Burnheart: String in the Tale
Back and forth with London-based violinist Johanna Burnheart
(Rosie Turton 5, Kinkajous, Maisha, Yazz Ahmed) ahead of her debut album release with Ropeadope Records.
Before we get to the subject of the album, lets run it back to music upbringing and training. From what I know you’re classically trained from a young age and at a certain point you made the move towards jazz. Talk to me a little about these early music experiences/influences.
Yes I started off with piano lessons at 5 years old when I lived in Northern Germany. My older sister played the violin so I wanted to play that too of course. I started lessons with her teacher aged 7. I was glad to be able to play both instruments because there would be weeks where I wouldn’t want to practise one, so I would just play the other and continue learning. At some point pre-teens, violin took over as my main instrument but I always continued playing piano which was a huge blessing especially when I finally moved over to jazz.
Music has been in my family for generations so it was never out of the question to aspire to working as a full-time musician. My grandmother was an organist at church, my mother played all the recorders and the organ/piano when she was younger and now plays the accordion alongside teaching music at school, my uncle was a jazz vibraphonist, and while my dad doesn’t play an instrument, he has always loved music and we grew up listening to a lot of Beatles, Madness, Supertramp, the Commodores and Aretha Franklin.
My first violin teacher was a huge influence. She led two orchestras, one for her young beginners and one for her more advanced players. Because of her I played in orchestras and smaller groups from a very young age. We played some amazing concerts and went on tours to Italy, Russia, Lithuania and Estonia. Some of the pieces that stuck with me were the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major. In terms of orchestral works, my favourite symphony of all time is still Dvorak’s New World which I believe was the first ever symphony I played. I guess that means that the romantic classical period has been my biggest influence even though I definitely played works from all eras right up to modern compositions.
Alongside this, I went to a “Gymnasium” - a school that students attend from year 5 to 13. This school was known for its classics branch, however, it also had a great musical aspect as there were numerous extracurricular activities one could join.
While the music classes weren’t that great, the extracurriculars were outstanding and were ran by inspired music teachers. For example, all the first year Latin students would have lessons with an ingenious teacher called Herr Leißring who would write an entire play and soundtrack in Latin for 5th graders to perform. He later started writing plays in Ancient Greek as well. There was no limit to his creative output...
I joined the orchestra, the Baroque ensemble and even led the choir of the low-German nativity play briefly. Then there was the musical theatre club where we staged famous musicals that I hadn’t come across until that point. I was part of the pit orchestra for these productions. I remember one year my transcript stated I I'd missed 80 hours of school which was mostly due to my extracurricular activity rehearsal trips. Most of my school teachers just accepted that I had different interests and let me pass.
The county I was living in changed the school system just in time for my sixth form years, making it more difficult to specialise in music alongside school. I'd started studying with violin professor at the local music college around my 15th birthday and had clearly chosen the violin as my way forward at this point. It was this that made me look into the British school system and discover that there are specialist schools where students only have three subjects of their choice if they focus on a musical instrument. I had visited London a few times and always loved it even though I couldn’t even make up one sentence of English until I was a teenager. I applied for Wells Cathedral School and was offered a part-scholarship to attend as a specialist musician with the intention of studying classical violin in London afterwards.
Before I left my German school I was part of one last musical theatre production of Urinetown. This time I auditioned to sing one of the leading parts and discovered that I could sing extremely high notes which landed me the role of the evil toilet lady in the play who happens to have several high C’s in her part. It was an interesting experience for me as I definitely did not consider myself a great actor nor a brilliant singer so it pushed me out of my comfort zone. After this production, one of my favourite teachers, who was leading most of the music groups, came up to me and said I should keep developing my voice as he thought there was something there. I halfheartedly took his advice but I have never forgotten him saying that to me.
