23 year old Welsh singer & harpist Geogia Ruth Williams is not only multitalented but a busy lady. Not only is she a regular presenter on BBC Radio Cymru’s C2 programme, and currently sitting in for Bethan Elfyn every Saturday on Radio Wales. Not only that but she has just released a glorious four track EP entitled ‘In Luna’ via the fine Gwymon label (also home to Richard James and The Gentle Good). These effortlessly live and warm sounding recordings lovingly capture her sound in its sharpest clarity yet: it’s a step up for one of Wales’ finest emerging voices. So just how does she find time for it all on top of a day job?! “I started looking at my life like a pie, and everything is in little segments, somehow with the music I always find time, I don’t know how exactly how…” Georgia reveals
‘In Luna’ isn’t her first work her early bedroom recordings and spell binding live shows captured the attention of many in Wales and beyond for a few years now, Adam Walton has long been a champion and I first experienced her delightful harp-led sound and bittersweet vocals curling upon poetic vignettes on one of his Sunday night shows on BBC Wales. “This is my first studio one, my first CDs were like recordings I did at my parents house in Aberystwyth they were a bit more lo fi and raw I guess It was just me playing everything.” Georgia recalls. Despite stints in studios before finding a producer that could fully elevate her sound to the next level was on mind “When I started thinking about this one I knew I wanted to work with David (Wrench) I was living in Brighton at the time, and he got a train down from London and we talked it through. I was quite nervous thinking what if we don’t get on and have the right ideas but we hit it off. He’s a really interesting guy.” Georgia is an artist who values personal relationships and believes they can aid creative ones, far from being told who to work with she is setting her own course and taking her own decisions: “I think personally if I get on well with somebody if I connect with them in some way then the recordings are easier it was important that I talked to Dave because if you just get a producer that you don’t know it could be a risk, that you aren’t going to get on or gel.”
The overseeing eye experienced of Mr David Wrench somewhat of a musical wizard who minimised overdubbing and it’s this light touch allows each of the notes space to throb and Georgia’s voice the floor for delicious expressiveness: that these sound like live recordings yet clearly are not fully so with a sparing use of overdubs, that is the trick of his production here the almost indefinable ability to capture the magic that exists between the notes, that’s sometimes swirling in the dust of the air that morning, evening or afternoon. Decamping to the picturesque sounding Bryn Derwen Studio in Snowdonia maybe it was the awe inspiring winter stillness of the landscape that seeped into ‘In Luna’ too? “ The studio was in Snowdonia in Bethesda to get there you walk up a huge drive and it’s flanked by elm trees it’s all very dramatic and you get to the end and it’s like this little French cottage where you stay. It’s definitely a interesting place.” Georgia enthuses. The end result ‘In Luna’ is embellished with her gloriously understated vocal harmonies that paint vivid imagery of experience, while the delicate instrumentation arrangements that includes Georgia’s welcoming harp, Pete Richardson (Gorkys, Y Niwl) guests on drums, with Pete Walton on double bass and producer Wrench on vibraphones. The spine of the songs upon ‘In Luna’ are borne of emotion, experience and observations and occasionally almost take on the themes of human form, encounter and touch. Gorgeous opener ‘Through Your Hands’ that tumbles magically through harp figures and drum sweeps, while Georgia’s notes delightfully tip toe through an extended metaphor where the melting ice is akin to loss (“I couldn’t tell you what love feels like to touch/But good pilgrim you do wrong your hands too much’) the chorus piercing even the coldest of hearts with a longing and yes a sadness, meanwhile the more piano led ‘Bones’ that has more than shade of Tori Amos, with it’s skeletal lyrical couplets that allow Georgia space to plead and emote.
