Tallulah Rendall visited St Andrews in 2014 as one of the many artists involved in The Coffeehouse Sessions tour. We spoke with her about her latest album, her creative process, and what it means to be successful as an artist.
Hey Tallulah! Thanks for chatting with us at PressPlay. You recently released your latest album ‘The Banshee and The Moon’ – can you tell our readers a bit about you and your music?
The Banshee And The Moon is my third crowd funded and independently released record, and the third in a series of albums released within a book. A black and white photo accompanies each of the songs from the record, and the book itself narrates the stories behind the songs and my journey as an independent artist. I have been releasing albums in this way since 2009.
I grew up in a house full of vinyl, so when it came to releasing my own music I felt slightly cheated just releasing it as a CD or a download. It felt too dispensable. A record is often a year or more of someone’s life (well it is in my case!) and I wanted to create something that could be kept on a shelf rather than lost in an iTunes archive, plus it felt important to tell the stories behind the songs. At the time of my first record there were so many manufactured bands around that it felt like people had forgotten about artists who write all their own work, play their own instruments and so I felt I wanted to play a small role in reminding people of the alternative and put the value back into buying a physical record. Plus I love vinyl artwork.
And so I began by releasing albums on vinyl with a download code, and then went a step further and began collaborating with visual artists, from all different mediums and creating installations for release shows. The response was so great that I have just kept going. You can simply just download the albums if you want but for those people out there who collect and what a physical version the books are there for them.
Musically I grew up on 60s and 70s records, Nick Drake, Joni Michell, The Stones, Patti Smith but more recently I love the more minimalist music of Apparat, The Knife, Fever Ray, London Grammar; basically music with great beats and beautiful vocals.
You recently took part in the Coffeehouse Sessions tour, where you traveled to 25 UK universities and performed. How was that experience?
Extraordinary! I have toured a lot, but never this crazy Annika Rice style mission of three or four shows a day, with interviews before or afterwards. There is normally so much time with gigs, a lot of waiting around after sound check. With this tour it was get up run out the door, get stuck in traffic, get to the first venue, do a twenty minute interview, then the gig, then pack up and race out the door and get on to the next city.
But the response was amazing. I wasn’t expecting the students to be so into the idea of the books and the response at every gig was great. As an independent artist, I have taken a lot of risks and had to really just trust that I was making the right decisions, so it made me very happy to receive the response I did.
How do you get inspired to make music? Do you have a specific process?
As soon as I have space in my life I write. It’s hard at the moment because between crowd funding and touring there is not a lot of spare time, any down time is spent sleeping! But I am really ready to start work on my fourth album. I have been touring The Banshee And The Moonnow since May and been on the road constantly and now have all these songs and ideas bursting to get out of my head and onto record.
But the actual process of writing is always the same. I wake up really early and just start playing whatever instrument I am drawn to, whether it be it bass, guitar or piano, press record and play around with melodies and hook lines until something really catches. I have so many ideas that I record everything and then listen back to see what I really like. If there is something in there then I develop that. Sometimes though I will just pick up an instrument and write a song in ten minutes – it really depends on my mindset. But often I will start something and then discover hours have passed and I have been totally immersed in the music.
As a kid, the house was full of old 60s and 70s vinyl left over from the nightclubs mum ran, so I loved listening to them and found the gatefold record sleeves beautiful and inspiring. So I guess yes. But I think what influenced me the most was the sense of possibility. My whole family is really creative, pretty eccentric and very entrepreneurial, so the notion that anything is possible and that you can really achieve whatever you set your mind to what instilled in me at an early age. I think the two combined have played the biggest role in all that I have created so far.
What would you say are the top three creative lessons you’ve learned in your career as a performing artist?
Don’t try and emulate someone else. I really believe that you have to find your own sound and vision. That is what inspires me and keeps me exploring different sounds and ways of visually presenting my music, not only on record but live.
Where you perform: People place value on where they discover things. So I am always really careful to choose venues that suit my music, and really make sure the ‘live’ show is an experience that the audience will be inspired by.
The harsh one is that I am basically one of thousands and thousands of artists and the world and music industry doesn’t owe me anything. I don’t believe you are successful because of creative talent. There are so many factors at play. You have to work your ass off and be really dedicated. And because of that I think it is really important to enjoy all aspects of being an artist, this is my life and there is no point putting heart and soul into it if it makes you miserable because the process of making the music, of writing it, recording albums and creative projects, touring live is the magical aspect. So many people are obsessed with fame and to me that is not the motivation behind what I create. I do what I do because I love creating and I really hope I never loose that. But what is really important to me now is my happiness. I know that may sound clichéd but you hear of so many artists, not only musicians but also actors who are fucked. Totally depressed and screwed up. They are hugely successful but miserable. That to me is not inspiring. It has to be possible to have a successful career, creating innovative and original music (or whatever is your chosen expression) without the negative aspects. At least that is my intention.