Tag Archives: Keith Errington

Song in progress

I know it’s more normal to wait until something is entirely finished before putting it out into the world. However, I’m excited about this song, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about processes. Song arrangements don’t happen by magic, and how we do things as The Ominous Folk is quite interesting.

The song then – is about Annamarie Nightshade, a witch from the Hopeless, Maine project. It was written specifically for Susie to sing, and it was written for us by lovely Keith Errington. Keith has been part of the Hopeless, Maine project for many years. He’s written in the setting and he’s also performed with us at events. This is his first song for us, and we know there are more to come. I’ve known for some time that Keith is a songwriter, but it’s not something he’s been putting in public. It’s great being able to give him space to share more of his many talents.

The process then. When we start with a song, one of us will have undertaken to lead on it. Or we’ll have decided who is leading which bits. Where it’s feasible, we listen to as many different versions as we can – easy enough with folk. For covers we try to find a few live versions as this helps us get to know a piece. When a song has been written for us we only have one version to listen to, so we’d all spent a few weeks getting familiar with Keith’s recording of his song.

When we sit down to figure out arrangements, we’re a democracy. We try things and we see how we feel about them. This invariably means that the first few runs at a song are messy and chaotic. We drink a lot of tea, and talk to each other about what we like in each other’s interpretations. Usually once we’ve been through a song half a dozen times we start to develop a sense of how we’re going to handle it, and usually the arrangements start to settle from there. We’re not far on from that point in this video, and the opening isn’t perfect but by the end it’s starting to sound like the song it will be.

It takes a while to sing a song in – this is as true for us as a band as it is for working alone. Learning the words will be part of that process. As we sing it together, it will evolve. Singing from a place of really knowing a piece is always different from those first, more tentative experiments. It will be interesting to come back next year when we have this one properly up to speed and compare recordings.

It isn’t like any other piece we have in the repertoire, which delights me. Songwriters all tend to have habits and we get more diversity of sound by mixing covers, trad and original music. None of the things I would normally do on a harmony line quite worked for this, so it pushed me to think in a different way. It’s good to be challenged like that! There are some beautiful words in there, and the notion of ‘dangerous care’ absolutely nails Annamarie as a character. 

I love working collaboratively, because it’s always a process and because more happens than any one person would have managed on their own. It’s always an adventure, and I’m conscious of being blessed with some really awesome people to create with.

Drained – a guest poet

Keith Errington is no doubt best known in steampunk circles for his comedic work. He’s performed with the Hopeless, Maine crew on a number of occasions, the first of which was right at the beginning of our figuring out how to get Hopeless onto a stage. He’s previously written a novella in the Hopeless setting – The Oddatsea and has been working with me on another Hopeless novella we hope to get out into the world next year.

It gives me great delight to be able to share some of his more serious work here. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this sort of thing.


When the tide is low, and the lake’s water has returned to the air

When the river can flow no more, and the spring bubbles its last

There is no more.

When the sea is calm, and the wind has all blown out

When the clouds have turned to grey, and the sun rises no more

What is left?

When the child has cried every tear, and the artist can no longer express grief

When the Nurse is out of care, and the mother can tend no more

Where is the love?

When the trees have withered, and the grass is returned to soil

When the flowers are weeds, and the fields are sand

What will grow there?

When the deer is slain, and the last rhino dead

When the birds are grounded and fly no more

Where can you go?

When the heron is dying, and the snake is withering to skin

When the horned god has not the strength to carry on

What can he do?

A glint.

A sprout.

An egg.

A raindrop.

A breath.

A smile.

Keith Errington