With new album Strangers, RISE is on the up and up. After the praise-laiden An Abandoned Orchid House, Talitha Rise has dropped the ‘T’ word and now Jo Beth Young is performing as RISE, with added richness, intensity, sensitivity and emotion (see what we did there?). We chatted to her about the album, the power of making music, and using stage fright to your advantage.
Two singles herald the new RISE album release – Dark Cloud and Radio Silence. The latter is described by Listen with Monger as ‘ethereal, powerful and haunting with a sense of that moment when the Summer sun is met by Autumn winds’.
ArtsCulture: There’s already a buzz around the new album Strangers: what’s the inspiration and what are the developments since from An Abandoned Orchid House? And tell us about the stunning single Radio Silence.
RISE: Thank you so much. That’s really lovely to hear. I wrote most of Strangers last year whilst I was touring and promoting An Abandoned Orchid House. That album took around 4 years of work and development and it was a pretty hefty task which I had to take to fruition individually.
Strangers on the other hand has taken around 18 months and is very different in that it’s mainly improvised in different locations. It’s not a studio album, but a series of stories in many ways. It was a reward to myself for being so disciplined with AAOH!
I wanted to capture something raw with Strangers, and me playing in spooky farm houses in Wales, to living rooms on The Burren in Ireland, plus having the band recording in their home studios really added to that sense of it being a quite intimate and very human, even though at times it’s a a bigger soundscape.
You can hear the pedals on the piano, the odd dog in the background, bows hitting mics, it’s full of things we’d normally bleach out but that are the human elements behind the music. It’s a catharsis and I really dared myself to break some boundaries and boxes about album making, so I hope people will enjoy that about it.
ArtsCulture: As Talitha Rise with your album An Abandoned Orchid House you made a big splash. Now that you’re RISE how does that name sum up your music and your ethos… or did you just like it? And why the (slight) name change?
RISE: I was amazingly lucky and grateful to have such a brilliant reception of AAOH, it was beyond what I was expecting, but I also didn’t want to be afraid of doing something different because of it either. My long Ep BLUE and AAOH were co-productions and co-writes, that partnership ended in the middle of making AAOH, so I felt when it was done, any new material would inevitably sound a bit different.
Strangers is entirely written, arranged and produced by me alone, so a name change felt like a good marker of independence. RISE is a word that I love the invocation of, and somewhat describes the ethos behind my music which is normally to transcend challenge, even if that transcendence is to go through it without any anaesthetic and with some brutal honesty! But to rise out of the ashes. I like the androgynous feeling of RISE too… plus no-one ever could pronounce Talitha properly!
ArtsCulture: Your videos are really atmospheric – how important are they to you to display a visual aesthetic of the aural experience? Do you enjoy doing them, and what do you prefer: studio recording or live performances?
RISE: Thank you! that’s really lovely to hear. Some of the videos I’ve made and directed myself, but even when working with people like the amazing Alex T (who has created the 3 video singles for Strangers) the aim is to create a visual that doesn’t detract too much from the listening process or can draw you into the energy of it. I really try to let the songs show how they want to be portrayed rather than how I want to be portrayed, if that makes sense, that gets rid of a lot of self consciousness.
Hard question about live or recorded. I think nowadays I’m in the happy position of enjoying both equally. They both have pluses and minuses. I like the creativity and scope of recording, but I love the connection and rawness of performing live. Each gig is totally different, you feel like you’re playing the music of that room each night. I’m very lucky with my live band as they really get it and we put the intention in to bring a lot of love into those rooms at every gig.
ArtsCulture: Slightly connected: which part of the creative process is your favourite: writing; recording or performing? And does each aspect of the creative process reflect a different part of the song as well as you as a singer songwriter?
RISE: Really interesting question. Again, I like them all and they all have different parts. Writing is mainly a solitary thing for me. I need and spend a large amount of time alone and always have. I do think that writing is a real joy because songs do just ‘strike’. I very rarely sit down and think ‘right now I’m going to write a song’. It’s normally doing something really mundane like hoovering or driving. I like to think of it as song catching rather than writing. I’m just grabbing them out of the air before they sail of to the next available songwriter!
