Martha Tilston – Nomad
Squiggly Records – 12 May 2017
In a special Folk Radio UK exclusive, Martha Tilston takes us track-by-track through her new album Nomad which is out today. You can also listen to in full below.
Recorded at first in the late evenings in a cliffside cottage in Cornwall whilst recording Martha’s previous album ‘The Sea‘, Martha and musicians – Matt Tweed, Nick Marshall, Tim Cotterell among others, would finish a session on the folk album, have a cup of tea then pick up different instruments and experiment with Martha’s new material. It was a gloriously free flowing and experimental thing that just happened.
As the recording equipment was already there and set up, we just started recording what was happening, so a lot of the accompaniment is the musicians playing along to the first time they have heard the song! Of course, there are later overdubs and additional material, but the body of it fell out quite organically.
NOMAD was never intended to be an album project, it was just a bit of a creative release… but inevitably the relaxed and free flowing nature of these songs meant that a vibrancy and purity was captured and made itself into an album.
NOMAD, leads us down deep, uplifting and cathartic path. With musical arrangements that range from the pin head intimacy of acoustic guitar and voice to the expansive electric, slide guitar, rolling beats, deep bass, banjo and string arrangements that send tidal waves up your spine. There are undertones of old country music flittering throughout this album, suggestions of rock and pop and a good dose of stripped back acoustic cinema for us to submerge in. There are uplifting and elemental songs, which very subtly ask bigger questions about our existence, humanity and our relation to nature, such as; Nomad Blood, Climbing Gates and Stories. There are deeper songs that peel back your husk and make you feel the utterances of loss and hope; – Green Moon, Little Arrow, Ribbons for John
NOMAD invites us to make a fire outside under the stars, Dive into a big green moon, fly over a world of robots and humans queuing together for the cinema, dance in a scribbled fever in a downstairs bar, be a fish swimming round a tank planning escape, climb out of the car and lie in the field asking what is the solution for our humanity and this tiny blue pearl we spin on….and to never dwell on the path not taken.
ABOUT THE SONGS
Nomad Blood – This song was written first in my head on the way back to our home in Cornwall – as we approached the windmills near Truro. I remember having that feeling that we had been on the road for too long and I was missing home and the kids. (Matt) Tweedy and I realised that we have this conversation a lot. The other conversation we have a lot is the one as we are leaving Cornwall on the way to play some gigs about how much we love this lifestyle and need to get on the road again … Since playing this song live, I have come to realise that lots of people connect with this nomadic feeling – whether it’s our lifestyle or just a week or two off from work a year to get away. There seems to be a need in our humanity to go to summer grounds, connect with our kin, cook outside look at the stars again and slip back into nature.
Green Moon – We are all a hair’s width away from feeling either a part of or outside of any experience or relationship. Do we stay forever outside looking in, never daring to reveal and leave ourselves vulnerable, or do we say “screw it, so you told my secrets to everyone, I will survive, and I will trust again.”
Matt Kelly’s strings on this song just make my spine tingle. At first an intimate acoustic song, the song opens up and swallows us like a big green moon into the layers of vibrato violins, mandolin, bass and electric guitar, until we forget to breathe, it then gently places us back in the car travelling up the M5 at night.
Little Arrow – Losing someone close can leave us feeling as though you have nothing to cling to – especially if the person we have lost was the first person we would go to for advice. You reach for the phone, their number is still there, but they are not. It is so unfathomable that humans seemed to have survived this torment for millennia… This song is about how one night when asking into the sky for the help of Maggie, I had a sense what she might have said to do like there was a little arrow inside pointing in a direction. I have to follow it, and it is a comfort to know it is there. I guess this song opens into then larger questions of humanity and our souls. When we can no longer distinguish ourselves from the robots we make, we are the ones that don’t rust.
Musically, this song expands into the albums biggest song in some ways, both philosophically and musically, an earthy, shaking bass, guitar and drums, double tracked vocals.
Stories – I remember when I was a child, Sophie and I climbed out onto the roof of the top floor flat in a big house in Clifton, I could see over most of Bristol. It was fresh, and the air felt different up there. To see across all the roofs, we could have jumped and climbed across the sky road, and no one would have known. Another image that features strongly in this song is getting the Great Western train to Penzance and climbing Zennor Hill and standing on the highest rock and looking around the end peninsular of this country; there is something so big about feeling so small. It was a different view of the landscape that invites a different view on life, and sometimes we need a different view on the stories that fill our lives.
Through the chatter and competition for these stories to be heard in our modern media, there is something that pokes through – maybe an unconditional truth that our ancestors knew and we have forgotten. Or just maybe the love of someone who has always been there for you. What ever it is that brings us back to the story we live in and the wonder of its meaning.
Ribbons for John – Inspired by American country story songs with detuned guitar, banjo, and slide Bouzouki, this song is like a mini film to music. It is the story of a bright, independent young lady brought up in a small town who has been waiting her life for someone wild and interesting to enter. Someone who calls himself John comes to town. He drags a storm around with him like a balloon on a string and leaves hearts and debris and children behind him.
Taxi Light: This song was written by Luke Parker and myself a few years back when we lived in Brighton (before I meant my wonderful partner). We were chatting about being single and how it felt like there was a taxi light on above our heads. I think I was waiting for someone to make their mind up about whether they wanted the relationship and I remember the moment I thought – hang on I deserve more than this, I am turning off my taxi light and heading home.
Climbing Gates – I am feeling this song acutely at the moment – a song about the questioning of following a career as a touring musician. There are many gates to climb on the artist’s path, but we do tend to like climbing them!
Fish Tank – This was the first song recorded and jammed through for this project, it was only written the night before and the second verse came out in the recording. The backwards guitar and expressive violin send this song into a completely different dreamy space, it was the first time everyone had heard the song – I hadn’t even finished writing it – we all sat in a circle, kept eye contact on instrumental moments and kind of all just knew when to change musically and where to, it was quite magical. A song about regaining confidence in yourself, daring to ask for what you deserve, something as a girl in the music industry has taken me a while to get the hang of…
Scribbled Fever – This fun improvised song is about a heartbroken young girl who dreams that her first love wants her back, only to be woken in real life by her dad making her a comforting cup of tea. It’s about how sometimes we want to stay in dreamland, “please don’t wake me” nothing deeper, just a bit of fizzle!
Blue Pearl – I feel at such a loss with what we are doing to the world and each other at the moment, I turn off the news on the radio, climb out of my car and lie in the grass – this song comes from that moment. Earth has been described as a blue pearl in space, what a precious thing it is, what beautiful creatures we could be.
We do need a plan….
Nomad is out now on Squiggly Records
Martha Tilston Nomad Tour Dates
Huddersfield, The Parish – April 28th
Cheltenham, Everyman Theatre – April 29th
Sussex, Into The Wild Beltane Festival – April 30th
Bristol, Trinity – May 4th
Manchester, The Wonder Inn – May 5th
Whitstable, St Mary’s – May 7th
Falmouth, Princes Pavilions – May 13th
London, King’s Place – May 18th
Southampton, The Art House – May 20th
Kent, Small World Spring Gather – May 27th
Bath, Shindig Weekender – May 28th
Birmingham, Hare & Hounds – June 8th
Guildford, Boileroom – June 9th
Frome, The Wheatsheaves – June 15th
Shrewsbury, Severn Tavern – June 16th
Penzance, The Acorn – June 21st
Totnes, Acoustic Haven @ HillyFields – June 24th