From staying connected to fans in a world without live music to creating an album with only his gut feeling to guide him, Saint Raymond sat down with Atwood Magazine to talk about his new record, ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming.’
Stream: ‘We Forgot We Were Dreaming’ – Saint Raymond
At 19 years old, Saint Raymond, otherwise known as Callum Burrows, made a slick music industry debut with his first full-length project, “Young Blood”. In 2015, the debut was described as ‘fun’, ‘carefree’, and ‘euphoric’, but as he returns with his sophomore offering, We Forgot We Were Dreaming, it becomes clear that only now is his music truly carefree.
The Nottingham-born songwriter achieved enviable success with his debut record and amassed a loyal fan following. Following this swift rise, Saint Raymond scored some of the most sought-after support slots in the industry, including opening for Ed Sheeran on his UK and European ‘Multiply’ tour. With that success under his belt – and six additional years of valuable industry experience – Saint Raymond embarked on his most authentic and true-to-self record, but at first, he didn’t even know he was doing it.
Speaking candidly to Atwood Magazine, Saint Raymond explained, “I wrote the first track four or five years ago, and at that time, I didn’t have the second record in mind at all. I never sat down and said, ‘Now I’m going to write a second album’.” With continued candour, he openly disclosed, “On your first record, when you’re 19 years old, and you’ve got people that have been in the music industry for 20 years telling you to do something, you do it. I’m not saying that I don’t take advice from people because that would be silly, but it’s me that’s got to perform this music, and it’s me that releases it. So, this time around, it became about believing in what I wanted to do.”
With newfound confidence and unwavering faith in his creative vision, Saint Raymond’s We Forgot We Were Dreaming takes listeners down an emotional path that his previous release did not dare to tread.
In preparation for the record’s release via Cooking Vinyl, Saint Raymond sat down with Atwood Magazine to talk music industry pressures, picking the perfect producer, and the value of a hometown crowd.
We Forgot We Were Dreaming is out now.
A CONVERSATION WITH SAINT RAYMOND
Atwood Magazine: I'm sure you're getting asked this question a lot at the moment. But, how is lockdown treating you? Have you been busy prepping for this release, or are you just trying to relax before it all kicks off?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, it’s a weird one. When we first went into lockdown a year ago, I had just finished my record in terms of recording. So, it wasn’t a nice situation, but it came at a good time for me. In a weird way, it let me sit back and enjoy life. I’ve not had the chance to just do nothing for a while, so the fact that I’ve just been able to take a step back from it and enjoy the little things like watching Netflix is quite cool. Now, a year later, it’s a bit more like, ‘When is this craziness gonna end?’ I’m just looking forward to some normality coming back!
You’re due to release your second album, We Forgot We Were Dreaming, very soon. The record and the opening song have the same title. Why did you choose this as the name of the record?
Saint Raymond: This is something I’ve not told anyone yet! Track one wasn’t initially called what it is now. I wrote that song a long time ago, and it was the first song I wrote for this record. I came up with the title because I felt like it was something that epitomised all of the songs; when things start going wrong in a relationship, and you try to make it work anyway, then you realise you’re actually in a post-relationship dream-like state, and it will never work in reality. So, you fall into the trap of trying to make things work for the sake of making it work. I felt like track one was about exactly that, so I renamed it to match the title. I felt like it really kicked off the record and summed everything up emotively.
How does it feel to be releasing your second album during a pandemic and a national lockdown? Has it been more challenging to get the record ready for release?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, 100%! For me, Saint Raymond has always been based on playing loads of live shows and building everything else around that. For the first record, we were in full tour motion, and when it dropped, it seemed to just slip out because I was so busy at the time with touring and festivals. For this one, I’ve had so much time to sit down and think about it.
Do you usually try to use crowd reactions when making decisions about which tracks will make the album? If so, did you get the chance to do that for the songs on this record?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, I’m definitely one of those artists! There were a couple of songs on the first record that I wasn’t initially a massive fan of. Then, we played them live, and they had a reaction that made me think, ‘Okay, maybe some songs will work better than I thought.’