I love recording because I love the scope of creating a choir with your one voice and experimenting. I really get excited about making sounds to sound odd, not like the original instrument. So on Cry Back Moon (a track on Strangers) I’ve made drum beats sound like someone throwing a hammer and I played a moroccan riti which raw sounds like I may be killing something in a back room! But I experimented with delaying it with pedals until it sounded like a haunted luna drone just creeping in. I love that stuff! reverse and reverb is my mantra!
And as before, performing is just a wonderful experience because you can never really capture that sound or feeling recorded. It’s very hard. It’s deeply emotional, raw and vulnerable to get up on stage and peel yourself open in public, but the rewards are just amazing, the connection people feel with the music is incredibly humbling and it balances out my reclusive geek side very well!
ArtsCulture: Your live performances are renown for being powerful and intimate. How do you create that atmosphere and balance the two?
RISE: Wow good question. I’m very privileged people feel that way. I think two things maybe accidentally contribute to that feeling. One is I had such terrible stage fright for years, I would throw up all the time, shake and my hands would sweat so much I couldn’t keep them on my guitar. I never felt comfortable. I never felt like a performer and very much a bit of a shy awkward misfit, so I got round that by telling myself that the stage is my living room and that I’m not going ‘out there’ to perform to people, but they are coming to my little world and home for visit.
That change in mindset took all the pressure off to be anything other than myself and I spend a lot of time faffing on stage sometimes just getting my bits in order as if I’m at home. The second is that I believe no matter how many people I play to, whether it’s 4 or 4000, I will give them everything I’ve got! If they’ve come to see me, I won’t water it down due to audience size. That’s a personal ethic of mine. It takes time, money and effort to see an artist and everyone deserves to hear the best you have.
ArtsCulture: What’s your background and why do you think you make the music you do?
RISE: I’m a country girl from a small Sussex village who grew up in an agricultural family with 4 brothers, a musical Mum and Grandmother. I always sang and wrote songs from a young age. I sang classical and played Tudor style recorder until I discovered guitars! I also worked in Gospel music situations as well as rock bands, indie, gaelic singing, ambient etc. so I have a real mix of experiences.
I came to things a bit later due to being very ill in my 20s mixed with being shy and self doubting. I think I make the music I do because I’m not trying to do anything other than put an idea I quite like across. I don’t really get genres, but I’m obviously influenced by many many things. In a nutshell, music has always been my world that I can escape into, transform and evolve through and I just want to make a world that others can do than in too.
ArtsCulture: How much of your time is taken up with marketing your music compared with making your music? And is it a drag (sorry if it is)?
RISE: ALOT! lol! I used to feel it was a total drag, but you know I’m really beginning to see what power there is in not having label support and running things business wise. Strangers is my first full self release, and I’m learning so much. One of the really cool things is that when there’s no middle man you can connect with fans and people in a much deeper level. Again, you don’t have to be anyone but yourself and that means people will run towards you or away from you and that’s perfect! I make music for the people that need to hear this music… the end!
ArtsCulture: You’ve mentioned music has saved you – what is the role of music, musicians and the artist in society?
RISE: No one can really get through their life without it. As my very dear friend Ted Evans always says ‘music is the soundtrack to your life’. I think we’ve forgotten the meaning of the word Music. It’s something brought through by the muse. Musicians have the ability to bring us back to who we truly are, to make time stop and to bring us fully into the present moment, not wanting to go back or forward in time, and that’s a place of deep rest and resuscitation for the soul.
So to me, artists of all kinds are healers, and their role is integral yet very rarely seen as being that important. One of the funniest misconceptions about being an artist is that it’s all about you… I very rarely see that as the case. It’s a job where you bring something through and you learn to refine your vessel and way of doing that so you can deliver the best muse experience you can, but in some ways you can’t take credit for it because you don’t even know how you do it or where it comes from. It’s real life magic.
ArtsCulture: We’re not keen on putting people in boxes, but they can be useful for storage, organisation or even preservation. What sort of box would you put yourself in?
RISE: I’m of the opinion that a box is something you should only get into when your life over, and avoid at all costs whilst you’re still living. But as we live in a box culture here we go! People have called it ethereal, indie, progressive, folk, art pop, world, etc. I don’t know what it is and It can change at any moment.. I nicknamed it ‘weird folk’ a while ago..but for now, I hope the word ‘music’ will do!
ArtsCulture: Cheers RISE! Thanks for your time!