Quite a few people have remarked on my story and journey in becoming a songwriter, so here it is, in several sections. Today I focus on my childhood.
I suppose I am the product of 70’s bohemian hippie parents: all the influences and experiences I had as an early child have had a unique effect on my creativity. My dad is an early music musician and all my earliest memories are washed in the sounds and experiences this world gave me. My parents ran the Early Music Centre which was a bit like a community of musicians, parents, artists and instrument makers. I used to watch people make lutes- and was fascinated in the intricate carvings and filigree like work for the “rose” of a lute ( the central part on the belly of the instrument).
My sister and I would play with the wood shavings, colour in pictures whilst our father played his lute. Sometimes we sat in on adult renaissance philosophy and meditation classes. Our eyes squeezed tightly shut wondering what this was all about, whilst the adults grew very still and serious and us girls more restless and fidgety by the minute! Our mother ran the children’s music groups where we sang and danced songs from this era. At lunch food was served on wooden platters- lots of wholesome home made bread and soup from what I can remember. Music was just the backdrop and sound of my childhood; lutes, madrigals and recorders were the daily food on which I grew.
At five I had a rebec made for me- a beautiful miniature with a lions head carved into it and I started having mini lessons. I can’t remember learning to read music…it has always just been there, like speaking, and singing feels just the same, alongside composing tunes. Listening to lute fantasias whilst I went about my childhood play has had a lasting impact on me. The songs I create cannot help but be washed in this idiom, even if I try to do something different, that feel always comes through!
Being a cultural household meant that we met lots of musicians and heard lots of other music; Indian sitar music being my parents favourite. I went with my mum to indian classical dance classes aged five, which I just loved and decided I was going to be an indian temple dancer when I grew up! The fact that I was english and caucasian never entered my head as an issue. I loved the way the dancers felt music as a physical and emotional story and expressed it in movement. Today, some of my songs have a slightly eastern feel to them and I wonder if there is an unconscious influence from this time.
it is now known that children go through periods of absorbent learning, when they are particularly responsive to a particular area. The sensitive period for language/sound ( and therefore music) is from birth to 6. My deep immersion into the world of sound and early music lasted through this entire part of early childhood.
My parents separated; my dad staying in London with Emma Kirkby who I now call my step mum. My mum took us to live in the remote yorkshire dales to live on the edge of a moor. From this point on, I turned my back on music as it was totally associated with a painful family break up and I thought music was just for people who could not be bothered with their families. Looking back, this is an understandable reaction for a child. But, in so doing I shut part of myself off from something that I now see as inherently part of me and makes me who I am.
However, the beauty of sound and appreciation of it, stayed with me. I became a nature girl, happiest in the sounds and beauty of nature, weaving its rhythms and song of the seasons and earth and air into my play and my very being. It is this silence of nature and listening to nature that has developed the poet and the songwriter within me.Being in nature creates a space, a potentiality of aesthetic feeling that has to be expressed, for me, in song. The rest of my childhood was spent in this idyllic and far flung part of Britain where beauty and nature, innocence and simplicity co exist moment by moment.
An unusual and very timeless childhood for someone of today; I think this sense of timelessness is somehow woven into my songs….I think it is part of who I am . A contemporary woman with a unique twist of nature/silence and things renaissance thrown in!
All these experiences form some of the qualities that are expressed in my songs.