Category Archives: songs


Maybe it’s because I’ve been looking through my dad’s old diaries that my mum gave me, but I’m in a sentimental mood. I just finished listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s latest Revisionist History podcast episode, too. It’s one of my very favourite podcasts, thoroughly researched (as you’d expect) and always interesting and touching.

Jen and I went away with Mum this weekend. I was driving and I usually prefer spoken word rather than music to keep me alert. We listened to four episodes of Revisionist History on the trip and this one I’ve just listened to, ‘Analysis, Parapraxis, Elvis’, continues the theme of memory. In it, Gladwell explores an idea that’s very close to my heart and experience — how difficult it can be to perform songs that have a great personal connection.

There’s a moment near the end of the episode when he’s talking to songwriter Kaci Bolls (thanks to a reader for correcting my spelling!). She’s singing a song she wrote about her mother and gets choked up as she tries to recall and perform it. Gladwell doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable feeling, in fact that’s his whole thesis, and just as the other person in the interview pulls up out of the discomfort, Gladwell interrupts, ” wait, Kaci, could you play that song?”

I really admire that, because I know how very much she wants to sing that song in that moment even though it’s hard. And not in an arrogant way (people often think performers are just looking for a chance to show off), but she wants to sing it despite knowing she doesn’t know it that well. It’s an act of connection with the subject of the song, her mother.

I recently sang a song of mine, ‘Make It Home’, at a gig with David Rooney. It has lots of little references to my memories of home as a child and never fails to bring a lump to my throat. But I still love it and I want to sing it. I was encouraged by Gladwell’s empathetic conclusion that “a lesser person would’ve sung it perfectly.”

Review | Flecks – Girl

What a thoughtful review! It’s so exciting to see this EP making its way into the world. Can’t wait to play the songs live again soon, can’t wait to write more (we’re aiming for another few singles over the summer).

Have a listen. We’d really appreciate a ‘follow’ on Spotify — click the three dots beside any of the song titles and click ‘Go to Artist’, then click the ‘follow’ button.

We’re also on iTunes (your purchase would help pay for the mastering and uploading).

You can find us — @weareflecks — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube…

Drop us a comment and say hi 🙂

The Last Mixed Tape

FlecksThe Last Mixed Tape reviews Girl, the debut extended play from Dublin based synth-pop act Flecks.

Atmosphere is a word I often use in reviews, and the thing about atmosphere is that it’s incredibly difficult to build one and even more difficult for it to be believable. Such is the case with a the dramatic synth atmosphere of Flecks’ Girl.

“Nothing’s every gonna feel like it was when you were that stupid girl at the back of youth hall crying” sings vocalist Freya Monks during the E.P’s opener and title track. I’d like to take a moment to point out exactly how important this lyric is the rest of the record’s success. In the space of one line, we get a sense of where we are, where we were and where we don’t want to be. This made all the more relatable by the inclusion of “girl at…

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First solo gig in a long time (and a bit about playing Bach on piano)

Emma O’Reilly asked me to play at a songwriter evening she curated the other night in The Mercantile bar. It’s a long while since I played my own stuff, so I jumped at the chance. I took out the guitar earlier that day at home to practice and ended up writing a new song — something I haven’t done in a long, long while!

I’ve been meeting up with a friend of mine, Peter Ryan, to hang out and talk about writing and give each other encouragement with stuff we’re working on. My lack of any new material prompted me to go back over the voice memo recordings of song ideas that I’ve made on my phone. It was two of these that I worked up into the song, which I’ve called ‘Panic’. I *do* have a demo recording of just me and the guitar, but I won’t post it up yet. I didn’t do a brilliant job of playing it the other night at the gig, so I feel like it needs to stay on the drawing board for a bit longer. I’m hoping to maybe work it up into a bigger arrangement, so you can hear it then…!

Buoyed by the experience of playing Emma’s gig, I got in touch with Lisa McLaughlin and got a slot on a forthcoming ‘Saucy Sundays’ gig (the regular showcase that she hosts in The Grand Social). Sunday 13 May — I’ll be on first 🙂

