Published on September 20th, 2017 | by Gareth Allen0
Roxanne de Bastion: interview
Interview – Roxanne de Bastion at the Cambridge Folk Festival
“Music is so deeply rooted in us, its older than language, and such a meaningful way to connect and communicate. I wouldn’t ever underestimate how music can change the world”.
Roxanne de Bastion is a singer songwriter of exceptional talents. Her songs and voice have a way of connecting at depth with human experience, including the experience of trauma. Her new album Heirlooms and Hearsay is completely immersive, and draws the listener in with each play. At the Cambridge Folk Festival her set was spellbinding, and one of the absolute highlights of the Festival. The connection established between Roxanne and the Festival audience was incredibly exciting. Gareth Allen on behalf spoke with Roxanne just after she had come off stage at the Festival.
Sonic Bandwagon: How did it feel on the stage during your set today?
Roxanne: I loved it. I know it’s just been ten minutes since the set finished, but I think its one of my favourite shows to date. The audience were just amazing. I really didn’t expect the tent to be that full, and with such an attentive audience. I am sure most of them hadn’t heard of me before, so I just feel really lucky that they took a chance.
Sonic Bandwagon: During the song Some Kind of Creature, you went to the front of the stage. You really seemed to want to engage with the moment.
Roxanne: That’s my favourite thing about performing. With that song in particular, I tend to go to a different place, when I play it. The song takes over (Roxanne giggles). I think the best shows are when you are the most in the moment. Sometimes you can think too much…wondering, for example, what I am going to say after this song. But if you are just in the moment, and enjoying the lyrics and connecting with the audience, that’s a sign that things are going well.
Sonic Bandwagon: On your website there is a lovely reflection on the mid-west section of your United States tour. How was the experience for you?
Roxanne: It was amazing, and such an adventure. It was my first US tour. We started off in LA, drove up that beautiful coast to Portland, Oregon; and then drove across to and ended up in New York. It was the longest tour I have ever done to date. It was five weeks, and we played a lot of living room shows. They are wonderful, and I really like doing them. You really do connect with everyone there, because its so intimate. I understand its not for everyone, its unplugged and you have got nowhere to hide. You always though make friends, and its nice to be in people’s homes.
Sonic Bandwagon: With your new album, the experience of trauma is eloquently articulated; and you said on stage today, how short our collective memory can be. What do you hope the listener will take away from hearing your album, and the themes it engages with?
Roxanne: Its a funny one with songwriting, because I am happy for people to take away whatever they want to take away from it. With some songs in particular, what I have in mind is almost irrelevant. Whatever you hear in it, that’s your truth, and I love hearing what people think about a song. It can be more clever that what I thought of originally. This album though does have a story arc and themes that go through it. I wanted to create an album where all the songs hang together, and its a bit of a landscape. Themes to take away from it….I am always amazed at people’s sense of entitlement. We are so lucky to be born on a patch of land that happens to be free, and where we can do pretty much as we please. But that’s by chance, and we didn’t do anything in particular to deserve that. So everyone deserves that.
Sonic Bandwagon: Thank you for such a thoughtful answer. The musical arrangements on the new album are fabulous. I love the psychedelic guitar on Unwind. How did the musical settings come together in the recording of the album?
Roxanne: Thanks, I love that guitar bit as well. Its not me (Roxanne laughs and smiles). I had the pleasure of working with some really amazing musicians on the album. We recorded it down in Devon. We also went on an album launch tour with the full band, with people who played on that record, including Stuart Irwin who played bass with me today, and many other excellent musicians. That guitar solo was a total last minute addition. He just put it down and I loved it.
Sonic Bandwagon: You are an advocate of artists rights, and represent independent artists on the board of the Featured Artists Coalition. What drew you into that role?
Roxanne: I landed there by accident. I didn’t previously know about the FAC, I wish I had as they are a great organisation. I think the music industry has changed so much. People finally started asking musicians what its like for them. What I do is pretty much DIY managed, and I release my albums on my own record label, and it works. Its great that we live in a world where artists can do that. So I got asked to speak at a few industry events on that. That’s how the FAC found me I guess. Then I got invited to a Board meeting, which felt like falling down the rabbit hole. It’s very humbling to get to know musicians who have been very successful, and are giving their time just to make the landscape a bit better for a new generation of artists. So its a super nice thing to be a part off.
Sonic Bandwagon: Fantastic Negrito said from the stage earlier today “Politicians see in front of them a diverse group and think how do we divide them, artists see the same group and think how can we unite them“. What potential do you think music has to change lives?
Roxanne: Its changed my life. I think music is one of the most powerful forces, because there is love in music. When people get together as they have at this Festival, to enjoy music and be positive, that in itself sends a good message out there. Music is so deeply rooted in us, its older than language, and such a meaningful way to connect and communicate. I wouldn’t ever underestimate how music can change the world. Hopefully too, we are moving towards a time where it is cool to have meaning in lyrics again.
Photograph from Roxanne’s Cambridge Folk Festival set by Gareth Allen.