SEEKINGBagpipes, Cello, DJ, Dobro, Drums, Electronic Music, Fiddle, Flute, Harp, Other, Saxophone, Trombone, Trumpet, Upright bass, Violin, Vocalist - Alto, Vocalist - Bass, Vocalist - Soprano, Vocalist - Tenor.
S J Denney is an Essex-based singer-songwriter with an indie edge. He’s a familiar face on the London and festival scenes with a reputation for delivering powerful live performances.
S J’s songs are crafted with finesse and delivered with a punch that demands attention – this is not a passive soundtrack. Add to indie a fusion of blues, funk, dance and heartland rock to get a real tour de force, captured on his debut album, Then Again, which will be released on The Animal Farm label.
And it’s not just about great music. Each lyric has been honed with the same care and delivered with the conviction of an artist right on top of his game. These are grown-up musical tales, taking us from the global revolution happening before our eyes, to the highs and lows of affairs in our hearts. He’s talking to you – and making you think.
Support slots for Athlete, The Bluetones, the Inspiral Carpets, Modjo and Wilko Johnson have been valuable stepping stones along the path that has built S J’s loyal fan base. The next 12 months will see the rest catching up and getting the message. And they’re going to like it. A lot.
‘He’s got the edge that can rarely be captured on stage. S J Denney’s music is meant to be in the spotlight and will only move forward from here on out.’ – LIVAMP
‘I can definitely hear how Noel Gallagher has been a major influence, but S J still makes his music his own. The details within his writing definitely make his music stand out; especially with his vocal style.’ – My Random Jukebox
- Screen name:
- Member since:
- Feb 05 2017
- Active over 1 month ago
- Level of commitment:
- Years playing music:
- Gigs played:
- Over 100
- Available to gig:
- 2-3 nights a week
The Beatles; Oasis; the Rolling Stones; Neil Young; The Bluetones; Paul McCartney; Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds; Bruce Springsteen; Tom Petty; The Beach Boys; The Smiths; Suede; Duran Duran; Depeche Mode; Coldplay; The Moody Blues; Bob Marley; Elbow; Peter Gabriel; Daft Punk; Dido; the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Michael Jackson
- Rhythm Guitar:
- Background Singer:
- Vocalist - Baritone:
- Acoustic Guitar:
- Lead Guitar:
- Other Percussion:
- Steel guitar:
- Bass Guitar:
Takamine G Series electro acoustic; Fender Telecaster; Gretsch Streamliner
All of the Above
All of the AboveWhen the title came to me, I knew this song was going to be the closer. It makes sense on the track listing and it’s great when the last track summarises the journey you’ve been on whilst listening to a record. I’ve always been a fan of lyrical nods. John Lennon took it to another level with ‘Glass Onion’, referencing other tracks by The Beatles. I thought I could take this a step further and reference each song on the EP. This really helped to build cohesion between the earlier tracks and ensure this song represented the record as a whole. This is another song that I wrote on the bouzouki whilst on holiday in Devon. Like ‘A Place We Knew’, I used a gazouki for the recording. I really love the fact that most of the track is built around a simple hook and in the coda the verse melody becomes the backing vocal. I’m also really proud that I’ve finally written a song with an outro that doesn’t want to end. I guess it’s my (much less successful) version of ‘Hey Jude’. Roisin O’Hagan provides backing vocals on this track and I can hear a bit of Kate Bush in her delivery, which is definitely a good thing! Gergő Bille also adds another dynamic, playing flugelhorn and muted trumpet.
This World Moves On
This World Moves OnI rarely play the piano, but when I do a song usually pours out. This one was inspired by Greta Thunberg and all the great work she’s been doing. Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges we’ve ever faced and it needs to be treated as such. There’s also a lot of other stuff going on in the world, and the song may even take on a different meaning this year. I can definitely hear some Neil Young in this song. I’m a massive fan of his 70s work and those albums have quite a few short piano-led songs. There’s something really raw about a voice and piano arrangement. The only other instrument in the mix is the cello, played by Louise Dearsley.
