We enjoyed your new song “Whisper The World Away”. What is the story behind the song and how did you create/write it? Also, what inspired the song title?
I’m so pleased you like it Jay! When you reviewed my album “Love in Troubled Times” a month or two ago, you described that as ‘heartfelt, bittersweet… and filled with tenderness’. I think – or hope! – you’ve hit the nail on the head about my songwriting. I like to explore the ambiguous feelings we all have – how things which matter to us can be sad and happy at the same time. Key moments can bring us contradictory emotions. “Whisper The World Away” is one of those moments. It’s about passing from early adulthood, when you are the centre of your own world, to thoughts of having a family, and taking on responsibility for others. So the song is about making that choice, and welcoming it, being at ease with it.
I‘m not sure I can ‘explain’ the title. What I will say though is I had in mind a line from TS Eliot’s The Hollow Men – “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper”. My view of life is an altogether more positive and private one… that the world may trundle on with all its faults, failings and beauty, but you can ignore, embrace or change it just with a whisper.
You have a music video for the song too. What ideas went into the creation of the video? Are there any messages you hope that it conveys?
The video was directed by a musician friend of mine, Rob Thom, with whom I have shared a stage many times. He understands my music as well as anyone, and as he is also a film-maker it felt obvious to ask him to create the video.
I am interested in layers of time. So I hope the video brings out the idea of time running in different paces. I mean, the video is 3 minutes long, but it takes place from sunrise to sunset of one day, it carries the song’s story of a change at a point in one life, and of course the natural landscape it is set in has taken hundreds of years to develop. And for the musical geek, the song switches between regular 4/4 time and 3/4 (waltz) time.
So if there is a message – and I’m not sure there really is! – it is that time runs in different speeds, it is not linear, and perhaps – all you ever know is the moment you’re in, this second. But maybe that’s over-thinking it!
If you had to describe your sound, how would you do so? Furthermore, what artists (or other sources) do you cite as influences?
People use words like evocative and warm and also complex… I hope that’s true – but what I also try to do is wear that easily too.
I suppose that comes from a lifetime listening to folk music, where the stories and the places are central. I love stories about real people in real places – most of my songs have their roots in people I know and places I have been.
There is so much music that I listen to – jazz, folk, acoustic music of all sorts, chamber music. Right now I’m listening to Laura Marling a lot, David Crosby and Joni Mitchell. I also really like Moses Sumney and Joy Oladokun, Stevie Wonder, and I love a duo who live in Barcelona called Still Life. Their strings player, Joao Silva is a young genius – and he played the strings on this single.
What have been career highlights so far? And what is on your bucket list that you’d want to achieve?
Career highlights? Actually, it’s more about meeting people I admire and learning from them. There’s a beautiful American singer, Bobby McFerrin who used to do a cappella shows – just his voice, holding an audience of 10,000 spellbound for 90 minutes. He picks people from the audience to duet with him sometimes. And once in London he called me up to sing with him. That was wonderful.
But generally what I most love are not the bigger audiences I have played to. I most enjoy a smaller room, maybe with a hundred people in, many of whom are not familiar with my music. In those clubs and venues lie my ‘career highlights’ – connecting with people, one to one, and hearing every heart beat in the room. That means the world to me. Bucket list? Doing many more gigs like that in the next 5 years!
If you could be the main support for any living artist, who would that be for and why? Alternatively, what would be your dream live booking?
Laura Marling, Karine Polwart, Kate Rusby… any of these wonderful singers, performers, writers who capture people’s hearts. And if that can be in Union Chapel in North London, my favourite venue of all time, so much the better. But I also love the Hebrides, and I’ve never been invited to play up there. A gig amongst some standing stones, preferably at midnight on Midsummer’s Day – that would be cool!
What artists have you been listening to? Additionally, who should others be listening to?
I am pretty old school, I am afraid. I listen to albums, not tracks. I know how much goes into making a body of work, and I like to give time back. So – this week (and I’m just looking at my phone!) I’ve been listening to classical composer Arvo Part, my favourite New Zealand band The Tattletale Saints, Gretchen Parlato, Omahrose, Maaike Siegerist, This Is The Kit, Steely Dan and Bill Evans. Not exactly household names one and all, but there’s so much fabulous music to listen to!
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