Music Q&A:
Calming River

Intricate fingerpicking and contemplative lyrics create an intimate sound for the British-born, Denmark-based songwriter

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What informs your music and songwriting?
Personal experiences and those experienced vicariously. News, which these days is almost fiction, as well as non-fiction literature, science, people I meet or people no longer with us. My music is quite dark and sombre. There are a lot of references to loss in there, but I try to make it as reflective and beautiful as possible without being too self-centred or clichéd.

How have you evolved as an artist over the years?
Well, I write the guitar parts and lyrics, predominantly in my apartment. That has been the template for as long as I can remember. The music and lyrics are normally written separately and then I try to combine them. The guitar parts typically take priority. Since 2014 I’ve worked with DJ and violinist Alvaro Suarez here in Denmark, and we have worked together on two EPs. The last EP, The Ones That We Left Behind, also includes viola, flute and percussion, with the aid of some friends and talented musicians in Aarhus, where I now live. The core has stayed the same — as in the songs originate with my ideas, on a guitar — but my tastes have somewhat changed. I’m leaning more and more towards classical guitars these days. My songs are also growing in an idiosyncratic way, and I think will continue to evolve in that direction. Alvaro and I are hoping to reunite in the future and work on some material that will sound very different to the Calming River discography.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?
I’m writing a new alt-folk EP. I’ve just recorded another track for it and I believe this will be my best EP to date. As a body of art, I think the EP will be different to what people expect of a singer-songwriter. I’m experimenting with song structures and finger-picking techniques, and integrating the result with lyrics inspired with current social and political climate.
I’ve also just released a new single, For The Echoes To See, that will also be part of the upcoming EP. There is a video for the track too, which really combines a darkened aesthetic with bright, saturated colours — a homage to some of my favourite videos when growing up (the likes of Alice In Chains – Grind, Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box and of course Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden spring to mind). In August I return to the UK to play Melodica Festival in Nottingham.

What’s it like to operate in the music industry today?
It is tricky, like all industries. Personally, I find it that people don’t listen to a body of work as they did with previous formats. Attention spans are short, time is limited. Sometimes you need a break for a track to be featured here or there, in order to introduce those keen listeners to your music.

What do you bring on tour with you?
I’m travelling to the UK with a bare-bones set-up of just one Alhambra classical guitar. In Denmark I typically have two others guitars with me, including a very nice electro-classical Lakewood. I go between various tunings.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.
I was once halfway through a set in Melbourne, Australia, and a car came crashing through the wall as I was playing. It was a shame, as in rehearsal we timed it for the encore… Thankfully no one was hurt.

What song do you wish you’d written?
Tough one. Off the top of my head I’d say Black Kite and/or Church of the Pines, both by Sun Kil Moon.

What’s your worst lyric?
Probably from a track called Brother I: “You’ll survive that storm somehow/And when the winter comes, I’ll look out.” Perhaps it isn’t too bad, but it still makes me cringe. The track is from the EP Afflict and Redeem and fortunately the lyrics on the other songs are at least bearable.

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Interact: Responses to Music Q&A: Calming River

  • Gillian
    24 Jun 2017 22:38
    Fantastic music and I enjoyed the lyrics. Good one.

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