The Making of The Promise: The Tale Of Eliza Gray 

The Tale of Eliza Gray


'I'll tell you the tale of Eliza Gray,

She died, she died this very day.' 

Well, I could go on and on about this song. (Don't worry, I won't... well, I might!) I have so much to say about it. It's actually one of my personal favourites on the album. I wrote it in the car travelling back home to Anglesey one day. I had a three hour car journey ahead of me and I often sing and play around with lyrics in the car. Sadly though, most of the ideas never get recorded as I'm driving! This time though I liked the idea so much I just sang it and sang it until I got to a services and pulled in. I then recorded it quickly on my phone. I played it to Neil in the studio and he really liked it too. 

Listen to The Tale of Eliza Gray


Again, as with The Lady, the narrative drove the piece in terms of tempo and feel. However, unlike The Lady, in The Tale of Eliza Gray there is no 'happy' ending for our heroine. The Lady uses mythological tropes (more on this in upcoming The Lady blog) and is fantasy based. The Tale of Eliza Gray is based on a more traditional folk narrative and explores themes of women viewed as property and object; a legacy from the feudal system1. I am deeply interested in the history of the control of female sexuality and its usage/representation in literature, art and religion, particularly in folklore and fairy tales. (I told you I could go on and on…..)

If you'd like to explore these themes further, I've put some links at the bottom of the page. 

(Bluebeard, Eve, Mary, The feudal system) wildness/witchcraft/sexual misconduct

For visual inspiration I looked to Gone to Earth, a 1950 Powell/Pressberger film set in 19th century England and starring Jennifer Jones. Jones plays a wild young girl who catches the eye of the local rich landowner. In terms of appearance my Eliza looks very like Jennifer Jones in this film. Do check it out if you get a chance, it's a corker! 

The Music 

Again, as with The Gypsy and The Lady, I needed to tell the story from start to finish in as few verses as possible. It proved pretty impossible to fit it into just three, so we made the decision to sing two verses consecutively, so that the song wouldn't be ridiculously long. Then Neil set to work writing counter melodies, arranging it, adding instruments and weaving his musical magic around what was essentially a very simple melodic idea. Folk songs generally are! (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)


Ooh..we've gone off-piste with the middle 8! 

The 'middle 8' was originally quite a lively instrumental with a lovely accordion melody, which actually sounded jolly nice. It would have been perfect except for the fact that it came straight after verse three, in which Eliza is attacked by the squire in the field. Listening to it over and over, Neil and I felt it just wasn't working because it jarred so much with the storyline. So we decided to be a bit radical and completely alter the feel of the middle section so that it musically supported the narrative. In effect, we attempted to create a marriage of form and content2, so to speak. Crikey...I've come over all academic. I know!…..posh eh? 

‘He took her soul that very day.’ 

So, as Eliza had just been brutally raped and she was lying 'all but dead', we wanted to create a kind of surreal out of body experience for her. We did this by layering ethereal vocals, almost dissonant, over a low chant which symbolises Eliza's 'earthly anger' forcing her back to life! A rhythmic build-up and then a key change following the middle were added to reinforce Eliza's fight back that we witness in the second part of the song! 

‘She killed him for his wicked ways.’

In the final chorus, we dropped everything out very briefly, except for the block vocals, as we wanted there to be a sort of 'shock' musical hiatus at the end when Eliza is hanged.

I vividly remember my mum's reaction when she first listened to this song. She had earphones in so I couldn't hear the music, then all of a sudden my mum shouted, 'oh no, they hung her!'. 

'They hung her high.'

Inevitably, Eliza is executed for her crime. Had she not killed the squire, he would have carried on taking his ‘pleasure’ with any ‘wench’ that took his fancy.  In essence, Eliza sacrifices herself, so that this did not happen again to someone else. 


The Tale of Eliza Gra

 By Caitlin Grey/Neil Harvey

1. I’ll tell you the tale of Eliza Gray

She died, she died this very day

A story so sad, ‘tis a tale of dark revenge and death and sorrow

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today


2. ‘Twas two hundred years ago this day

There lived a fair young maiden

Her eyes were as green as an emerald sea

With hair as black as raven. 

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today


3. Eliza would run like a wild young mare 

In the fields beyond the town

When a squire came upon her, strong and cruel

With a mind to pin her down.

Oh, Eliza Gray, he took her soul this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray was all but dead that day



 Oh Eliza, oh Eliza Gray

Oh Eliza, oh Eliza Gray

(He took her soul and ruined her, oh poor Eliza Gray)


4. Eliza now burned with a hatred strong

Consumed by a murderous thought

A dagger she took to the squire one night

For to plunge straight to his heart.

