THERE is a lot to love about Abi Wade…
and I was excited to ask her about the recent single, Laws & Mankind. Her debut album, Beautifully Astray, is out and it is picking up a lot of attention – I ask what it was like recording the album and whether there was a story behind Laws & Mankind.
Wade discusses working and recording in Brighton; moving to London and changes she noticed; which artists she takes guidance from; some new acts we need to get behind – she tells me the three albums that mean the most to her.
Hi, Abi. How are you? How has your week been?
Great, thanks. I'm busy prepping for some exciting new projects (smiles).
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Yep. I'm Abi Wade. I'm a multi-instrumentalist and work a lot with the cello - and exploring different techniques. I also sing and play the piano. My debut album, Beautifully Astray, was released this year.
Laws & Mankind is your new single. Is there a story and inspiration behind the song?
Laws & Mankind is a questioning of human nature; it explores different themes around profit, power; the history of human rights and morals. But, there is a narrative within the track as well and it's written from the first-person…
Beautifully Astray, your debut album, has been out for a few weeks. What has the reaction been like to it? Was it a good experience recording the songs?
It's amazing to have it out in the world. I have been creating and developing the tracks for quite a while - the project became a bit of a cocoon which has its pros and cons. It's great to finally be able to release it. I have had such lovely personal responses to the tracks - which is really touching – and playing out live again is great: you get much more of an immediate response to the pieces.
You employ Classical instruments and create a unique sound. Did you take to music very young? Was the tactility and physicality of instruments the reason you were curious and passionate about playing?
I don't remember beginning to play the piano, so I must have been very young. My grandmother played and, although she lived in another country, she would play duets with me whenever I saw her. I do remember having my first lessons, though. I begged to have lessons and a brother of a boy at school taught me a few things on an old Casio keyboard (I think it must have been a Casio). Then, I began Classical lessons with the most amazing piano teacher. I think, from a young age, I was intrigued by musical instruments; full of so much potential that could be unlocked by the player...
So, yes, I think the physicality was definitely something that appealed to me. That connection and power of the physicality of sound, alongside the concentration it takes to play, can be completely engulfing and very therapeutic.
The songs on the album were written in your Brighton flat. What was it like recording in the flat? Did a lot of the field recordings we hear come from Brighton?
Yes. A lot of the album was written in my Brighton flat in Norfolk Square (or in Sticky Mike's Frog Bar) in The Lanes. I would set up for the day and write in the basement there until that night's band came to soundcheck - and I would have to pack up and move on. I continued to develop tracks when I moved to London, too, and had my little studio set up in a room in my Camden flat.
I recorded a lot of the location sounds in Brighton; I had moved to London at the time but I wanted to go back to Brighton where I knew I could capture sounds that I either couldn't get or didn't know how to get in London.
How important was it moving to London? Did you notice a change in sound and ambition when you relocated?
I love living in London. There are so many exhibitions and events to go to - it is kinda crazy. I don't know if it changed the sound for my album but I think moving to a different place means you make the effort to make new acquaintances…and I am so lucky to have met some amazing people in London who have taught me a lot.
Are there particular musicians who you take guidance from when it comes to your voice/lyrics/music?
I meet up with a group of wonderful musicians every month or so. We share a lot of thoughts and discuss all sorts of things about music and releasing work, so I definitely get a lot of guidance from them. I also have a few friends who I share records I love with, and vice versa, that definitely inspires me. Dan Copeman (Esben and the Witch) guided a lot of the process of creating the album; as I wrote demos, I would meet up with Dan and chat through tracks and possibilities. He was really amazing throughout.
Can we see you tour this year? What gigs do you have coming along?
I have a gig on 23rd June in Cambridge; Brighton on 31st July and London on 1st August. I will also be touring the U.K. in September, so definitely check out abiwade.com and sign up to the mailing list for updates.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I have a new A.V. project called Gestalt I am currently writing tracks for based all around London with installations etc., so that is going to be really exciting. I have a new Abi Wade track to write and release in response to the anagrams received from my interactive album artwork. I am also working on a set of tracks in July which I will be travelling away for. Details for this will be announced very soon.
It's going to be a super-busy 2018!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I have so many favourite memories: it's impossible to choose just one. Some highlights would be supporting Patrick Wolf at The Old Vic or Poliça at The Old Market - and CoCoRosie at The Dome. So many amazing festivals experiences, too…and writing. I love composing music, so those rare times I can just write without distraction those are very special to me too.
Which three albums mean the most to you, would you say?
Again; an impossible question...but three of my faves are...
Paul Simon – Graceland
Arthur Russell - World of Echo
Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Try to balance things out. It's a very fast-paced industry so you have to be pretty pro-active and self-driven, but you also need to give yourself time to reflect and seek out opportunities to create work that inspires you without being too overly-influenced by others. Patrick Wolf said to me that the most important thing is to have a great team around you. That always stuck with me.
I think choosing the right team to work with is very important: people who will support your vision but also guide the process and give new insights and momentum to projects.
IN THIS PHOTO: Oliver Coates/PHOTO CREDIT: Gaelle Beri
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I am loving Smerz and Oliver Coates; Sudan Archive's incorporation of strings I find really inspiring; Mary Ocher...actually; you can listen to my June radio show where I play a load of new artists that I would definitely recommend checking out (smiles): Totally Radio Celebrating the Female Voice.
IN THIS PHOTO: Sudan Archives/PHOTO CREDIT: Theo Jemison
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I have to admit; most of my life is taken up by music and everything that that entails but I do love to swim and, when I can swim in a lake, river or the sea, that is my truest unwind I think...
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).
Ok, great. Can you play a track from either Arthur Russell's World of Echo or Julia Kent's Asperities. If you haven't heard these albums before definitely check them out - excited to see which song you choose (Sam: I’ll go for both albums…)
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