Having recently given away tickets to see Rachel Sermanni at Union Chapel (review here) and featured her new EP Black Currents in our daily playlists here at F.R.U.K. the name is probably familiar by now.
Rachel started playing around the age of 14 and she has been building a steady and solid reputation since. Along the way she has built up a big following in Scotland and gained some great exposure on the London music scene through the likes of Ben Lovett (Mumford & Sons and co-founder of Communion Records), she also recently toured Europe with Fink allowing her fan base to grow all the more bountiful.
She remains independent and runs her own label: MON (Middle of Nowhere) which ‘The Bothy Sessions‘ and her latest EP ‘Black Currents‘ were released on. She is definitely a name to watch for in 2012…we thought it was about time we caught up with the young scottish rising star…
Early musical influences?
Early musical influence may have stretched back to my very early youth: I was taught my first tune on the penny whistle by my dad at 7 or something, I would sing hymns in church, I learnt traditional instruments throughout primary school.
In high school I learnt the guitar and was aware of music on a reasonably ignorant level. I tried to keep up with the trends on the radio listening-wise and didn’t get a real ear for music I really enjoy until m leaving school. This said, I am sure I absorbed a lot of sounds and my songs were, and always have been, created whilst jamming alone in my room. Very simple.
Parents listened to all sorts. Simon and Garfunkel were common, Bob Dylan…my dad likes Pink Floyd and my mum gave us a good earful of reggae music which may come as a surprise.
I live in a valley, in a village called Carrbridge close to a mountain range known as The Cairngorms. It is very beautiful there. Many beautiful walks. Dark lochs and pine woods and rain and bog and happy galumphing dogs coursing through the heather…all that. It’s very calming to be there. The air is good and the water is good.
Currently, however, I am a roaming minstrel: never staying anywhere for too long. I am looking forward to being static for a few weeks in March when I intend to find a den somewhere along the coast and live there in the dark for a little whiel.
I was taught Stairway to Heaven by my dad’s friend so he deserves some recognition as an initial inspiration. I was an avid listener of Eva Cassidy’s album, Songbird. We were also, as a family, very fond of Fairport Convention and other classic bands/singers. Many people would try for a few years to get me to listen to Joni Mitchell but I didn’t until the time was right which was after school.
Now I listen to Joni an awful lot. I had friends put me onto many classic and wondrous musicians: Nick Drake, Tom Waits, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf. Bjork and PJ Harvey are my latest fiends of a find. I am extremely fond of Eric Satie and I have just begun listening to some Arvo Part. The minimalist movement is something I love to tap into, Phillip Glass is another.
Inspiration from Literature?
Yes. Greatly [influenced by literature]. Best example to date would be my reading of Siddartha and Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. Since then I have read more of his work but these two were very profound. The reading of both books came at a strange time in the year for me. Siddartha had some sort of cleansing effect, in an almost painful way, and I wrote Pablo’s City almost completely under spell of Steppenwolf.
Literature has a huge effect on my writing. It is very important, I feel, to read and feed my imagination this way.
First live performance?
My first performance was a battle of the bands in a neighbouring village, Boat of Garten. The competition was called Rock The Boat. I entered it in 4th year (aged 14/15) alongside my brother’s heavy rock band (who are sadly now no longer).
I played a couple of my first ever songs. It was a very nervous and teary performance. But I won a microphone for my efforts.
Mumford and Sons at Loopallu?
My friend, Owen, and I were very fond of the Mumford boys and their music. We had been up the front for their performance which was the first time I got to see them live, before that it had simply been my brother and I bopping about to their scarce videos on Youtube (how things have changed).
We went in search of the boys that evening, carrying our guitars. On finding them in the pub we then invited them to join us on the beach for a continuation of the jam after the pub closed. It was a magical night full of good feelings and music sharing. They were very nice to me.
Ben Lovett, by the next month, had produced my first proper recording. We recorded a song, My Friend Fire.
Since leaving school (three years ago) each year has naturally become a little busier and more people have come on board to help out. The burger van stints slowly got less frequent and by the end of the second year, singing was all I was doing.
I am very thankful for the opportunity Fink gave me. It was a connection between our managers that brought us together.
Most places we were able to taste the culture. Literally, there was a lot of eating. I saved my sweet tooth for Paris which was worth it.
Austria did good sausages and was also host to my highlight gig: Dornbirn, a spooky venue set at the foot of a steep and towering mountain covered with huge pine forest. I climbed the hill that day and could hear children playing from the top of the mountain across the valley. I wish I yodelled at that point…
The travelling is very fun. But also it is lonely, no matter how many people you are with. Depending on how one looks at the lonely aspect it can be bad or creative. It was a bit of both for me, really.
I am looking forward to the album production and then the release of the album. It’ll be nice to have completely aired all my songs.
I am also very keen to write some more. I haven’t done enough of it.
Most enjoyable gig?
This question is too difficult to answer properly. Recently I played in Cambridge and it felt like I was truly confessing something massively heavy upon me when I sung The Fog to a bunch of people in St Paul’s Church. I don’t know why it felt so strong in me. I near cried.
Favourite music festival?
Insider Festival (Aviemore), Loopallu (Ullapool) and Greenman (wales).
What are you reading now?
Truman Capote’s short stories: Children on Their Birthdays
, A Christmas Memory and Tree of Night. I am also getting through some Edgar Allan Poe shorts: The Gold Bug. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg and I am always delving into Rumi for a little soul reading…
What are you listening to now?
Bjork, PJ Harvey, James Vincent Mcmorrow, Debussy.
Which lesser known artist would you tip as one to watch for?
Irenie-Rose, a lady from the isle of Lewis.
In the pipeline:
Upcoming ‘biggie’ gigs: 19th April with the girls at London’s Lexington. 11th of May with the girls at Glasgow’s Oran Mor. That’ll do for now. That’ll do pig.