- Tom H
Henry Bateman | Definition (new single and video)
In an age of social media where everyone is encouraged to share a 'Greatest Hits' of their life with the world, it's easy to arrive at the misconception that everyone is somehow doing better than you. Leeds-based songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist Henry Bateman reflects upon this theme in his stunning new song, "Definition," the second single release and taste of new music from his forthcoming album, A Ghost Inside.
The predominantly acoustic instrumentation and straightforward, 'less is more' production of "Definition" pairs perfectly with the sentiment, gorgeous melody and lyrical theme of this solid example of Henry's songwriting talents. "Definition" is a melodic, reflective and delicately infectious song that calms the worried, restless soul. It is a moving ballad that will resonate with fans of Elbow, Mumford and Sons, Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush and Elliott Smith.
Recorded with his bandmates, the path to the official release of "Definition" was anything but immediate. While the song came together relatively quickly, it had a long and winding path making it onto A Ghost Inside. "Definition" traces its origins to January 2017 when Henry was a second year songwriting student at Leeds Conservatoire. Henry tells SoundThread Music Blog, "Myself and a fellow student called Caitlin Stubbs decided to have a couple of days writing and recording and 'Definition' was the second song that came out." The song came together rather quickly and is one that Henry has performed live over the past few years on his own and with other vocalists.
Thinking back to the original demo of the track with Caitlin, Henry recalls, "I started doing that strumming rhythm, moving from A to C#m and we sort of developed the melody and lyric together. I don't think it took more than a couple of hours." The theme of the track also took shape in the same songwriting session. "I think the chorus came first, and then there were a few words I was singing in the verses which I think maybe suggested that perhaps this person looking for 'Definition' was in a bus haha," Henry comments. "So we just jumped on that idea... someone who spends their life getting other people to their destinations but never finding one for themselves."
I wanna be the one that’s getting on
I wanna be the one that’s getting on
Oh, Ooh, Ooh
Why does definition never come?
Will my definition ever come?
Sensing how strong the song was at the time and feeling like it might be impossible to recreate the mood or to arrange the song any better, "Definition" remained in its demo form for years. "I love that demo," Henry comments. "It's just a shitty guitar, our voices and a moog. It completely captured the essence of the song and I fell in love with that recording instantly. And it's lasted. I play it to people now." As the structure of his new album began to take shape, Henry revisited the song. He comments, "When I started working on A Ghost Inside, for the first time since 'Definition' was written, I could see that song being part of my artistic vision for the new record. Conceptually, it completely made sense to include it as part of this set of songs."
Arriving at just the right arrangement for the song was Henry's challenge – one that did the song proper justice, but that was also coherent with the band-centered aspect of the album. "But it was actually very simple," Henry reveals. "We just had to go for simplicity - set things around a straightforward backbeat and create enough of an atmosphere to get the mood across, but to really just let the vocals fly. It was one of the easiest ones to put together for the album in the end." While the core of the song remained the same, some of the vocal arrangements transformed along the way. Henry explains, "On the original demo, Caitlin and I did a huge cacophony of vocals of the final bridge, and Hannah Lamb who sang on this record was terrified about trying to match it haha. But she's outdone the demo, she just did an amazing job. I just kept pressing record and told her to go higher haha."
"Definition," along with Henry's previous single, "Seinfeld Street," will both appear on A Ghost Inside. Regarding the theme of the album, Henry comments, "This album is all about ghosts; people around me turning to ghosts, and the ghost I know exists inside if I let it. I wrote these songs during a period of time where a lot of the things, and people, through which I unknowingly defined myself, stripped right back. I found myself feeling pretty absent a lot of the time, like I needed to find a centre of gravity again."
While written prior to the lockdown in early 2020, the recording of the tracks had to wait until the band was able to be in a room together again and record. When things began to open up in a limited way, Henry started doing things very DIY. "I wanted the album to feel a bit homemade, like an early Police or Beatles record, to be a bit noisy and sweaty... so to be honest having to do things by myself, without an engineer or producer on hand, just encouraged that." Henry continues, "I think not having a producer in the room when I recorded my vocals, for example, allowed me to let a few things slide that I hope has given the vocals on this album an energy and life that just feels bit more live and raucous than on previous albums."
As we await the release of A Ghost Inside, and as the band with which Henry created the album doesn't exist in its pre-pandemic form, Henry is putting together a few "Live in Lockdown"-style videos that rekindle the energy of the band, with members who have since moved. And for those looking forward to live performances, Henry reports, "There will definitely be some solo shows coming up to start with, just to try and get the muscles moving again. I've missed playing live enormously, but I'm not rushing back to it. It needs to feel right and like I've got the right thing to present; the best way to convey these tunes."
On the songwriting front, Henry reveals that he's going back to music college to do an MA in composition and production and is also hard at work on completing new songs that originated during the 2020 lockdown period. "I'm currently working on another record which is the product of my solitary confinement at the start of last year. I'm really proud of those songs and arrangements and we've got a big name who's shown some interest in mixing it so that could be really cool." Clearly, there will be no shortage of new music from Henry over the next few years!
We leave you with some stunning visual accompaniment to "Definition" in the form of a captivating digital video by Henry's cousin Robert Bateman. I think you'll agree that the visuals, aesthetics and bursts of color perfectly suit the atmosphere and vibe of "Definition."
For more information about Henry Bateman, visit his official band website, follow on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube) and listen on SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Spotify.