|In Conversation with Mary Epworth|
Hi Mary, Debut album complete, what is your emotion at this point, relief, satisfaction &/or, already cracking on with record number two?
All of the above, except maybe the last one. Officially I’m excited and relieved, but privately I’m still wondering if it will ever stop being scary. It’s been a funny old journey so far, and at some point I look forward to being able to say “Phew! It was worth it”.
With this record, some of the songs were demoed in three or four versions before the final ones, so it will be nice to be able to jump in and make something a bit more spontaneous with album 2. Also I can play drums a bit now, so maybe it’s going to go in a different direction!
Song writing; A natural gift or a learnable trade?
I think there are many approaches to song writing, and there are certainly ways you can learn the standard structures etc, but I think I enjoy it most (in my own writing and in other people’s) when it comes from some unknown well of inspiration.
I never enjoy my tracks that I’ve sweated over as much as the ones that just arrived from nowhere, intact. More usually the first verse and chorus come like that for me, then I have to work out what the song is about to be able to write verse two.
How does your song writing process take shape, on the road, at home, with friends, alone etc?
Like I say above, usually a phrase or two will arrive, words and melody, and I go from there. I don’t write with other people for my solo stuff, would be interested in collaborating for some other projects etc, but I’m too protective of my own work to let anyone in.
That said, the production process with Will Twynham is often the thing that brings the songs to life, puts flesh on bone.
I seem to need a particular kind of insular feeling to start writing, it doesn’t come to me often and it’s hard to set it up. The muse is a bit flighty. Trying to do all the admin side of being in a band really doesn’t foster inspiration for me.
What is your favorite instrument and have you ever found an instrument too frustrating to play?
I write on guitar generally, sometimes autoharp, so maybe those. I’m really a rhythm player, far too lazy to try to play any lead stuff, so I guess lead guitar might be the frustrating one. I just started learning to play drums, and that is really so much fun. Wish I’d started years ago!
If you could front any band as the singer for one night, what band would that be?
Haha! Great question. Aphrodite’s Child, though I would be but a pale shadow of Demis Roussos.
Back to School/College days; what were the cool albums exchanged in the playground / rec room and are there any particular records from that time that you still listen to regularly today?
Loads of the Seattle grunge stuff when I was an early teen, I suppose. I can’t really remember if much of that came from school friends though, it was more like older friends from the local venue that used to make amazing mixtapes.
I sometimes revisit things I loved then and am pleasantly surprised to still like them. Still love early Screaming trees, back then I didn’t know any other psychedelic rock, and now I do they still fit in perfectly with my listening. Also I was totally obsessed with Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, Lust For Life, and New Values, and I didn’t listen to them again until a couple of years ago. Love them just as much now, just with a big gap of other listening in-between. We nearly called the record “Old Values” as a tribute, as the sounds of that album were a big reference point fort production.
You run the Hand Of Glory record label. How did that come about and what are the current recommendations from the label?
I suppose that at some point Will (producer/co-founder) and I decided that as nobody else had offered to put stuff out, we may as well do it ourselves.
Will’s a real vinyl nerd so it was fun to be making the objects he desires so much. We’ve certainly learned a lot, made loads of mistakes and there’s always more to learn. I hope we can grow the label a bit as time goes on, build a bigger roster, maybe diversify a bit.
I have to recommend the artists we’ll be releasing next, namely Will’s own project Adapter Adapter, I’ve heard a good chunk of the album so far and I think it’s really fantastic. He’s taking all the production he learned making my record, and leaped a whole jump further. Such tender songs too.
Also we’ve just added a really talented artist called Kiran Leonard to the roster. It’s early days, but his music is just incredible, and I hope we can do some good work with him.
Do you think it is a good or even realistic time to start a new label in the UK today?
Only if you are looking for a really expensive hobby to take up your time and shelf space. It’s like making music generally. You only do it because you have to. It’s never a wise decision. I know lots of other artists and label people will empathise with me on this.
If you were not a musician, what would you do and how do you spend your down-time away from music.
If I started from scratch, I’d like a job that involved being around wildlife. Not so much tube feeding a baby badger, but maybe doing some kind of custodial practical role around nature. It means a lot to me, being out in the wilds. That is my down time at the moment, all I seem to feel like doing is going on massive hikes.
Any favourite festivals lined up for the summer?
We’re really looking forward to Hop Farm on June 29th, as we’re opening the main stage, and after us are people like Dr John and Ray Davies. It’s a huge privilege! Also Bestival is going to be great, and it’s Wildlife themed which is perfect for me! Got one more to announce that I’m looking forward to as it’s so near my house I may even walk there.
What was the idea behind the album cover for 'Dream Life' and who designed it?
The beautiful artwork was made by Matthew-Robert Hughes, who is an incredibly talented artist working with photography and other media.
He’s a friend of a friend, and when said friend showed me his work I was blown away. He shares a love of visionary art, landscape, and of colour, so we decided to make something together. I love what he came up with, it says so much visually that I tried to say in song. We’ve just made a video to “Long Gone” as well, which looks similarly colorful and wondrous.
I hope we’ll work on lots more in the future as well.