ALL PHOTOS: Chris Driver Photography
I have been learning more about…
Bessie Turner and her debut E.P., 22:22. It is out on 20th April and is a sign she is primed for big things! I talk to her about her upbringing and musical tastes; how she feels about touring with Baxter Dury; the artists she connects with most; what it felt like playing for Steve Lamacq – what tour dates she has coming up in the diary.
Turner talks about how she has progressed in the past year; which new artists we need to check out; the three albums that mean the most to her; if songwriting has been a cathartic and emotional release – she provides some helpful advice for new artists.
Hi, Bessie. How are you? How has your week been?
Heyyyy! I’m writing this on a Monday afternoon after work, but last week was just swell…and the week before - and the one before and on, and on, and on...
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Bessie Turner. I’m twenty-four and I’m a singer-songwriter from Suffolk.
Your debut E.P., 22:22, is out soon. What are the main themes and ideas you explore on the E.P.? I believe your sister is the ‘inspiration’ behind the title?
22:22 was a really obvious name for me to choose: I didn’t even think about it, really.
My sister Ruby and I are two years and two weeks apart. She was born at 22:22 hours; being the age of twenty-two was incredibly significant to whatever version of myself I am now. I look at the time, when it’s 22:22, about five days a week; lots of significant things in my life are associated with that number.
I could babble on about it for ages…
I guess the main themes are all very personal ones: feelings of being low, feeling brave; feeling nothing, feeling love; feeling rage…
What was it like recording with George Perks at The Crypt Studios?
A joy; what a guy. An instant friend to anyone he meets and a spot-on-wonderful producer. He really gets to know the vibe and feel you want to something before any sound even comes into it. I would urge anybody to record with George if you ever get the opportunity. I was petrified and had never been in a studio before and he made it the most fun thing in the world. It’s a beautiful studio.
It seems like you explore several genres and styles. Does that reflect a broad music taste? Which artists, current or past, are your main idols?
My music taste is really long and far and wide. I love Classic FM when I’m driving in the dark and screamy Punk madness when I’m trying to chill out. I will always love Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed; the first album by Jose Gonzales - I paid a weird old man from the estate £3 to burn for me. At the moment, I have Kala by M.I.A. in my car - and I get most of my new music loves from having BBC Radio 6 Music on, whenever I have an internet connection.
I get the impression the songs explore mortality and personal fears. How cathartic and revealing was it putting the material together?
The songs are all very confessional. To a listener observing the lyrics, you might not know what’s going on but every sentence has an indirect reference to something for me, personally. It’s great to have them recorded; kind of lets me move on.
2017 was when you released your debut single, Big Sleep. You have come a long way in a short time! Can you believe everything you have achieved since then?!
Not at all: It’s wild. Sometimes, I’m sat in my pants, worrying about money and work - and then a wave of reality washes over me and I realise life is fu*king wicked.
You have played for the likes of Steve Lamacq; your music is a regular fixture on BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music. Are there any other ambitions and goals you want to tick off and accomplish?
I’ve always dreamed of being on Jools Holland but that’s a really big one. That would make me feel insane, I’d probably pass out. Glastonbury is an obvious one but I bet that feels incredible…I just want to have a nice and full life; make opportunities to travel and, maybe, have a whippet and babies one day. I like growing vegetables and going to gigs…
I have no expectation of life, really: I just want to make sure it’s all as good as it possibly can be.
What dates do you have coming up? Are there particular gigs you are really looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to the shows we (Don’t Try Records) are putting on ourselves in London at the Servant Jazz Quarters on 16th April and the Manor Social Club in Ipswich on 27th April. I find it really exciting being more of a part of it and promoting and organising events. The Ipswich show sold out six weeks before it was due, so we’ve moved to a bigger room. It will be full of friends and the supports I’ve booked are really wicked. I can’t wait to have a boogie.
You will be supporting Baxter Dury. Are you looking forward to that? What did you think of his album, Prince of Tears?
I AM SO PUMPED; I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.
I’m usually really chilled out before gigs but I think I’ll be all jittery and weird. My old housemate showed me Baxter Dury a few years ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. I was so happy to be invited to play a couple of shows with him.
I think Prince of Tears is a marvellous creation. I haven’t listened to it as much as some of his previous albums but I love the way he writes. I think it comes from his darkest and most opaque places, blotted with a bit of colloquial London pitter-patter. I really relate to it. Loads of people write happy lyrics about love or thongs or other beige things. I can only write when I’m feeling a bit crazy. Maybe he’s a bit the same…maybe I’m mad and overthinking it, as it’s the first time I’ve ever been asked….
If you had to select three albums that stand out to you; which would they be and why?
Blue by Joni Mitchell
It’s just perfect, night or day; happy or sad. I struggle to comprehend why people worship Rihanna or Little Mix (who are all probably really brilliant people) while her music is around. It’s totally timeless and totally moving.
Moon Safari by Air
Was played loads and loads by my mumma when I was a child. I remember it really moving me from a tiny one - me and my friends still pop it on now when we’re chilling out or fighting over who controls Spotify.
Ooohhh…this is really hard…erm…
Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold
Really fun start-of-the-day bouncy music. Kind of moody and all-round-great.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Playing at Latitude for BBC Introducing was really special. The crowd was nuts and my best people in the world were all there supporting me and helping me kill it. I’d been attending for many years and always secretly dreamt of getting to play.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be as brave as you can mentally and physically muster up. I have the confidence of a shrivelled-up prune sometimes, but I’ve learnt that you just have to give things a good go. Accept any help, skills and love that is offered your way. The small team around me keep me going 100%: friends, boyfriends; creative friends…I owe them so much.
IN THIS PHOTO: Omni/PHOTO CREDIT: Kayla Thornton
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Not as much time as I used to…
Being this present version of myself, there’s always something to do or complete or reply to - and I can get really overwhelmed by that. I try and spend as much time as I can with friends: I think it’s really important to talk and laugh and cry to stay grounded. I’m really lucky to have such a good bunch.
To unwind, I love going for massive walks, putting a bottle of wine and some marmite sandwiches into a backpack and just setting off. Music is my downtime - listening to other people, though, not my own…or watching bands too…
I was watching a duo called Sealion Woman the other week in a tiny venue called The Smokehouse in Ipswich and I just started crying. I had no idea where it came from but it was so real and honest. The music just really touched me. So; I took a deep breath and went to find some more whiskey…
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).
Ahh thanks; errmmmm…
I played a song called No Destination by The Garden three times in a row yesterday while I was getting ready to go out. I love the synthy vibes, the drums; the melody. Really spacy and fun
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