Oh, Eliza Gray, she killed him for his wicked ways

Oh, Eliza Gray, they hung her high

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died this very day

Oh, Eliza Gray, she died, she died today



Gone to Earth starring Jennifer Jones 1950 Dirs. Powell & Pressberger

The Gypsy from the album The Promise by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2014 

The Lady from the album The Promise by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2014 

The Romany from the album Siren's Song by Caitlin Grey Copyright Harvey/Grey 2008 

Links to further reading.

Binary opposition in Bizet's Carmen:


1The feudal system introduced by William the Conqueror.

2A marriage of form and content – the relationship between the content of a song/poem/painting etc. and the form that the piece takes.

Folk songs: A living history we must cherish and protect. 

I love folk songs. 

I admit it. I am a folk song aficionado. 

I grew up listening to them, learning them, singing them. When I was a very young child, my mother taught me many songs from her homeland of Ireland and she also introduced me to her favourite songs from other parts of the world, mostly from Scotland and America. 

At school, I learned many more songs from diverse places such as Spain, Israel and Hungary and Australia! My early childhood was infused with this music; rich and varied in its heritage. I loved it. 

Folk songs are part of our shared history. No matter where we are from. They are, in fact, a living history, as they continue to be performed to this day. More than that, new folk songs, by new singers and songwriters are being composed and performed. Eventually, these ‘new’ songs will also find their way into the canon, taking their rightful place among the songs of old; enhancing and augmenting the already rich tapestry of songs, stories and melodies woven into the music.  

Folk songs contain universal and time-honoured subject matter. Themes of love, death, war, poverty, violence, politics, revolution, protest, the weather, nature, the seasons, the sea, slavery, imprisonment are all tackled in the folk song cannon. Best of all, folk songs are ‘living history’, a way of connecting with the past and bringing it into the present. Folk songs are historically passed down through the oral tradition and, as a result, often appear in variations far removed from their original melodies. This is quite normal and perfectly fine!

What is the oral tradition? 

A traditional way of passing down songs and stories from generation to generation. Long before the internet, before telephones, recording devices or even the written, printed word, we used our voices to share ideas, stories and songs. Mothers taught their children nursery rhymes and folk songs, that they themselves had learned from their mother or father. Elders in the tavern sang songs of war, teaching the younger men the music and melodies of their respective struggles; songs of famine, war and death. Songs of war, peace and protest, songs of revolution, rebellion and freedom. Slaves in the plantations, prisoners in the chain-gangs, sailors on the press-ganged ships, women in the fields, in the kitchens, in the sewing circles all wove music around the stories of their lives. Not just limited to singing about ‘real’ events; these songs contained fairy stories, folklore, witchcraft, goblins, monsters and changelings, myth, legend and all. Nothing was left untouched, it all went into song. 

Anyone can sing folk songs. 

As a professional singer, I’m bound to say that best way to learn about folk music is to start singing it! Yes, this is true. But….even if you aren’t a singer or any kind, I’d suggest to you that you can sing these songs. That’s the beauty of folk music. It can be performed by anyone, anywhere….by someone with stacks of musical ability or none at all. They are stories and stories just need a passionate communicator. Singing ability is optional! But, that said, if you’re someone who wants to improve your musical ability, they are an easy and enjoyable way to begin singing. Why is it ‘easier’ to sing folk songs? 

Well, from a purely ‘musical ability’ perspective, three reasons stand out. 

1. They are generally very repetitive, (i.e. verse after verse after verse), giving you loads of time to nail down that melody.

2. They are usually easier melodies to learn. Nothing too fancy or difficult going on. This is generally because these are songs that were often ‘composed’ by ordinary people. When I say ‘ordinary’ I mean, workers; farmhands, women in the sewing circle, prisoners, sailors, slaves, and so forth. Not nobles, kings or famous composers. 

3. They generally have a smaller vocal range. In other words, there are (usually) very few very high notes or very low notes in the melodies; for example, ‘money notes’ that none-singers may struggle with. 

Have I convinced you to check out some folk songs from your own history? Fab! Go for it. Simply by exploring the internet for time-honoured songs and tunes, you’ll likely come across melodies that you hazily remember, like a long-ago memory from a time gone by. 

Oh...yeah, I know this tune!! '

So, often, hit songs and popular melodies in films are actually taken form traditional folk songs. 

A classic example is Belfast Child by rock band Simple Minds

The melody is heavily borrowed from the traditional Irish lament She Moved Through The Fair. 