At Wells, I was part of the school's string orchestra and symphony orchestra which was great, though the biggest impact on me during this time was my violin teacher Catherine Lord. She realised I had very little self-confidence in my playing due to competitions I had participated in as a child. The mindset around these competitions of course is winning, so if you don’t win you didn’t do very well. Or at least that is what a young mind goes home with. Miss Lord started a strong routine of building up my confidence while at the same time very efficiently taking apart my entire technique and putting it back together. When it came to deciding where to go after Wells she was the person who told me to investigate whether I really saw myself in the classical world as a violinist. I clearly remember her saying that she loved the way I interpreted music on the violin but a lot of other people in high positions might not agree. This was also something I had experienced at the competitions already. There is a certain way you play Bach and Mozart and I have always had different ideas it seems.
Is this why you made the switch from Classical to Jazz?
Well, I went on several summer jazz courses including the 5 week summer program at Berklee College in Boston and the Guildhall jazz summer school. Mostly they made me realise I had an entirely new instrument to learn but what ultimately made me decide to change genres was the fact that I never actually listened to classical music unless I was playing it. I thought I should probably also want to listen to the music that I play and once I dove fully into the jazz catalogue there was no turning back. I had always had jazz in my life but I had never actively researched my own taste.
My first record was Dollar Brand - Reflections which was given to me by my uncle. I basically listened to Billie Holiday and solo piano albums by Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Thelonious Monk and whoever else I could find for the best part of two years until my roommate at Wells actively complained and I switched to headphones. Singers and solo piano albums are still my favourite things to listen to for some reason.
I left Wells to do two years of jazz audition prep in Berlin. During this time going out with friends, I discovered how much I loved the electronic music happening in the clubs in Berlin. Techno, however, is mostly fun to dance to for me and my musical brain was still very focused on learning jazz as it was still such a rich new area.
I worked towards studying at the Jazz Institut Berlin as my then current teacher Ulli Bartel taught there, but I also checked out Didier Lockwood’s school in Paris as well as the music colleges in London even though I couldn’t find a specific jazz violin teacher there. Didier’s school was very much centred around the traditional Manouche jazz style played by Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt and I felt I had nothing to contribute as I didn’t intend to just copy his style. I had gotten closer to being accepted at the Jazz Institut in Berlin the second time around as their auditions are famously difficult to pass if you’re lucky enough to be invited. In Germany this was really only one of two music colleges I could specifically study jazz violin at, so I was quite fixated on staying and making it work in Berlin. However, this was also the year I saw the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London advertising to apply for jazz violin undergrad so I applied and passed the audition to start studying in 2013. I somewhat sadly decided to give up on studying in Berlin and moved back to the UK to start my degree. I now couldn't be more thankful to have chosen London over Berlin and Paris as the jazz scene here has developed into a world stage filled with a new generation of outstanding players and the place to be in Europe for someone like me.
I hear you. These last few years have been lively in London. Although, I actually wanted to know the extent to which you felt there was a place for you in the jazz world, period. I mean, I can think of several jazz violinists pre-bop but not so many since. Who if anyone was the closest to a violinist mentor on the scene, for example? Also to what extent did your classical training help you grow into a jazz musician and improviser?
As I started learning with two full time jazz violinists in Berlin I didn’t really question my place in the jazz world too much until I arrived at the Guildhall in London. I had a distinct feeling that they didn’t really know what to do with me and in fact I was learning with Stuart Hall for the first two years who teaches on guitar. Stuart is an absolutely ingenious player and teacher and I was lucky to learn with him but it did not make me feel great to see that a major jazz course in the country didn’t actually have a specific jazz violin teacher. Of course you learn the music and not the instrument at this point so it is helpful to learn with anyone who is a master of the genre, but if you are paying £9000 a year you do expect a certain amount of lessons and mentoring on what you’re trying to achieve. In my case this was becoming a full time jazz violinist and composer and I have so far only come across Chris Garrick and Omar Puente in this country.
I had brilliant lessons with Martin Speake in addition to the lessons I requested with Chris Garrick in my third year, but ultimately I have never found someone out there who sounds the way I’m trying to sound like or has the career on my instrument that I’m trying to achieve. In that sense I really don’t have a violinist mentor on the scene which is something I have missed as I really felt I had violinist mentors during my classical education.
