Mary Epworth

Mary Epworth

Mary Epworth looks set to dazzle us with her debut album with Dream Life released in March.

I caught up with her to take about the album, what inspires her to write and what lies ahead.

- Dream Life is your debut album which is about to be released so what can we expect from the record?
Eleven tunes that don't all sound the same, some very fuzzy loud parts, and some little tender moments.

Lots of harmonies, snatches of brass, psychedelic things that you can't quite work out what they are, and some hooky songs. One harpischord.

- Songs such as The Saddle Song and Black Doe have been met really well when released so how excited are you about getting a full album of work out there?
I know I should probably say something like "I make it for myself and then if anyone else likes it it's a bonus", but that would be a huge lie.

I did make it for myself, but also I really put my whole soul and a lot of love into it, and I hope that some people take it to their hearts. 
- Dream Life is produced by   Gareth Jones and Ian Button, who have worked with some great acts between them, so how did that collaboration come about and how did you find working with them?
Actually the album was produced by my labelmate Will Twynham, who is also making his own record as Adapter Adapter. We worked hard at bringing the songs to life and wanted something we would both be proud of. 

Gareth and Ian, and psychedelic gentleman Thom Monahan all mixed big slices of the album once Will and I were happy with the tracking. Initially we'd intended to mix it ourselves, but after focussing so hard it was great to get a different perspective.

- What has having them work on this brought to the record? 
In some cases we recorded so many tracks, so many instruments, we couldn't really see which way to go, so Thom or Gareth might say "do we really need this guitar or is the piano part enough?"

Having a fresh set of ears on something you have been listening to for so long is priceless.
- The album took two years to record so was this purposefully - to take your time - or is it just the way that it worked out? And how much is this long recording process benefited the record?
We didn't plan it that way, but being ambitious about sounds and yet working on a small budget means favours, deals, fitting in round other things, and sometimes life outside music gets in the way too. We had a long period where I didn't think it would ever come out.

During that time though, we kept working on tracks, and being inspired by other music. Had everything gone to plan it would have sounded very different I think, and I much prefer how it sounds now.

- The album has already been described as otherworldly and mesmerising so what are your reactions to comments such as that?
Positive feedback is always a joy, and especially after having worked on it for so long it's good to know someone likes it.

We were trying to make the record sound magical and atmospheric, so that's the perfect reaction. 

- You are a songwriter as well as a singer so how important is that huge creative input to an album to you?
I think perhaps when you are given a song to perform, it's more of an external thing. I know that really talented singers are able to really inhabit a song, but in a way when you write, you and the song are one.

I know that sounds really pretentious but ironically enough it's hard to put into words.
I don't see writing a song as just assembling components, verse, chorus etc, I see a song or a piece of music as a journey. Writing it and singing it means you have the whole picture.

Then of course you still have to get that picture out of your head and into the real world, which is a whole other story!
- What inspires you to write? Are you influenced by another other artists?
I think listening to great music, looking at art, film, reading about history, and particularly in my case experiencing nature and landscape all feeds into your imagination.

It's hard to say how much other artists influence me as it's not always obvious to other people.
For instance, I am a huge Beach Boys fan, and to me the record has 70s Beach Boys sounds all the way through it, but I'm sure that wouldn't be obvious to anyone else.

- You are signed to Hand of Glory record so how did you come to get signed on this label?
Will and I founded Hand Of Glory records a few years ago, and we've put a handful of 7" singles out, and this is our first full length release.

I've been offered a couple of deals, but to be honest, once I'd looked at the small print I didn't really see the benefit. I'm not really talking about the lack of enormous advances, as those seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

It's more about signing terms you might regret in 20 years time. If all you have is your songs, you have to be careful and look after them.

- If you could use just one song on the album to get people to go out any buy it which song would it be and why?
Track 1, Long Gone. Hearing the rough mix of this was the point where I suddenly felt like there was really going to be an album.

I still like hearing this one, though I generally avoid listening to my own stuff! It's got some big harmonies, souly brass, and a fat synth bass line.

- There are lots of female singer/songwriters around at the moment so what makes you different to everyone else?
It's hard to answer this without sounding like a jerk, but i think I might be aiming for a different goal to some other songwriters out there.
I'm excited by the imaginative and expansive music of the great psychedelic era, when people were trying to paint pictures with sounds, rather than just singing a song with an acoustic guitar. 
When I grow up I want to be Todd Rundgren, Aphrodite's Child or Gene Clark. or Dennis Wilson.
Oh also, if you are an acoustic-female-singer-songwriter that listens exclusively to acoustic-female-singer-songwriters, it's a bit like a dog chasing it's own tail.  Same goes for all other art really, you can get too mired in your own scene.
- Which artists are you enjoying listening to at the moment? And are there any records that you are particularly looking forward too hearing this year?
My favourite recent thing is W by Planningtorock. It's sexy mutant disco with inappropriate  levels of sax. I'm getting more into disco and prog at the moment, but my fetish is 60s pop and psych.

I'll probably find about three "new " records this year to fall in love with, and they will probably all have been released about 40 years ago.
I fell in love with the first Bee Gees album a few months ago. I used to hate them, especially the 90s Celine Dion era, so that took me a bit by surprise when I heard it. It’s a psych-pop classic!

- Finally what’s coming up for you over the next few months - are we going to be seeing you on tour?
Yes! We’re booking a tour at the moment, and also shooting a video for one of the tracks.

Aside from that, as much promotion as possible. Having spent such a long time on the recording I’m really keen to get it out there.

- Many thanks for taking the time out to answer my questions

It's a pleasure! 

Dream Life is released 5th March

FemaleFirst - Helen Earnshaw

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