Having previously worked with the likes of Ben Howard and A Blaze Of A Feather, classically trained cellist and songwriter India Bourne – aka Tender Central – has just released her poignant debut album The Garden.
Creating rich layers of twinkling electronic folk-pop, the album showcases Bourne’s reflective, emotive lyrical storytelling and a sweeping, ethereal musicality.
We caught up with India to find out more about the album, and how she’s been managing to continue creating and releasing music during a pandemic…
Hi India, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am a musician, songwriter and mum of one, nearly two (second coming in a couple of weeks!). I am passionate about nature, food, running, wild swimming and period dramas. I am an emotional person with a great curiosity about the world and people and how we all work. I feel music is a fundamental part of me; nothing else makes me feel the way music does when I am in the flow of performing or writing.
How did you initially decide to start creating music?
It feels like the urge to write and play music has been there from a very young age. I think it became just another way of expressing myself and my thoughts and feelings. I believe music is innate in all of us though, as is dance, art and all forms of the creative arts. I see this so clearly when watching my toddler and my nieces and nephews navigate the world. The way they play and sing all day; it’s undeniable to me. I was also lucky to be brought up in a musical family where music was a daily activity. We all played an instrument, and growing up in a small house with 3 other sisters, we couldn’t get far away from each other! So there was always a lot of noise and activity going on. My dad was a composer and ran an accapella choir which my mum also sung in, so we’d regularly go and watch them perform. I took up the cello aged ten and have played ever since, thanks to my mum for nudging me that direction when she felt I really needed something to get my teeth into.
You’ve just released your beautifully poignant debut album The Garden – are there any particular themes running throughout it?
Thank you for describing it that way. It was interesting looking at the whole body of work with a bit of space once it had been completely finished. It became quickly apparent to me that there was a strong theme and narrative in there, and it all led to the song ‘The Garden’ which is the last track on the record and possibly my favourite. The album took the best part of a decade to make and spanned a time in my life when I was very busy touring with Ben Howard and later Ry X and A Blaze Of Feather, so I had little time at home and even shorter times to ground myself and write music. Although I loved performing all over the world, this desire to find my ‘home’, my stability, my ground and my peace amongst the constant movement is a strong theme in this album. There is a lot of emotional turbulence in many of the tracks where I see the light as well as the dark, but in ‘The Garden’ I feel I reached my place of belonging and calm. The song acknowledges challenge and hard times, but is deeply rooted in my sense of “everything is ok!” The blue sky above the clouds; the peace always within me, but “hard to learn” as I sing in the song. I wrote it whilst off tour, digging the small patch of earth in my garden flat in London, shoving bulbs into the ground and heaving a fork through the earth. I needed to find quiet in myself, and here is where I found it.
How are you connecting with your audience and other musicians during the pandemic?
I’ve never been more grateful for technology than I have been this past year! It’s been a lifeline socially and musically. Musicians have created so many new ways to share work and be creative during this time, I’ve found it really uplifting and inspiring. Online gigs, live streams, Zoom choirs… It’s been really awesome. And at the same time I am craving those days of performing live and talking face to face with people. I was lucky enough to record and film four live tracks from the record back in September with a full band and crew, knowing that the possibility to do an album tour or album release show would be unlikely. So, I am very happy to be sharing these with my audience via social media now the album is out, and to be able to still engage in conversation despite the distance between us all.
And has there been anything/anyone specific that has been inspiring you, or helping to motivate you, throughout these strange times?
My 3 year old. His joy in the everyday and his focus on the present has gotten me through some really challenging times during the pandemic. Spending such quality time with him has been the best reminder to not get swept away in thought or worry, but just to be and to appreciate what’s around me. He also has such a great sense of humour, we are always cracking up!
My producer James. His faith in me and my music from the early days has made releasing this album possible. He has been unwavering in his support and has been a core part of Tender Central from the beginning.
My dad. He and I speak the same musical language and whenever I have been stuck, he has been my rock.
Nature. Being in the wild outdoors and swimming in the local river has been deeply nourishing and inspiring. Often when I have hit a wall all I’ve needed to do was get my wellies on and head to the woods for a walk, or the river to swim. The answers always come!
How do you feel the music industry is for new artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
Every sector of the industry has been affected by the pandemic and some have had to almost completely shut down because of it, so certainly at the moment I would say it’s difficult to get noticed or breakthrough, yes. But at the same time there is a greater thirst from the online community for artists to produce something because we are all missing gigs and face to face interaction, so there’s an opportunity in that. So, although the industry is much quieter, there’s a lot going on in the background I believe, and people definitely haven’t stopped writing or releasing music. We are all just doing it differently than before. Certainly, even without the pandemic, it’s not easy getting heard as new artists, especially if you’re only just starting out. There’s so much you have to do yourself to build your profile; not least working on your own music, but also having a strong online presence, being in touch with your fanbase, getting good PR, having good press shots… I haven’t had a manager for a couple of years and it’s definitely harder to get noticed, but not impossible! You need a good and supportive team around you. Whether that be your family and friends and a few contacts in the industry, or a manager/label/agent etc. Most importantly, you need faith in yourself, that what you are creating is worthy to be heard/seen/experienced and the drive to see it through.
As we’re a new music focused site, are there any other upcoming artists that you’d recommend we check out?
Absolutely. Over the last six years I’ve worked with the most amazing vocalist/pianist/songwriter, Greta Vaughan, on her music. You must check her out here. Her lyrics are poetry and her music is complex and deep and incredibly heartfelt. I feel every song of hers is such a journey and she definitely demanded a lot of me as a player and collaborator, which was fantastic and invigorating. Her debut record is soon to be released, I can’t wait.
Finally, what does 2021 have in store for Tender Central?
Firstly, the birth of my second child! It’s very much on my mind at the moment, given there’s not long to go now. I will understandably be very focussed on my family this year, but at the same time I am eager to see how this album will unfold and what life it will have. I have just finished a short piece for a film commission and I am already planning on recording and filming the next set of live tracks from The Garden later this year, all being well. And I am also excited about doing more collaborations. I find that way of working so inspiring and surprising; you just never know what’s going bubble up or what direction a song is going to go in. Keeps life very fresh and exciting.
Massive thanks to India for answering our questions!
Tender Central’s latest album, The Garden, is out now via Hello Friendly Recordings. Listen on Spotify.
Photo Credit: Harvey Pearson