) – everyone knows of a bank branch or something else that’s closed down now. You’ll have to ask me which town inspired the song though. (Oh, and the pub closed down a while ago too – I never did get paid for that gig.)
The Day The Bank Closed Its Doors is a track on Nigel Parry’s 2022 album ‘Tales of Common Folk, Salt & Sweet Kisses’.