I think closest to a mentor to me is Noel Langley as I asked him to produce my debut album and he just pushed this record and my compositions to an entirely different level. Instead of separating my love for jazz and electronic music he told me to embrace them both and incorporate the electronic aspect which is something I might have only done much further down the line if it hadn't been for his suggestions.
At this point I think it is more of a blessing that there are so few of us jazz violinists as there is so much exploring to do and no competitive atmosphere in that respect. I find that everyone brings a very unique sound to the stage which is partly because of the different ways of amplifying the instrument but also because the sound of the violin differs so much from each player due to their instrument, technique and previous influence. Ultimately, we are reclaiming a space in the jazz world and I hope future jazz violin students at the music colleges will be incorporated again in Big Bands and other projects because it hopefully reflects what is happening in the scene which is something I missed out on.
It is important to note that none of the jazz standards are written for the violin specifically, of course. This means that a few of them are awkward to play and good technique really helps immensely. On top of that, the solos that I transcribe are usually saxophonists, trumpeters and pianists and again awkward to play on the violin. If I take Zbigniew Seifert for example, who coincidentally is my favourite jazz violinist; he started learning the saxophone after having learnt the violin to be able to play jazz (and because he thought the ladies would find it more appealing) and only started playing jazz on the violin because Tomasz Stankó basically demanded it of him for his band. However, Zbigniew found that the shapes he had learnt on the saxophone were helping him play jazz on the violin. His solos are so Coltrane-inspired (Tyner too) it is hard to miss. But it is also very impressive to me because I know how unnatural some of those phrases feel on the violin.
On the other hand I know a lot of self-taught violinists (especially in the gypsy jazz scene in Paris) -who definitely have technical limits - who nevertheless are some of the most emotional and brilliant jazzers out there because they don’t have any rigid training getting in their way and they purely play the music. So to sum up I think too much technique can get in your way but it is very useful if you can shake off any limitations it might put on you, which is what I feel I have been able to do.
We spoke a bit about Seifert after you chose a segment of his playing on a
Hans Koller record for your 10 Seconds. I‘m less familiar with his music than Urbaniak’s, though I know Music For K and I once had a copy of the album with Kilimanjaro, and that might be the wildest Polish 70s jam going. So, who are some of those non-violin soloists who you’d say have influenced your approach to soloing?
I think Kilimanjaro was part of his last album called Passion in 1979. It’s an amazing album and the line-up is mega. I remember Trevor Tomkins who teaches drums and jazz history at the Guildhall coming up to me, giving me Passion on a CD and saying I need to hear this. As you couldn’t really buy it online he thought I might not have come across it yet and he was correct! What a revelation that album was for me! I actually wrote my dissertation on Seifert because I was so inspired by his story and his music.
Now regarding non-violin inspirations, this is probably an obvious one but I’ve always been inspired by Miles’s cool era playing. It is easy to overplay on violin as you don’t have to breathe and Miles plays the least amount of notes necessary to make a powerful statement. I don’t at all play like Miles Davis of course but he is someone I go back to a lot. I think it does come through a little in my sound once in a while because quite often I have people come up to me after gigs saying I sounded like a trumpet up there. Which I take as a compliment because I definitely have worked on a sound that emulates horn players rather than string players. Besides Miles, I played a lot of Charlie Parker transcriptions for a while. This is partly because my teacher Stuart Hall studied Parker with me intensely but also because I was struggling with the Bebop style in general and there is no one better than Charlie Parker to give you a reality check on your playing. I definitely have some Parker language in the bank therefore but no one has ever commented on it because I think the rest of my language is so removed from him.
The other two players I might also mention are John Coltrane and Stan Getz. I have to say that most of the time I am drawn to sound rather than language so I’ve always had trouble incorporating lots of classic language in my playing. This is not a good thing if you’re trying to get a degree in jazz and you have to tick those boxes but I do think that in my reality it’s a positive thing that I wasn’t good at copying someone else’s playing entirely.
