For those of you who read my blog posts for Live Theatre in January, you’ll know I saw several cracking performances of music, theatre and film. However, one that really made an impact on me was Beccy Owen. Beccy shared the evening with poets Ann Porro and Hannah Silva, reading some of her own poetry in what I call ‘the first act’ and then, in ‘the second act’, Beccy performed songs off her new album ‘Imago’. As soon as I got home, I downloaded the album and I just love it.
Today, the brilliant Beccy has given up her time to introduce herself to you lovely readers.
Beccy, For those of the readers who haven’t been lucky enough to encounter you yet, tell us about yourself please.
I’m a piano-based singer/songwriter. I write heart-on-sleeve, literate ‘pop’ music (pop in the sense that it has a strong melody and I like to play with the notion of creating ‘earworms’ in songs)
I became a musician by accident about 12 years ago whilst writing a PhD. I enjoyed academia because it meant I could luxuriate in language, but I didn’t enjoy spending so much time alone, chasing hares down rabbit holes, only to feel like I wasn’t having a huge amount of impact or connection with the ‘real world’, whatever that is. Songwriting became a necessity through my first encounter with clinical depression and it’s been my joy and salvation ever since – and I still get to luxuriate in language, only now I have melodies and beauty and a more compact form (100,000 words is far too many!)
I’m now on my fourth solo album and am writing a second album with my band Sharks Took The Rest. I never imagined I’d be able to make a living out of music, I just took as many different opportunities that came my way as possible and it’s lead me down a very interesting, creative path. I feel extremely fortunate.
You sourced your album ‘Imago’ in a really unusual way. Tell us about that.
I crowdfunded, which means I asked members of the public to donate towards the making of the record before it came out in exchange for all sorts of rewards. These included original Imago artwork, personalised poems, and some very unusual Imago merchandise – from baby bibs to oven gloves to high-vis vests. It seemed to capture people’s imagination and I raised just over three and a half grand in three months, which meant I could afford to get the record mastered at Abbey Road, as well as put it out on CD and vinyl. The vinyl is out this week in fact www.beccyowen.bandcamp.com
At Live Theatre earlier this year, you performed songs from your album and poetry. Which was more nerve-wracking?
Definitely the poetry. I felt very exposed and I’ve never done a poetry gig before. Many of my songs start out as poems – the lyrics are often the starting point for me – so it felt like a natural progression, but I’m so used to SINGING the words, not just saying them. I have a lot of admiration for performance poets. There’s a purity to what they do. I went to see Kate Tempest last week in Leeds and came away very inspired by what’s possible regarding the interplay of poetry and music.
‘Imago’ seems like such a personal record, how does it feel putting it all out there for people to listen to?
I’ve got through a number of emotions. When I first started making it, I was concerned that it might be too raw. I’ve made records that are much fuller, musically, with full orchestration and lots of backing vocals. With Imago it felt important to keep the songs relatively simple and exposed, because the story was the thing – my own experience of non-violent domestic abuse from the first flush of love, to the sense that something isn’t quite right, to the phase of being completely controlled and codependent, to the ultimate disintegration of the relationship. I was lucky to get out when I did, so now the record is made, I feel like it’s some kind of line in the sand for me, personally. It also deals with some of my experiences of mental illness, and people have fed back that all of the above has had a lot of resonance with them. It doesn’t hold back at all, and I’m proud of that. I hope, ultimately, it’s also defiant and uplifting for people to hear.
Do you have a favourite song on the album?
You Can’t Afford To Feel It. There’s no chorus and the piano is just a repeating, three note riff, so musically it’s one of the simplest songs I’ve ever written. Lyrically it’s the most honest, and it helped me to nail what I was trying to say in such a clear way: that if we don’t watch out, we can become tangled and tied to our pasts by holding on to feeling, and we can do this so acutely that we can become addicted to our own suffering as a way of still feeling connected to the people we’ve lost. It’s something I’ve worked hard to let go of and the song helps me do that every time. The melody is also quite pretty!
I was blown away by your performance at the Live, particularly your final song ‘Dead Language’ which you sang a capella. How do you get the confidence to do that?
I might sound like a bit of a worthy wanker in this answer here, but it’s never about confidence for me with songs and singing – it’s always about trying to tell the truth. So being vulnerable in front of people, and exposed, and in pain, and plugging in to the emotions that reside, dormant, at the ends of your fingertips, is exactly why I do what I do.
- What are your forthcoming plans?
I have some lovely gigs coming up (check www.beccyowenmusic.com) and am also starting work on my next solo project – I’m not sure exactly what it will be yet. I quite like that. It’s like stepping off a bus in an unknown town and not knowing which way to turn. I might do another songwriting marathon (writing, recording and uploading a song a day for a month) to kick-start it. I’d quite like to do something radically different to Imago, like a hip-hop record, or a children’s record, or a record where I collaborate with other writers somehow.
Now that the last few years have been musically ‘purged’, and I’ve got some clarity and am living a little more in-the-moment, so I’m curious to see what new music comes out. I’m going to Nepal for a month in 30 days time, so that should fertilise some new ideas as well. SUN! SONGS! ELEPHANTS! JOY!
Click here to get your copy of Beccy’s wonderful album, ‘Imago’. Thanks again to Beccy for getting involved with the blog.