For Greg Paddock, Cotswold’s rolling green hills, quaint stone villages and storybook cottages provide an idyllic creative retreat.
The Detroit alt rock singer-songwriter visited Oxfordshire in the picturesque southwest region of the U.K. last fall to record his six-track debut EP, fittingly titled Cotswold, with guitarist Ryan Harrison and former Dishwalla frontman J.R. Richards.
“I still have dreams about being there and walking through the pathways to the Thames River. I made such a big deal about the village they’re in because there’s a red phone booth, and it was used as a book depository. I’d walk around the village and the fields on the days I wasn’t recording and would listen to music,” said Paddock, who’s a longtime friend of the U.K.-based Richards.
“It was good to have that extra time there because we were able to do a bonus track and do the acoustic version of ‘No One Fights Alone.’ I was able to work more on ‘Sunshine Smile’ and get more into what I want to feel.”
One listen to Paddock’s Cotswold instantly drenches listeners in cathartic waves lapping against the shores of wounded souls. Released in March, the emotional EP poetically addresses internal struggles, family losses, failed relationships and personal recoveries as long, winding sonic roads that eventually lead back home.
“My hope in sharing all of it is there are people out there who hear and can relate to it in their own way. It always helps me cope when we perform the songs at one of our acoustic shows, and I can either see someone reacting in the crowd, or they talk to me afterward. I am so fortunate to be able to live my passion as well as how much it has helped me heal me,” Paddock said.
‘Cotswold’ – A Road to Recovery
The Cotswold road to recovery starts with “No One Fights Alone,” an uplifting ballad dedicated to Paddock’s teenage nephew, Louie Barati, who battled and overcame colon cancer, or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), last year.
Somber Beatle-esque piano, delicate drums, soaring electric guitars and soft bass surround Paddock as he reassuringly sings, “I can’t imagine where you’ve been/You inspire hope and bravery within/You have the right to ask why/But hope’s a good thing, the love that it brings/Brings us here, so don’t lose faith.”
“Louie had a tough year, but he fought it hard, and after a year of surgeries and nine months of chemotherapy, he won and has been doing great since September. Apparently, FAP is rare, but it’s something that forms in the teen years, and there’s a 100 percent lifetime risk of colorectal cancer for patients if left untreated. It was by odd chance they discovered it, but they said if it hadn’t been discovered and treated now, he would’ve had cancer throughout his body by his mid-20s,” he said.
Paddock also revisits “No One Fights Alone” as an acoustic version at the end of Cotswold. The stripped-down version eloquently showcase’s Paddock’s heartfelt vocals seamlessly blending with Richards’ mesmerizing piano. It’s a simple, yet beautiful way to close the EP while reprising the opening track.
“I had been listening to a lot of classical musical during that particular time, so I had asked J.R., ‘Can you just send me a file of the piano?’ And I don’t know if he misunderstood me or got the idea then, but he was like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll send you the piano with the vocals and everything. And you know what, we could actually offer that as a bonus track on here, and we’ll just have the vocals matched up with the piano,’” said Paddock, who’s also developing a video for the track with Richards’ wife, British filmmaker Min Reid-Richards.
Another introspective Cotswold track includes “Cold Blue Morning,” a raw ballad wrapped in swirling piano, pounding drums and radiating electric guitars. Paddock beautifully recalls his journey of recovering from a traumatic brain injury in 2015 and moving forward in a new, unfamiliar world, “The images are flashing/The world around me crashes/I feel the cold and all is gone.”
“When we wrote ‘Cold Blue Morning,’ I was giving J.R. my idea of the song and what was in my mind while I was writing it. When I had my head injury, I fell, it was during the winter, and it was snowing, and the only thing I remembered was that morning. When it’s really cold out, it seems like everything is blue, and it was like a ‘Cold Blue Morning,’ and that’s how that came into the song,” he said.
