I recently came acoss Iona Marshall‘s new free EP titled ‘October Covers‘. As well as featuring covers of songs by King Creosote, Found and Gavin Duvet it opens to the most beautiful hymn. We caught up with her and she obliged us by taking us through her new EP ‘track by track’ as well as shedding some light on songwriting, travelling, rock climbing and the beautiful Isle of Iona, a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland which has inspred many who have set foot there.
Track by Track
Be still my soul
Be still my soul was recorded because I heard it sung live at St Francis Xavier’s church choir in Falkirk late summer 2012. I attend mass occasionally, I find it helpful in smoothing out life’s woes, and I now live and work in Falkirk. Anyway, the female choir frankly blew me away that Sunday…and there was only one thing for it… I had to record it myself!..so I looked up the words and music and recorded it in my diy home studio. What more can I say. Apparently it was Eric Liddel’s favourite hymn as a missionary in China…how timely! given the olympics being held in the UK this year, and his combined athleticism and spirituality – yes, a timely and inspired hymn to cover.
Carbon dating agent (King Creosote)
The 2nd track – King Creosote’s ‘Carbon dating agent’ was covered because when first I heard it (it’s on his album ‘ vintage quays’)…I was a wee bitty blown away. For me, songs that I really like, tend to jump out and punch my musical face…and this is one of them. What more can I say. I went to town and had fun covering it in my DIY studio in my Glasgow bedsit, if memory serves around winter 2011.…King Creosote’s aka Kenny Anderson’s music has motivated and inspired me since I was 16 year old…many’s a happy time bopping at his gigs! The man’s a legend!
Johnny I can’t walk the line (Found)
The 3rd track ‘Johnny I can’t walk the line’ by Found, came about as the result of a live music night held by my friend and fellow musician Alan Oates aka Little Pebble, late 2010 on a boat in Leith Harbour. Alan set the challenge for all the musicians participating to cover a song by one of the artists appearing that night. So, I chose Found who I love. I’d heard them play it live a fair few times and parts of the melody just grabbed me and shook me up. So yeah, to help myself prepare and in pursuit of doing even a little justice to a masterpiece of a song, I recorded it pre gig…Bang!
All the way to nezuela (Gavin Duvet)
The 4th and final track ‘all the way to nezuela’ is written by Gavin Duvet. This is where it all began with me producing covers of my friends songs. I used to flat share with Gavin in my Edinburgh days and he was like a rock for me at that time in my musical life’s journey circa 2007. Totally encouraging of me and my musical endevours . He also ran a night called Ruby Tuesdays in Edinburgh which was completely amazing, full of budding rock stars and soloists hailing from Edinburgh. A few years later, Duvet comes into his own bringing home the songwriting goods. During a visit I made back to his flat in Edinburgh, he only goes and plays me his tune called ‘all the way to nezuela.’ Crikey, I thought to myself at the time ‘that’s an absolute blinder’ In fairness this is my favourite track on the EP. Gavin is one hell of a righteous cosmic musical dude and artiste. http://www.myspace.com/gavinduvetmusic
‘October Covers’ is not Iona’s first cover EP, having released another in August this year featuring Kid Canaveral, Machair Granite and the Waterboys. “It sold out pretty quick” she explains, “I am always producing something, so you never know what’s next. My focus now is on taking my new songs to the professionals in the studio. I dare say, a few more covers will be produced, but the plan is for an original EP / Album of my own next.”
There is a clear Scottish connection in Iona Marshall’s music that isn’t lost on many. One place that has continued to be an influence is the Isle of Iona.“From an early age, my dad took me and my sister to the Island of Iona, on the West Coast of Scotland for holidays. Ever since I have returned – on holiday, to visit family and friends, or in a working capacity (I am often referred to as Iona from Iona). It is officially in my top 2 places to be to be in the whole world. It’s full of natural cosmic energy and a great provider of the creative force. It’s been a really important place in the making of me and my music. My original band ‘the iona marshall band’ all came from Iona and we had a total field day on my songs, jamming out in the village hall ( until the wee hours before having to morph back into work as chefs 15 minutes later). We played to one of my biggest ever crowds at the Iona beach party in 2008.” Although her music isn’t tradtional she admits to loving Scottish traditional music… “I love listening to the pipes, provided they are in tune, and totally dig ceildh dance band music and dancing. I adore gaelic singing and wish I could both understand it and sing it (a project for another day). Eddi Reader is the main Scottish trad singer that has influenced me. I also love the Irish trad scene too…” She admits to liking Damien Dempsey, a man who is known for mixing the tradtional with his contemporary lyrics that reflect a strong social awareness who has been described as ‘the voice of the underclass’. Travel and climbing is something that is never far from her heart, although she admits she is becoming more sedentary these days. “I sometimes wonder if I am some kind of throwback gypsy wanderer, but lo, there is no real evidence of that in my genetic makeup or ancestry, as such, I must put my itchy pants syndrome down to psychology! I have lived at more addresses in this country than I care to remember and have indeed travelled around the world more than once. I am far more sedentary now and content in a kinetic sense but I do still have a bit of an itchy notion to travel America and climb the Garden of the Gods. I was recently in the Alps and my friend took me sport climbing and I am now addicted. I love the Alps too! I played my songs to the people of Chamonix Valley during the amazing Cosmo Jazz festival this summer 2012. I hope to be back there. Also Iceland, I completely love the music that comes out of there which has no doubt influenced me– Mum, sigur ros, bjork…”
She hints that she’s hoping to perform with a band in the near future “oh yes, plans are being hatched as we speak” she teases. Well I guess we’ll just have to be patient and wait. Looking back she certainly has a had a good year, not forgetting Celtic Connections. “My celtic connections gig was the biggest festival appearance earlier this year and so it was my highlight supporting Scottish band The Big dish. It’s actually been a quiet year for gigs by my standards. I am taking bookings now for next summers’ festivals and have a few in place so far. Watch this space.”
We talk about her songwriting and what maybe constitutes a good day that allows those words to flow for her. Her answer suggests this isn’t the first time she’s pondered the source of her art…”song writing inspiration usually comes from, for me, some kind of observation of a person or place as it relates to me and my perception of the world. It can start pretty simple, and usually leads somewhere more Profound as it attempts to evoke how we (humans) are a lot more connected than we care to be. Whatever observation I make, it has to be meaningful enough to warrant a song. I wish these sort of days were on tap! but there is no way of forcing that particular sort of a day because in no way can one force a simple day nor a profound one and life as it is, just rolls on with its never-ending flow of dramas, and monotony manifesting itself beyond our control, yes, as often as not, by complete chance. We are not in control as much as we’d like to be. So the ideal day for a song, is one in which something, someone, or someplace strikes an inner chord in me, resonating and bouncing of my spirit’s core, and I don’t’ get too hung up on it, and just get it down, without too much thought of consequence. The best songs come out like fire crackers, as if something else was willing them to…! A good Song writing day can be practical, lyrically simple, but not superficial. For me, it’s deeper than that…the ideal song writing day involves a spiritual awakening.”
We round hings off with a few trivia which again reveal a bit more about Iona Marshall:
What are you listening to?
Ravi, Ravi Shanker collaborating with George Harrison
What are you reading?
All about rock climbing: Gary Latter – Scottish Rock – North Isle of Skye to Orkney