Head to head: Claire Northey

As we ramp up to Claire Northey‘s debut album release on 22 April, we stole her away from her busy schedule to ask her a few questions about her upcoming release, the experience of recording live and what we can expect from the album’s launch party.

Hi Claire! How’s your 2017 going so far?

2017 is going as well as I expected it to go! We recorded my debut album in September 2016 and it’s been really exciting to go through all the different stages involved in making an album. I am impatient now! Signing with a label as a solo artist is a first for me and it has been a really interesting and exciting journey.

So, obviously, big news – you have your album launch coming up this month. How are you feeling? Nervous? Excited?

I have been waiting for this for a long time. I’m not nervous, but definitely excited, and just happy to finally be able to share my music. This project is a personal milestone in the way I experience and compose music. It’s the first time I’ve recorded an album of my work, although I’ve been composing for the last 10 years. Some of the songs, like Casablanca, are eight years old! They have evolved of course, but I really had a strong desire to record them well.

I’m also excited to officially present the live sound we have created with Nick Oakley, who plays trumpet or flugelhorn on four tracks of the album, and holds an important musical space in the live show.

When I started composing for this project, I always imagined the sound of brass with the violin and I was fortunate enough to meet Nick in Manchester. He found a very natural way of improvising and integrating his sound into the music.

Can you give us a bit of background as to how the album came about (I know we’re involved somehow)?

I had been performing my music live for three years when I met Jae [Task, MD of CHK One]. I had released an EP and had all the material for an album, so when CHK One approached me and offered to sign me as their first artist and release my first album, I didn’t hesitate for a second; I felt ready. It was exactly what I needed at that point, someone to invest and believe in this project as much as I do.

Was this your first experience recording or have you done it before?

I have made several records with bands before, both self-produced and released on labels – I recorded my first album of progressive gothic rock when I was 16! I also recorded music for very different projects: totally improvised ones, which challenge you creatively the most I find, and projects with written parts that have to be perfectly executed, and challenge you on a technical execution aspect.

Recording is a very particular step in the making and composing of music. Each recording is a unique experience, but I always enjoy it. It’s also something (like anything else) that you get better at with time.

Can you tell us about the album’s recording process? For example, who made the choice to record each track as a live recording and did that make a huge difference to the sound?

Jae suggested live recording and I wasn’t convinced at the beginning. Recording live is quite challenging in terms of energy and performance. But that is what actually gave the album the organic and dynamic sound we would never have achieved otherwise. So I’m glad that was the way we went!

I had just come back from touring in Germany so I was very comfortable with my set at the time and it was just amazing to record those ten songs in two days, and think: “Ok, I just did it.” Listening back to it, I’m very happy because it sounds exactly like what you experience live.

I think it was possible for me to do because of all the prior recording experience I had, which enabled me to not waste time and energy on details, and be very focused.

I hear there’s a story behind the album title, ‘Mavromati’ – could you tell us about it?

I started performing and composing with my loop pedal ten years ago writing soundtracks for the theatre, and it has shaped the way I write.

One of the plays I composed for was from the novel of a Romanian author called Panait Istrati. It was about a young Romanian boy trying to go to France on foot. At one point he is in Greece, and meets an old captain called Mavromati, who just sits there and tells stories about his life, his travels and about Greece.

I wrote the song ‘Mavromati’ for this character, and I thought that it would be a good title for the album since I see this album as a narrative made of a collection of soundtracks rather than a succession of songs.

My favourite song is ‘Look, it’s sleeping’. One of the reasons is that I think the mix of the flugelhorn and the violin on this track is the best. Also, I think it’s the most cinematic piece. I have a special connection with all my instrumental songs as I hope that I can convey as much emotion as possible without using any words.

What can we expect from the launch party?

You can expect to hear me perform my album performed live on violin/loop pedal and with Nick Oakley on brass. The rest is a surprise!

Have you got anything else in the pipeline this year that we can look forward to?

Yes, there will be another launch party in Manchester on 5 May. Manchester is where it all started for me so I’m thrilled to present my album there. I have a few festivals in the pipeline too; Kendal Calling and Standon Calling are confirmed for now.

You can pre-order Claire’s album Mavromati (2017) on Bandcamp, due for release on 22 April.

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