Songwriters on Songwriting: Esperi

Esperi is Scottish multi-instrumentalist Chris James Marr. His music ranges from acoustic storytelling to colourful electronica looping and combining different sounds with his acoustic guitar. He uses a host of instruments from the conventional to the unusual including his signature rainbow-coloured bells, toys, tools, samples ( including his son Callums heartbeat which features in the song Somersaults which was released on the day he was born ) . Chris lives in East Coast Scotland and predominantly writes about his family, dogs, home and the great outdoors.

He has performed around the world in all sorts of venues and festivals, shared the stage with Andy Mckee, Jon Gomm, Gomez, Jeffrey Lewis, James Yorkston, Ólöf Arnolds, KT Tunstall, Noiserv and many more talented artists, collaborated with RM Hubbert and Alex Kopranos ( Franz Ferdinand ), Panda Su, Sonny Carntyne…

Chris is also producing/releasing music at FAll ON STUDIO/RECORDS including his own esperi music and other bands and artists.

Music or words first? Or a bit of both?

I usually write music first and work words around it, but I’ve always got a bunch of ideas musically and lyrically to call from. I generally work on music first though, at least a chord pattern/riff/melody because I can find a different way for the words to fit and say what I mean them to.

Do you use a particular instrument to compose with, e.g. a favourite guitar; if you use piano/keyboard and guitar for different songs, do they produce different results?

I usually write on acoustic guitar, it’s my favourite instrument and most accessible.

Some songwriters talk about the process as if it’s like catching something that was there already, out there in the ether – as if the song was just waiting to be pulled in. Does it ever feel like that to you, or is the process much more mechanical for you?

With the writing process, I just feel that I’m making something. Sometimes it comes together very quickly and naturally and sometimes it takes longer and I work away at it over time, sometimes I know where I’m going with it with a clear idea and sometimes I’m not sure where it’s going but if I like an idea I try and follow it through to the end.

Name an influence on your songs that maybe wouldn’t be obvious to most of your fans.

I suppose some influences for me like Brian Eno, Godspeed, Braid, Slint, Faraquet and stuff are there but I don’t recognise the similarities as much…

Do you always write with your own (or your lead singer’s) voice in mind, or have you ever written for someone else? How did it turn out?

I don’t purposefully write with anyone’s singing voice in my head, I just work with what my own voice is capable of, I don’t really think about it.

Do you ever revise your songs after you’ve started performing them, or are they pretty much fixed?

I usually have a live version of a song and a studio version, some little and some bigger differences. Sometimes they change a little or I just perform them differently to fit the atmosphere.

Name three favourite songwriters of yours.

I guess Sufjan Stevens, Mike Kinsella and Justin Vernon would be my top three songwriters, also Sam Beam, Jonsi Birgisson, Joanna Newsom and Mark Kozelek, that kind of thing.

Esperi’s follow up to his debut “In a moment emotion sentiment” entitled “Seasons” is out now. Including 11 new songs and it features the single “Somersaults” which was released on the day his son Callum was born including a sample of his heartbeat as the pulse behind the song. Check out his new album right there, or catch him on tour.

For those of you who don’t know him, Andrew C Ferguson is one half of Tribute to Venus Carmichael, who are a whole lot more original than the name might suggest. Check them out over at the sister site to this one, and sign up to get a free download of one of the latest songs from the already-legendary #Tape 9….








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