Rachel Sermanni is an alluring, enigmatic singer-songwriter hailing from the Scottish Highlands, whose music tends to reflect upon the complex experience of being human. Rachel, though most associated with folk, plays with a real mixed bag of genres and will soon reveal her newest LP and foray into her sonic inner self, Dreamer Awake. Rachel speaks with SNACK about what the listener can expect from her album, as well as where you can look forward to hearing her perform live.
This is your first LP since So It Turns in 2019. What would you tell new listeners about your fifth album, Dreamer Awake? What can they expect from the Nan Shepherd-inspired LP?
There’s a bit of a stronger thread of concept in this album compared to previous albums, which have been songs from a collection of experiences gathered. Whereas the thinking behind this album, pre-recording, was ‘how do I write a bit of a journey within it?’
With the Shepherd reference, though she wasn’t who I thought of at the time, she’s a brilliant example of a feminine archetypal viewpoint on journeying. I have a very vivid memory of reading Nan Shepherd speaking about the Cairngorms, and within that was a metaphor for this album, where there’s very much an exploration of the depths rather than the peaks. So, the concept of the album starts off on a surface level, in my eyes, with a very straightforward idea of a break-up that creates the breaking of the ground, and then from there, recognising that you’re on that precipice of falling. So that feels like the mid part of the album: asking for the tools, the courage, or whatever it is that you need to be willing to head into the crevice and start that renewal process.
From there, you enter dreamscapes. One of the songs is based on recognition of the ancestral, and what I’m carrying as somebody from a Catholic upbringing.
To realise Dreamer Awake, you decamped to Middle Farm Studios in Devon with co-producer Peter Miles. How did you find this experience in terms of the creative process and inspiration for the LP?
I’ve been down there a few times before, recording and writing with another producer, and was drawn to Pete because he seemed to be good with live, full-band recordings and had this beautiful space. So, it was a very simple, practical observation and recognition. Playing live to me is to be in a space where you don’t really know what’s going to happen, and that relies on everybody being there and present. I wanted to create that for the album.
The actual process was good. It was the process of working with a producer and working with the band after so long that had me feeling a little bit out of practice, as there were challenges to it in terms of my own confidence. I didn’t play the guitar so much and hadn’t had the same amount of time to really think about all the songs that I had with previous albums. And yet, it forced me into that place of being a little bit more trusting; I had to just trust that the flow of things would lead to something.
And you have some UK dates with the release, including Edinburgh’s Queens Hall and Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree. What can we look forward to from your performances?
We’ll have a wee bit extra in that I’m hoping to have a small band with me. The other gigs across the UK will be solo. And for the Scottish gigs you can expect me to be planet-sized, because I’ll be very pregnant by that point. Someone was just speaking about that, saying, ‘It’s quite nice because on the tour, you can just for a wee moment take the cocoon away and expose yourself.’ There’s a vulnerability to those flash moments of exposing someone’s creativity, so I’m offering a wee moment of coming out of my own weak cocoon. Maybe people can expect something quite raw.
Dreamer Awake is out on 15th September via Navigator Records. Rachel plays at The Lemon Tree 28th September and The Queen’s Hall 29th September. Tickets here.