Interview/Premiere: Ana Silvera

Photo by Alice Williamson.

The crossover alt-folk talent is back! After releasing the awe-inspiring live album ‘Oracles’ back in 2018, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Ana Silvera returns with a new single entitled ‘Ghosts’.

Silvera shows us just what we’ve been missing on the new song. This spring, her new album ‘The Fabulist’ will be released but enjoy the premiere below for now.

The experience of seeing her brother descend into psychosis during a sweltering London summer is at the core of ‘Ghosts’, a reworking of the classic English folk ‘ghost song’ tradition.

Ana says of the track, “I wanted to describe the eerie experience of watching this person I felt so connected and close to suddenly slip from my grasp. It seemed as if my brother was a vessel inhabited by spirits, who were each fighting for their voices to be heard. Using a traditional form helped me to navigate these difficult memories, and that style is echoed in the folk sound-world of the arrangement, with instruments like acoustic guitar and fiddle as the foundation. In many ways, ‘Ghosts’ feels like the closest I’ve come to being able to tell my brother’s story in song”.

With the full-length album dropping on the 22 April, we get familiar with the intriguing new track and talk to Silvera about what’s to come.

Q. Thanks for taking the time to chat. We haven’t heard any new music from you in a while, so with a new track arriving tomorrow, how are you feeling ahead of release day?

Genuinely positively anticipating it with apprehension, joy, excitement, and relief. Because of the pandemic, the whole thing has unfolded much slower than expected so it’s great to finally be able to bring this music into the world.

Q. Q. Tell me a bit more about your new single Ghosts? The track has a very interesting story attached to it?

The song revisits a very strange and intense time in my life. It was a sweltering hot summer in London and I was just 14. That year my brother had his first psychotic break that led to many years of going in and out of psychiatric wards. We were just a year apart, so were incredibly close and it impacted me deeply. There’s a therapist called Pauline Boss who coined the term ‘ambiguous loss’ which describes for instance, when a person is physically present, yet ‘they’, the person you knew, are no longer there. In my brother’s case, he seemed to become a vessel through which many different spirits and visions, and worlds passed. It was unearthly and extraordinary but also devastating. I don’t hear many conversations around this kind of severe mental illness, so I think it’s important to talk openly about it.

Q. How would you describe ‘The Fabulist’, any themes or stories found within it?

So, ‘The Fabulist’ means ‘teller of tales’ which alludes to my love of story-telling through song. I hope people find worlds to get lost in. There’s ‘Red Balloon’ which describes the dizzying, disorienting pull of a forbidden yet magnetic attraction, ‘Magellan’ based on a folk tale about a shipwreck and ‘Early Frost’, which tells the story of a couple living a seemingly picture-perfect life – marriage, a house, a perfectly tended garden – that unravels as the ice melts.

Q. In the process of creating ‘The Fabulist,’ what differs from your previous album?

It was really different. My last album, “Oracles” (Gearbox Records) was a live release recorded at The Roundhouse alongside some great musicians including Bill Laurance, Jasper Høiby, and Josephine Stephenson. It was in front of an audience with a small choir, so very different from an intense week in a studio working mostly one-on-one with producer and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Diver. But I loved being able to get into the nitty-gritty of arrangements and really shape the sound.

Q. Was there anything, in particular, you were looking for in terms of style before you began recording the album?

Yes, I’d been listening to a lot of records such as Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’, Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark’ and songs like Scott Walker’s ‘It’s Raining Today’, those rich, expansive arrangements with flutes, gossamer strings and instrumental interludes. And I knew I wanted to bring in elements like the mellotron to bring a kind of psychedelic vibe as well as the pump organ and guitar to root the sound world within a folk tradition. It was a real joy working with Gerry to find a unique musical vocabulary for such a deeply personal collection of songs.

Q. When it came to this record, did you have any ‘firsts’? If so, what were they?

First record mixed and mastered during a global pandemic, maybe?

Q. What’s in store for you for the rest of 2022?

I have 2 more single releases coming up, including a duet with one of my favourite singers, Alan Hampton, whose work everyone should check out (and who you might have seen playing alongside two of my favourites, Fiona Apple and Andrew Bird). Then The Fabulist album lands on April 22 followed by a nationwide tour in May and a London launch on the 19 May at Bush Hall.

Q. Any final words for the Twistedsoul community?

Stay inspired! Do what it takes. Put the screen aside. Stop giving yourself a hard time. And listen to ‘Ghosts’.

CF Smith

Permeating your ears with good music.

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