Jo Mango

Jo Mango

It has been six years since Jo Mango released her debut album but this week sees her return with her new album Murmuration.

We caught up with the singer/songwriter to chat about the new record, her travels around the world and what lies ahead.

- Your new album Murmuration is released this week so what can we expect from the new record?

Well, that is a big question (laughs). It is a musing on the nature of knowledge and grief, I suppose.

It is based a lot in metaphors of nature and it is quite a departure from my last album as it has been a long time.

And I guess that it has slightly more of an altered acoustic sound and it is a very quiet, middle of the night album.

- I listened to the album this morning and there is an acoustic feel to it as well as a folk sound to the record but some of the tracks have quite a haunting and emotional feel to them so how would you describe the sound of the record?

I think those are good words to use. It definitely has folk influences as well as literary influences. It also has Adem’s (the producer) characteristic use of lots of… and my own… use of different instruments like musical saw and the omnichord.

I know that there are more normal sounds but they are altered in some way and so they have been reversed or but through some delicate operation.

- You have mentioned that this album is very different to your last record so how did you find yourself going down this path with your sound - did you have a plan before you started recording or is it something that developed during the recording process?

I think it was a combination of things and, like I said, it has been quite a while since my last album. As with a lot of people’s first albums it was a collection of the things that I had done up until that point - so some of that tracks that were on that album I wrote when I was fifteen.

And this time around this has been purposely written as an album. Plus I have done a lot in that time such as being on tour with Vashti Bunyan and going around the world and hearing all kinds of amazing music on my travels has effected it a lot.

So there are a lot more varied influences I guess this time around. I got vocal modules during that time and I had to think again about how I sang and go through speech therapy and things like that.

It is natural voice - it is not a voice that I put on - but it is a new voice that I have had to develop and that has had an impact on the sound of the album because it is more of a hushed voice.

I had to think about how to express emotion in a different way - previously I might have sung louder, higher, harder but on this album I have had to thin about how to diffuse the emotion into other aspects. I think that I have been successful in doing that and I have really enjoyed the results for that.

- I was reading this this album was partly influenced by your travels around the world in the last few years so I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about your travels and just how they have inspired you?

We went touring all over America, Europe, Singapore, Japan, Australia and I met a lot of really inspiring people in terms of collaborations; so I learnt a lot about collaborative working and collaborative writing.

I was also on the Zero Degrees of Separation Tour with Juana Molina from Argentina, Vetiver from America and Ardem; that is how I met Adem.

I use to be afraid of being too influenced by anything so I wouldn’t listen to an album an awful lot or never listen to an artist to much because I was always afraid that I would end up sounding like them.

But I have learnt that working with other people can only enhance your sound and you need to not be afraid of losing yourself and don’t be afraid of learning from other people.

I also drew on a lot of other sounds for the album and so there is Gamelan music, I didn’t actually go to Indonesian but one of my band members is a Gamelan player.

There are also Scottish sounds from the Western Isles - just in a delicate way. And so I have tried to draw on different influences for the sound.

- How have you found the early response to the record?

It has been great, we have only had really positive reviews and there is a lot of internet chatter. It is exciting because it has been such a long time since I have released something so it is brilliant that people are talking about listening to new music again.

So it has all been exceptionally positive so far so I am really happy about that.

- You have mentioned Adem already and he has produced the record so how did that collaboration come about? And how did you find working with him?

It came about doing that collaborative tour and so we all became each other’s band and so I got to play on some of his amazing music.

I just realised that we work in a very similar way. His house is full of all kinds of crazy instruments that he has collected over the years from kid’s toys to a harpsichord that he rescued from a junk shop and that is how I like to work as well.

I don’t just write a song on the guitar and think ‘that is a guitar song’ when the song is forming I will think about which instrument will suit the song rather than forcing an instrument on a song.

So I have collected a whole bunch of different instruments myself and that is really how I like to work.

We became great friends and he agreed to produce the record - it was an EP first and so we only did four songs but then we decided that it was too good to be an EP and that we should turn it into an album.

It has been amazing working with Adem as he is an absolute genius and a lovely person as well. It has taken a while because he has been so busy with other things and so we have just fitted it in around all the other amazing things that he has been getting up to.

But I think meeting Adem is one of the best things that has happened to me musically in a long time as he has just been brilliant.

- He has worked with the likes of Silver Columns so what did his experience bring to the record?

I think he just has really exceptional taste and vision - it is great to just be able to ring someone up and say ‘I am working on this song and I am not sure where it is going, what do you think?’ And to have someone whose answer I totally trust so he will say ‘it is great but it is not the right vein for the album’ or he will encourage me.

So he is a great visionary in a way and he is so great at translating what is in my head. I don’t really have a lot of technological expertise so quite often it is about describing things to him and he has a really great way of interpreting what I have said.

So we will sit down and talk about what we were listening to at that time and different sounds and I would mention the Gamelan and the different sounds that I would like to hear and he just shapes the sound in that direction.

He writes for film a lot and I think that the songs are very visual and quite filmic and some of them are like short stories in a way. So he is really good at capturing the visuality of that in a sound form. I think it has really helped having that aspect of his expertise.

- They always say that the second album is the most difficult to make so did you find that to be the case?

Not really, no. I feel like a different artist than when I made the first album and so I didn’t really think of it as a follow up to the first album but a whole different thing.

Because it took so long it wasn’t like an intensive period where I had to bash it out and have that pressure from a label.

It is always hard writing an album but I didn’t have that expectation or feeling like I had to sound like the last album. So it has been a great process - I think I will do the next one a little bit faster (laughs).

- It was 2006 when you released your debut album so do you feel that you have developed and improved as a singer and a songwriter during that time?

I am a completely different songwriter to back then as I think my creative processes are deeper and my lyric writing is much better and the themes are more complex and interesting.

The sound is just grown up and is more focused - the last album was more eclectic in terms of styles where as this has more of a cohesive sound. I feel like it is a whole different sound compared to the last album.

- Finally what is next for you - are there any live shows planned?

There is a little mini tour for the album launch so I am playing in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen before going to London on 24th November at Union Chapel. Then I have a couple of Christmas shows.

Hopefully next year I will have a longer tour but I will be playing in Glasgow and Edinburgh in February. So getting out and playing some more shows is my aim over the next few months.

Jo Mango - Murmuration is out now

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

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