MY attention turns to Miranda Arieh…
who has been talking about her latest single, Impossible. I speak with the Leeds-based artist about her upbringing; she reveals what we can expect from her upcoming album, Ferine; whether, as a champion of women’s rights, there is a change happening in music regarding gender inequality.
Arieh speaks about her tough youth and how she has managed to use music as a tool for improvement and personal growth; whether there are going to be tour dates coming up; some great artists we all need to investigate – she selects some albums that are especially important to her.
Hi, Miranda. How are you? How has your week been?
Great, thank you! I've played two gorgeous shows this weekend and got a festival coming up this coming one, so feelin’ content!
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I'm Miranda Arieh; a singer-songwriter from Leeds!
Impossible is your new single. Can you talk about its background and story?
I wrote Impossible, essentially, about my adoration for songwriting and the comfort that it brings me; in this situation, it was helping with my letting go of things I could not change in the past and staying mindful. No matter what I'm going through, I can always turn to writing a song in order to express myself and help me “settle down in an old sweet song”.
I wrote it after a conversation one night with a female sex worker who was also saying how music helped her stay mindful (but for her listening to it). She's the woman I'm talking about in the song- she was an incredibly powerful and inspiring woman. I was going through a really tough patch, emotionally, at the time and dealing with feelings of intense regret. I went straight home and wrote impossible. It really helped.
Your music tackles women's rights and mental-health concerns. Is it important to you to ensure changes come in society and we address these problems?!
Absolutely! I think that music is a fantastic place to do this. Music is a language that crosses all borders.
Do you think there are changes regarding gender equality? How do you feel, as a woman in music, about the current imbalance?!
Gender inequality in the music industry has started to be highlighted in the mainstream which is brilliant and has given birth to many great campaigns and schemes such as Both Sides Now, Women Make Music and Loud Women etc. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Google the writer of many modern-day Pop songs fronted/sung by a woman and you find the songwriter is a man. It's not enough to just have the women singing the song if they're managed by a man, written for by a man and told what to wear by a man…I wanna hear women's voices and what they have to say.
I also wanna hear older women's voices. Ageism needs to be tackled in the media mainstream for women. Men's lines are defined and even, maybe, increased on the cover of a magazine and he is seen to ripen with age like a fine wine whereas women's lines are bleached and ironed and filtered out. There is a huge fear of age in this society and it is poured out and fed through music and media mainstream. I wanna see age; I wanna hear age and I wanna have more older women role models in the music industry mainstream.
Ageing is the one thing that we are all guaranteed to do it would be nice to see more older women coming through the market. I saw Patti Smith a couple of months ago. She's in her seventies and was PHENOMENAL, ridiculously good. However, it's very sad to think that, in the modern day, if she released her songs now as an EMERGING musician starting out at this age she may go ignored or unheard due to her age/looks. This needs to change.
Ferine is your forthcoming album. What sort of themes and stories inspired the music on the record? What was it like making the album?
Wow. So many different topics and themes and emotions. I tend to write from feeling rather than thought. Themes are as varied and range from empowerment to the end of the world; to ageism, being silenced/speaking out as a woman; mental illness, letting go of regret and creating a false self…! Whereas some songs - such as the first track on the album, Hold On - is a story I wrote about talking to an invented lover in a bunker in a trench of a battlefield surrounded by incoming troops…it starts with stripped-back, emotive solo piano and ends with a samba outro...! We have a real range on there.
I adored the process of recording it and building up the tracks with instruments; so many different and varied instruments used - it's a real Chamber-Pop field day.
How did you get into music? Which artists compelled you growing up?
I always wrote songs from being a tiny girl on our piano in our house. I taught myself. Although, my mum was a concert pianist so I heard her play which defo had an impact. I first picked up a guitar when sectioned into an adolescent psychiatric unit as a teen. It was there I really got into 'proper' songwriting and lyric-writing. I had been self-harming and overdosing a lot and was in a dreadful trauma state emotionally, so I felt like I had found some real therapy finally in writing songs. Artists that influenced me are No Doubt, Nirvana; Hole, the Pixies; Symposium, Bob Dylan; Joanna Newsom and loads of '90s chart Pop.
