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WPGM Commentary: Ed Wallis Embraces Great Change On His New Album ‘Green Rays’

My name is Ed Wallis and this Green Rays album started with an ending. My band My Sad Captains had been making records since the late noughties.

Our last couple had been on Bella Union, we’d had some good reviews and been on tours with bands we’d loved. But I’d been getting frustrated with being called things like “England’s best kept secret”, and as we got older and people’s lives got busier, various band members had left. When another announced they were leaving, I decided it was time for something new.

It was a time of big change in my personal life too. My partner and I had our first son, which shaped the writing process. Having always had loads of time and opportunity to take myself off to write, that all went out the window with a baby around. So I’d write on my acoustic guitar, playing to my son while keeping his baby bouncer going with my foot. Or I’d write quieter ambient tunes late at night with headphones on.

To record the songs, I reconnected with former Captains colleagues. My brother Jim was the original drummer in the band but had left after our third album Best Of Times to focus on his own music and being an engineer. This new project presented a great opportunity to collaborate again, and he drummed and recorded the basic tracks.

Leon Dufficy had become a key collaborator on the final My Sad Captains record Sun Bridge and added a huge amount to the songs and the sonics. Steve Blackwell and Henry Thomas were also in the final Captains line up and are brilliant musicians. So it was good to be starting on something new with trusted collaborators.

I’ve been describing the songs as “Eno jamming with the Clean or the Feelies”. I’ve been getting more and more into ambient music, particularly the kosmische end of Krautrock, and more recent new age influenced things. But I also always come back to melodic, melancholic songwriting. So this record attempts to meld the two.

Sometimes, the ambient side is fully dialled up – like the song “Slow Time Clock”, or “Moving Image” on the EP we released last year. Other times, the balance tilts more towards the gentle jangle, like on “Parakeets”. Some songs – like “Run” – sit about in the middle.

My partner and I were expecting our second son, so my aim was to finish the tracking and then hand over the songs to my brother to mix before he was born. Very sadly our son died, and for a long time, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the songs. They felt like they were from a different time, one I’d never get back to because everything had changed.

After a while though, Jim started sending me some mixes. The first one was what has ended up the first track on the album, “Getting Back Again”. He’d record a beautiful cello coda, using our grandma’s old cello. I loved how it sounded, and the care and skill he’d put into the song. It brought me back round and gradually helped me get back into the idea of finishing the record.

I’m really glad I did. I’m proud of the songs. The record feels like a continuation of what I’ve done before while also being a new start. I’m lucky to be working with old friends and trusted allies, who have been on hand to help me through difficult times and embark on something new.

Listen to my Green Rays album below and purchase it on BandCamp here.

Words by Ed Wallis / Green Rays // Follow him on Instagram + Twitter

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