That these four tracks hang together so well and almost seem to fit into a theme of loss: despite mostly tackling different narratives, thoughts and longings is testament to Georgia and the group of musicians she surrounded herself with. “I had a collection of songs from before, I had an album’s worth written really before I even got there because. But because I has a limited time to record and with the set up and because we wanted it to be spontaneous so it seemed like it would be quite nice to just focus on those four, like a little package really. It was all quite spontaneous.” Georgia points out. Before paying special praise to one of her collaborators for how the record turned out: “I did have a vague idea of how I wanted it to sound before but until I got there and heard Pete play the drums he’s got this really dusty way of playing and everything just took shape around that. I didn’t know it was going to sound like that live I thought there’d be more over They’re all quite I was quite happy with that and with the set up we had going on in the studio it worked.”
But where did the name ‘In Luna’ come from though? Was it a reference to the otherworldly quality of these pieces?! “Luna is everything. Then I got into obsessing over the word Lunar really and googling it there’s this valleys called Lunar in Chilli it’s incredible and looking at these pictures and thinking it just seemed to really fit with the sound that we’d got and it was really mystical(?) And people seemed to like it and I just thought that’s what it’s called. “ Georgia points out. The artwork comes as part of the package a depiction of a foreign almost alien looking imagery in deep reds and blues it adds to the feeling that a lot of thought has been put into every aspect of this release “The name came before the artwork it’s very much tied in with the artwork.” Georgia tells me “We wanted this idea of a postcard and like you finding another postcard and we thought this would fit really well that you’d gone somewhere. We thought it would fit in quite nicely with the sound we’d captured.”
Some artists write from the heart, writing can become therapy but sometimes it can be an uncomfortable experience having to relive those painful experiences every night on stage. Georgia does tend to write at home on her harp or when the mood takes her the piano but just how personal are her songs? “I’d say that 90% of the time I am only capable of writing about myself I really admire people who can write about characters.” She concedes, “If I have the urge to write it’s because I’m feeling a certain way. So I’m less inclined to think about something to conjure up something that’s not in any way not related to me. I did end up doing that on one of the songs though ‘Lines’ is about two characters it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but I mean they are certainly feelings that I’ve related to.” Georgia reveals.The aforementioned ‘Lines’ is exceptional, rhythmically dancing across sands built upon chiming notes almost redolent of Church of a Sunday, whilst Geogia’s breathy intonations deliver clever word play built around the title word each couplet wrapping themselves around an ever entwining relationship: replete with even a surprisingly laugh out loud couplet (“She’s free like a spring word, like a dirty word/Like saying fuck in the Vestry”). Writing about fictional characters on one of the tracks featured on ‘In Luna’ turned out to be was somewhat of a release for Georgia: ” It was quite a relief to be able to express about different people usually it’s a feeling that you have to express yourself something that wasn’t about me. Usually it’s about yourself and getting something across that’s personal to you. And It’s quite rare that you feel like you’ve said it. I don’t know whether I’ve derived therapy through writing I couldn’t really say but they always say you should have a piece of paper and try and externalise what you’re feeling.”
Van Morrisson‘s ‘Astral Weeks’ and Tim Buckley’s ‘Once I Was’ work were amongst the main records that Georgia pinpoints as a influence upon her writing for In Luna and one can hear the kind of ethereal almost transcendental quality of those two: that ability to merge elements of folk and pop music into a stripped back sound that take you out of yourself and to another place: “I’d been listening at home in Brighton almost exclusively to about five albums and they sort of accompanied on my way round, one of them was a live album Tim Buckley recorded in the late 60s and there’s this one song I was listening to constantly.” Georgia reveals “And the song Anna was based around one of the songs on it, it’s got these fantastic vibraphones on it and Dave got me into Astral Weeks and I think it’s seeped in really. I wanted that slightly ethereal feel. “ That ethereal quality is captured most on In Luna’s closing track ‘Anna’ that sounds like reassuring letter to someone special it’s wide screen sound and glorious melodic cadences rise almost toward almost Kate Bush-like in their quality while instrumentals sway and shift like the tides across your body, and are underpinned by a undercurrent of trembling vibraphones. The final repeated bars of ‘It’s ok, it’s ok’ leave the listener with a sense of comfort that everything will work out no matter how bad it seems now!