Another date of note (for my diary, anyway) is Friday the 18th of May. I just got word yesterday that that’s when my Grade 8 piano exam is scheduled for. Eek! The pieces are coming along nicely and I’m chipping away at the scales day by day — there are so many! I just read Charles Rosen’s book ‘Piano Notes’, which had some really interesting thoughts about playing Bach. One of the pieces I’m playing for the exam is Bach’s Fugue in B flat from the first book of ‘The Well-Tempered Keyboard’. He wrote a Prelude and a Fugue in each of the twelve major keys…and also each of the twelve minor keys…and then he did that all again. The interesting thing that Rosen points out is that these were never meant to be performed in public (and certainly not on a modern piano, more likely on a harpsichord or a clavichord). Bach would’ve used them as teaching material and so the modern practice of accentuating each appearance of the main theme of the fugue (the ‘subject’) is not how he would’ve expected the pieces to be played. For a start, the keyboard instruments of his day couldn’t do gradations of dynamics in the subtle way a piano can (a piano-forte, to give it its full name, is so called because of its ability to do both soft and loud). Secondly, since it wasn’t for an audience, the people hearing the fugue would’ve been the player or a pupil following the score — both of whom would have no need to have the appearances of the subject spelled out to them, since it was in front of them. Thirdly, the subject is the least interesting bit of the piece if you’re Bach. It’s just the bones to which the artistic flesh of the composer’s counterpoint is attached. All that having been said, if the pieces *are* to be performed for an audience who neither know the score nor have the aesthetic sensibilities of an eighteenth century harpsichord pupil, the pianist would do well to bring alive the music (to ‘publish’ it, as Rosen puts it), and some underlining of the structure of these remarkable pieces is the way to go.

All great food for thought. I’d recommend the book to anyone who plays piano or has an interest in classical piano music — it’s an easy read, with loads of anecdotes and insight into the repertoire and life of a pianist.

Come to His presence

I wrote the first verse of this gospel song about five years ago and added the other two verses just a few months ago. Jen and I played at my friend Peter’s wedding in All Souls, Langham Place, London a few years ago and I played this song as they signed the register. I’m pleased with this version of the chords and it’s a good key for me, too (G major). Probably a bit high for general use—it goes up to an ‘E’—but it would work well on piano in F or Eb.

Come to His presence
Come lay your cares at His feet
Come find your healing
Come and be made complete
For He is faithful and He will care for you
Draw near to God
Draw near to God

Come with your hunger
Come with that thirst in your soul
Come to His open arms
Come with those fears untold
For He is faithful and He will care for you
Draw near to God
Draw near to God

Come with your grieving
Come with the pain that you feel
Come with your broken heart
Don’t be too proud to kneel
For He is faithful and He will care for you
Draw near to God
Draw near to God

A PDF of the lyrics and chords is available on request. Please pass this on to anyone you know who you think might like it, or who’s involved in church music. If you use it, let me know 🙂

Poisoned By McDonalds Blues

My friend Jonny posted this as his facebok status about an hour ago:

POISONED BY MACDONALDS BLUES went to macd’s for a wispa mcflurry now im running to the toilet in a hurry went to macd’s, got me a big mac spent the next day flat on my back went to macd’s for a diet coke outta my way im gonna boke went to macd’s, got me some fries now i feel like im gonna die i aint ever goin back to eat that food although i hear the big tasty is quite good i got those poisoned by macdonalds blues

So I did a wee recording.

Watch Me Fly

I was chatting with a friend of mine today who helped me record this track – Watch Me Fly – a few years ago. We pitched it for a TV show about a bunch of kids in a stage school so I wrote a lyric to go along with a riff and chord progression I had.

The lights beckon: it’s time for me to get up off my knees
The world threatens to leave me in the cold and watch me freeze
My pulse quicker, I stand up tall and take my rightful place
My blood’s thicker than the water that I splash upon my face

I’m on my way…just watch me fly

Cold shouldered, pushed around and treated like a fool
But I’m bolder, there’s nothing you can do to break my cool

I’m on my way…just watch me fly

at Dublin airport, March 2007

If you’d like a copy in your iTunes library (I use Windows 7…):

  1. right-click on the picture and select ‘save link as…’
  2. go to your iTunes folder
    • in iTunes press Ctrl+, to go to Preferences
    • click on the Advanced tab
    • you’ll see the location of your iTunes folder – now click Cancel and go back to the window we were ‘Save link as…’-ing in
  3. Make a new folder called ‘Jay Wilson’
  4. Make a folder in that one called ‘Watch Me Fly’
  5. Save the track in the ‘Watch Me Fly’ folder
  6. Now right click on the picture again and select ‘copy image’
  7. Go to iTunes and Ctrl+O to add a file to your library
  8. Find the track and click Open
  9. Now right click on the track in your library and select ‘Get Info’
  10. Open the Artwork tab, click on the box, Ctrl+V will paste the image

Sorry if that seems complicated but if you weren’t familiar with how to do that, it’s really useful to know and there is a treasure trove of music out there on the internet for you to enjoy!

