Duncan Batey

Home By Now

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About Duncan Batey

My musical career began by playing keyboards, writing, and singing in various bands around Bath and Bristol at the tail end of the last century. As the new one dawned, I switched to acoustic guitar, moved to Glastonbury, and began performing solo covers at local open mics, until much to my surprise I started writing original material again, and won the Somerset Songwriter Competition in 2012 with my song 'Blindsided'.

Emboldened I released an acoustic EP of the same name in 2013, featuring Caelia Lunniss of Spindle Ensemble on violin, and began playing at local festivals and other events with an expanding if variable lineup of accompanists.

In January 2020 I released my first album 'Little Black Classics', just in time to not promote it due to a global pandemic.

There's probably a field of social psychology that looks into the mystery of how smaller friendship circles form among larger groups. Maybe it's something to do with mutual admiration, shared senses of humour, interests, or enthusiasms, or perhaps some spark of recognition, or of empathy: that moment when you encounter someone and think "tribe!". Whatever it is, I find myself happily part of this merry band of pirates (well, songwriters), all of whom met during a songwriting competition and its social media surround, and are now sailing around in our own good ship Scared Hitless, and about to unleash the broadside that is the compilation album Late Night Flying. Special props to Cap'n Pat Orchard, first mate Rob Dunsford, and bosun Chris Franklin, for their concerted efforts in getting all this together. Ah-haaar then, me hearties!


Home By Now - LYRICS

We didn't mean to run away to sea,
Only to seek our own place and identity,
But the currents are strong, the tide and the undertow,
And lost in the waves, and the deep blue...

No ghost from the grave needs sent to tell us this -
in over our heads, we're in one hell of a fix.
Staring at screens for retail therapy,
and for the homes of our dreams, with no hint of irony

But if you lived in your heart you'd be home by now
If you knew what it wanted, it could be in your hands
All this flailing and fighting it leads nowhere
If you lived in your heart you'd be home by now

The call of the sea, harsh and inviting -
the foam and the spray, the farthest horizon.
Ah but sail with me for an inland ocean -
your body's the key, the seat of emotion

And if you lived in your heart you'd be home by now
If you knew what it wanted, it could be in your hands
All this flailing and fighting it leads nowhere
If you lived in your heart you'd be home by now.

The Story Behind The Song

I didn't know it at the outset, but this ended up being a song about the different and sometimes conflicting places we look for a sense of connection, for a feeling of being alive. I tend to write songs in a kind of patchwork way, both musically and lyrically, so it's hard to say where this one began, and in what order the rest of it came together - but the title was sitting around in my notebook for a while, having seen it on a bumper sticker on a car in the town of Street, near to my home in Somerset, and, unusually for a bumper sticker, liking it. Fortunately no-one seems to have copyrighted it, as it seems to be considered a 'phrase or saying in general usage' as far as I can tell.

The verse chords and picking pattern fell out of my fingers one evening at the end of June 2016 while messing about on guitar at home. It instantly brought to mind the crash of the ocean, light on waves, seagulls, the creaking of a sail boat... and the first line, a paraphrase of the title of a favourite Arthur Ransome book from my childhood, 'We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea', appeared.

My godchildren were at the time setting out into the world, in the face of some not inconsiderable challenges, and I was thinking back to when I was doing the same, along with their parents and our friends, and of how much we didn't know what we were doing, where we were going, or what the consequences of some of our decisions, particularly some of the more controversial ones, would be. So there was this sense of accidentally being drawn into some of the very strong currents and undertows of life that got quite a few of us, including me, into way more trouble than we were ever looking for! Or believed was possible - and that was the first verse.

I have no recollection of what put the 'no ghost from the grave' misquote from Shakespeare into my head to start the second verse - I suspect that was hanging around in my notebook too - but the rest of it came from a different source, from noticing the manifold 'ideal home search' programmes on daytime TV on the screens at my local gym, and from my concerns about how much we all seemed to be disappearing into social media and smartphones, 'distracted from distraction by distraction', rather than being present in the moment, as mindfulness teachings would have it.

And then somehow at some point those two things came together in my mind as both being about what is often seen as the general spiritual malaise of our society, and certainly in me - seeking for peace of mind, a sense of connection and satisfaction, seeking for ourselves even, in the external or in the world of heady ideas rather than in the internal and universal world of deeper feeling and emotion - at which point that bumper sticker line from the notebook seemed to fit, and the chorus was born, as well as the third verse, which explicitly, if metaphorically, contrasts those two poles - the temptations and distractions of the world, and the invitation to the spiritual. The notions of the body being 'the seat of emotion', and the heart being like an ocean, both come from Buddhist teachings on meditation I studied years ago.

It was a very satisfying song to write, because it all came together fairly quickly over the course of an evening, and both musically and lyrically seemed to know where it was going, even if I didn't. It might look as if some of the musical and lyrical motifs were deliberately constructed to fit together, but they weren't, at least not in any calculated way - hard to describe my delight on finding that the key change for the wordless middle eight naturally resolved itself back into the original key for the final chorus, for instance - and in the way that the themes of the heart and the ocean melded on different contrasting levels. Maybe it's the cleverness of the subconscious mind in creative mode, who knows, but it's certainly one of the things I love about writing songs - the surprising way things can come together, as if by magic.


Fly A Little Further ...