This is also something that Seifert’s music teaches. His last album was completely different to what was popular and fashionable in the late 70s because he decided that, as he knew he was going to die, he wanted to make one last record that was 100% him. Never mind what his label wanted him to produce so they could sell it. He even managed to get them to hire a string orchestra so he could fulfil his dream of writing and recording for it. I therefore felt quite reaffirmed in my somewhat stubborn refusal of shedding licks all day but rather focusing on figuring out what my own language is and sounding like myself.
So, talk to us about the journey from recognized soloist on the London scene to Ropeadope record deal? Most of their artists are genre-flexible/fluid, so how important a factor was that in your decision to roll with them? Do they still give artists full ownership of their masters? I know they used to.
Truthfully, I tried to leave London the minute I finished my undergraduate degree in 2017. During my course at the Guildhall I had been living with the strong feeling that my life was just on hold over in Berlin and waiting to be unpaused on my return. I am actually part of another great band in Berlin also led by a jazz trombonist and I had been hopping over for gigs and recordings. My plan was to reverse my current situation and hop over to London for gigs with Rosie and other opportunities that were important to me. Berlin was and is still no comparison to London money-wise, especially if you have an old tenancy agreement. It is therefore much easier to get by as a freelance musician. The thought of being a freelance musician in London without all the student exemptions while being a fairly unusual jazz frontline instrument did not awaken a lot of hope in me. Most people still to this day ask me what I’m doing here when they hear I’m from Berlin and I could just live over there.
I wrote most of the compositions on this album in January 2018, back in Berlin. It was out of finally having a calmer phase as I was giving myself some time to recover from my four years of study. Another reason was definitely the worry that I would not be included in enough projects by other people to perform the amount I wanted to.
Rosie was the first person to incorporate me fundamentally in a band that uses me in the true sense of what my sound and style is. There are lots of gypsy jazz gigs out there for violinists and of course I played some, but the swing genre has never really been my passion and there are many players who do it so much better than me. However, all function gigs for violinists are along those lines and only rarely would I be allowed to choose my own repertoire and go into more of a modal world. Unfortunately, when I took a closer look at the Berlin jazz scene I found myself in front of the clear realisation that my sound and my vibe very much belong to the London jazz scene. I stayed in Berlin for 7 months but as I was flying to London twice a month for gigs, I finally decided to move back to stop my carbon footprint from being unbearable.
As I was still a fellow at the Guildhall for some of 2018, I used that privilege to record three of my compositions at the school studio just before the year ended. Purely based off these recordings, Adam (Moses) from jazz re:freshed booked me for a gig with my band at Mau Mau Bar in March 2019. It was a milestone for me as it was a brilliant platform of course, but I also had friends and family coming from Germany especially to see it. As soon as your own name appears on something the pressure is triple somehow and everything is just much more intense.
I had decided to record all of my songs properly now that I had written an album's worth and being able to perform them live before recording was the best way to try them out and see what characters they were. It just coincided that I had booked the recording studio starting the day after the Mau Mau gig so that week was quite a blur. Luckily I had already asked Noel Langley to produce the album with me so he joined us at the studio and I thank all the Gods that he did because it was invaluable to have someone sitting in the control room to guide you when you can’t see the forest for the trees anymore. His concept was also key because we recorded most of the tunes with a click track per his suggestion so we would be able to add drum machine and edit much more later on.
The recordings turned out great and Noel and I spent several months separately rough mixing until we went on to properly mixing with Dave from Soup Studios.
The mixing stage was long as the sound world I’m looking for is very specific and of course slightly unusual as it is a violin after all. It’s a huge pain to amplify the violin properly without impacting the natural sound and also producing a pleasant amplified sound so recording it and then achieving a natural but amplified sound without tons of spill from the band is quite difficult. Or at least it’s difficult to achieve the specific sound I’m envisioning but my engineering team absolutely nailed it.
