Welsh-born folk songwriter James McArthur and his band the Head Gardeners have released new single Tourist Town, the second single from his latest album, Intergalactic Sailor. McArthur has explained the track is “…about a mixture of places, mainly Posada in eastern Sardinia and the Valpolicella region of mainland Italy. It’s about getting under the skin of people and places through the social tendencies of wine… Wales and Sardinia do have real similarities (although not in the weather) that include an intriguing history, and a tendency for the un-hinged.”
Previously, McArthur shared first cut from the album, Plane Sailors, which was described by Folk Radio UK as reminiscent of the “metamorphosis that British folk underwent during the late 1960’s, when the influence of psychedelia and the counterculture saw the idiom being twisted into all kinds of new and exotic shapes”. I can certainly see where they are coming from, because I was both track reminded me of Donovans fifth album, A Gift From a Flower to a Garden. Sailors features Syd Arthur’s Joe and Liam Magill and according to McArthur, was inspired by planes that land on the sea and pick up water to put out forest fires, and “how communities can help improve the planet, whilst also helping each other.”
In collaboration with label Wonderfulsound, a double A side 7” vinyl of tracks Tourist Town and Plane Sailors will be released as part of their bi-monthly singles club Wonderfulsevens.
Featuring guest appearances from brothers Joel and Liam, of Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller-collaborators Syd Arthur, Intergalactic Sailor follows McArthur’s previous album Burnt Moth, which was released to critical acclaim in 2017.
“I received a call out of the blue from Joel Magill (Syd Arthur) inviting me over to East Wickham Farm to do some recording. As it happened, me and the Head Gardeners were ready to roll, and spent 15 days with Joel putting Intergalactic Sailor together. I played some drum loops to start with, then we sonically painted in all the parts…
I’d always wanted to work with Liam Magill, (brother of Joel, with whom we had already worked on previous Head Gardeners albums with) we had played on the same bills in Canterbury and London over the years, but never worked in the studio together. Liam came down to their place, Wicker Studios, we had a productive session and he ended up on quite a few songs. Luckily for me, Liam and Joel (who played bass throughout the album) are natural ‘Head Gardeners’.”
The remainder of the album was recorded at East Wickham Farm, the nearly 400-year-old building bordering Kent and South-East London that was the childhood home of Kate Bush and is still owned by the family today.
Intergalactic Sailor demonstrates McArthur’s, now signature, intricate plucked guitar lines and hushed vocals that are beautifully accompanied with yearning violin from Jim Willis and haunting pedal steel guitar from Johnny ‘O, who make up the Head Gardeners. Throughout his career, McArthur has valued the overall listening experience. From performances alongside ambient DJs at the Tate Modern, to live shows on the top of a mountain, to miniscule gigs in a vintage golden caravan, his devotion to creating the perfect atmosphere is key to the beautifully intimate feel in his music.
McArthur cites inspiration for the new album from road trips around Sardinia and mainland Italy, visits back home to Wales, the re-working of a Suffolk coastal garden, and all the experiences of central London living in-between. The lyrical themes of Intergalactic Sailor range from financial loopholes to astronomical black holes, though McArthur always retains his connection to the natural world, particularly on tracks like Drain The River, and Clearing Up, that focus in on our relationship with the environment. Integrating nature and nurture, McArthur invites you to interact with the living landscape, unite and connect with each other and, consider our place in the world, all with his own subtle charm.