Did the absence of that reaction make you more anxious when putting the record together?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, I’ve not had that at all this time, and it’s been completely reliant on my gut feeling. Although, it has been quite cool because, as a result, this is entirely the record I wanted to make, and I’ve not had those reactions to sway me. But, it is scary at the same time because those are the people that buy the record; it’s been difficult from that side of things.
On the subject of live shows, how much do you miss the buzz of a crowd at the moment?
Saint Raymond: I say it a lot, but when you’re on tour playing every other night for a month or two, you don’t get to appreciate it and it all blows into one. There’s a lot of shows that I completely forgot we ever did, and now I’ve had time to look back on them and appreciate them for what they were. So, going forward, I just want to appreciate every show because I think this whole situation has highlighted how important live music is to me.
You’re hopefully going on tour in November. When those shows go ahead, how are you planning to make them the most exciting comeback shows possible?
Saint Raymond: As you say, it’s all about making the shows the most exciting experience possible. You can sometimes get a bit complacent when you go on back to back tours, and you can get lazy with yourself and shows. Not that I feel I’ve ever been like that intentionally, I just think it can be subconscious. Now that I’ve had this experience, I’m never going to take a show for granted again. I think it will be the same for a lot of artists, and everyone will be thinking, ‘How can we make this the best performance?’ instead of just getting through it.
Are there any specific venues or cities that you are particularly excited to play once live shows are reintroduced?
Saint Raymond: For me, it’s Rock City, which is my hometown show. We’ve played it before, and the hometown crowd is always something a bit special. I’m looking forward to the whole tour, but there’s just something different about hometown crowds. It’s a venue I’ve wanted to play again for a few years, so I’m really excited about that one!
It’s been six years since you put out your debut record, Young Blood. Since then, how do you think your sound and songwriting process has evolved?
Saint Raymond: For a start, I was super young when I made that first record. I was new to the music industry, and I was very happy to do everything and anything. I did writing sessions with so many kinds of people with different styles. The biggest thing I learned from that was to trust myself. On your first record, when you’re 19 years old, and you’ve got people that have been in the music industry for 20 years telling you to do something, you do it. I’m not saying that I don’t take advice from people because that would be silly, but it’s me that’s got to perform this music, and it’s me that releases it. So, this time around, it became about believing in what I wanted to do.
I’ve been trusting in myself a bit more and not being led. It’s very easy in the music industry for a lot of hands to get in the pie, and a lot of people have opinions about where they think you should go. But, ultimately, it’s my music.
Totally. Trusting your instinct is really important in music because your fans want to hear what you have to say! We've mentioned how there was a six-year gap between your two records. So, when were the songs on We Forgot We Were Dreaming written? Are they a recent project, or did they span that whole interim period?
Saint Raymond: They literally span the whole time. I wrote the first track four or five years ago, and at that time, I didn’t have the second record in mind at all, I never sat down and said, ‘Now I’m going to write a second album.’ Then, over the last two years, I began feeling like I had a body of work that I was happy with, so I scooped up all the songs I’d written through that time and carried on going. There’s also a song on the record that I wrote just before we went into lockdown when I was back at home. So, there’s a span of four or five years worth of work on this record, which makes it weird looking back. Recently, I was looking through some of my old demos, and there are versions of songs from 2016, which is crazy!
I imagine it’s quite a relief for you to get them out there!
You've worked with a few very successful producers on this record. What is it like to introduce someone else to your creative process? Are you very careful about who you choose to work with on your music to ensure that you get the best outcome possible?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, totally! On this record, I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve known most of the people that I worked with for years, and I have close friendships with them. I felt like they were the right people because they knew exactly what I wanted. I’ve been very fortunate to maintain those friendships, and they are friendships. In fact, two of the people I worked with on this album are friends who I speak to most days! I’ll admit, I can be very protective about who I work with because it is about building a relationship with someone and trusting them with your work. But also, there were a couple of times on this record when I worked with people that I’d never worked with before. I threw myself in the deep end with them, and it worked out.