“I wanted a piano that sounded like falling snow, and it gives that picture because that’s what happened that morning. That song is about me not remembering, and people telling me, and me saying, ‘Damn, I’m sure we had a lot of good times, but I’m sorry, I don’t remember them.’”
While trying to recall forgotten times in “Cold Blue Morning,” Paddock tries to preserve cherished family memories in the heartbreaking rocker, “I’m Not Ready to Say Goodbye,” as a striking tribute to his late father.
The profound track weaves echoing, solemn piano, whispering synths, mournful electric guitar, intermittent drums and delicate bass into a haunting sonic memorial. Paddock tearfully sings, “Oh father there will be those to comfort our sorrows/Oh father how I wished so bad you had come home.”
Paddock wrote the poignant track after losing his father in August 2018. His father passed away unexpectedly after experiencing complications from back surgery, and in response, Paddock immediately scribbled down the lyrics for “I’m Not Ready to Say Goodbye” to process an overwhelming sense of loss.
“I thought, ‘I want to touch his hand one last time because it’s going to be the last time I can physically touch him.’ I remember touching his hand and thinking, ‘Oh my God, his hand feels cold already.’ All of a sudden, I felt like I needed air, and I tried walking out of the room and headed to the stairs, and I couldn’t get out because there were a bunch of wheelchairs in the stairwell. I tried looking for another exit, and I found it, and it went into a courtyard that was pitch black,” he said.
From Westland to ‘Cotswold’
In fact, Paddock credits his late father with inspiring his initial love of music. As a child, he listened to Motown, Billy Joel and Elton John with his father during early morning car rides to his grandparents’ house in Detroit. Those trips from Westland to Detroit also allowed Paddock to develop a lifelong appreciation for the Motor City.
By high school, Paddock traded football for choir and regularly listened to Van Halen, Billy Idol, Foreigner and Stray Cats. He later added a love of grunge to his list of growing influences, including Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Dishwalla, and fronted several metro Detroit rock bands that performed covers and originals. His bandmates jokingly dubbed him “Sugartips” after his bleach-blond hair tips, and the nickname stuck.
In 1996, Paddock heard Dishwalla’s radio hit, “Counting Blue Cars,” from Pet Your Friends, and became a hardcore fan of the Santa Barbara alt rock band. After devouring the band’s catalog through 2005, he frequently attended Dishwalla’s live shows in Detroit and eventually met Richards.
The two became fast friends who developed a growing musical partnership, which led to Paddock singing backup vocals on “Candleburn.” The track was originally featured on Dishwalla’s 2002 Opaline album, but reinterpreted as an acoustic version for Richards’ 2016 album, Stripped.
“It was like that instant connection with the song lyrics and J.R. singing, and for me, my main connection to a band has always been through the vocalist,” said Paddock, who quickly invited Richards to become his producer. “His vocal range is just out of this world.”
With Richards onboard, Paddock decided to write original music and wanted to partner with a guitarist to compose and perform his own tracks. He placed a Craigslist ad for a bandmate and found Warren guitarist Ryan Harrison, who’s featured on Cotswold’s “No One Fights Alone” and “Sunshine Smile.” The two flew to the U.K. in October to finish recording Cotswold with Richards, who recently relocated to Oxfordshire with his British wife.
“Ryan came up with the guitar solo for the full version of ‘No One Fights Alone’ the morning we were going to the studio to record, which was actually the first song we worked on when we were there,” said Paddock, who also performs with Harrison in the acoustic duo Sugartips (coined after his longtime nickname).
“I want everybody to know what an amazing musician he is, and he wrote every musical part on ‘Sunshine Smile,’ including drums, bass and guitar, and I can still listen continuously to his instrumentation portion of it.”
With Cotswold now available on all streaming platforms, Paddock continues to write new music with Harrison and hopes to perform live again soon. “We’re always trying to add new songs in, and when you get that type of affirmation from people, then that makes me even happier. It’s like a child, I’m so invested in this stuff.”