Tiny Spark Interview R2 Magazine Jan 2016
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. In that case, the decade that has passed since Stephanie Kirkham’s last album makes Tiny Spark a heartwarming arrival indeed. Chock full with uplifting melodies and hummable hooks it proves that miserable doesn’t need to be the songwriter’s stock in trade. And it’s not like the singer-songwriter hasn’t had her fair share of career downs. Signed to Hut Records in the early 2000s she fell victim to that label’s spectacular and litigious collapse (over rights to The Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’) just as promotion of her debut album was kicking into gear. That Girl remains an undiscovered classic and this writer’s favourite album to accompany a summery day.
A second collection appeared in 2006 but that was followed by a decade where Kirkham’s releases were, at best, low-key and sporadic. Those years, however, weren’t wasted. Instead her energies were thrown into developing a reputation as a visual artist while continuing to write songs, often collaborating with established writers. A close writing relationship developed with Grammy-winning writer, Phil Thornalley (perhaps best known for Natalie Imbruglia’s ‘Torn’).
“How it first came about was that, years and years ago when I first sent off my a cappella demos, Jamie Nelson (who was then at Parlophone) said, ‘You should be singing these.’ It was him who put me in touch with different producers. Phil was one of those and we wrote ‘Monday Morning’, which was on That Girl. And after all that ended before it really began I stayed in touch with Phil, just as someone on the end of the phone. He kept saying, ‘Keep writing, get yourself a band.’
“I was a bit reluctant because I saw myself more as a writer than a singer. But then when I wrote ‘Easy As 1-2-3’ I thought it could be quite a good song. So I sent it to Phil and he said, ‘Yeah, lets do some work…’ And he had a backing track he’d written and he asked me to put some words to it and that became ‘Happy Ever After’. So it was just a case of finding the time to get together and then to get those pretty, happy songs together.”
This collaboration paid off with ‘Easy As 1-2-3’ picked up as the backing track for an international ad campaign. That song’s feel typifies the tone across Tiny Spark with ukulele, sound effects and eclectic musical instruments blending with more traditional sounds to create an effect that is simultaneously carefully crafted and carefree. The singer laughs.
“Well, that is down to Phil really. But also, I wanted to keep it light and breezy. You know, with That Girl it was really hard. And so I had to keep putting my chin up and look up. And through the writing of Tiny Spark and singing these songs it’s like there’s always two sides to the coin, and you have to think the glass is half-full. And so it had to stay up and had to stay happy. And then when Mads (Hauge, co-writer and producer) got the ukulele out I thought, ‘Oh, I like that. I really like that!’ And then with the glockenspiel and pretty sounds I just knew that this was how I wanted my music to be.”
So, once Tiny Spark hits the streets should we be expecting another decade’s wait for the next one? This raises another laugh. “Yes, it’s crazy, isn’t it. A decade’s a long time but I have written two albums in that time! The next one should be out by the end of next year.”