South-London-born BRIT School alumna, Caswell crafts a flavour of neo-soul propelled through glimmering chutes of downtempo electronica, resulting in an elaborate forma of pop. She returns with the release of visual for the lead-single of the ‘Blindside’ EP – ‘Surface’ – mastered by Frank Arkwright (New Order, Blur, Coldplay) of Abbey Road Studios and partly mixed by Cenzo Townsend (a-ha, Bloc Party, Florence + The Machine).
The soloist grew up immersed in a myriad of musicality, with a punk-rocker turned vinyl dealer mother, in Tulse Hill, South London. Armed with her first microphone as a toddler, Caswell subsequently taught herself the piano and began writing music aged ten. Later in life, moving to coastal Suffolk, East Anglia, she siphoned early songwriting inspiration from some of the most distinctive, celebrated female vocalists of the last century; Kate Bush, Nina Simone and Erykah Badu, and cultivating a classification of her own.
Welcome Caswell, thanks for taking the time to talk with GIGsoup. So, 5 questions, 5 mins – here goes…
Tell us about your latest EP ‘Blindside’, how is it important to you?
Blindside was a really exciting project for me, partly due to the fact I could work slightly differently as I had funding from the PRS ‘Women Make Music Award’. Being a self-funded artist it’s always taken a frustrating amount of time to squirrel away savings, and the grant fest-tracked the whole process meaning I could just do what I wanted to do! I got to explore a new calibre of options like getting the tracks mixed by award-winning Cenzo Townsend and mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios, as well as putting on my first ever shows (and selling them out) and filming my first music video.
The music video for ‘Surface’ is great! Talk us through yours and the directors’ thought processes here…
Thank you! So myself and director David Yorke actually got in touch via insta a few years previously, so when the opportunity arose to actually work on something solid it was very exciting. In a TV show called The OA they had this powerful sequence of movements which was created as a way in which to break barriers down between worlds and ascend dimensions, and when I first listened to the demos of ‘Surface’ I would envisage similar movements. As there are a lot of natural elements in the lyrics, David thought it would be cool to marry that with the idea of bringing environments to life in the form of weird and wonderful earthly creatures. We then made me into a ‘Mother Nature’ character whose call awakens her children (a tree, stone and water) and throughout the video they make their journey back to my side.
Tell us about how you started writing music as ‘Caswell’…
I’ve been writing ever since I was in primary school, but the first song I released as Caswell was Fury. It was the only song I’d written in a whole year after leaving sixth form and living in my first shared house in New Cross. After that I decided it wasn’t working and moved to productive environment – Suffolk – where I knew no-one and my parents had recently relocated. Having physical and mental space (and more financial freedom) was so conducive to my writing habits, and the local live music scene there is awesome!
What’s your writing process like?
Sounds cliche but often at home it stems from a random melody or interesting phase when cooking or taking a shower. Honestly, for me when it’s not overthought it’s better. It’s hard to turn my critical mind off, so the more I ‘try’ to write something the less it works! Saying that, more recently I’ve been in writing sessions a lot more, often with multiple songwriters and even as a writer for other artists. This has helped me so much as it forces you to be more spontaneous and have faith in your ability to try new things.
Do you have any advice to anyone starting out in music?
Show your music to people- you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the reaction you get. And it’ll motivate you to write more, and from doing that you’ll learn more. I’d also say that for many years, performing my own music was more of a chore than a pleasure. I found it terrifying, and would spend the duration of my set certain that the audience was bored and that I wasn’t as good as the artists on before and after me. I had no confidence in myself, it was actually pretty sad. Through doing open mic nights in an unpressurised situation I actually learnt to enjoy performing my music for the first time ever, and now it’s my favourite thing to do! I guess what I’m trying to say is, push through the self-doubt because you’ll thank yourself for it one day.