I’m happy to help you with any queries about the process (although I’m only familiar with PCs…).

Hope you enjoy the track – please leave some feedback. If it grows on you maybe you’d consider donating a few virtual coins via PayPal 🙂

Saint Brigid’s cross

Last night I performed my latest song for the audience at Saint Brigid’s parish, Cabinteely.  New Dublin Voices were doing a concert to raise money for a charity called Preda that helps children in the Philippines.  The priest had suggested that it would be nice to have a new hymn composed for the occasion and I took on the challenge.

Saint Brigid's cross

I didn’t know much about Brigid, but quickly discovered that she is patron saint of four main groups: babies, farmers, travellers and a last set to do with creativity and fire.  This last group – comprising blacksmiths, poets, scholars and printing presses – was interesting to me.  Some of the ideas associated with Brigid’s day come from the ancient pagan goddess of the same name.  She was considered a goddess of fire and was thought to manifest herself through poetry (seen as the ‘flame of knowledge’ in ancient Gaelic culture), song and craftsmanship.  Brigid’s day (the first of February) is the first day of Spring in the Irish tradition and Saint Brigid crosses are made.  It would have been common in some households to burn the cross from the previous year in a symbolic act of renewal.

I wanted the song to be for the listeners, an invocation to think about the people, now and through the ages past, for whom Brigid was a source of inspiration and hope.  Consideration, appreciation and love of others is something we can all strive for and practice.  With or without words.

(click on the title to play…)

Saint Brigid’s cross

Burn like a mother’s love
For her newborn child
And its tiny beauty.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the tiny children.

Burn like a farmer’s limbs
When the work is done,
When the day is over.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the farmer working.

And the simple cross
Hanging on the wall
Can remind us all
Of springtime’s promise. (repeat)

Burn like the stars above,
Guiding trav’llers home
From a tiring journey.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for their safe return.

Burn like a great idea,
One that thrills the ear
And delights the mind.
Pray – with or without words –
Oh, for the truth to shine.

And the simple cross
Hanging on the wall
Can remind us all
Of springtime’s promise. (repeat)

(lyrics and music © Jonathan Wilson 2009)

two new recordings

These tracks were recorded by my talented friend Paul Donnan in the beautiful entrance hall of Powerscourt in County Wicklow.  I have a fascination, inherited from my father, with Irish ‘Big Houses’.  Powerscourt has its own special sadness – it was destroyed by fire in 1974 – and this is never far from one’s thoughts within its bare-brick interior (restored in 1996).  I dare you to examine unmoved the photos of the house from before the fire that are displayed inside.

It was a real treat to be playing my songs in that place while the winter night seethed with jealousy outside.

I chose two: my latest song, ‘Face in a frame’ and a song I wrote about five years ago which I call ‘Little boy’.  I realise now that it’s finally recorded that it’s as much about the little girl…any ideas on what it should be called?  (Paul called it ‘Tonight’.)  Click on the titles to listen.

Face in a frame

Carry my love over the ocean; bring him back here, back to my arms.  Accuse me of greed – I don’t care for reason – I just know I need him keeping me warm.  The neighbours are kind – they smile and make small talk – but I politely decline when they ask to tea.  I couldn’t help counting the chairs at the table.  The catch in my throat: “No, everything’s fine”.  Your face in a frame (last summer’s vacation).  Your coat on a hook on the back of the door.  I walk in the rain reliving old memories; each line on your face the same as before.  Our boy’s growing tall, he’s stronger each day now.  He asks me no questions, I tell him no lies.  I can see in his face that he wants to protect me.  I wonder can he see the same thing in mine?  Your face in a frame (our boy on your shoulders).  Your coat on a hook on the back of the door.  I’ll try to explain when he’s a bit older.  Oh why can’t things stay the same as before?

Little boy

Little boy, what have you done?  Little boy, what have you done?  You’re so big and strong.  You’re so big and strong.  Little girl, what have you done?  Little girl, what have you done?  You’re so beautiful.  You’re so beautiful.  Tonight the angels rejoice over you.  Little boy, what have you done?  Little boy, what have you done?  I’ll wipe your tears away.  I’ll wipe your tears away.  Little girl, what have you done?  Little girl, what have you done?  I’ll wipe your tears away.  I’ll wipe your tears away.  Tonight the angels rejoice over you.