Today’s track of the day ‘Resolution’ comes from Brighton’s Bess Atwell. Her pure voice and gentle instrumentation combine to form a shimmering exploration of intimacy and private thought.
Atwell has shared some of her thoughts on song writing, social media and her biggest influences with GIGsoup. Her debut album ‘Hold Your Mind’ is available from July 1st through Bullnose Hoop Records.
You recorded much of your forthcoming album ‘Hold Your Mind’ in your home town, Lewes. You say this is partially because you like to step back from the world and reflect. However, you live in the hustle and bustle of Brighton. How does this divide between the rural and the urban inform your work?
While I work and spend much of my time in Brighton, I’m actually living in Lewes still. I write mostly at home so I suppose my songs are very influenced by the state of mind that home naturally brings; reflective and solitary.
You played at ‘The Great Escape’ festival in Brighton earlier this year and received quite a bit of media attention. How was that experience? Did you expect it?
I didn’t expect it at all! I didn’t actually know the Guardian had come to my show until I saw the mention in their review. Very flattering indeed. It’s always lovely to play T.G.E because Brighton is alive with so many artists and creatives. The crowds are almost always really keen to listen, and you never know who will be at your gigs.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016? Is there a tour on the horizon?
I don’t have a headline tour planned but am definitely keen on a support tour, I think that would be so much fun as I’ve never toured before. Just going with the flow for the rest of the year, and seeing what opportunities the album release may bring. I also have plans to begin tracking the second album with my producer Michael Smith.
You’ve written and tweeted about your feelings on digital culture- on how it doesn’t allow space for complexity and difference. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how it affects your music?
I think we’re all always changing, especially in our young adulthood, so it seems very limiting and exposing to have it all documented online. When I talk about social media, I’m mainly talking about Facebook, because it documents so much information, imitating a well-rounded representation of us. Most of us have a defined character on Facebook that has become almost more substantial than the real deal, and is rarely a true representation of us. We’re all contradictions, always learning and growing, and I feel my voice as a songwriter is no exception.
Music is an incredible tool for communication and human connection. Social media, despite its apparent aim, paradoxically seem to hinder this and is responsible for a lot of loneliness and destructive comparisons. Sure, we have more tools than ever to express our thoughts and feelings, but it’s become another area of our lives where we’re pressured to fit in and expose only the best of ourselves. It’s totally hypocritical of me because I use most social media platforms! It’s is a brilliant tool, but it’s easy to mistake online life for real life – I think we need authentic music more than ever because of this.
Is there a particular sound or instrument that you would like to explore in the future?
I love the sound of trumpets, and pianoctums.. who knows, they may feature on the next album!
You’ve previously mentioned that Bon Iver was a major influence on your song writing due to his ability to translate the personal into the universal. Who else has influenced you and how?
One of my all-time favourite bands is Fleet Foxes. Sonically, I was so drawn to their first EPs and album. You can hear a pretty bizarre collection of influences in their stuff which all melts together to form such evocative, beautiful music. As a 15 year old I’d never heard anything like it. It transported me to another world, and felt familiar yet alien. I saw them perform in Brighton that same year and that performance was magic to me, and one of the experiences that gave me a genuine love of live music. Fleet Foxes were the reason I knew I wanted to record my first album with a band – Robin’s voice cascading through the rhythm and intricacies of the band like a well-oiled machine. Growing up the only music I was exposed to was the stuff my parents would play, especially in the car on long drives. The records that stood out the most to me were by The Smiths, The Divine Comedy, Moby, The Lighthouse Family, Dido, and The Cardigans – I think they all had a subconscious influence on me. My parents’ music taste was somewhat eclectic, the common denominator simply being brilliant song writing.
This Bess Atwell article was written by Frisia Dunn, a GIGsoup contributor