Liverpool Acoustic Festival Artists’ Interview Part 2: Who and what you love…

Part 2 of our interview with the great musicians and poets making up our lineup at Liverpool Phil this Friday as part of Liverpool Acoustic Festival. This week we’re talking about influences both poetic and musical. You can read Part 1 of the Interview here.

Which artist first inspired you to become an artist yourself, and why? Anyone else who’s a big influence?

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Lizzie Nunnery: It was probably Jarvis Cocker who made me certain I wanted to be a performer and a song writer. I still really admire him: his presence on stage, his unconventional persona, the politics and the subtle characterisation within his songs. So often his lyrics come in to my head. I love that his music is so mainstream and so strange. It’s populist and socialist at once. Other big influences… Dylan Thomas, Joni Mitchell, Adrian Henri, Damon Albarn, Seamus Heaney, Neil Young, Carson McCullers, Ted Hughes.

Luke Wright: Martin Newell was the poet I most copied and wanted to write like when I was a teenager. He’s so inventive. Every poem he wrote seemed to have some kind of one-off little trick. It was like “damn, now he’s done that I can’t go there.” It pushed me to come up with new linguistic tricks. It made me want to make every line count.

John Cooper Clarke’s work was similarly a blue-print for my early work. I tour with Johnny now and take his fashion tips.

And John Betjeman is my favourite. He died when I was 2, so we never worked together, sadly. But I knew his daughter, she was a wonderful woman and I was very proud to be part of his centenary celebrations in 2006. He’s the best at form, to my reckoning.

Ana Silvera: I was raised on that rich West Coast troubadour tradition – Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Leonard Cohen, hearing it, singing it. I loved (and still love) the simplicity of that style – a voice, a guitar or piano, and not much more, and the lyrics being the driver of the song, that take you on this evocative journey. Also artists like the Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodriguez (one of whose songs I’ll be singing at the festival) and the ‘nueva trova’ tradition. And poets like Octavio Paz, Anne Carson and Jorie Graham for providing lyrical inspiration. Most recently, I’ve been blown away by Silvia Perez Cruz, what a voice!

Asma Elbadawi: I always wrote poetry since a young age but it wasn’t till my mid/late teens when I discovered def poetry jams, I was inspired by the majority of the poets in the series because I came to know of different styles of poetry and performance. But it was the play of words of the likes of Amir Suluiman that struck me, and their ability to have power over people’s emotions and while saying something meaningful, put a desire in me to one day learn/perfect the craft of spoken word. In all honestly I never thought it would be something I would end up actually doing. But for some reason even during my undergrad in photography, video and digital imaging and my MA in visual arts I kept putting elements of written poetry in my work. So I guess naturally a time came when I had to expand from just writing and into performing.

We’re aiming for a sort of deviant library feel at the festival gig on 18th. If you could pick one poem and one piece of music for the P&C library, what would they be?

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Luke: Song – My Pipe, My Boots and My Lord by Jake Thackray – in which Jake celebrates the little things and the little things one can do to stick it to the man. Beautiful, subversive, funny and simple.

Poem – Not The Whitsun Weddings by Tim Turnbull – from his second Donut Collection. Tim read this to me and Tom Sutton in the Pleasance Courtyard one day in 2003. It’s a brilliant subversion, a cover almost of Larkin’s poem, but this time the narrator finds himself on the train to Edinburgh with a hen party and a stag party. It’s great and guttural and formally perfect.

Ana: The poem I’d pick would be Hennecker’s Ditch,  by my wonderful friend Kate Kilalea, written as a commission for Radio 3’s The Verb. Her first collection, ‘One Eye’d Leigh’ (Carcanet) was short-listed for the Costa Award and it’s really worth a read. I first met Kate at her book launch a few years ago – I kind of gatecrashed it for the free wine, but ended up teary-eyed during her reading because I found the work so moving and left with a new book and a new friend, so it was a good night!  Music-wise, then, a Joni song from her relatively not so well-known album ‘For the Roses’– ‘Lesson in Survival.

Lizzie: Poem – ‘Personal Helicon’ by Seamus Heaney, a poem about poetry and the value of art: ‘I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing’   Piece of music: ‘Weeds II (The Origin of the Species)’ by Pulp- an awesome stirring piece of spoken word.

We want to put together a mix tape for our audiences. Which of your tracks that are online would you signpost people to, and why?

Ana: ‘Letter from New York’ recorded in collaboration with Concerto Caledonia. Why? Because you can have it for free! Here’s the download on my soundcloud.  

Lizzie: Two Revolutionaries‘ is a track from our last EP ‘Songs of Drink & Revolution’. It’s quite a new sound for us, mixing acoustic with synthetic. Vidar did a beautiful job of producing it and I think we managed to make an unusual kind of love song.

Luke: The only real song I have is Houses That Used to Be Boozers. If you want a poem then I’m fond of The Panel.

Outside of the bill, who else on the spoken word or acoustic music scene is really exciting you? 

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Lizzie: I’ve seen Ross Sutherland perform a number of times and I’ve always been really moved and engaged- he makes work that’s emotionally and intellectually challenging and also genuinely funny. Plus there’s a great sense of movement and melody to his language. On the acoustic music scene- I’m a big fan of Norwegian artist Ane Brun. Her delivery stuns me. Not many people know how to interpret and direct a lyric like her, whether she’s singing her own material or other people’s. She’s the real deal on stage too: a truly powerful performer and an unashamed artist.

Luke: Jemima Foxtrot has got the goods