A few months later I started sending the mixes out to specific labels I had been aware of but mostly everyone I spoke to recommended I should go for a self-release. I contacted Ropeadope because of course Yazz had just signed with them and I liked the things she was saying about them. From the first step which was sending an email to CEO Louis Marks I liked their ethos. It was the only record label I contacted which had a personal email address on their website for submission.
Ropeadope responded fairly quickly just before the year ended. Their whole approach is very community-based. As far as I’m aware, they’re the only label that pool all of their artists together on Slack so you can easily communicate and support each other. That was the biggest selling point for me. I had just recently met Greg Spero when we supported Makaya McCraven at the EFG LJF 2019 with Rosie. He is with Ropeadope and also said great things about them. Whoever I’d turn to to talk about the label, had only nice things to say so I felt confident in my decision to sign with them. I do have full ownership of my masters and they’re extremely approachable about any special requests or questions I might have. I’m very proud to have a label like that believe in this record as much as I do and have enough faith to produce a physical product for me.
Their other artists definitely are genre-flexible as you said which is probably also some of the reason they like my record. I guess it’s best described as electronic modal jazz and I really am curious to see how it will be perceived in the straight ahead scene. I didn’t actually think about the other artists on the label in regards to their genre when making my decision. I met with a few people whose opinions I trust to hear their advice as well as following my own impression before making my decision and here we are.
Now that I’m a part of the gang, I’m seeing the diversity and it's cool to be able to connect with them and exchange advice and support. Especially now in this complete mess of a year, Ropeadope has been extremely helpful with setting up live streaming and figuring out a new way to reach people in isolation.
Interesting hearing how the album came about. Once you began collating and expanding upon those early 2018 pieces with the clear intention of releasing an album, what becomes the priority? Showcasing the different sides of your music personality? Conceptual cohesion? Meaningful storytelling? I mean, from the unstable opening drone of Plastik to the contentment of Silence Is Golden, it definitely seems to possess a thought-out narrative arc, but I appreciate that might exist purely in the imagination of the listener.
So the arc the album has is definitely thought-out but it’s not something I planned beforehand. As we are improvisers, the pieces can have completely different characters from one take to the next. Especially the free intros such as Plastik and the beginning of Silence is Golden. So the order decisions were really made some time between mixing and mastering. It is funny how changing the order changes the entire shape immensely for me. I’m sure the shape of the narrative arc is perceived subjectively by each listener but I definitely put everything in a specific place for a reason.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint a priority within the intention of releasing. I think the main focus for me always was and is playing live. You need to have something good to show bookers to get gigs and broaden your audience so that was possibly the main incentive for making an album in the first place. I’ve always felt a little blocked by the fact that I don’t have anything officially released under my own name which in turn then stopped me from even reaching out.
Meaningful storytelling is always a priority of course, whether I’m working on an album or writing new music or soloing over someone else’s tune. With this album specifically, the story line came out of four influential people to me. I wrote my tunes with these people buzzing in my subconscious and it therefore very much influenced the atmosphere of the entire thing. All of these people are no longer with us so there is a certain sadness underlining but also huge inspiration by their life’s work and what they did for my life.
You throw down some strong ostinato on both Box Office and Forever Dance, which is brilliant and reminded me of Yusef Lateef’s Moon Cup (minus his awkward Filipino chanting!), and a little of Shorter’s Yes Or No too. Also, earlier when discussing the London scene‘s popularity, you mentioned music from the jazz idiom that grooves. How tricky is it for you to strike the balance between having some sort of pulse in the music and saying exactly what it is you want to say in the most honest way?
Thank you for the big compliment first of all as I admire both Wayne Shorter and Yusef Lateef immensely of course. I’m very glad that these are two names that came up for you when listening to Box Office and Forever Dance especially. Hopefully they will come up for other people as well.
