A Fine Frenzy is one of the artists to watch out for in 2013 as she returns with her new album Pines - a record that is completely different to anything that she has done before.
I caught up with to chat about the album, the inspiration being the tracks and what lies ahead for her this year.
- You will be releasing you new album Pines later this month so what can fans expect from the new record?
Well I guess it is a bit of a departure from earlier records. It is quite deep and it is very lush and very foresty (laughs - no pun intended. The whole record is a story and each chapter is one of the songs.
It is just more so it is quieter when it is quieter and it is louder when it is louder. It is also delving into different emotions and so it is a deeper journey than I have been on before.
- It is a concept record and almost like a fable so why did you decide to write your album in this way - there is a very personal feel to this record even though you are not the main character in the songs?
You are totally right, it is a fable. When I am going through something monumental or difficult in my life it is hard to look at it as it is because it is too much. Stories have always been incredibly comforting and can help illuminate things that are hard to understand other wise.
So writing in a more metaphorical way was a way of looking at things in life that I was trying to get a better understanding of or a better hold of - it also gave me a little distance so I could actually see what was there.
It was also kind of a guide because as I was writing the story I could see a path and something to aim for and that was interesting. When life is changing and everything if confusing it can sometimes be hard to tell where you are going or where you were and the story helped me make sense of that.
- There is a bit of a different sound to this record than others the you have put out before so how much did you enjoy the challenge of taking your music down a different path sound wise?
I love it, I loved it. I think something that is never really spoken about is the learning process of making records - I made my first record at twenty one and learned so much about record making from that before making Bomb In A Birdcage a couple of years later.
Going into this process was just fun as I just played more. I just felt freer and lighter and I just delved into things. I also used space as almost its own instrument, which I had never learned about before, as silence is sometimes as powerful as notes.
- The album isn't out for a couple of weeks yet but how have you found the early response to the new tracks?
It has been really moving actually. My tumblr site has turned into a bit of a fan mail site as they can write proper letters there and people have said that is has really comforted them and made them want to connect with nature or helped them connect with themselves - really beautiful things.
- Pines was produced by Keefus Green so how did that collaboration come about?
It was really quite natural actually. I had never met him before but Dan McCarroll, who is the head of the label in North America, had just come in and I played him a few of the songs on piano and he said ‘you need to meet Keefus because this needs someone that can create a landscape.”
And really was what I wanted as I wanted someone to be able to help create the pictures with me with the music as much as with the actual lyrics and melodies.
Keefus is just brilliant and is like a wonderful mad scientist (laughs). He is so funny and odd and lovely but also incredibly positive and kind.
Because it was such a personal and sensitive record for me - they are all sensitive but this is particularly sensitive - he was just really encouraging and has the gift of bringing out the best in people as musicians and just as people and that was a really important part of making this record.
- Another aspect of this album that is really great is the instrumentation that is on there so how did you find working with the musicians - they really do do a great job?
Thank you. They are incredible and they really did blow me away. Everybody learned the day that we recorded… the hour that we recorded them and they had never heard them before. We did the whole record in seven days at Capitol Studios in LA.
Every morning it was like story time as I would tell them where we were in the journey, what the landscape was, what the feeling was and then I would play the songs and everyone just got incredibly creative and painted those sounds and emotions and textures with their instruments.
I am still baffled and I still don’t know how it happened because it doesn’t seem possible but I suppose when you work with incredibly sensitive and gifted musicians that is what you get.
- Seven days does seem like quite a short time to record an album so do you like working under those incredibly tight time constraints?
I do, yeah. We did addition things after such as harmonies and some vocals afterwards. But I do love it.
Someone said once that ‘music is the capturing of a moment’ and it is very easy in this day and age with all the technology that we have to pick at a song and fix it and straighten it out and over work on it until it doesn’t resemble the moment or the feeling that was in the room at that moment.
There is something about doing it and not over thinking it that is quite refreshing - and I think that you can feel it.
It was scary for me because a lot of the vocals were one take and it is scary as a singer to think that that is happening and that it could be a disaster. But it made me rise to the occasion and embrace the flaws more as well.
- You have been on the road this autumn with Joshua Radin so how did those shows go?
They were good, they were good. It was an adjustment going out on the road again after such a long period of time in the creative process.
It was really lovely to see people again and after every show I would go out and sign autographs and meet people and hear their stories and it is such a treat to hear directly from people how something that I have made has effected them - it was a real gift every night.
- This is your third studio album so how do you feel that you have developed as a musician and a songwriter since your first record?
I think I am getting more comfortable in my skin. As a person life has always been a bit of a challenge for me and I have spent so much of my early years in fear and I think that making music makes me want to be more courageous.
This record is all about that; it is about facing fears and really pushing myself and I think that is as much a blessing as it is a challenge. There is so much more to explore and so much more to learn but it is just an interesting thing to have that as a kind of diary.
- 2012 has come to a close so how would you sum up the year that you have had?
It has been a year of opening and coming into a new chapter of life. The whole record is about being in a really terrible, dark, hopeless and numb state and the end of the record is about the beginning of learning how to be a present and active participant in my life.
I think this year has been the year of challenging to really fill those shoes and it has been a year of learning and growing.
I think that is the best and most difficult year I could have had and it has felt like a preparation for 2013, which I am very very excited about.
- That is my final question what is on the horizon for year as we head into the new year? Are we going to be seeing you playing any live shows here in the UK?
We are still confirming things and working things out at the moment. I will be here for quite a long time and that is really exciting as I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into the UK - I have never lived here before and I love it (laughs).
There are a lot of projects in the pipeline and 2013 is my year of creativity and a year of learning in a different way. I am going to working with a lot of different people on a lot of different things as well as promoting Pines.
I don’t know what is going to happen but it is going to be an adventure and I am quite excited about it (laughs).
A Fine Frenzy - Pines is released 28th January
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw