I hear you have a new single and music video out, what can you tell us about it.

We’re in the middle of putting the final touches to our first album. Whilst picking out which songs to include and which to leave off, one track which is very dear to me and that was on our debut EP always felt like it wasn’t quite right. It was the first track we recorded 5 years ago with our producer Grant, and I think it showed to a degree, as in, we could have done so much more but experience limited us. That track is ‘Hold Me, Haunt Me’. 

Now, the track has a bit of a back story to it. I originally wrote a verse and chorus in reaction to my dad passing away fairly young of cancer in 2009. It left a massive hole in my life and the family’s, and with any experience of losing a loved one so close, that void is very noticeable.

The chair they sat in, the coat still hung up, shoes still on the rack. You are still surrounded by reminders of them but you’re really, just longing to see them again, if not for just one more time to say things you perhaps left unsaid, the most popular statement for anyone would simply be, “I love you!”.

It wasn’t until the band reformed in 2019 (10 years later) that this song on an 8-track demo, along with other half finished ideas came out into the light. At that time it was great to listen to it, reflet and actually complete the song. That’s when we recorded the first version. I think the fact I’d had it as a crap demo on an 8-track recorder for 10 years to then having it recorded professionally and polished satisfied me enough at the time.

So what was the driver to revisit this song and produce a new version?

One of my all time favourite tracks is James’ ‘Sit Down’, and a few years ago I came across an original version of this on youtube, an earlier release to the one we all know and love, and although i think that rough original still has great quality, it is nowhere near as powerful as the second version.

That got me thinking of what could be done with previously recorded material, ‘Hold Me, Haunt Me’ quickly sprang into my mind. At the time of the first release of that track on our debut EP ‘Gathering’, it was the song which really connected with people, I had dozens of messages and comments saying how people had had it on repeat, cried to it and how it was a great vehicle for remembering past loved ones. That really spoke to me and I knew we could do more with it!

So what was your approach to this 2024 edition of the track, what was new?

In the time since we started recording again, my brother had pretty much built himself a home studio. There were instant benefits to this, the first one being demos, I’d use my 8-track ‘Spire’ pod to get ideas down and then take them to Grant our Producer and we’d have to start everything from scratch.

Now, with the benefit of a home studio, we can record decent demos and take stems to Grant, and use parts of what we’ve already done, quicker and more cost effective. 

So, back to ‘Hold Me, Haunt Me’, we had the original recording, but the original strings were crap and fairly primitive. We only had my acoustic guitar and Shaun’s lead over the top, although this worked, it just felt thin and the track could deliver more. We decided to write a proper piano score to the song, something not too dissimilar to an Adele or a Lewis Capaldi track, we felt that would really emphasise the mood and compliment what Shaun had already recorded.

Tom, our drummer, is also a great Piano player who has learned by ear, a skill that eludes me! Tom also wrote the new string sections, we laid these down at home to be later taken to the studio. Now something I really wanted was a gospel choir, but to a bunch of fairly unknowns on a budget how do you go about getting that? Well, the answer lay in Fiverr.

We found a US freelancer who arranged and brought together an ensemble to sing multiple harmony lines over the back end of the track. I had these stems sent through and we added these in the studio for the final mix and master. I think this 2024 edition final does the song justice and really brings it to life. 

So, there’s a music video to accompany Hold Me, Haunt Me, the first one you’ve done for that track, tell us first, the reason why, and the story within it.

So, at the time of our early recordings, videos weren’t anything we considered, the first was for ‘My Eden’, the obvious ‘single’ from the debut EP in 2020.

We’ve since shot several more and it’s been a great way of engaging our audience and also, the creative process in making them has been as fun for me as recording the music (our guitarist Shaun would disagree!). This new version of ‘Hold Me, Haunt Me’, had a very visual story within the song and I knew that we could create something that would hopefully help narrate the journey and emotion of the track. 

I spent a fair amount of time using my wasted fine art degree to fully storyboard out the video on paper. The video was shot at my Mum’s house, the house I grew up in with Tom and my sister Amy. All my Dad’s stuff is still there 15 years on.

It’s a constant reminder of him so what better place to sit, sing and reminisce. The video is designed to relate to anyone who’s lost a family member. The narrative goes like this, I visit my parents house which has the ‘Sold’ sign outside, it’s a sign for the neighbours house next door but just happened to be positioned in the right place for us to use it, a real-time prompt to shoot the thing and get it done.

The lights are off, power is disconnected, I needed to position why the video is shot in the dark and in black and white. The B-Reel footage is myself checking out the rooms I once spent so much time in, pictures on the wall, my parent’s record collection, my dad’s watch, family photo albums and so on.

Due to the length of the track we knew we had to change it up towards the end, so from the middle 8 we have myself passing through a doorway into the light, an ethereal place, like a passing from life to death or entering the dream where you reunite with those loved ones whilst sleeping. This was shot up the road in the village where we live.

We actually shot and produced the video ourselves for the first time, filmed over a 3 week period. It was a real labour of love and time for both myself and Tom to reflect on our Dad, and what a lovely childhood we’d both had. 

What’s next for Tillerman? Are we going to see this album, if so when?

Listen, we’ve all got day jobs, this is a passion that has had to fit around other priorities, so it’s taken longer than we thought to get this out there. We’re just adding the final touches to the last track and we should be ready to roll by June/July. We are going to promote it with our next single ‘Reputation’ which is an opposite to ‘Hold Me, Haunt Me’, back to the rocky guitar riffs and solos but still very much pop-rock. There’ll be another video too and we’re super keen for everyone who loves our music already to hear all the new songs. I hope you’ll be running a feature Carl!