Winter Aid is the project of former Irish music writer Shane Culloty who wrote on the now-defunct site The Torture Garden.
Culloty released music as Winter Aid 10 years ago, and had an immediate result with his debut song ‘The Wisp Sings’ now has over 300 MILLION song streams, a mighty impressive feat for an independent artist.
To mark those 10 years, Winter Aid is releasing The Wisp Sings 10th Anniversary Edition, releasing the original EP’s three tracks on vinyl for the first time via Bluestack Records, with 10 additional songs: rarities, alternative versions, demos and remixes.
You can hear the previously unreleased song ‘Lazy Beds’ now, ahead of release on November 10th. The song is about growing up in Kerry.
“A few days after the release of the original ‘The Wisp Sings’ EP, I was asked by a small Belgian label to take part in an unusual project: write a pair of songs and re-record them 15 times for a run of 15 vinyl, each pre-ordered by a different customer. Both songs came over the course of a weekend spent thinking about the small Kerry farm where I was raised, and the first and better of the two was ‘Lazy Beds’.
Of ‘The Wisp Sings, Culloty says:
“For me the song sings with abundant happiness, but the sad tones ring truer for most, I’ve received more emails, messages and comments than I can recall, some of them thanking me for the song, and some sharing stories of desperate emotional wreckage. During the pandemic it became clear that there were countless people finding something soothing in the song, and clinging to it in the weird motionless and seasick days of lockdown. The messages became more urgent, the play-counts pointed higher, and suddenly the song was a kind of shorthand on TikTok for emotion: videos of discovered affairs, eating disorder support groups, and struggles with anxiety all featured my voice overlaid. By the time of the 2020 presidential election, the Biden campaign had used the song for a clip of the then-candidate calling his grandkids.
Now, in 2023, the song feels both unalterably mine and yet untethered; occasionally out of sight, in the orbit of others. It’s been cheekily recreated by global corporations for homespun phone ads, borrowed by young songwriters angling for virality, and ripped off repeatedly by beatmakers and spammers alike. This anniversary rerelease is a good way to get close to ‘The Wisp Sings’ again, to do my best to appreciate what it’s become. It’s been a joy to revisit the song and remember how it felt to write it, remember that at one point it had never been heard outside our cosy apartment.”
More Winter Aid material, including a long-awaited second full-length album will be released in Spring 2024.
About the EP:
The Wisp Sings EP is anchored by its title-track single; a song whose sustainability and longevity is both a testament to its quality and ability to connect with people worldwide, and a source of surprise to its creator. Since its release in 2013, the track has garnered well over 300 million streams across all platforms, working its way onto daytime television segments, into documentaries on BBC and RTE, dramas on HBO and Prime, and soundtracking an ad that ran during the 2022 Oscars broadcast.
The release of The Wisp Sings 10th anniversary edition, marks a return for Winter Aid, after uprooting from Ireland with his wife, for new opportunities in San Francisco, just in time for a pandemic lockdown. The release provided Culloty to return to complete some older material that had been left in various states of almost finished, along with heading into a studio to remaster the original tracks.
‘Lazy Beds’ was a hard song to pin down – every time I played it it felt like I was playing two songs at the same time, like it was a quiet song that wanted to be loud. For the Belgian label I recorded solo acoustic versions at home, thanking each customer by name before each recording – but after playing the song 15 times over a week or so, I felt more confused by it than ever
Years went by with ‘Lazy Beds’ hanging around. Every few months a new fan stumbled upon the song on Bandcamp and sent me a message asking for it to be released more widely. It never seemed ready to fit on the next releases, and I found myself constantly fiddling with alternate mixes, vocal effects, and huge rearranged choruses – even a danceable version with steel pan drums.
Finally, this year I took the song with me to the Middle Ridge Studio run by my friend Cian in Parkfield, California, where I cut it down from 5 minutes to 3 and a half. I played it in one take on one guitar and it suddenly sounded finished – like it had been waiting for me in the middle of California all along.”