THE excellent Terry Emm has been talking with me…
IMAGE CREDIT: Alban Low
about his latest single, The Leaving, and looking ahead to his E.P., Ornate (out on 21st September). I ask whether there are themes and stories that inspired those works and, after a six-year gap, he is coming back into the music – he reveals his favourite artists and some albums that are especially important.
Emm talks about a favourite musical memory and tells me a rising artist we should check out; if touring is a future possibility; the advice emerging artists should absorb and consider – he ends the interview by selecting a ‘90s classic.
Hi, Terry. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, Sam. Busy but I’m starting to thrive off of it.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a singer-songwriter, originally from Bedfordshire but I recently relocated to Hertfordshire to get into a denser countryside. I now live opposite the former residence of English nobleman, writer and Quaker legend William Penn. My first album, White Butterflies, came out in 2009 and I’ve steadily followed it up with regular releases when I’m feeling the music. Styles on my albums have varied from Acoustic to Indie-Pop to Rock and Electronic - wherever the wind takes me.
What can you tell me about the track, The Leaving, and its story?
The Leaving was originally titled Love Is a Fear and was always one of my favourite songs to sit and play by myself for years but, for some mad reason, I never recorded or released it. It’s about the fear of getting into new relationships, change and the fleeting yet beautiful interactions we have in life.
It is from your E.P., Ornate. What sort of themes and stories define the E.P. would you say?
The E.P. feels like a brand-new chapter to me but is quite rooted in the past and nostalgia with most of the songs being around for quite a while. Now, I feel like they have the production style that I always wanted for them. I was aiming for understated beauty; the kind of thing you’d want to listen to on headphones by yourself or could disappear into on a long night-time countryside drive. I’ve tried to keep things simple yet underpin certain moments and move into different styles where a sort of timelessness can hopefully be created.
This is your first work in six years. Is there a reason for the hiatus?
I actually quit music after a long stint of gigs that took a lot of energy and soul out of music for me. The industry changes so rapidly and I feel like I’ve never been fully able to capitalise on good achievements I’ve attained through it. I like to think of it as casting pearls before swine but it may be that being a musician is just as tough as everyone says. I realised I had never had a long period of not pursuing music goals and it was really good to switch it off for an extended period of time and see what else life had to offer.
That may always be my problem with trying to do music as a living. It’s so much heartache being an artist and also having goals to achieve something with it. You do some tracks and play some gigs and people say it’s good so you think ‘how far can this go?’ and then the goal posts move back and the industry evades you.
So, I forgot about music for a long while and figured it’d come back to me when it needs to; did some travelling without the guitar for once; visited a lot of temples and magical places in South America, which was amazing, and wrote a book on past life regressions - that type of thing. All of that turned out to be equally important in my life than my previous music dreams. Eventually, when moving house, I did the cliché thing of trying to ‘get back to my roots’ by unearthing and looking through old demo tapes, minidiscs and C.D.s I’d recorded when I was younger. I liked the purity and innocence of them and how I’d just record things ‘for me’. Songs like Sun and Moon and The Leaving from the E.P. were then re-ignited. It was then an invitation by my friend Jonathan McMillan to record at his studio, The Smokehouse in London, that prompted making the E.P.
Listening to your work; I get the sense you are more attached with old-school recording and an analogue sound. Do you think you are more enamoured with the music and recording processes of the past?!
On this E.P., I loved having a lot more space in the studio. The Smokehouse Studios, where it was recorded, made things feel like I was recording a live set. They have a wicked analogue desk that everything went through and I respect and love that kind of thing. But, also, digital is so flexible and easy that it made things easy to create original atmospheres on the tracks and edit out me constantly saying ‘are we rolling?’ at the beginning of tracks quickly. The E.P. is a combination of both: looking backwards and forwards.
In terms of musicians; what sort of stuff are you into? Who were you raised on?
I was raised on Oasis, The Kinks; The Beatles, ‘80s Pop and Northern Soul but quickly developed my own tastes and moved into all kinds of territories. Red House Painters are a big influence on me and other acts of that ilk but recently I’ve been listening to D Double E, Bleachers; Grand Drive, Harry Shotta; Barenaked Ladies and I loved the comeback album from Busted for some strange reason! I also have a list of music from films I’ve watched recently that I must get into more…
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
To tell you the truth, I’m a bit wired for a T.V. or film music sync right now. I’ve always loved when I discover new music through T.V. or films and feel like I’ve got a lot of material that could suit that type of thing in many ways; so more writing and working on that side of things could be good. Of course, if any musicians reading this like my stuff and fancy taking me on as tour support, I may be persuaded to emerge from my current meditative river-side-hidey-hole to do it too.
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Wow; hard to pick! Maybe driving around in my friend and fellow musician Craig Currie’s (of The Nimblewits) car on the way to open mics with the windows fully open and turning up Nick Cave’s The Mercy Seat to full volume or re-recording all the jingles at the studio on his radio show. There’re so many funny moments from my first two albums recorded with Richard Durrant.
His kids rolling me up in their front room carpet; being a ‘silhouette oarsman’ at his old Ropetackle ‘Airport Club’ and going to the Adur Beer Festival during recording sessions. Also; gigs I did in Germany were fun in a glass, cube cafe in Mainz - which turned into a late-night smoking session - and a house concert where most of the audience had dyed blue hair.
Which three albums mean the most to you would you say (and why)?
Johnny Coppin - Songs of Gloucestershire
It’s the most beautiful album you’ll ever hear and reminds me of my time at uni in Gloucestershire and of Folk clubs. Also, there’s a song on there, Piper’s Wood, which I can’t listen to without welling up.
F.S. Blumm - Summer Kling
Every year, when summer kicks in, I have to dig out this quirky experimental gem. It’s rich in odd, improvised music which comes together into stunningly pretty pastel arrangements.
Brent J Dickey - Overblind (E.P.)
I’ve no idea if it’s available anywhere still but I love this wacky, sparkling Indie-Pop E.P. and listened to it solidly for a whole two weeks whilst driving around America for the first time, taking in the culture.
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
Would love to open up for Billy Bragg. I think it’d be a raw show and my mother’s maiden name is also ‘Bragg’, so maybe he owes me one by default.
Rider-wise: Jaffa Cakes and rum are a rider for real singer-songwriters (to slightly quote Kano)…hold tight James Chadwick; that’s a real O.G.
Can we see you tour soon? Where are you playing?
I have no plans to get back touring as of yet - unless someone comes up with an awesome tour schedule for me.
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
Be yourself and make sure the music is as good as it can be before you put it out. Don’t get hung up on milestones like touring, press; radio etc - just keep going with as much creativity as possible. Get friends and other artists involved as much as possible. If it works out, great - if not; just be proud of the music you’ve made and the fun times.
IN THIS PHOTO: Josh Wheatley
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Josh Wheatley from Nottingham is a fine young singer-songwriter, writing far better songs than I could ever dream of coming up with…
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
I’ve been watching a lot of good films recommended by my girlfriend recently and love escaping on country walks, plus getting into historical and philosophical interests. I recently went to Italy to check out the birthplace of Giordano Bruno.
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).
Mark Morrison – Return of the Mack
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