It really started with the violin when I was about 6 years. I always had this idea of a violin as a magical instrument. So I fell in love with the violin and took that on as my passion, played that for a few years, joined choirs and then my voice broke and I couldn’t sing anymore. I retreated to finding other ways of making sounds and ended up writing songs and just creating. It became an obsession about the age of twelve and never really stopped.
I left home quite early, at sixteen. I kind of made this promise to myself: “You make money through music”. I didn’t have a major record deal or wasn’t touring the world, so the easiest thing to do is get an accordion and get a few pennies for your dinner. My father is an obsessive instrument collector and I think it’s something in the blood, this fascination with the way different instruments work and the different heart and soul each one has. It’s simpler than it sounds. I basically play three families of instruments: string instruments, like violin and viola and ukulele; and then keyboard instruments, like accordion and piano and synthesisers; and then vocal chords. That’s three things really, although it sounds like thousands of instruments when I talk about it. It’s actually a lot simpler.
wind in the wires
While I was writing the songs over a period of three years, I was putting aside all the songs that had anything to do with the sea or the wind or with birds even. They were all gathering the same kind of idea or metaphor to make this album that was very tied up from beginning to end, but without having songs that repeat themselves. So basically it was just collecting songs and putting them to one side over a period of three years, songs that all had the same feeling to them or the same lyrics in a way. It’s almost like a novel, like I had the same thread all the way through.
It’s kind of a mixture of finding liberation and tying that in with metaphors of storms breaking, just metaphors for anger and shipwrecks. Kind of tragedies, but hope coming out of tragedies in a way. And that desire to be free, that can lead you down dangerous paths, but is well worth the effort to go down those dangerous paths. It’s kind of a pilgrim’s progress on your way to finding something you don’t really know what it might be, but you still have the desire to go and find it. I’m almost offering you a horse to ride away and get out of the city. Wake up everyone, get out of here! And then I can show everyone the country and the ghosts and the rest that the album is about really. I like to try and create a whole universe that is completely compact. And people can enter and leave whenever they want.
It was written half asleep. Just imagine those days sometimes when you wake up in the morning and you feel dreadful. I was wondering why some days you wake up with a feel like that and sometimes you wake up and you are feeling fantastic. I had this idea that your spirit goes out of your body and goes off and dreams for you and sends back a dream in the morning. And maybe sometimes the spirit is still out there dreaming and you wake up and you’re almost soulless and you live a soulless day. And when you fall asleep again you have your spirit back and you wake up recharged.
If you believe in magic, than it happens. I believe in magic and faith and beauty and all the rest. I’ve never, since I was eleven, lived a normal live. Some very strange things have happened to me and so the more they happen the more you realise that maybe you’re not threading blissless or magicless paths that something special is happening. When I was eleven years old I fell out of a coach in Brussels on the motorway. It was on a speeding motorway. I fell out of a coach and I survived that, but I was in a coma for a few days in hospital there. And then everything changed after that. I started writing music a lot more and practicing my violin a lot more and passionately making things and there have been lots of things. I joined a band around thirteen, played on TV and extraordinary things happen to you. And it kind of hasn’t stopped really.
I took a holiday down to Cornwall in October, which down there is almost mid-autumn; it’s very stormy and so you get this huge shipwrecking kind of weather down there. There was no-one around, no tourists. It was my first night there and I had taken down my organ to finish off some lyrics. Then I went for a long walk and suddenly a storm came in in this very dangerous place. I came back safe and sound and dried myself off and suddenly this song “Tristan” came wrapping on the door. It came in two minutes. It was finished then and it was almost like a possession, like I was possessed for two minutes. And I wrote that song. I didn’t really know what happened and then suddenly had this gift. It’s like someone came to the door and jumped inside me, wrote a song and then ran away again.