PCN Magazine Interview with
Hi Rosie. First off, how have you been over the last (very strange) year?
Thanks for asking 🙂 I think the main thing for me is that I’ve been well, as have my immediate family members. This last year has actually been an interesting and productive year for me, although I am getting a bit fatigued with the restrictions now, but am very aware of how lucky I am. It’s been a good year for musical development and has necessitated innovation too – which is great!
As we approach the release of your fourth album, Where Time Suspends, can you tell us a bit about how the album sounds compared to previous releases?
It’s so hard to be objective about this as it’s like asking about a favourite child, although I know that’s not quite what you’ve asked! To me, it sounds like a development in my work while still very definitely and recognisably me. Like a mixture of songs and styles that, in some part reflect my inner world and personal experience but that will also (I hope) have resonance and connect with others who hear it. Musically it records my progress as a musician and songwriter and the work I’ve put into learning the craft of guitaring over the last few years. For example, one of the songs, Choices, sprang from me having just learned the guitar part for the classic jazz song ‘My Funny Valentine’. I loved the chord progression in that song (which is the same as Stairway to Heaven btw…) and wrote the song around some of these chords, which were new to me. It’s definitely the best work I’ve done to date and I’ve also been told this by others who have heard it and who know my music.
The title of the album ‘Where Time Suspends’, will likely resonate with a lot of fans in the midst of lockdown – was this intentional?
Well actually, this album had a working title of Music is Sunshine for most of its life and it only changed on the night before the actual CDs were to be pressed! I lay awake that night wondering if I’d called it the right thing, as the original title didn’t work with the cover art (a definite) and didn’t really give much of a clue about the content either. After much tossing and turning, the line ‘where time suspends’ from the song, Music is Sunshine, jumped into my head as being the absolutely correct name for the album as it leaves the listener with a sense of wondering where life will go next. It felt very apt for the times we’re living in and also perfectly complemented the artwork – in my opinion :).
What was the inspiration behind the latest single from the album, Could Have Been?
This song was inspired by an inscription in a book of love poetry which read ‘Happy Birthday, 1978. Love John. Xxx Could have been so good – (see Somewhere on the Way)’. Somewhere on the Way is a poem by Peter Roche and is a heartbreaking account of love, lost due to an inability to communicate his feelings, and of hindsight. The poem uses the phrase ‘I wanted to say….’ about several things and this, combined with the inscription and a new guitar part I had just developed, resulted in this song. A gift to a songwriter!!
Where do you find inspiration for your lyrics?
In every aspect of life, from the experience common to all of us of being a child inside (Small Child), to the importance of having pets (Heaven), to walking on the beach and contemplating and appreciating how it’s the simple things in life that give it meaning (Music is Sunshine). This album also addresses the global warming issue and our addiction to screens (Keyboard Warriors), communication and the pandemic of loneliness (Could Have Been, Lonely People, Choices) and Loss (Deep Peace). This makes it all sound very dark and serious but it really isn’t – Laugh and Oops a Daisy both have very light-hearted moments interspersed with more meaningful stories.
Did you always aspire to be a musician and songwriter?
Not at all. This is a long story….. Just over 20 years ago I worked as an art therapist in a children’s project dealing with children and youngsters who had experienced sexual abuse. I found it very difficult to leave my work behind when I got home and my supervisor suggested that I took up something that would bring me joy and give me a better balance in my life. She asked what that might be and I said I liked singing and sang all the time around the house. She gave me contact details for a voice coach (who went on to become a friend) and the voice coach encouraged me to sing, to start my own band and to see where that would all take me. I’d played guitar very badly since I was a teenager so I then decided to practice that properly too. There’s a lot more to it than that but this was the origin of my musical life.
So I started off by playing other people’s music and then started writing my own songs a few years later and my first album, Lazy and Mellow, came out in 2009.
Who would you say your biggest musical inspirations are?
Mostly, but not exclusively, singer-songwriters of the sixties and seventies. These include Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Carole King, Van Morrison, Mary Gauthier, Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading, k.d. Lang, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie and Nick Cave although I do also love the blues, some jazz, and lots of rock music, including Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC etc. Several of my friends are musicians too and I like to keep up with what they are doing.
Your new album was produced by Marc Pilley – ex-Hobotalk vocalist, composer and front man who is now releasing music under his own Arksong moniker. What did he bring to your sound?
Yes, Marc and I have been friends for years now, since he produced my first album in 2009. He is a perfect example of what I admire in these aforementioned classic songwriters and is incredibly innovative. He makes some great suggestions for instrumentation and plays a variety of instruments himself on my songs. In the course of making this album he has introduced me to other musicians whose music he thinks I may like and find inspiring. His enthusiasm for my music is infectious and he’s so supportive of what I’m doing and of my ideas which encourages me to believe that I’m moving in the right direction. Marc has a real feeling for music and this comes across in all of our communications. As you say, he has produced lots of music recently, since the pandemic started, under the name of Arksong. Lovely stuff 🙂
You’ve played your fair share of gigs and festivals at home and abroad. Where would you say is your favourite place to play live?
I really enjoy doing smaller, more intimate gigs where I can engage directly with the audience (and see the whites of their eyes…..) but there is also something magical about doing a bigger gig with many people singing along to my songs, so it’s a hard question to answer.
What does your life look like when you’re not playing or writing music?
I gave up my job as a college lecturer almost four years ago to concentrate on this album. I’m also an artist, a dog owner and nature lover and I have a house with a garden, an allotment and a family so my days are pretty much taken up with these things. I really love being outside in the fresh air.
Lastly, what is your personal favourite track off the new album, Where Time Suspends?
Oh, it’s back to favourite child stuff again!! Hard to decide really but I think that Could Have Been is probably one of the best songs I’ve ever written and would probably go for that. It’s succinct, uses my developing guitar skills and lyrical development and is a really sad story about love, lost, and the devastating effect of a lack of communication – what’s not to like 🙂