For a long time now, English singer/songwriter Ben Howard has been one of my favourite musicians, and one of those who have the most emotional significance to me. Since the very first time I heard his breakthrough single Old Pine on the now cancelled Channel 4 morning music show, Freshly Squeezed. I instantly fell in love with the guitar playing and the story telling at the heart of the song, and it lead to me becoming a massive fan of the band – with Dublin date in the Olympia Theatre in November of 2012 being the best live show I have ever attended.
Since then, the Devon singer/songwriter has continued to go from strength to strength with his musicianship and lyricism consistently developing from album to album. It is very difficult to fully articulate the effect that the music of Howard can have on a person listening to it, but like good songwriters it almost feels as though he is telling your story as he writes a song.
However, there is one song from the discography of the performer that stopped me totally in my tracks the very first time that I heard it. The song, Soldiers, was released as a free download on a 2011 newsletter by Howard, and it is a truly wonderful piece of songwriting.
The song is Howard’s lyricism at it’s very best as he talks us through the little things that make being in a relationship with somebody to be so special. Throughout the song we are introduced to those glorious moments of lying in bed with someone just as you both wake up, and that feeling of the world being perfect that brushes over you. It’s done tastefully and with meaning here, and immediately transports the listener to a time in their past when they experienced something similar. A time when it feels like the words that are being traded at this moment are truly special because nobody else will ever hear them.
“Oh you watch me steady, you
Watch me with such a quiet sincerity
And you hold me heavy, you
Hold me like I was born to be held
And the light comes in here, yeah
Morning my dear, and the restlessness of arms
And we lie here longing now
Words were ours that we’ll never be harmed”
However, there is recognition throughout the song that Howard is aware that what happened before could very well happen again, and he implores his partner to leave in haste and not drag out the act if it’s about to. This is an important point for the song to address as for many people there will always be this lingering doubt around getting back with an ex as you begin to wonder if what caused it to end before still exists. This is dealt with in a subtle and powerful way in the song, and will reflect how most people would feel in such a situation.
“But if this goes wrong again, oh heaven forbid
If this was how it was meant to fall, no
If this goes wrong again
Will you pretend that you know, steady as the morning and just go
And just go”
Just an example of masterful songwriting.