Tanita Tikaram has spent several years away from the music scene and now she is about to return with her new record Can't Go Back.
I caught up with her to talk about the new record, her time away and what she has on the horizon.
- Can't Go Back is the new record so what can we expect from it this time around?
It is very exciting. It’s very dynamic. It’s very colourful and punchy (laughs).
- It is quite an uplifting album and there are some soul elements in places but how would you describe the sound of the record? And how does it differ from albums that you have made before?
I would say that because it was largely recorded live in the studio and very quickly, in about six days, I think that the sound is very dynamic.
It differs in as much as it has a lot more groove and movement and I think that it is an exciting listen when people are playing live - there is a real chemistry between the musicians.
I think that the sound is quite American and my sound is quite English and I think that the tension between the two things really works on this album.
- You say that you recorded the album live so I wondered why you decided to go down that path?
When I had the collection of songs I knew that my first priority was to make an album with a lot of movement. You have many choices when you are about to make a record as it could be very electronic or you are working with machines or you are making a record where you layer the track.
I love a lot of American music and particularly at the moment the musicians that I like the sound of are working in Los Angeles and that is the sound that I wanted to borrow in a way - that openness and the ease with which they play most of those grooves.
- I has been seven years since you last album so what have you been up to in that time?
I think when you begin quite young, I was about eighteen when I started, and you have a large success you tend to work very intensely.
Seven years sounds like a long time but I still feel like I am a student and that I am still learning things and so it has been like a very over extended gap year.
- Why did you decide that now was the right time to make this record and a come back?
I think just musically I felt… confident is a funny word but I just thought that the songs were right and I was excited the songs and I wanted to share them with people really.
I like playing live now and I am just musically growing all of the time so it was a good time to make a record.
- Well you have slightly touched on my next question really this is your ninth studio album so how do you feel that you have grown as an artist during that time?
I think when you are young you do anything and you are very happy with it and you think it is really interesting - it is a bit like when you are a kid and you show everything to your mum.
But as you get older, for me at least, I think I am much harder on myself and I am a better editor. I hope I have made an album which is really quick and it doesn’t overstay its welcome - and that is something that happens with maturity.
Hopefully I am aware of the listener and there is a lot of variety on the album and it is an interesting listen but it doesn’t stay around too long - that is hopefully the whole vibe of the album. As well as being really great songs (laughs).
- Paul Bryan has produced the album so how did that collaboration come about?
Actually I was going a bit nuts thinking about who to work with and I had had a few false starts - I was starting to think that I was never going to meet the right person and it was never going to happen.
Then a friend of mine said ‘have you heard Aimee Mann‘s last album? Maybe you should approach Paul Bryan’ and then I spoke to Paul and he was such a lovely man and he was so excited about the songs.
I loved the way that he approaches making records which is basically like having a party and getting some nice people into the studio and having a play - I just wanted to make a record with him.
So that is really how we hooked up. When I said to him ‘I think it is very important to get the English and American tension together’ and he was going ‘yeah I totally understand’ he didn’t understand at all - he told me in the studio that he only understood when we recorded a song together.
- He has worked with a whole host of people over the years so what influence did he bring to this album?
I think the influence of American musicians is they are incredibly professional - you give them a song and they come back to you with the song with a very deep understanding of the structures and they have played around with it.
They have a sound that is just so warm and it has a real clarity to it and that is something that I was really working for.
I said a lot about the voice and how I really wanted the voice to be intimate and powerful - it sounds silly but it is actually quite difficult to achieve - but you have to balance all of these things.
I think he brought the experience of working with a lot of singers and song-writers but all the time being aware that you want to make a punch album - there has to be a sense of groove all of the time and being a bass player he is very aware of that.
The drummer that he chose Jay Bellerose has just got this raggedy drum sound but he is so in tune with the singer and the song-writer and he has a great sense of the song and that is not how all drummers think.
- Paul has also played on the album along with a whole host of great musicians so how did you find getting in the studio with those guys?
I was very intimidated at first and I just thought ‘oh man if I don’t know what I am doing they are going to jump on me like a pack of wolves’ but actually they were so generous and made me feel very special.
They also made me feel like the songs were very exciting to work on and it’s a bit like having a home team as you become more relaxed and excited and you feel like you can give your best.
We had real chemistry and I don’t know how you programme that it is just something that happens.
- You said earlier that you recorded the album in just six days, which is nothing really, so how did you find working in such a pressure situation?
I find that that is best for me - I am a crammer (laughs). I have a tendency to have a bit sleepy and to put myself in that situation it actually brings out the best in me because I have to go ‘oh wake up’.
Then you are working will all of these amazing people and you have to sing your heart out and not embarrass yourself.
Things that scare me are quite good sometimes and it is scary when you are in a room with those people and you know that they have played with a lot of great musicians.
On top of that they are always playing live and that is not necessarily something that I have been doing for many years and so it forces you to really perform - and I thought that that was really important for this record as well that I had to perform the songs.
I think you have to not just say ‘oh I have written this song and it is really lovely’ but you have to think about making an exciting record as well.
- The album was recorded at Sound Factory in Los Angeles so how did you find that time in the States?
I think for a musician it is always exciting as it just has this incredible history and you just feel like you are doing rock and roll and you have some connection with this vast history .
I am not saying that we don’t have in England but for me it is something special because I love American music.
- You have enjoyed a career that has spanned over twenty years so how have you seen the industry change in that time - has it changed for the better?
I don’t know I will tell you after the album comes out (laughs). It is still very exciting and scary. Then the whole thing with the internet and the demise of record companies in a way and the artist having more control but also more responsibility is both good and bad.
It is a very different world and I think that the way people discover music is also different. The way I discover music is so random and I don’t know if these people are famous or if the music is current as I just listen to things on Spotify and I don’t have any sense of who these people are - I listen to it because it is interesting.
The way that we listen to music is different as well as I don’t know if I listen to a whole album of current music - I listen to a lot of old stuff that I know - I have to really discipline myself to sit down and really listen to a record.
I quite like the fact that you can be on Facebook and you can have a personal relationship with the people who listen to your music and I think that is very interesting.
- Finally what's next for you?
I am doing a lot of promo and a lot of touring - I was rehearsing yesterday - I will be going out as a trio in November and December for hopefully a lot of interesting concerts.
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw