Litany’s Beth Cornell chats with us about losing her player two, adapting to life as a solo artist and her sparkling new EP
May 30th 2019 was a huge day for Litany. What had once been the collective name of singer Beth Cornell and producer Jake Nicolaides, was now the sole alias of Beth following the former’s departure from the project. This date was the release date of ‘My Dude’, Beth’s very first solo offering to the Litany catalogue of tracks, and her first foray into the daunting world of single player gameplay.
“I remember release night.” Beth reflects. “The clock was ticking, it was nearing midnight, when the song would have been out worldwide, and I just remember thinking ‘I’m gonna have to tell them to pull it, I can’t release it, what if everyone hates it? What if they think that I’m not doing as good of a job?’”
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, ‘My Dude’ was released as planned and was a resounding success. From the depths of uncertainty, Litany had been reborn.
“The response to that song fully blew me away.” Beth continues. “I can’t believe it really. It was a very very scary thing to do, and I definitely took a lot of convincing from my inner circle to release it but I can honestly say that it is probably my favourite song now. I love the way it sounds, it’s a direction that I want to continue pushing into.”
In spite of this continuation of the success and acclaim that Litany has been building over the last few years, you can only imagine how tough this transition has been on the young artist. Beth affectionately refers to this solo venture as Litany 2.0 and insists that she is going to turn what could be a negative situation into a positive one.
“It’s kind of how you have to think about it when you’re grieving your former band.” Beth deduces. “It’s a difficult thing to go through when you imagine something going one way and it gets ripped up from underneath you. If I’m going to pick myself up and start again it must be a better version than last time, otherwise what’s the point?
“It’s a case of sticking to what I know and continuing with it but putting more of myself into it,” she continues. “It was very much a 50/50 thing before and now owning it 100% means that it feels more me. Litany 2.0 is a way of showing it’s a new chapter and something has changed.””
As Beth has gradually found out, there are positives that can be found from ditching the multiplayer aspect of writing and creating music. Following the dissolution of Litany as a duo, the young artist relocated from North Yorkshire to London and found that venturing outside of her comfort zone was something that may have been needed to unlock the potential of the project.
“We had a garage which we converted into a studio back in North Yorkshire and it was very much an isolating process, it was just the two of us, hours on end, day after day, just writing together with no outside influence,” she admits. “So to go from that to completely changing my life, moving to London, and going into these sessions with complete strangers, it’s a lot. It’s very different. It took a bit of adjusting at first but now I really welcome it.
“I really enjoy meeting all kinds of different people, different influences, and that has had an impact on the way that I work. It means that the music is a lot more varied and I really like that. It’s exciting for me. Even though I don’t have that one constant confidante, I do have that ever-growing network of friends and creators that I can rely on.”
November 21st saw another landmark occasion from Litany 2.0 in the form of the EP Single Player Mode, a body of work that feels quintessentially Beth. If nothing else, the EP has completely dispelled any assertions that Litany is in any kind of danger of falling off, with its trademark nostalgia-wrapped sound feeling the warm benefit of the singer’s overtly candid and intimate writing. This is exemplified by the protective and almost motherly nature that Beth expresses towards the tracks.
“I’ve done quite an unconventional release strategy, just because with those four songs I couldn’t pick which I was willing to let just sit on the EP. If you release three singles there is going to be one song that doesn’t get the attention, and I just love them all, I couldn’t bare the thought of that,” she laughs. “I don’t have a least favourite or a favourite so to speak. I just wanted to go BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM! That might mean that you’ve heard all of the songs before, but it doesn’t really bother me.”
Closing the EP is its title track ‘Single Player Mode’, the heart-breaking summary of everything Litany. The beauty in the way that Beth writes is that, while the track is dripped in meaning and is in some ways very blatant in its subject manner, it is also written in a way that allows the listener to apply it to themselves. These feelings of abandonment and longing are universal, and the track does a great and often heart-breaking job of capturing these feelings and articulating them wonderfully.
“It’s probably the best and most emotional song I’ve ever written and it quite simply is about Jake leaving the project. I wrote it in a heightened state of grief, so I was very sad,” she explains. “I didn’t know whether my music career was going to continue, and it was kind of like an inner monologue. It was a stream of consciousness that I was feeling at the time and how I’m so used to it being the two of us against the world and now I’m a single player, and it’s like ‘will I get to the next level by myself’?
“While it is really personal to me I feel like it can be applied to other people,” Beth continues. “Hopefully it will tell them that they can get to that final stage and give them hope; there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
There seems to be a level of relatability and authenticity that surrounds anything that has Beth’s fingerprints on it. Beneath all of the polished production and catchy hooks there is a young woman from North Yorkshire that is trying to connect and reach out to anyone and everyone she can, in her own unique way.
“In everything that I’ve done, whether it was presentations back at school or performing cover songs around my hometown, I always like to put a colloquial spin on something.” Beth attests. “I find it really impossible to address people in a non-conversational and colloquial manner. So even when I’m writing a song, part of my brain must know that this is going to speak to someone. I feel like it wouldn’t be right of me to release a song that didn’t connect, or doesn’t feel like it comes out of my mouth. “
Going forward then, it looks like Litany is going to be a pursued by Beth without a player two. It has taken her moving across the country, diving into the deep end of an entirely new scenario alone and facing up to fears of impending failure, but she has somehow emerged with all her lives and health intact. Despite the initial teething problems that she has faced, change appears something that she has adapted to at a rapid rate, and may even be beginning to enjoy.
“Any band member that works with a group can probably attest that it’s going to be a tug-of-war for who gets the final say. So if you’re not fully matching, in terms of things like “oh that bassline doesn’t work with that chorus”, or whatever, and you really do feel that it does work, you do have to compromise,” Beth asserts. “You never truly feel in control, and as humans we don’t like that. With something as personal as an artist project you want to feel fully like you’re in the driving seat. Though I miss him terribly, now I’ve had this year of growth I really do appreciate having the final say and going into a room and not having to compromise.”
Single Player Mode is available now.