‘Motorway Of The Sun’ (MOTS), the new album from Julian Conor Reid, is a collection of songs written from 2014 to 2019, documenting the Liverpudlian singer/songwriter’s geographical journey from Lombardia to Campania to Oxfordshire – and the accompanying emotions and thought processes.
The album was recorded at NoizeLab Studios in Cagliari by Samuele Dessi, whose credits include Italian greats such Adriano Celentano, Vasco and Laura Pausini. This is a polished pop album – but one whose infectious melodies are balanced by lyrics which deal with themes such as addiction, mortality, grief, God, love and doomed relationships.
I was introduced to Samuele by my good friend Gianfranco Liori, a well-known Italian children’s author. Gianfranco and Renzo Cugis co-wrote four of the songs on the album.
The album is named after Autostrada A1, the 800-mile axis of the Italian highway system links the country’s three biggest cities Milan, Rome and Naples – with the tip of the peninsula at the Straits of Messina. Reid spent hours driving around Italy.
70% of the album was written and recorded in Italy. It was produced by an Italian. Four of the tracks were co-written by Italians. To all intents and purposes it’s an Italian album – by a Liverpudlian.
Born in Liverpool in 1980, Reid worked in a recording studio in his teenage years, later attending The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Paul McCartney’s fame school. He has worked with and performed alongside members of notable British groups such as The Dead 60s, Supergrass, The Boo Radleys and Space. He has performed live in America, Argentina, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
From 2010-2012 Reid toured a workshop based on the lives and music of The Beatles around Italian elementary, middle and secondary schools. Thousands of Italian schoolchildren will remember ‘il inglese con la chitarra che ha cantado i pezzi dei Beatles’. For his work preaching the gospel according to John, Paul, George and Ringo – Reid was made an honorary member of L’Associazione Beatlesiani d’Italia – The Beatle People Association of Italy.
Reid returned to England from Italy in 2015. And whilst the contrast between Oxford and Liverpool was perhaps not quite as stark as that between Milan and Naples, the familiar themes of leaving (a house, a city, a relationship, a body, memories). As John Cale once sang: ‘Learning about the difference between north and south’. Reid picks up the thread: ‘This album is about those 180 degree turns – and the motorway is an artery that either connects or divides a country, depending on your point of view.’
The tone for the album is set by the first two songs: Time to Climb the Mountain (introspective, change, mortality, reflective Followed by World of Pain – a glorious pop song reminiscent of Morrisey at his most rock ‘n’ roll and carefree.
Reid on MOTS’s opening track ‘Time to Climb the Mountain’:
I wrote it back in Summer 2015 when I was living in Capocastello, a medieval borgo in Mercogliano in the province of Avellino. There were several things on my mind at the time of writing, in particular the recent death of my best friend and former guitarist from a heroin overdose. I was also recovering from a nasty viral infection that had left me laid up inside the house for a period of several weeks. During this time I had read ‘Into The Wild’ and drifted into a somewhat fragile mental state of melancholic pantheism. I had lived in Italy for seven years and Spain for two years before that. I not lived in England for almost a decade and felt that my time in Italy, a country I love dearly, had run it’s course.
Capocastello and the mountain of Montevergine, crowned by Santuario Di MOntevergine was the physcial backdrop to the mental and emotional setting described above. Although Montevergine was inspiration behind the song, my memories are that the mountain I intended to climb was actually Terminio, visible in the distance from my accommodation.
Fittingly, the song’s live debut was at the Castellarte music festival in 2015. Four years have passed since I wrote the song – and it is now a staple of my live set, having been played live on numerous occasions.
I was interviewed at Castellarte by Antonella Russoniello a and asked when the album would be released: I said September or October. Fortunately I didn’t specify which year! 4 years have passed and the album is finally ready for release. It took as long as it took and perhaps that’s how things were supposed to be.
Time To Climb The Mountain
World Of Pain
Motorway Of The Sun
I’m Not The Man
Where She May Never Find Me
Ghosts of Summertown
Twice Born Man
Words by Julian Conor Reid.
Music by Julian Conor Reid except World of Pain, Twice Born Man, Motorway of the Sun, A1 written by Julian Conor Reid, Renzo Cugis, Gianfranco Liori
Produced, Mixed and Mastered by Samuele Dessi in NoizeLab Studios, Cagliari 2019