Listen to both and hear for yourself. 

Simple Minds - Belfast Child - YouTube 

She moved through the fair - Caitlin Grey - YouTube 

They find their way into every area of music. Films, TV, pop music, classical music, musical theatre. 

To be honest, the usage of folk song melodies in other genres deserves a blog post all of its own. So, I’ll not wax lyrical about that subject for now. 

Research your own folk song heritage. 

So, folks (no pun intended1), get onto YouTube and look for folk music, folk songs from your own country’s musical history or, indeed, any country you like. Into American folk perhaps? 

Then check out this link for some traditional folks songs.

Or, if your interest lies in the (partial) origins of American folk, then you can’t go wrong by looking at traditional folk songs from the United Kingdom and Ireland. I may be biased but I believe that some of the most exquisite folk song melodies ever written are from the Celtic heartlands and England. 

Irish and Scottish Folk_Playlist

English folk

Ye Madcaps Of England - YouTube 

Welsh folk. 

Dacw 'Nghariad - YouTube 

Of course, other European countries have similarly deep-rooted folk music traditions and exploring these will definitely enrich your experience. Although there exist many similarities in style and history, the musical and vocal differences of songs can be often quite dramatic which is always so lovely to discover. So, have a listen to as many as you can, the folk song world is literally at your fingertips. 

Hungarian folk, Hebrew folk, Spanish folk, African and West Indian folk music…..the list goes on.  

The internet has allowed modern audiences to delve deeply into folk music's rich traditions, without having to spend hours in the music libraries, (yes, I mean actual physical libraries) or troll through the niche folk music section in record shops! 

There has never been a better time to explore and immerse yourself in this wonderful musical tradition. It will enhance and enrich your musical knowledge tenfold. 

So many modern melodies take their inspiration and influence from folk songs. 

After all, folk songs are/were the song of the people, the songs of the folk. Not songs that were written by composer at the court of a King1 or a composer whose job it was to supply cantatas and hymns for church services every Sunday2

No, these songs came from ordinary folk, for ordinary folk; people like you and me. 

They come from our ancestors, working in the fields, in the towns, finding love, losing love, complaining about money, getting drunk and so on. 

Real life stuff. 

What I love most about it is that fact that you can change it and it’s not considered musical sacrilege! Can you imagine changing a single note of a Mozart aria? Mortal sin! But, much like popular music and pop songs,  folk songs can be rearranged and re-imagined with infinite variations on time-honoured themes. Folk music evolves; it alters and morphs into something new and exciting, depending on whoever is performing it. And you can sing it however you like. 

Like I said, it’s a living history and we are part of that history. Speaking from my own experience, folk music, both performing it and writing my own versions of these traditional songs has greatly enriched my life and musical career. 

In fact, in 2019, I was hugely honoured to be approached the British Sound library in London to have my music catalogued and archived, in recognition of my contribution to the genre. So, I am living proof that new, original folk material is taken very seriously and its place in history will be cemented for all time. So, I say to you, go make your own songs of the people. Tell your own story, your own struggles and joys and those of your family and communities through this incredible, important medium. 

These songs catalogue both the lives and the times of the world in which we live so much better than stuffy history books! 

They belong to us. Sing them play, them, write them, share them, own them. 

They are you. 

In love & music, 

Caitlin xx

Ps. If you’d like to check out my folk song recordings, both original & traditional, go here: Celtic/Folk - YouTube 

About the author
Caitlin Grey is an award-winning singer and songwriter in the Celtic folk tradition. 
Her debut Celtic/folk album Siren’s Song won the 2013 Best Celtic Album award at the Ladylake Independent Music Awards in the US. 
In 2018, Caitlin & Neil Harvey were honoured to have their back catalogue archived at the British Sound Library, due to their contribution to British Folk Music.
Caitlin also teaches voice and runs Harvey/Grey Music, a songwriting & production company with co-writer Neil Harvey, an accomplished producer and composer. 
Caitlin holds a BA Hons.(First Class)in Music & English Literature & a Masters in Music & Performance. 

1Franz Joseph Haydn was, for many years, the official composer at the court of the wealthy Esterházy family at their Eszterháza Castle. 

2J.S Bach often had to write a cantata for regular Sunday services as the resident organist at the Blasius Church in Mühlhausen

The Making of 'The Promise': The Title Track 

July 25, 2015 by Caitlin Grey 

  So, we come to the title track on the album! 