Stand in Light/I Could Be Forgiven (You Decide)
Stand in Light/I Could Be Forgiven (You Decide)The title to this one may be slightly pretentious. Last year I was listening to the 21st anniversary edition of ‘Six’ by Mansun. That album has a track on it called ‘Special / Blown It (Delete as Appropriate)’. I thought it would be cool to try something similar. Like all the songs on this EP, I had the title(s) before I’d written the song(s). These two (potential) track names seemed to work well together, so that’s what I went for. The song itself is inspired my son and the journey people go on throughout their life. Initially a person is so dependent on the people around them, and then slowly you become more independent. The lyrics also serve as a warning that you may have to deal with people who will do whatever it takes to stop you in your tracks. Musically, the song draws inspiration from Beth Orton. Particularly her ‘Comfort of Strangers’ album. ‘Leaders of the Free World’ by Elbow also influenced the backing vocals. The track also features a harmonium solo from Jon Whitley (from the band Ninebarrow).
BeginningsI’ve always loved listening to vocal-only mixes of my songs. It’s really interesting to hear the layers of harmony that you can create. Especially as harmony is such an important aspect of the music I write. It’s something that I feel is really lacking from a lot of records these days. Some of my favourite songs have been dominated by vocal arrangements... ‘Because’ by The Beatles, ‘Leave It’ by Yes and ‘New Mama’ by Neil Young to name but a few. These influences shaped my decision to write an a-cappella piece. The title came first and the lyric is about learning from mistakes. This can be both at a personal level and looking at the bigger picture. There’s so much going on in the world right now. We really need to learn environmental, social, economic and political lessons, before it’s too late! This is my call-to-action. I think that ‘In The Beginning’ by The Moody Blues was a subconscious influence too. To start the process I recorded my lead vocal. It was the only time we used a click on the whole EP, just to ensure my vocal stayed on-point, as this was going to hold the whole piece together. Then I stood at the mic with Ville Leppanen and we built up the harmonies. The idea was to double up each harmony to add texture and make it sound more like a choir. That’s really hard to achieve with just one voice.
A Place We Knew
A Place We KnewWith some of my new songs I’ve tried to write the lyrics first, which is a foreign process to me. This one is about how having a child changes your perspective on things. Since becoming a father I’ve been able to let go of a lot of things that bothered me, focussing on a bright future with my own family. I wanted to try something different musically, so I ordered a bouzouki. I’d never played one before so I thought it would be an interesting challenge. We went to Devon last summer on our first family holiday and I decided to pack my latest acquisition. During our time away I learnt to play my new instrument and wrote two songs on it. I wanted some extra ambience for the recording, so I ordered a Gazouki (a bouzouki with a guitar body). The music moves in some unexpected directions and parts of it remind me of ‘Grace’ by Jeff Buckley. With this in mind, I wrote a cool ‘Jeff-style’ cello line, which is executed to perfection by Louise Dearsley. The track also features some mighty harmonies from Roisin O’Hagan. The artwork was designed by the wonderfully talented Alex Hutchinson, with some direction from me. Alex used various lyrics from the song to put together a collage that represents the spirit of the track.
The Unsung Hero
The Unsung HeroThis is his first release of the year. And he’s stepping confidently into the 20s with an assured voice that suggests another impressive clutch of tracks coming our way, to add to his rich catalogue. The song begins with full instrumentation. Lead and acoustic guitars interweave beautifully along a very Denney-esque rhythm of shuffle and snare with a deftly placed line of bass. S J’s voice comes in, warm and rounded. These days the power within his ballads is conveyed by the music and strength of lyric; this mature delivery allows his vocals to blend with the musicality. And it brings shivers – as you’ll see. The mighty electric melody of the refrain raises the temperature and enables the emotional high point. ‘When someone believes in you’ he sings – and we all know that feeling. When the presence of love means you can bear anything, do anything and carry on, knowing there’s someone wholly on your side. The instrumental break is a delight. S J reaches back to one of his earliest tools in the kit with a clarinet solo that fits the mood perfectly. This leads to the second refrain, raising the emotional pitch again. The insistent, driving music and unashamed, tender words bring back again the title of this stunning track, as he laments, ‘My hero’s still unsung’. Not any more she isn’t. Mark J Cundy – Feb ’20
Forgotten FriendsWhat follows, is a remarkable vignette of a track. Forgotten Friends clocks in at 97 seconds, but conveys so much in a dual delivery of quiet compassion and heart wrenching pleading. If that sounds depressing, it certainly isn’t. S J’s voice breaks new ground as he softly broaches feelings so delicate, matters so deeply rooted that he knows he needs to tread gently. It’s evocative of Springsteen at his most tender and Costello at his warmest.
