Tunes you can whistle and lyrics that will lodge themselves in your memory, Peter Webster’s new album is full of well-constructed songs. From the blissful latin-pop of ‘Felicity’, through the bitter-sweet alt-country of ‘To Have and Hold’, to contemplative singer-songwriter material such as ‘There’s Something (You Can Do)’ and ‘Sweet Songs’, Webster’s voice and guitar weave a distinctive path through this wonderful album.
“My main guitar is a vintage acoustic, a Martin HD28. I play an electric guitar and a nylon-string guitar on the album too. But the Martin is on nearly every track, and that, combined with my voice, give the album its characteristic sound. I deliberately didn’t stick slavishly to one genre. There are songs on the album that you could describe as folk, or folk-rock, or alt-country, or latin-pop or rock. There’s even one song with a dance flavour. But despite that, the album as a whole has a sound all of its own.”
One of the things that strikes you about ‘Footprints’ is its enormous emotional range. ‘Felicity’, for example, is a light-hearted latin romp with a pop sensibility. ‘There’s Something (You Can Do) is a song about dealing with adversity by valuing your relationships. ‘Sweet Songs’, perhaps the most contemplative track on the album, is about confronting death. And then there is the wistfully funny ‘Without You’ and the poetic ‘Too Quiet’. Not to mention the darkness of ‘Poison’, which is about an obsessive relationship. So how were the songs written? “I tend to come up with ideas when I’m relaxed,” says Webster. “So many of the ideas for the songs come along when I’m strumming a guitar with not too much else to do. Often I get part of the tune and perhaps a key phrase of the lyrics. But some were written very quickly, to the extent that I felt my only conscious contribution was to hold the pen. Others evolved gradually over months, and went through many re-writes before reaching their final shape. But however quickly or slowly a song takes to develop, at some point you have to stand back from it with a critical ear and assess it. In my view, a good song combines three qualities: an effective structure, a memorable tune and eloquent lyrics. Getting two without the third doesn’t really work. If your song’s got the tune and the structure, for example, but the lyrics aren’t up to scratch, then the challenge is to add the missing ingredient.”