Interview: The Anchoress

Catherine Davies AKA The Anchoress has recently stepped off a UK tour with childhood heroes Manic Street Preachers, for which she joined them on stage for the classic hit ‘Little Baby Nothing’ as well as ‘Dylan & Caitlin’ (which features on their latest album). And, as if this wasn’t impressive enough, she then headed straight to Croatia to perform with Simple Minds.

The Welsh songstress took some time out of her gruelling schedule, however, to talk to Get In Her Ears about touring life and her creative process…

Hi Catherine, welcome to Get In Her Ears! If you could use one word to describe your journey since becoming The Anchoress and now what would it be?

Collaborating with the Manic Street Preachers on their latest album plus duetting on ‘Little Baby Nothing’ with them must have been an exciting project as a life long Manics fan. As you are both heavily inspired by literature and poetry, was it a meeting of the minds?
Absolutely. I’ve been a fan of the Manics since I was 12, so they’ve hugely influenced my cultural education in terms of literature and film, as well as the general course of my life (being the first in my family to attend university and going on to study to PhD level as a result of their “education”). We had such a shared vocabulary, culturally speaking, that it felt like a very natural collaboration.

Is literature and poetry a passion you keep separate from your role as a musician, or do you allow the two passions to combine?
I’m sure that studying poetry for such a long time has informed my use of metre and rhyme when I’m writing songs. I tend to always collect quotes and snippets from books or films when I’m making an album too as I find that helps me focus and coalesce the themes and preoccupations. When I come to think of it, making a record isn’t all that dissimilar from writing a PhD – lots of self-imposed isolation, research and reading!

Manic Street Preachers have the nicest fanbase in rock. Have they welcomed you into the fold?
I can honestly say that I’ve had the warmest welcome from the fanbase. The internet can sometimes be a cruel and nasty place, but I’ve had nothing but a positive reaction to the duet and to the shows (since I first supported them back in 2016 at the Eden Project). The fans are an absolute credit to the band and their ethos.

Which other artists or bands inspire you?
I love a lot of “art rock” – Roxy Music, Bowie, Eno, but I’m also a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and Deftones, as well as being reasonably obsessed with the Beatles, Kate Bush, and Prince. Amazing pop music is something I come back to a lot as well: ABBA, The Carpenters and ELO. I’m also still hugely moved by a lot of classical music I grew up dancing to. I think what consistently inspires me though is great songs, whatever genre or style they may fit into. My most recent obsessively listened to albums have been Father John Misty, Sharon Van Etten, and The Twilight Sad.

You mention in your biography on your website that in creating your artistic persona you are not afraid of giving into madness which may lie within that solitude. Which part of that creative process appeals to you and do you feel it opens the way to more creativity?
I enjoy the immersive process of making a record, and the contrast of that to the touring life of constant travel and movement. It’s nice sometimes to be still and not leave the house for while… I’m naturally quite a solitary person which has always informed the life choices I’ve made – studying for so long, being a solo artist (not being in a band). But that’s not to say that some of the richest life experiences I’ve had haven’t come from collaborating and working with others. That’s the holy grail – to balance the solitude with the conversation.

Your sound is pretty fierce and powerful. Do you intentionally like to pack a punch in your songwriting?
I don’t really think about external pressures to be or sound a certain way when I’m writing or in the studio. I think my default mode in life is certainly to be a little angry at all times about something or other (there’s lots to be mad about…) and that probably permeates the songs I write and my production.

The music industry is a very fast paced world, do you feel that there’s a pressure to jump from project to project in a short time frame?
Economically speaking, there’s pressure to juggle many things. Most musicians are self-employed and freelance which creates a certain pressure to say “yes” to work when it’s offered and assume that there is always a fallow period coming. Creatively, I don’t think that’s always best for an artist – you need time to let things percolate and the way I produce records is very much about having the time and space to immerse and procrastinate on the small details.

Are you looking to head in a different creative direction with album number two?
Naturally, the sound of the next album has evolved, and the theme of the new record is quite distinct from the first. Gear wise, I’ve used a lot of vintage synths on the second album and played/written more on the guitar, but at the core of everything is still the piano (as with the first album).

Have you got any tours planned for the rest of 2018? If so where will you be stopping off?
I will be playing at Robert Smith’s Meltdown at the Royal Festival Hall on June 19th – that will be the first Anchoress show of the year, where we may even debut some new material from the next album. The rest of the summer I’m insanely busy touring with Simple Minds all over Europe and the UK.

Huge thanks to Catherine for answering our questions!

Nicky Lee-Delisle

Photo Credit: Annick Wolfers

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