(Feels Like I'm...) Hearing Things
(Feels Like I'm...) Hearing Things'(Feels Like I’m…) Hearing Things' takes us out of the inward tensions of personal relationships and looks at the wider world. There is turmoil out there, which every screaming headline tells us daily. This track catches the mood. There is a notion of helplessness – but not hopelessness. Political paralysis often leads to social tensions and this is truly a song for our times.
The Good Times
The Good TimesIn 'The Good Times' a bad relationship flashes before our eyes, as a relentlessly downbeat missive is fired across the wreckage. There’s still a hand reaching out, but with no anticipation of reconciliation. The sparse use of acoustic, deftly deployed bass and percussion keeps the mood intact throughout. This track reemphasises the theme of lessons learnt, with older and wiser perspectives reigning.
Where Darkness Hides
Where Darkness Hides'Where Darkness Hides' is a joyful homage to The Smiths. This elegant arrangement, beautifully played by Denney and the assembled musicians provides the platform for a tale of two souls that will never settle into blissful coexistence, but who would be diminished without each other. Roisin O’Hagan joins him on vocals and lifts the bittersweet tune to its emotional high.
A Fond Farewell
A Fond Farewell'A Fond Farewell' is S J’s latest addition to a seriously impressive clutch of new material for 2019. The track continues some of the themes evident from his looser, freer style that exudes a very justified confidence by this songwriter for these times. Lyrically the recurring theme is that he is a little older and more than a little wiser. The daily struggle to chase those demons away continues, but he’s more likely to be riding the current than trying to fight it these days. And he’s a man that is more looking back on those battles than being in the thick of it. He sings lightly ‘I made my choice’ but it’s a seismic shift. Denney’s music continues to be a delight. The chord sequences allow the piano, trumpet and bass to stretch out and provide a jazzy improv quality. You could imagine this as a 12-minute set piece at Ronnie Scott’s or at a Sunday club in New Orleans. By surrounding himself with musicians of the same quality, S J has delivered another career-high release. The echoing outro harmonies and clever word play carry the quality right to the last beat. And it’s one of those songs where you know the end is coming, but you don’t want it to be over.
All the Signs Were There (feat. Roisin O'Hagan)
All the Signs Were There (feat. Roisin O'Hagan)'All the Signs Were There' is S J’s second slice of new material for 2019 and offers another delightful change of pace. Breezy is not what you normally expect from this measured and driven artist, but it works. There’s no mistaking the attention to detail, great arrangement and polished delivery throughout this Beatles-inspired track. From the opening bars of bright acoustic guitars, the bass and drums irresistibly invite the listener to hitch onto this upbeat groove. When Denney’s voice joins the party, he’s the cheerleader for a determinedly optimistic ride. And this time he’s accompanied by Roisin O’Hagan. A wonderful artist in her own right. This is a cautionary tale of human timidity. But instead of bawling you out for your shortcomings, Denney puts his arm around you and offers some friendly advice. There is a way forward, if you stop treading those same circles. It’s a familiar story to many, rarely told this succinctly. S J is filling the gap of his potential with these new recordings. His style has been carefully assembled down the years, with influences vintage, modern classic and left of field. This time in the studio has been spent putting together something that effortlessly rises above what has gone before. We are now hearing the authentic voice of this highly talented singer-songwriter.
Here I Am
Here I Am'Here I Am' is the trailer single from S J’s latest record and it brings together the best elements of his Britpop and American songbook influences. You can hear inspiration from a number of artists including John Lennon, Hank Marvin, Noel Gallagher, Damien Rice and George Michael. What’s especially thrilling is how it draws on and refines his own style too. Those of us who’ve followed S J over the years can hear his own voice being raised to new heights. Denney achieves an apparently effortless drive without shouting the odds or making the listener’s ears bleed. The song starts with a beautifully blended acoustic undercurrent and electric hook, underpinned by drums and bass outriders that subtly insist on your attention. Added to the standard sounds is a delightful cello, superbly played by Louise Dearsley. The weaving sympathy of the strings softens the harsher edges of this tough love lesson. And the emotional high point of the track is scored with a perfectly placed trumpet break from Rus Rogers. The foundations of the track were recorded live and click-free, giving it an extra dynamic that is often lacking from modern-day recordings.