In terms of your next question, I think that is very subjective depending on the player. There are many people I know who don’t necessarily feel comfortable expressing themselves through maintaining a groove, or even improvising. And then vice versa where people get completely lost playing and expressing themselves over music that has no pulse, even if it is written down. All sorts of factors play into this of course; such as your musical background, your instrument, what music you grow up with etc. I think it’s more common for people to feel comfortable playing over a groove but that could just be my very narrow observation of the bubble I’m in. You say “in the most honest way” in the end though which brings up the question of trends. There are of course musical trends which to me sometimes mean that people end up making music they don’t actually truly want to make out of an artistic urge but rather out of trying to gain a bigger audience. It’s possibly then less honest in the sense you’re talking about? Definitely not judging anyone making a business out of music but if I go to the core of music, that is my feeling there. So to circle back, I don’t think it is very tricky to strike a balance between pulse and honest expression if you identify with that sort of music.
I agree, and I guess that question comes more from some observations I’ve made across the last few years. Mainly that in certain circles there is some seriously distorted thinking around the value of music that might initiate some finger clicking or – hell forbid – dancing. I’m slightly simplifying a complex topic, but regardless I wondered where you sat, as someone with insight into all these different and often conflicting schools of thought. Anyway, that’s a longer discussion...
I want to talk about your bandmates. I like Boz Martin-Jones’ melodic approach on kit: heard him play with Alex Hitchcock as well as yourself. Which qualities drew you to the individual players in your band? How do they complement your playing?
I might as well start with Boz as you already mentioned him. His melodic approach is something I also very much value in his playing. I think the drummer is a crucial choice for me as a violinist especially because I have no chance with my instrument if the drummer doesn’t approach his instrument in a certain way. You could technically just point to frequencies and say that as soon as the cymbals are crashing, most of the frequencies the violin has will be covered. But to me that is just a technical explanation. I think it does come down to the player’s approach to music and the drums in general. Boz’s approach is not centred on the drums, if that makes sense? He’s a great drummer but he is foremost someone who loves jazz and who is clearly always listening to everyone else in the band too. I think this is true for most musicians but I do find that some players can get very technical and some of the feeling gets lost for me.
Moving over to my bassist Jonny Wickham, who was in my year at the Guildhall.
Again, Jonny’s approach is melodic and he composes beautifully as well. He’s well trained in rhythm, stemming from the lessons we had with Barak Schmool and Rhythms of the City which he has been a member of for a while. It makes him a very well-rounded jazz bassist who is a brilliant bottom line to play with. He’s also always thinking and reflecting on shapes and vibes in the compositions which makes him very observant when rehearsing. I sometimes get caught up in my playing and I can get a little oblivious to things that are going on in the rhythm section so it is vital for me to have someone who raises flags.
And then there’s David Swan. I have to say that David came out of nowhere to me. I had been playing regularly with the same pianist for several years and for different reasons I parted ways with that person just as I was taking off with this project. I was very worried about finding a new player because the keys are so impactful as they can add so much of their own to the compositions in a harmonic sense. It’s also of course just a personal connection issue because there are some people who are brilliant players but it just doesn’t click when you play with them. I write pieces with a clear vision of how I want them to sound. When a pianist is reading what I write it can go into an entirely new sphere of sounds and harmonies that I hadn’t even imagined. Which can go well or not so well.
Secondly, a lot of my music is very difficult to read and I therefore needed a strong reader who is also a strong player. Reading a lot of notes is not something you do a lot when learning and playing so there’s quite a few players who are great at reading changes but struggling to read written music. David is known for being a strong reader so I asked him initially to fill in for the pianist I hadn’t quite parted with yet for a recording I had planned. He filled in very last minute and it was excellent. From the first second I didn’t have to explain anything to him. He read everything perfectly from the get go and added his own personality which happens to fit extremely well with my music. His harmonic intuition and improvisational expression are both exceptional and it really elevates my compositions greatly. His own compositions are also incredible and I expect big things from him when he starts his own project.
