Tante Pop

happiness is a warm gun

Die Abenteuer der Tante Pop 2011-2016. Powered by Blogger.

Basia Bulat On 'Tall Tall Shadow' And How Songwriting Simply Happens Sometimes

Keine Kommentare :

About two weeks ago, Die Abenteuer der Tante Pop had the pleasure of talking to the amazing and honestly unbelievably talented Basia Bulat while she was in Berlin. 

In the meantime her latest record Tall Tall Shadow was released as well as the stunning video for the title track. Right now, Basia is on tour in Canada with the folks from Evening Hymns and soon she'll be back in Europe for some dates. If there's one thing we're allowed to advise you: go & see her live and listen to Tall Tall Shadow. Otherwise you'll not only miss some great music but also some subtle wisdom.

As Tall Tall Shadow is going to be released pretty soon, how does it feel for you to be so close to be releasing something you've been working on for quite a long time?

It's funny, I'm happy it's out soon and to be playing shows. Also I haven't thought about or considered it that much just because there's so much happening every day that I don't have enough time to really start thinking about it. So it's funny actually now that I'm thinking about it I'm thinking about how I haven't really thought about it (laughs). But there's not much time to sit around and think right now.

Would you agree that if you compare Tall Tall Shadow with Oh My Darling and Heart Of My Own musically it has been some sort of experiment concerning your songwriting and use of instruments or would you rather say it's a natural development that you have experienced?

It's probably more like a development in the sense that ... I feel that most of the time I'm never as calculated as I wish I could be. In the way that I'm recording and playing I'm trying out so many things and then kind of go with my intuiton what feels like the right way to have the song sound and the best way to tell a story within the song. So I think it's always kind of pretty intuitive as opposed to 'okay, now this is going to be this kind of album'. The album just becomes what it is and it's always even a bit of a surprise to me what's happening at the same time when I'm trying to make something happen.

How did you begin working on Tall Tall Shadow? Was it like 'okay, now I'm going to write my third album' or was it rather that the songs for the album came out naturally?

I think I had a whole bunch of songs written and then they just didn't feel right somehow and then I kind of took a little break and I realised that I had started writing something different. You know, the new songs are a bit more direct, kind of more specific and the more I thought about it I had to remind myself just to try not to overanalyse and just try to get out of my own way and to see what happens. And I started writing the songs on piano and I almost hadn't used the guitar for writing. I spend most of the time writing on piano and a little bit on this little instrument that I love called the charango which is a really cool and beautiful South American instrument I was really inspired by. I kind of went back to my roots. I started playing piano when I was really young and for whatever reason I never had much time writing on it so I kind of just went back to it.

The title Tall Tall Shadow first reminded me of something dark or maybe darker times that might be described - but when listening to the whole album it feels like an album full of hope. Would you say that once this Tall Tall Shadow is something one realises to be there it can be a new beginning to deal with whatever your shadow is?

Yeah, that's totally the thing. What I was trying to do with this record is maybe sing about things that for me
could be darker things. Life is complicated - you have the dark and the light existing in the same spot, they can't really exist without each other (laughs). And I think I really wanted to put something out into the world that was uplifting but without being dishonest. It should still have honesty in it and I put myself in there and even if I was feeling sad there should be hope in it. I think I looked a lot at gospel music and a lot of soul music where sometimes the subject matter is sad but the music is there to lift you up. Even sometimes songs that are really dark and depressive I feel good after listening to them - people are funny that way. It's a weird thing (laughs).

Photo: Caroline Desilets
When listening to Tall Tall Shadow one realises how important the voice is for music and that it sometimes can be some sort of instrument. Would you say that voice is a really necessary instrument to tell a story within a song the way you want them to be told?

For me it's the first instrument (laughs) and storyteller for sure. I mean there are a lot of ways to tell a story but for me it's always been a huge part of my life. It doesn't necessarily mean that there has to be a technically really good singer or something for me to connect with them. I just have to feel that I believe them when they're singing whether the story they're telling is the truth or not. If they believe it and I believe it, it's true. It's a powerful thing for sure.

Are there musicians that you really connect to because they have this certain power within their voice?

I think I probably connect to all of my favourite artists through their voice first of all. I mean there are so many people. I love Joni Mitchell's voice, I love Sandy Denny's voice, a lot of folk singers, Buffy Saint-Marie and then there are people like more contemporary. I love the voice of the singer of the U.S. Girls for example or Jim James is one of my favourite singers.

And how does it feel to have toured with Jim James only a few weeks ago?

It was awesome, really great! (laughs)

Speaking about voice - how did you experience the situation when filming the live version of It Can't Be You, one of the songs on Tall Tall Shadow where your voice is really central, to just start singing in this room with all the people talking trying to catch their attention?

