WHEN & WHY
I started very young, aged 4 or 5, by strumming a guitar without fretting any chords and singing nonsense lyrics. I used to record on a boom box, and make tapes. It's a slow evolution.
Jamming with my band from the age of 15 onwards in the summertime. Just setting up at my house, annoying the parents, getting lost in music. We wrote hundreds of songs and filed them away. Just pure curiosity and experimentation. I'm definitely pulling a few of those songs out in the future. We still play together.
FIRST SONG YOU LEARNED
Sara by Bob Dylan.
Artists I admire include Mark Eitzel, who changed my idea of what live music could be when I saw him play when I was about 18. The Innocence Mission, for their lyrical grace and beauty. Darren Hayman, who has been kind and taught me a lot.
My first instrument was a classical guitar. It had a new guitar smell and I remember being very excited when I got it, and that it was a lot bigger than me. Nowadays I play a beaten up Shaftesbury guitar who were this crazy copy make in the 60s and 70s. They've got microphonic pickups so they sound really harsh. I'm also quite partial to Nashville tuning, which is where you string an acoustic 6 string with just the top 6 strings of a 12 string set. It makes the guitar really high and it's useful when I'm playing live as it leaves space for Ed Ellis' Piano and Jack Hayter's Pedal steel.
I tend to like things filled with light and a sense of grace. I like Sisley, and Debussy, I was really into Cy Twombly when I was younger. Musically I normally look for clarity, and distinctness of vision. I love Joni Mitchell, Bill Fay, American Music Club, lots of pretty emotionally difficult stuff. But I also love '80s college rock like The Wipers, The Reivers, The Dbs. Umbrella by The Innocence Mission is on heavy rotation at the moment. They are band from Pennsylvania who started in the 80s and are still going. Moving from a Cocteau Twins dream-pop sound to a simple folk vibe through the years. I love them.
I KEEP CREATIVE…
By letting the songs come to me rather than going looking for them. I find that two or three days without playing will normally result in a song or two when I start again.
IN THE STUDIO
For the first two E.Ps I self-produced. For this record I worked with Michael Page at The Combination Of. Mike's a producer in the old sense and it was a real experience making this record with him. He's fiercely intelligent. I think we think about music in contrasting ways and that was a fascinating thing to explore. We went into Soup Studios in East London, which is a great analogue studio. We cut the basic tracks in two days and then went back to The Combination Of to work on overdubs. For me on a day to day basis being in the studio means writing. Songs tend to come fairly fully formed, in one go at the piano. Vocals, melody, chords and lyrics. From there I will tinker and amend, revisiting songs until I feel there's a body of work emerging. It's a very circular process.
It means a lot. I feel like I'm always thinking about it. It's an art-form, it's a pre-occupation, it's a spiritual practice, it's what I do for fun.