Lastly there’s a dynamic in my band that I think makes it work all the more. We all genuinely love hanging out with each other and our friendship surpasses the fact that we play together. I think I definitely choose from personality first and then go on to whether I like their playing and whether it fits my music.
As a photographer, I’m always interested to know how musicians arrive at their album covers, or even the level of importance they attribute to them. How much involvement did you have in that process?
I have a feeling I was more involved with that process in comparison to other musicians although I could be wrong as I’ve never actually talked much about album artwork with other musicians. From the beginning it was clear to me that I would ask one of my best friends Sorcha Kennedy whose artistic expression and style I’ve loved since I met her. She made a few funny birthday collages on Photoshop for a few years whenever the occasion came around which seemed silly to her but to me they were so full of personality and detail about the person she was depicting. Something like that was what I initially expected of her for this. That is until we had our first meeting after I had vaguely told her the influences that had shaped this record.
I believe the main thing I said was “I think something with water would be nice.” As most of the people I credit as inspirations for this album are dead, she had gone into overdrive researching how different cultures around the globe honour the dead and the beliefs around death. It was so interesting and I realised she was going to go much further than I had ever even considered. I also distinctly remember sitting there feeling so excited by having someone do this with such a different approach to creativity. The musical approach is different than the artistic approach and I’m so glad therefore that I didn’t try to do the artwork myself.
The vague inclination of water being involved made me organise a hilarious photoshoot at an Airbnb outside of London with a pool I was allowed to shoot in. I got my band and all my good friends to come down and the photos that were taken there by my very talented photographer friend Cleo Valentine are really special.
Those images are central to the artwork now and it took around 5 months for Sorcha to finish a truly spectacular photoshop image for my album. We somehow managed to shoot three different lengthy scenes in one day which was lucky because one of the other scenes was used for my first single artwork. Again a brilliant Sorcha collage.
Just before the pandemic, Sorcha moved into a temporarily empty room in my house. Then the crisis hit and we were suddenly together 24/7. This meant I was suddenly very involved with the process. This is my first album and it will be Sorcha’s first officially released artwork so the pressure was definitely more than it will ever be again. I guess I now don’t have to mention how important I believe artwork is.
I’m learning more every day about the importance of good visuals, especially now everyone really is online watching and sharing things daily. And working with an artist on this was such an eye opener. Luckily she is also my friend and now bound to be my in-house Art and Visuals Manager, so I’m very happy about that.
I know we’re in a pandemic, but let’s see how this lands: What are you looking towards in the coming year? Are there any particular musicians or scenarios that you’re particularly keen to work with or experience?
This is hard as I tend to not allow myself to plan too much for the future right now.
I guess what I’m mainly hoping for in this climate are some great remixes from DJs I admire. I've had some nice responses that could lead to something very exciting.
My main goal was to tour my album. I wanted to play all the festivals I love both in the UK and abroad and share this record. I’m now forced to consider moving my efforts to widening my platform on social media. I’ve never wanted to put a lot of effort into social media as it just eats up so much time but if we cannot tour for the foreseeable future, that will be the only platform I have. I’m working on a video for my single “Silence is Golden” and I guess I’ll be doing more visual content. Collaborations with video editors and visual artists would be great at some point.
Lastly, this one is a little crazy, but I want to get David Lynch to hear my record. I have some vague ideas on how to get in touch with him but this is of course a little bit of a far fetched dream. I just find his style so inspiring and a lot of people say they’re reminded of his vibe when they hear certain bits on my record which makes me very proud. This is mostly based on Twin Peaks I think.
That melody is iconically eerie and the way that character called “The Man from Another Place” speaks in the Red Room of the Black Lodge is an effect that definitely stays with you. Somehow some of that has made it into my sound world. I know David Lynch does his bit for grassroots musicians too and I would just like to be on his radar.
That was cool, Johanna. I really hope the album gets the attention it deserves. I suspect it will.
Thank you so much George! Had a lot of fun answering your questions.
"Burnheart" release date: 30 October 2020