The inspiration 

In complete contrast to the narrative-based tracks on the album, The Promise was written very much from the heart. I had written some lyrics some months back, during a time when a very, very close friend was going through a very difficult and protracted divorce. It was heart breaking to watch her suffer. As anyone who has experienced a break up knows (and we have all been there), there exists a long period of time when you feel utterly bereft. You feel you will never be happy again, never find love again and are perhaps totally undeserving of either love or happiness. The pain of rejection, betrayal and loss is just hideous, turning your life completely upside down. You wake up every morning with a sick knot in your stomach and it stays there all day. Very often, not only do you lose your life partner, but you lose your extended family too, your in-laws and also friends, who sometimes feel that they need to take sides. Indeed, the effects of one person leaving another person can be incredibly far-reaching and so you grieve for a love, and a life, that has now gone. 

Listen to The Promise 

But then, slowly...... 


'This too shall pass'. 


So, I wrote The Promise for my friend, as I wanted to demonstrate that hope does literally spring eternal and our resilience and capacity to bounce back is utterly primal. 

The song was written to inspire this hope, a literal 'promise' of better times to come. An affirmation that there is life after loss of any kind. We grieve, we suffer but go on. We get up in the morning and we function (just about). We cope until one day the sun is shining a little bit brighter in our hearts and we begin very slowly to feel happy again. Interestingly, writing this song was quite cathartic for me too. In fact, writing this entire album has been pretty cathartic. I've exorcised a few demons I can tell you. 

  The music  

This song started out as a much slower track, almost a lament actually, with no rhythm to speak of. However, given its lyrical content we felt it needed a more uplifting structure. 

Musically, the melody was already mooching around my head along with the lyrics. Neil took a germ of an idea and developed it further adding counter melodies and Celtic instrumentation. We wanted it to build so we layered up the vocals and added harmonies which all took ages, I can tell you! No cheating, just good old-fashioned over dubbing….singing over and over again in order to achieve a bigger sound. 

  The distorted guitar solo has got to go! 

  Very often the middle section of any song is tricky. The verse and chorus melodies generally come quite easily as they are usually based around the same key/chords. The 'middle 8', so called because it's generally about eight bars of something different, an instrumental solo perhaps or even a completely new chord sequence, is where many songwriters come unstuck. You get your verse and chorus nailed but then comes the dreaded middle section. You know you have to take the song 'somewhere else' but nothing flows or sounds right. It can be quite a bugbear! With The Promise, we tried a few different middle 8 variations before settling on the one you hear in the song. Yes, it went though quite a few changes. At one point we even had an electric guitar solo in there….eek! I have to say, it was a great solo as Neil is brilliant on the electric guitar. Poor Neil never gets to rock out working with me...never mind of these days! Suffice to say, it didn't work within the context of this song so we wrote parts for Irish whistle and violin working in a dialogue with each other and interwove the melodies. 

To further build the song and add impetus, we very slightly increased the tempo from the middle onwards to give it that 'climactic' ending. 


'To be or not to be...the title?' 


To begin with, The Promise was never intended to be the title track. In fact, our original working title was Return to Avalon, a track which, in the end, was not actually finished in time to put on the album so we couldn't use it. 

So when we were deciding on what to call the album, The Promise was a good strong title and as it's the most 'hopeful' song on the album, it seemed like the natural choice. 


'This I promise, you will find a way.' 

Copyright Harvey/Grey 2014 









The Making of 'The Promise'  

The writing of the album The Promise 

by Caitlin Grey (Additional notes by Neil Harvey) 

So, here we are at the first song in my new series...The making or should that be the writing of  The Promise. Before we begin with the first song, I wanted to preface the series by saying this. Sometimes, it's very difficult to de-construct and demystify the writing of a song. Apart from the fact that it's all too easy, once it's written, to forget quite how it came about in the first place! However, the main worry in publishing details is that in doing so, some of the mystery will be lost and the listener's own interpretation of the song, of equal importance in the communication process, will be somehow compromised. That said, I, myself, love to read about how favourite songs of mine came about. For example, we know that Abba's 'The Winner Takes It All' is to some extent about the painful divorce of Agnetha and Björn. Knowing this only makes it all the more poignant when watching her sing the song. You almost feel her pain. For me anyway, it certainly doesn't detract from my own enjoyment of the song, rather it enhances it.   

So with this in mind, I hope you will enjoy delving a little deeper into the writing process and discovering little nuggets of information about the making of The Promise. There are a couple of intertwined themes running through this album. I will reveal them later in the series and it may become clearer to you anyway, as you read more about the songs. 


Any songs, films or books I mention will be listed for reference at the bottom, just in case you'd like to look. 

                                                                   So here we go with the first song on the album......

