Heidi Talbot

Heidi Talbot: We’ll hear angels sing

Heidi Talbot’s fifth solo album, ‘Here We Go 1, 2, 3’, is entwined with family. Produced by her husband, John McCusker, in the studio next to their home, it even features a vocal from the couple’s young daughter.

But it’s also entwined with new beginnings and the passing of time. In the years since her last LP, she’s built that studio, started a label, formed a new band, had a second daughter, and lost her mother.

She tells us how those changes impacted on her songwriting, and about capturing the right energy in the studio, setting aside time to be creative, and the healing power of music.

The album title hints at new beginnings, or a leap into the unknown. Is this what you were hoping to convey?

I went back and forth with different album titles. ‘Here We Go 1, 2, 3’ is the title of one of the songs, it’s something I say a lot – sometimes to my kids, sometimes before I start a song. I liked the idea of the album being a leap into new musical territory, new band, new songs.

Why do you think you were able to record the album in 10 days, even though there may have been the temptation to take your time in your own studio?

I had a fantastic group of musicians working with me and a brilliant producer. We didn’t have to have it all finished in 10 days but the energy was right and it all fell into place.

Lyrically, this is very personal album. Do you ever fear you’ve revealed too much of yourself in a song?

No, I don’t fear I’ve revealed too much of myself in any of these songs. Yes sometimes they are very personal, but they’re not always about me. There was a song I wrote two years ago that I felt was too sad, I rewrote it a couple of times and it turned into one of the songs on the album: ‘Tell me Do you Ever Think of Me’.

In that vein, you’ve said that writing ‘Song For Rose (Will You Remember Me)’ helped you deal with your mother passing away. Was it difficult, emotionally, to record? And will be emotionally draining to perform on tour?

I cried when I was writing it  and I cried when I sang it for the first time for someone else. It wasn’t difficult emotionally to record and it hasn’t been difficult to perform over the summer at festivals, maybe because it felt like a healing process to write it.

More generally, do you often write songs to deal with or process situations?

I wouldn’t say I write songs to deal with a situation, it’s more like when I write, what comes out can be a situation I’ve experienced or a feeling.

It sounds as though you got on with living your life in the period you were writing these songs. Did you specifically set aside time to write or did songs just materialise unbeckoned?

I try to set aside some time every day to write. Some days it will be productive and some days it will be rubbish. For me it’s good to write a little every day even if it’s 20 minutes. I think when you have children, you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, if it does then that’s brilliant but I’ve definitely got better at managing my time since having kids.

You’ve lived with some of these songs for a few years before recording them. Were you tempted to write and rewrite, or once finished did you leave them alone?

‘Tell Me Do You Ever Think Of Me’ started out as a really sad song, too sad for me. I rewrote the lyrics and it was about someone going to war, John changed the melody and tempo so it became a jig. We were working on an arrangement for it and it wasn’t working. I rewrote some of the lyrics and it became a love song about unrequited love. The other songs stayed pretty much the same.

Is there any one song on the album you’re proudest of?

I’m quite proud of all of them. I love that my daughter sang with me on ‘A Song For Rose’.

The songs on the album are clearly all very personal to you. So why did you choose to cover Natalie Merchant’s ‘Motherland’?

‘Motherland’ is one of my favourite Natalie Merchant songs. To me it’s a song of longing and vulnerability but it’s also quite tough. My boyfriend (now husband) gave me the album when we started courting!

Were there any other songs you considered covering for this album?

I love the Tom Waits song ‘Take It With Me’ – that was on my list.

There are multiple guests on the album – have you started considering how you’ll be performing these songs on tour without them?

I’ll be joined on tour by Sorren Maclean, Toby Shaer, Andy Cutting, and John McCusker. I won’t have bass or drums with me so some of the songs will be played slightly different but altogether we can make a big noise! I love how a song evolves and takes on a new life when you play it live.

Your husband, John, produced and played on the album, your daughter sings on ‘Song For Rose’. Do you think this sense of family in any way bleeds into the feeling of the album?

It’s inevitable. We record from our studio beside our house and everyone is a part of it – John is my producer, the kids are around music constantly, when we’re writing, rehearsing, or recording, so it would be weird to me if everyone wasn’t a part of it.

  • ‘Here We Go 1, 2, 3’ is released on 23 September 2016. For the latest on Heidi Talbot, including tour dates, visit www.heiditalbot.com.

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