(laughs) Well, I didn't really know if it was going to work. The whole show was a really cool show that I did at the Art Gallery of Ontario and it was a collaboration between myself and a projection and visual artist called Stephanie Comilang. We did some more videos at that show. She actually lives in Berlin right now so we made the video for Tall Tall Shadow in Berlin. At the Art Gallery we wanted to play with the actual space and surprise people maybe a little bit. We wanted to see what happens if you start a show not in the formal way on stage saying things like 'Hey, how's it going, I'm going to play some of my stuff now' - it was just to see what happens. And the whole night I was playing on different sides of the stage and there were two big screens in the middle of the room. People were on all sides of the stage so I was visiting people in different parts of the room. It was a fun little experiment and it was a really cool kind of concept I think for the audience as well - it's not the typical thing that you expect when you go to see a show. In the context of the Art Gallery we really wanted to do something that would take people off their guards. It Can't Be You was the first song I played and the rest of the night continued in different ways. Sometimes I would be behind the screen and you would only see the projection of me on the screen as I was playing. We are so used to watch people on screens that it was fun to play with that idea: hey, here I am actually in the room but then again you could only see me on the screen.

Watch the wonderful video for Tall Tall Shadow:


How important is playing live in general and communicating with an audience to you?

It's really important actually. I really enjoy playing shows. Even though I get nervous and worry if everything goes right I still also really like the fact that every show is going to be different and that I get to have a connection with people. It's a bit of a positive reinforcement I guess (laughs) - it wouldn't be fun if people didn't enjoy it and that gives something back to me as well. It's also the energy of the room, it's kind of hard to describe. Every city adds a different view to it and it's a different kind of exchange and cool to be a witness to that over the course of a tour and to see how different people react to the music though it's hard to describe. And this is really a cool element of touring that I really enjoy. And I also like that I get to play the songs in different ways. You don't have to cling with one version as you do when recording and with live versions there are new versions.

Would experimenting with how to play live - as you just did with the concept of stage in the Art Gallery of Ontario - be something you would like to do regularly?

Yeah, I definitely hope that in the future will be more of these kind of shows. Actually there is a really cool band from Canada called Majical Cloudz and they do some interesting things even in the context of a smaller club show in terms of the way that they interact with the audience and I really enjoy this. I saw some of their shows and they have amazing songs and  I really their singer's voice but I also thought it was really interesting the way they seem to change every show. I also saw recently CocoRosie and it was amazing because they also have this cool way of interacting with the audience and then there were all these cameras on the stage like on their microphones and I had never seen them live before and was really inspired and just really loved the concert. They also had this mirror on stage so they would turn their back to the crowd but there would be the mirror and a camera and you would see them putting on make up and signing. It was a kind of traditional show that messed with your expectations. I love seeing shows like that so hopefully I'll find a way to do something on my own that is maybe more like me. Maybe there'll be something, I'm thinking about it right now - maybe there'll be more collaborations with Stephanie for live concerts as well. Sometimes it's difficult in certain venues but there are ways to get involved with the audience and to play with that wall between you and the audience even though their is no wall there.

So there's not only the part where you create music and put it out into the world but also the part where there is some sort of concept about it?

Photo: Colin Medley
I mean I definitely have my reasons why to find the songs that I put on the album, why I call it the way it's called and how the songs are ordered and things like that. It's also that you have to learn to let go or at least I'm telling myself or try to remind myself 'Basia, you can't control it, it's out in the world and it's going to be perceived in many different ways.' I mean everybody has their own reaction to a song depending on their personality and cultural context. And where they are in time and where you are in time. There are so many things that you can't control. I'm comfortable with it and also try to leave it a little bit open - also with the lyrics I tried to leave it open enough at least that it maybe can be interpreted in a few ways. Sometimes this happens on purpose and then it's something you don't even realise you've done. You look at it on the page and you're like 'actually, that's really cool, I didn't see that coming. But now here it is.' And that's also what's open about songwriting, basically anything could happen (laughs).

A few months ago I watched your NPR tiny desk concert and you played the polish song that in English means The Green Zoo. Would you actually like to record a whole album in Polish with your own songs written in Polish or maybe even cover songs as you did with The Green Zoo?

I have a few songs recorded already. Two summers ago I had this plan, I was in Warsaw for two weeks and in my mind I really wanted to make a Polish album. Maybe I would need to work with a co-writer, I'm approaching it from my perspective as a Canadian, I have Polish roots but my language skills are good but still limited and I'm not able to express, you know, I don't have that fluidity that I do with English, for example, in my writing. Musically I have ideas, I have someone in mind that I would really want to collaborate with, I've got to email them and hope they'll say yes. It's definitely there and I hope that it will happen and it's something I wanted to do for a long time, to put out a Polish album. Probably not only covers, but maybe it would be cool to do a mix, it would at least be a fun thing for me to do. And hopefully record it in Poland, that would be cool, too.

Keine Kommentare :

Kommentar veröffentlichen