MERSEY WYLIE opens up her record bag to shed some light on the music that inspired the emotional journey that is her new EP, The Skin I Live In.
Shades Of Blue
I saw ESKA perform at Liverpool SoulFest in 2015 not knowing anything about her, and she completely blew me away. At that point, I was at a bit of a musical crossroads and I felt like that performance gave me permission to really go for something completely different. It was this incredible blending of folk, soul and rock, these powerful yet vulnerable vocals, the intricacies of the arrangements and the unexpected interplay between the vocals and different instruments that I had never considered before; so many dichotomies that shouldn’t have made any sense together, but were absolutely perfect.
Merrill Garbus writes with a fearlessness and ferocity that I really admire. She says very real things, but packages them in this bouncy, sometimes aggressive, sometimes playful package so that you don’t always notice at first. I love the raw energy and easy dissonance of Gangsta and tried to capture a little of that in the choruses of Only You. Again, I was playing with what could be said without words, this time through the messy and raucous instrumental
Roomful Of Teeth
Partita For 8 Voices Part 2: Sarabande
New Amsterdam Records
Roomful Of Teeth are such an exciting group. They explore vocal techniques from all over the world and commission composers to write music that incorporates them. They completely defy the boundaries of what is possible in contemporary classical and I always strive to do a little of that with my own music. This stunning partita by Caroline Shaw really made me think about what is possible to convey with the human voice without lyrics. That was a massive inspiration for the intro to Can’t Let Go that opens my EP; I wanted to write something that communicated all of the stresses, fears, hopelessness, frustration, emptiness, anger and resignation that this record is all about.
This was the first track Laura Mvula released from The Dreaming Room and I was instantly obsessed. I love the groove, the super cool Nile Rodgers riff, the sneakily changing time signature and lush harmonies. I love that she started talking so candidly about her mental health struggles. I love how the song changes tonality at the end and goes into this new jubilant section. I definitely tried to mimic that shift in feeling at the end of Stronger. After so much darkness, I really wanted to end with this massive celebration. I wanted it to feel like you were being surrounded by people who all understood what you were going through and who were there to celebrate your triumphs and pick you up when you fall.
Jasmine is a friend of mine and shared this album with me in its early days. I couldn’t count how many times I’ve listened to it, it is just a truly beautiful record. I love the textures she creates in her arrangements and the overall sound world of the record. She also has a very distinctive way with words and the way she phrases them which have influenced my approach to lyric writing. I think the way I described and personified my body and thought about the detachment I felt to it is reminiscent of the way Jasmine writes about her heart on this recording.
I’m always inspired by Esperanza, she’s an incredible musician and writes really exciting, complex music but delivers it with such ease and lightness. She has a beautiful sense of melody and this album had this rockier, edgier feel. Just before I recorded my EP, she live-streamed the writing and recording of her newest album for 77 hours straight which gave such a fascinating and unprecedented insight into her process, and definitely influenced how I approached my recording the month after.
The Skin I Live In is released in November.