SCOTLAND is back in my heart…
.as I speak to Chiara Berardelli about her new music, desires for this year - and her upbringing in the Highlands. She talks about her time there and what life was like for an aspiring musician. Her forthcoming album, Seamonster, was recorded in Glasgow’s West End – Berardelli tells me about her experience there and the themes that go into the album. I ask her about the new single, Deep Sea Hibernation, and whether there is a story behind it.
She talks about her influences and favourite albums; how she came into music; whether she feels she’s developed since her debut in 2010 (Don’t Be So lovely); if we can see her tour anytime soon; advice she would give to new artists – and how her personal struggle with involuntary childlessness has impacted her forthcoming album.
Hi, Chiara. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, there. Good thanks...though, I’m a bit upside-down. I just came back from New Zealand - and I’m sleeping all day and awake all night!
For those new to your work; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Chiara Berardelli and I’m a singer-songwriter. I write mainly on piano - but also guitar when I need a change. I tend to write about life and how it affects me. My songs are pretty personal, I guess: although, sometimes, a book, play or a conversation can inspire me.
Deep Sea Hibernation is your latest single. Can you tell me about the song and the story behind it?
I was listening to the news on the radio the day they woke up the Rosetta probe - which had been asleep for two years as part of its space mission to land on a comet. The newsreader referred to this as "deep space hibernation" - which I thought was an amazing phrase.
At the time, I was feeling very low and the idea of hibernating for two years - until the storm blew over - seemed very attractive…so the story struck a chord with me.
I know regrets about motherhood are at the heart. Was it cathartic exploring something upsetting and deeply personal in that song?
I find writing a song about a personal issue is always cathartic. It’s a way of externalising feelings and thoughts and, finding a way of putting them into words and to music, somehow, makes them one step removed from deep inside.
I hope that makes sense!
The album, Seamonster, arrives in March. There are nautical suggestions. Were you inspired by the sea and the underwater?
Seamonster is more of a metaphor, really.
I always wanted to have children and, when it didn’t seem to be happening for me; I think I coped by stuffing down the feelings and being in denial. Then, at some point, the sadness about it all seemed to come from nowhere (like a sea monster) - rising from the deep and turning my life upside down.
I believe the album charts some up and downs. Was it hard being so honest and revealing on the album? Do you feel you learned anything about yourself during recording?
I don’t find it hard, to be honest. In my songs, although, sometimes; it takes a while to find the right words to use. I think there’s (probably) only one song on the album, Sanctuary, which makes reference to what the album is about: the rest depict emotions that, I think, could be about many different situations.
There is one song, Days, which I found very exposing the first few times I performed it live. It’s about loneliness: the days when, as a single person, all you notice is couples everywhere – and, when I first sang it in public, I felt sort of ashamed. I don’t anymore, though, and it’s becoming a wider-discussed issue…so that’s good.
It was recorded in Glasgow’s West End. What was it like during that time? Did the energy and unique persona of Glasgow affect the record in any way?
The studio I recorded in is part of an artists’ community in the West End of Glasgow. It felt very inspiring to make my way there every day. I worked with a fantastic producer, Johnny Smillie, and I loved every minute in the studio…well, almost every minute!
You grew up in the Highlands. Which artists first struck your ear? Was there a local music scene when you first got interested in songwriting?
I was pretty isolated, musically, in the Highlands to be honest. We lived on a remote farm and music was pretty hard to come by. If there was a local music scene then I didn’t find it!
I mainly listened to the charts, then - but anyone who wrote songs and performed them on the piano, like Billy Joel and Elton John, was an inspiration to me.
Many journalists overlook Scottish music. Do you feel more of us should spend some time investigating the music Scotland is putting out?
In a word, ‘yes’! Glasgow is a good place to start...
How do you feel your music has developed over the years? Do you feel you are a more confident and changed songwriter to the one who released 2010’s Don’t Be So Lovely?
Yes, I do.
I think I have more objectivity about my own songs - which is something that comes with time. Maybe, the biggest change, though, is in the studio. I’ve got more used to the process of taking the song I’ve written on one instrument and opening it out to involve other musicians - as well as the actual recording process (which is an art in itself).
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
I confess I haven’t been listening to much new music recently as this album has sort of taken over the last two years! Before that, though, I was listening to a lot of Tiny Ruins: a trio from New Zealand. They’re not new - but were new to me - and I heard them first at Celtic Connections.
They make beautiful songs - and I love her voice.
IN THIS PHOTO: Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins)/PHOTO CREDIT: Georgie Craw
If you had the chance to select the three albums that mean the most to you – which would they be and why?
Ooh; that’s hard…ok…
Lagoon Blues - The Bathers
I used to listen to it for hours when I moved to a remote Scottish Island - and was seriously wondering why. It got me through!
Dummy by Portishead
Something about the mood of the album: it’s like a wave washing over you. I never get sick of listening to it…
In Rainbows - Radiohead
There are always some new layers to discover when I listen to this. Again; never tire of it.
Is there any advice you would give to fellow artists coming through right now?
Believe in yourself. You have to start from there; don’t compare yourself to others: you are unique...
Develop your own songwriting and sound.
What gigs do you have coming up as we head through 2018?
We’re playing at The Speakeasy, The Voodoo Rooms (in Edinburgh) on 25th March and The Glad Café in Glasgow on 30th March.
There’s going to be a U.K.-wide tour in the autumn.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
How about Me at the Museum, You in the Wintergardens - Tiny Ruins
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