PHOTO CREDIT: Aubrey Simpson
THE songwriters who go out into the musical seas alone…
have a task on their hand. I admire those who do! I have been speaking with Sailing Stones about her music and where that moniker comes from. She talks about her awesome new E.P., She’s a Rose, and what compelled it; what the reaction has been like to – and whether she has a preferred song from the E.P.
I ask which musicians inspired her and what gig dates she has coming up; how her experiences playing in the North of England changed her views of music; how the Bristol-based songwriter will progress later this year - she tells me how she relaxes away from music.
Hi, Sailing Stones. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi! My week has been really good, thank you. It’s nice to be bombing around the country again doing gigs.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I am a singer-songwriter who releases self-produced music under the name, Sailing Stones.
Can I ask whether there is any meaning behind that moniker? Where does ‘Sailing Stones’ come from?
‘Sailing stones’ are the name given to rocks that appear to move across Death Valley in California of their own accord. It is something to do with water freezing and melting, pushing the rocks along. They leave eerie trails across the plains. I liked how the words sounded together but it made sense, as I’d been moving and developing at quite a slow pace over a number of years - but slowly things were coming together…
She’s a Rose was released a few months ago. What inspired the E.P. – and what has the reaction been like to it?
I’m seeing all these little crocuses and snowdrops popping up this week through the melting snow. That was where I felt I was at when writing and recording these songs. I read a brilliant quote from Joni Mitchell recently about winter and how it is necessary for blossoming. It was also my first attempt at producing my own music - so it was a lot of fun. The reaction has been really positive and I’m really happy with how it’s been received.
Into Space has been played quite a bit on BBC Radio 6 Music, which took me by surprise.
She’s a Rose sounds very personal and meaningful. It has a fantastic depth and passion to it! Was it an easy work to write and put together?
Thank you! It was actually – and, sometimes, songwriting and production are quite laborious. It popped out quite effortlessly one night in the studio and the song was written, along with the bones of the production, all in one night; seven years to the day since I’d moved to London from Dublin.
Do you have a favourite song from the E.P.? Which one stands out to you?
I don’t really. I’ve lived with them for some time now and you go through phases. I am fond of She’s a Rose, but also, Sit Silent - as they were the most enjoyable and cathartic songs to write.
Is there going to be more material later this year at all?
I am planning to begin recording the next body of work (could be an album; could be an E.P.) from April, which is already in the pre-production phase. The plan is to record them quite quickly and, hopefully, they will be out by the end of the year.
There is a lot of great music coming from further north right now (as opposed to London). Why do you think this is? Do you feel it’s a part of the country that gets ignored?
I love the North of England. When I lived in London, I would breathe a sigh of relief if ever I was up here playing. I love the people: they are warm and funny and know how to have a bit of banter. I think it’s inspiring up here – the buildings, the landscape; the general atmosphere. It’s hard to put into words. It (just) has its own uniquely soulful thing going on. In terms of being ignored; it depends what you mean. Musically, ‘no’. So much of the U.K.’s musical legacy comes from here that it can’t be ignored. Ignored, by the government, ‘yes’. It’s a disgrace, to be honest…
There are roads in Bradford in desperate need of resurfacing; swathes of beautiful buildings in the city centre are boarded-up. It’s sh*t. Here is this incredibly beautiful city with brilliant people - and it has so much to offer. It’s being terribly neglected. It was quite upsetting to see - and I don’t think people living in other parts of the country have a notion.
Did music come into your life early? What got you hooked on it?
It came into my life so early that I don’t remember what got me hooked on it. My parents’ record collection and record player probably - and their sing-songs with their friends around the kitchen table when they had parties. They had Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and Patti Smith records… but there was something about the ritual of putting on a record, the feel of the vinyl sleeves and opening up the gatefold. I loved the whole thing. It was like a magical world that I wanted to be a part of.
That happened very young.
Which musicians did you grow up on? Can you remember the first album you ever bought?
I had pretty eclectic taste growing up and listened to everything from AC/DC to The Mamas & the Papas. I loved the girl musicians and was a Bangles super-fan – they were the first band to inspire record collecting geek-ery. I had all of their 7” and 12” singles and their first, rare releases. (I drew the line at Japanese imports, though).
I became obsessed with Neil Young as an adolescent and he was the one who made me want to write my own songs. For some reason, and, in particular, his very melancholic stuff struck a chord with me. I think the first song was Deep, Forbidden Lake.
Hooked me in massively.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
I am on tour now…
I’m playing London (Servant Jazz Quarters) on March 14th; Eype Church in Dorset on March 23rd and finishing in Bristol (The Grain Barge) on March 25th. Manchester will be a solo gig - and I’ll be accompanied for the rest of them.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I’d like to make a record that I’m really proud of and get it out with a really strong and supportive team around me - and begin doing more gigs in Europe. I’ve set up my own label, Keep Her Lit, and would like to begin building audiences in Sweden (as I am half-Swedish) and Holland; because it’s close to home and apparently a lovely place to do shows. So long as I’m inspired and really enjoying making music and performing, and able to spend much of my time doing it, I’m happy.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
That’s too hard. I have millions…
It’s everything from rousing singsongs around a table in Ireland to doing a support slot on a swanky tour and waking up to a different city each morning on the tour bus - and everything in-between. Some of the best memories are being alone and immersed in my studio, or writing something you’re really excited about.
I love it all.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Don’t get into this to seek external validation or fame: do it because you love to do it.
Work on your craft and your personal best. If that is bringing you joy every day, then you’re already successful. Work towards building a healthy self-esteem so that you have a strong core and sense of worth. This will help you to attract the right people to work with and shield you from the wrong ones.
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Walking in nature, watching movies; listening to music, going home to Dublin and walking in the Wicklow mountains.
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Eli’s Comin’ by Laura Nyro. She was just twenty-one - and she completely blows my mind.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Aubrey Simpson