Charlie Dore released Like Animals in 2020, described by Mike Davies in his Folk Radio UK review as “arguably her finest work to date”. Among the guests that appeared on that album was Michele Stodart (The Magic Numbers). Together, they performed A Hundred Miles of Nothing, described in the album notes as “A small hymn to silence, space and slowing down…” Mike touched on this in his review, describing it as a wish to escape the bustle and just stare out into the distance, “click that little engine off/And step down from the wheel”, a feeling that’s accentuated by the simplicity of the arrangements.
Charlie and Michele have made a stunning and surreal new video, filmed at Didcot Railway Centre by tomclimpson.com. The pair are planning to do some live gigs together in 2022/23. Both share their thoughts on the song and video below.
Charlie on A Hundred Miles of Nothing:
“‘A Hundred Miles of Nothing’ isn’t an easy song to encapsulate as the lyric is more oblique than most I’ve written or co-written in the past few years”, says Charlie. “It isn’t about a specific person, relationship or even a story – unusual for me as that’s often where the seeds of songs begin to germinate.
“It started with something I heard Bruce Springsteen say during a radio interview a few years ago. He was describing one of the things he loved about touring, which was to stop the tour bus in the middle of nowhere, step down and just stare out at what he described as ‘a hundred miles of nothing’. I guess it resonated with me as I started thinking about how rarely we allow ourselves to be in a state of calm, not planning forward or looking back, just being there in the moment. Like an animal.
“Initially, the first version was almost a stream of consciousness, a meditation/reflection on a desire to escape from the noise and turmoil of what has become normal life.
“I’d been toying with the first verse melody and lyric for a while and wondering whether it would fit the ‘Like Animals’ album, which, although not a concept record, still had at its core the idea that however sophisticated humans think we are, we’re still easily hijacked by our most basic instincts, i.e. our animal brain.
“Although we hadn’t written together before, Michele Stodart and I seemed to fast-track to a very comfortable and natural ping-pong of ideas. As we developed the lyric, Michele’s parts gradually became a recurring conversation with an inner voice, sometimes soothing, sometimes scolding, trying to make sense of the past in an unwieldy world. In my experience, it’s rare that you hit that seam of empathy first time around with another writer, but both as a musician and a person, she has great intuition.
“We decided to record the guitars together live at my studio, in free tempo, without a click as there were lots of natural rals and dynamic changes. It felt right to do it that way as it was a very stripped-down track, but it did mean that if either of us stumbled (usually me, I’m afraid), even if Michele had achieved a faultless take, we’d have to start all over again. My fingers were in shreds by the end of the session.
“Liam Hebb recorded us; Michele just added U-Bass and slide guitar, and that was it. Julian Littman and I mixed it a couple of weeks later, and it was refreshing to come back to something that was so sparse and not feel we immediately wanted to add anything else.
“After nearly two years of delays and virus dodging we finally made the video last month, directed with great style and forensic attention to detail by Tom Climpson. We filmed partly at the uniquely wonderful living museum that is Didcot Railway Centre, plus some unofficial footage snatched on the fly curtesty of British Rail. That had to be very quick as everything was actually running on schedule and all I can tell you is that it’s not easy when you’re jumping on and off a train wearing a horse’s head and you can only see out of one of the eyes. Hopefully the rest will be clear…”
“It was a real honour to be asked by Charlie to co-write a song with her, and I love what we have created together!
“Charlie and I first connected a few years ago at an International Women’s Day show I was organising and musical director for; we had the chance to work closely together. Since then, we have become good friends. We both love a good chat and talk about many things: life in a slower lane, the memories of time, age, finding our space and footing in and around the hustle and changes of it all…
“In ‘A Hundred Miles Of Nothing’, we tried to keep this in mind when we were writing the narrative – we wanted to capture our voices speaking each other, entwined. So every time my singing comes in, it’s like that voice at the back of your mind… reminding, comforting you and almost goading at times. As we battle through not only life’s everyday challenges but also with those internal thoughts.
“With the recording we also wanted the song to take you on a journey, out into the wilderness, to create a picture of longing and that hopeful search for something more peaceful… There’s a sense of beautiful release from the guitars and the pace of the song that send you into an almost meditative state.”