                                                                                                          The Gypsy


                                                                        'Long ago in a far off land, there lived a lady fair-o

                                                                 She fell in love with a gypsy vagabond, oh she loved him true.' 


This song holds a special place in my heart for two reasons. Firstly, it was one of the first tracks to be recorded and, secondly (and most importantly), my little dog made a cameo 'appearance' on it. The Gypsy was actually first recorded roughly in April/May of 2013. One day in the studio, Neil was recording some guitar for the middle section, the 'dance around the camp fire' and my little Jack Russell, who was chilling out under the mixing desk, suddenly started to bark. His bark was recorded along with the guitar. So, as is usual when there's a mistake or glitch etc., Neil just hit record again. However, the original recording was still on the PC. The little fella passed away that same June (aged 15yrs). Those of you who follow me on Facebook etc. will know that I was pretty sad, as were we all. He was a smashing little dog, my little soul-mate and I miss him dearly. So as a little tribute, we re-instated the original recording and now he is forever on the album. If you listen very closely you can hear him barking in the middle section. It makes me happy & sad at the same time whenever I listen to it. 

Click below to listen to The Gypsy 


Gypsies, romance & inspiration 

 I have always loved gypsy folklore. As a child I loved the Raggle Raggle Gypsy song and the Spanish Gypsy Dance song. Amongst some of my favourite films were Sky West and Crooked and The Virgin and the Gypsy. I also loved Madonna of the Seven Moons, The Barefoot Contessa and Gone to Earth. These films and songs weaved their way into my subconscious, forever imbuing me with a love of all things Romany gypsy and romantic! I was fascinated with the folk tales of high born ladies running off with handsome, rugged gypsies and equally high born men falling for free-spirited wild and beautiful gypsy girls. Of course, one of my my all-time favourite films (and books!) is Wuthering Heights. Obviously, I'm not alone in my love of this Brönte classic, as many artists, most notably, the amazing Ms Kate Bush, have been influenced and transported by the tragic tale of love and death, of swarthy, moody Heathcliff and the beautiful Cathy! 

 The music 

For our first album Siren's Song, Neil had written a lovely little melody that developed into The Romany. To listen to The Romany click here 

On this album, The Promise, something similar happened, as Neil already had the 'chorus' riff which was originally intended to be something completely different. It wasn't meant to be a vocal at all, but I forget now what we were doing with it! But anyway, I went away with the melody and started adding more bits to it, then lyrics came for the main 'Where do you go my gypsy lover' and the rest of the story just developed from there. Once we had the refrain 'Come and dance with me', the verse melody progressed quite quickly and Neil used a simple but beautiful guitar accompaniment to enhance and support the narrative. Talking of the narrative, the next task was to write the lyrics for the verses which effectively tell the story. The most challenging part of writing lyrics for a narrative song is fitting all the content into three or at the most four verses. In traditional folk songs written in a strophic style, (that is verse after verse after verse!) one can pretty much tell a detailed story by adding as many verses as necessary to get the tale finished. However, obviously, I did not have the luxury of doing that. I don't want to bore my listeners to death! So, once I'd decided on the 'action' so to speak, I had to work out how to tell the story in a concise and rhyming fashion. This is both highly frustrating and enjoyable at the same time. I love writing this kind of song, it is always a completely different experience to writing a song 'from the heart' as it were. Songs written from personal experience and general life events etc. tend to be much more organic in their evolution. They come from somewhere inside and often you really just follow where they take you. Writing a story-based song from an outside perspective is a very different, but equally challenging task. I love to do both! The most complex songs to write, however, are the ones that appear on the surface to be about something else entirely, but actually hold a much deeper meaning altogether! Then it's up to the listener to decide for themselves if they spy another meaning within the lyrics? Ooh..cryptic! 



Song library 

Spanish Gypsy Dance  From: Folk Songs of Many Lands, 1911 

The Raggle Taggle Gypsy (Traditional) 

The Romany Caitlin Grey/Neil Harvey from the album Siren's Song 


The Virgin and the Gypsy Novella by D.H.Lawrence 

Madonna of the Seven Moons Gainsborough Films 1944/45 

The Barefoot Contessa starring Ava Gardner Dir. Joseph L. Mankiewizc 1954 

Gone to Earth starring Jennifer Jones 1950 Dirs. Powell & Pressburger 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brönte 

Sky West and Crooked 1965 Director John Mills (released in the US as Gypsy Girl) 



#songwriting #songs #Celtic #gypsies #Romany #gypsy 


My musings on music, song writing, my inspirations and influences.