Katie Spencer recorded her latest album, The Edge of the Land, as if it was live, capturing the essence and energy of her on-stage performance. Now she’s on tour evoking landscapes and life around the country. She told us about the inspiring pleasure of performing in new places
You’re on a big tour. Are tours inspiring, exhausting or both? And do you manage to experience the venues and areas?
Being on the road is really enjoyable for me. Live performance is a big part of what I love about being a full-time musician: the difference every night, the connection and interaction with people, it’s invigorating. Meeting new people and visiting places that I perhaps wouldn’t have seen otherwise is a real pleasure too, I always try and ask the locals where I should visit and what I should check out before I move on – I’ve experienced some beautiful places by doing so, a recent favourite was a tiny 13th century chapel built into the cliffside in Wales!
We think live music is fundamental to a full, happy and engaged life – do you detect any changes in audiences around the country or around the world?
I agree. Interestingly, on tour last year – whilst celebrating the launch of my latest album – I played all around the country, and I did find some differences in terms of how folks responded to the music, based upon their location. A lot of the songs on my latest album The Edge of the Land were written about the landscapes I know the best (the East Yorkshire coast, and the hills of West Yorkshire). A theme developed in my live show last year and I found myself focussing heavily on the connection that we have with our landscapes. I realised whilst writing the title track that up on the north east coast, the water of the North Sea and the River Humber not only shapes the landscape up there, but it also shapes the people who live there. I certainly found that audiences who had a stronger tie to the water had a deeper emotional response to the music, which was very touching and wonderful to experience together.
What can you tell us about your new album? How does it fit with your previous album?
The Edge of the Land is a celebration of the landscapes I know the best, and the people who live there. I grew up on the East Yorkshire coast and moving away from there to the West a few years ago gave me greater clarity when I thought about home. It allowed my perspective to shift to a place where I could write and express my feelings about that coastline with greater freedom and precision. In that sense this album feels like a focused celebration of my journey so far, and my interaction with different landscapes and people as I travel around.
My first album, Weather Beaten, was more of a documentation of a moment in time. This album features some of the first songs I had written, and they nestle in and amongst later songs that were written during the recording sessions. I look fondly upon the record because it captures where I was at that point, and I feel proud of it being the first album I created. You can see some themes developing there already, which came to fruition on my second release.
Where does your music come from, what inspires you and what makes you pick up your guitar?
My music comes from the people and places that I know well. I walk a lot and take bags of inspiration from being outside in the natural world, especially up on the east coast where things are constantly shifting and changing. I love the huge open skies of my home too, and I feel as though it is this sense of space that flows into my music too.
Who are your musical heroes (from the past or now)?
I began playing the guitar as a sixteen-year-old and fell in love with the singer-songwriters and guitarists of the last sixties/early seventies. I still listen to folks like Bridget St John, Bill Fay, Joni Mitchell, John Martyn and Bert Jasch every day. More recent inspirations include Ryley Walker, The Weather Station and Beth Orton.
What was most fun about making the album?
We recorded the album live in the studio over two days and it was such an intense, beautiful time. The four of us being focused on the same thing for that time was wonderful, I have lots of fond memories being nestled away in rural Lincolnshire making music. It is this process of recording live that I feel brings a special energy to the record, hopefully you can feel our spirit too.
For Katie’s full autumn tour, go to her website.
top image: Katie Spencer. Courtesy of Lizzie Henshaw
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