The people you've chosen are clearly the right people because it's a great record! ‘Soft Landing’ is my favourite track on the album, but do you have a favourite song that stands out to you?
Saint Raymond: It’s ‘Soft Landing’ for me too; that song is a really important one. I wrote it with a guy from Nottingham who is in a band, and he’s doing really well at the minute as a producer and a writer. At the time, maybe three or four years ago, we both felt like we were in a bit of a hole. I wouldn’t say it was anything dark, but we were at loose ends with music, and then we wrote that song. I think all those feelings reflect in the song, so it’s an important moment for me on the record.
A lot of emotion has gone into the writing of We Forgot We Were Dreaming, but after you’ve heard the songs back a hundred times and played them live on tour, I imagine you feel that emotion dull. Are there any tracks of yours that still, no matter how many times you play them, strike that deeply emotional chord?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, that’s so true. First, you write a record, then produce it, get it mixed, and finally, get it mastered. So, by the time a song is complete, you’ve probably listened to it 40 times, and it can be a bit like, ‘Is this any good anymore?’ When the record was finished, I purposely sat back and said, ‘I’m not listening to any of the music for a while,’ because I don’t want to have that issue. Although, there is a track on the first record called ‘As We Are Now.’ It’s about all my mates going off and doing their own thing in the world, and that still resonates with me because I’m still best mates with that group of people. We’ve all come back full circle and are still best mates. So, that song will always have real importance to me.
For fans who haven't heard those songs as many times as you have, those moments can still be very raw. Do you ever catch yourself reliving the emotions when you notice a particularly emotive reaction in a crowd or when someone tells you how much a song means to them?
Saint Raymond: 100%! We’re not able to have the live element at the minute, but I’ve been doing a bunch of streaming across different platforms, and I’ve got a private group on Facebook where people can just chat. I was playing a stream on there last week and someone commented while I was playing saying, ‘You probably don’t realise how important this song is to people.’ It is completely true; you do forget. I’ve seen people who have had my songs as their first dance and who get engaged to my music. When you see it, it does bring that song back to life for you. I think it’s so important to remind yourself that, even if it’s only one person who has a moment with that song, it means a lot to someone. I think that’s why I need to stream and keep in contact with people – so I know they’re enjoying the music.
I was going to ask you about how you've stayed connected to listeners throughout this lockdown. Are streaming and your Facebook group the most useful tools that have kept you in touch with your audience?
Saint Raymond: Yeah, those platforms have been key. I don’t use Facebook personally, but I quite liked the idea of making this private Facebook group where I can stream, and people can just talk to each other. People often say, ‘I’ve bought a gig ticket, but I’ve got no one to go with,’ and then they’ll connect with a new person. It’s been just as rewarding for me as it is for anyone in that group because I get to see that people still care – it’s very hard to see that in a world where there’s no live music. It’s easy to like a photo or send a comment, but when people are getting into a conversation, it’s so rewarding.
After such a crazy year, which has just turned the music industry on its head, is there anything that this experience has taught you, or you’ve gained value from? Are there any new ways of working that you intend to continue doing when everything goes back to normal?
Saint Raymond: I think streaming is something that I’ve definitely gained value from – it’s so easy to do and accessible for anyone with a phone or laptop. Something that this experience has taught me is not to take anything for granted. When I’m busy with writing sessions or touring, sometimes I just can’t wait to go home and do nothing. This experience showed me how easily and quickly it is for something to disappear, so I can’t wait to do everything. When everything’s open, I’m getting on the first plane to LA, and I’m going to go work with some crazy people. It’s made me want to really throw myself back into it. I’ve done a lot of zoom writing sessions with other artists, but I struggle with that because I like being in a room of people; I love talking and getting to know someone – I just want to dive back into it all.
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