I was also into loads of Punk bands growing up such as NOFX, Pennywise; Lagwagon and Less Than Jake. System of a Down certainly had an influence even though they're a Heavy-Metal band! The way Serj Tankian uses his voice always resonated deeply with me - the sheer theatrics in it. I used to listen to them on-repeat. I was a right mosher. I even had a huge, heavy black chain hanging off my baggy, rain-soaked jeans...
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I would like to be even closer to making my music fully sustainable and be doing even more of what I love the most
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
Winning the People's Choice Award at the Leeds Music Video Awards for the second year in a row was pretty special and emotional. I think it was a point where I woke up and felt so supported and encouraged and realised people must be really enjoying what I do with my videos, which is such a wonderful feeling to give enjoyment to people through what I love creating the most.
It was a HUGE turning point for me to push the boundaries further with my music videos and put my all into them. They are my fave thing to make. I adore the writing of the songs, I adore the recording of the songs; I adore the performing live of the songs but then the music video is just the icing on the cake for me: I get to perform the song I wrote and recorded and now act the part of the character I wrote it as and really experiment with visuals (and reinvention of myself as an artist each and every time).
For me, it feels like it’s a vessel to bring my song to life and communicate it to the world. I just love doing it more than anything. I get such a high from filming music videos. I'm just in my element! I've worked with such a beautiful team on my last few. I feel so grateful to them all for helping me bring the vision and song to life. I am also so grateful to all the people who are continuing to support and encourage me with what I love to do. After what feels like a lifetime of negative self-talk and anxiety, it has sincerely meant the world to me.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Pixies – Bossanova
Got me through all my rough times such as that first night in Leeds safehouse after running away from home; the first night in foster care; the first night in an adolescent mental hospital at fourteen.
Joanna Newsom – Ys
It got me through the first stages of labour with my daughter! I was very young and very afraid and it soothed me a lot! I really respect her songwriting - her lyrics are absolute weaving genius.
No Doubt - No Doubt
Another classic for me growing up. It meant a lot to me as it reminds me of good times where I was heavily getting into music and playing bass and started getting obsessed with writing songs. Gwen Stefani is so hugely talented vocally. It's insane.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I'd support Patti Smith. She's an absolute legend and my rider would consist of loads of vegan food including chips, cake, falafel and a nice coffee. I don't drink alcohol anymore or take drugs as they just used to affect my mental-health too much so nowt head-mashing. I'd be up wild all night on the chips and adrenaline instead. Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Can we see you on tour soon? What dates are coming up?
An album will be released later this year and we will be doing a debut full band launch show in Leeds to go with it so look out for that! So excited to recreate the album live as I'm currently performing solo but it's gonna be a whole new world performing with my band
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be yourself. Never see anything or anyone as competition. Competition stifles creativity. Compare yourself to no one and let go of the fear of other people's judgements. Life's too short to worry about what other people think of you. Have integrity but don't be afraid to take risks.
IN THIS PHOTO: Pariss Elektra
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
I love so many I have decided to choose only local Leeds female artists for this one! Pariss Elektra (I've chosen one of her tracks for you to play below); all my Sisterhood Music Collective consisting of Fran Wyburn, Astraluna and Fuzzy Jones. My Pink Moon secret gigs house show collective consisting of Jenni Noyes, Keeper of Bees and LeeSun. Also, I’m currently loving Muriel & Blazquez, Park Fires and Kelly Boyle. All of the above are wonderful, independent local female artists!
IN THIS PHOTO: Jenni Noyes
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Well. I unwind by chilling WITH music! I love songwriting to unwind. I love writing lyrics and writing new riffs. I play more piano than guitar nowadays. I also love to meditate and I've been drawing a lot recently too. I adore listening to non-fiction audiobooks and talks to learn more about healing and self-development. My fave authors are Eckhart Tolle, Gabrielle Bernstein; Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra; Pema Chodron and Kristin Neff. I have learnt SO MUCH over the past couple of years since I discovered audiobooks!
I also love spending time with my wonderful daughter Robin who is eleven. She's an amazing person and turning into the most fabulous young woman. Also, my friends and partner Tom. He's a songwriter too and we've started writing music together recently. We started a lil project called Cair Paravel and we've just started recording also.
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).
Ooh; this is such a difficult choice but I'd like to choose Pariss Elektra. The track I'd like to choose is called Awake and it is off her First Love E.P. She's a brilliant local independent artist. I love her music as it's so conscious; incredible vibe and she is truly a force of nature live. A huge, huge talent.
Follow Miranda Arieh