> Interview - Clarissa Connelly On World Of Work - SNACK: Music, film, arts and culture magazine for Scotland

Interview – Clarissa Connelly On World Of Work

‘I want my music somehow to do the same, to link the past to the present.’

Experimental folk artist Clarissa Connelly’s re-imagining of the lament ‘Wee Rosebud’ has been one of our musical highlights of recent times. It literally stopped us in our tracks when we heard it – it contains a whole world in its shapes and tones. In anticipation of new album World of Work, Scotlandborn, Denmark-resident Clarissa spoke with SNACK from the Danish island of Fanø.

Your music talks about philosophy and religion and myth. How do you go about bringing those influences into the music?

I think it’s important to understand the world as being a place that’s very old. So understand the perspectives of your own life. What I’ve been practising a lot is not being so caught up in your own little messy life.

Because that can be a very narrow way of looking at the world – and I don’t think it makes anyone happy. I often look to find a way to connect the now that we’re in with something really old, the older the better. But there has to be a lot of knowledge, to understand that connection, to get the perspective.

I’ve used bells a lot on this album because there’s so much knowledge around them – when you’re visiting a church, [details of] whoever made the bell and where it was made and the year it was made are often on the bell itself: there’s all this information. It’s like a gift of time travel, just there on the bell.

I want my music somehow to do the same, to link the past to the present and to understand the perspective of our lives, like how small they are, really. It somehow gives me a very deep sense of meaning: the strings of history. We’re all a part of it, these big circles.

Clarissa Connelly – Wee Rosebud

Your music is very rooted in folk tradition, and in some ways feels very old, but there’s a real modernity to it.

I don’t find it that interesting to just make a folk song that only sounds like it’s old because that [the source material] already exists. That’s the fun part of it, to make the song aware that it’s here right now. I’ve been thinking a lot about creating meta layers in the songs. It can be ways of playing the piano or instrument choices, sometimes connecting things that aren’t necessarily used together. I wanted to create something that sounded nearly like the song as we know it, but with the awareness, through the way of singing or through the way of playing the instrument, creating a meta layer.

But it’s just the communication of me telling you or telling whoever is listening that I’m aware I’m singing this to you right now: that’s what makes it maybe more contemporary. Making small surprises within the song.

Do you play everything on the album? 

Not for this album. [In the past] I’ve done that very modern composing technique of just layering, layering, layering. I’ve done that a lot, but I wanted to re-record everything at once with the grit and without the BPM being stuck to the click. So I made the whole production, first myself, and then I chose musicians I wanted to record it with. And then we recorded everything again, like an old-fashioned band.

It was a lot of work and I think I’m going to probably do it again, because I’m not done exploring that. And it did change the perspective of the music sometimes; the songs changed a lot because [in the computer] they didn’t have the grit. And I really like that on the album and that would never have happened on the computer.

There’s a lot of the outdoors in all your work. Do you need to get outside to write?

Writing melodies, I think, is like the hardest thing. Like, writing a good melody. They have to curve in a specific way and they have to turn home again as well. I think good melodies, they often go a bit out of key or they have a surprising note to land on, and then they have to turn home again. I haven’t sat by the piano or by my microphone in my room trying to find the melody.

If there are too many complications, then I can’t find that clarity in my brain – and there’s always something in life that’s complicated. But then going for long walks, it’s often on the way home [I find the clarity], where I’ve just let go of everything. Sometimes melodies surface that are just happening underneath, if I’m able to listen to the ideas of what’s going on in my deeper consciousness. The best melodies come to the surface like that.

There’s a clear celtic influence in a lot of what you do. Is there a sense of being between two cultures?

Growing up with Scottish folk music definitely influenced my work a lot. The first memories I have are of listening to the music, lying down in the children’s room, while the grown ups were dancing at ceilidhs. I have these really special memories of that. And actually here on Fanø, where I am right now, there’s folk music, with traditional folk songs that are kept for and given to the best violinist in town. Then if they grow old, they give it to the next, younger violinist.

It’s handed on in a really beautiful way, and I want to respect the traditional music that’s still existing. But it’s a hope for myself, to recreate those very special moments.

World of Work is out on April 14th on Warp Records

All Photos Credit: Amy Gwatkin

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