Harpists aren’t always something popular music audiences are used to encountering out front and centre on stage, it is sometimes seen as an instrument that’s mainly used in Churches or as part of a orchestra in a classical setting. But Georgia is one of a growing band of startling talents who are bringing this classical instrument to the attention of more listeners again including ‘Joanna Newsome’ and ‘Serafina Steer’ but Georgia admits “Sometimes I get odd looks carrying a harp around. Sometimes people are really shocked to see it.” She notes jollily, before extolling her love of the instrument that has it’s roots in Welsh culture too: “I’ve felt proud of it and I love t he instrument I just feel like it’s a composite part there’s such a great history of the harp in Wales within that traditional gospel community the harp has got quite a lot of power. The triple harp is Welsh, it was a Welsh gypsy instrument!”
But what of her future plans? An album a tour perhaps? It can’t be long before the rest of the UK fully wakes up to her talent, we in Wales greatly appreciate it already! “I’d like to get another record out by the end of the year. I feel really honoured to be have been able to release something through a label like Gywmon and the roster of artists they’ve released are just fantastic. Doing radio work I obviously play a lot of Gywmon especially on radio Cymru. And getting to put something out on vinyl is just great.” Vinyl is making somewhat of a comeback with sales picking up again, maybe it’s a testament to the fact that if you are going to have a physical format alongside the digital: listeners want something physical and reflective of an artists work again, rather than a mass produced. Certainly a package like ‘In Luna’ with it’s imaginative artwork and carefully put together sound: is perfectly suited to being committed to 10″ vinyl where the crackles and humanity of the truest format can be the best platform for it to be cherished forever. “About the vinyl revival I was speaking to the guy who runs Derricks in Swansea he was saying he can definitely see a palpable change and it’s a real thing.” Georgia enthuses “A lot of people find their parents have a record player, even my nan’s got a record player too and she plays Julio Iglesisas. People increasingly want something tangible and beautiful, plus it’s got a bit of retro – we made sure we’ve got download codes with the EP so you can have both. Had the recordings turned out sounding different I may not have done it as a vinyl as soon as we’d finished them we thought they’d sound particularly nice on vinyl, it’s got the crackle there. It just happened to be the way these songs turned out I couldn’t imagine them being on anything other than vinyl, once I got that idea in my head that was it.”
Born in Cardiff and growing up on the West Wales coastline Georgia Ruth with it’s changeable weather and beautiful landscape became accustomed to sea mists, strange sounds of the tides. She has also a history of working in the Welsh language as well the English one, but even with the likes of Gruff Rhys, Racehorses and The Gentle Good there still seems to be a perception that Welsh music isn’t crossing over into a wider UK audience, of late. So I wondered will she always retain that bilingual element to her work? “I didn’t grow up in a Welsh speaking home. I remember that really awkward time when I couldn’t speak any Welsh and my school friends couldn’t speak English and over time I learnt more Welsh and used to speak it at home, and that gap disappeared between me and my classmates.” Georgia recounts “I love writing in Welsh and it feels like a challenge, I studied English literature in university. But I do enjoy that challenge, so with the album I definitely want Welsh songs on it. In the last six months the song that I’m most happiest with was a Welsh one, that’s been quite turnaround for me as before I’d have said English. It’s nice to have that option really. If you can express yourself in the Welsh language, why not? It’s intriguing I quite like listening to Spanish music I love the sound and the words it’s really interesting.”
Georgia has played Next Big Thing’s festival in London and a range of support and festival slots, but what has been her live highlight so far? “I opened a gig for Damien Jurado just over a year ago in the Globe.I’d never been there before as I was living in Brighton at the time. Getting to play with someone you admire I’d loved Damien Jurado for years. I cam remember every single second of it, I can remember all the songs.” She fondly recalls “I loved Green man a few years ago. I really enjoyed playing Telfords recently you just get crowds where you know they’re listening. The reason Damien Jurado was different the audience was very reverent and very respectful as they were there to see an artist. He’s got a very strong cult following they know all the records and all the words. You look at his back catalogue and you don’t know where to start he’s someone who has produced a body of work and that’s something to aspire too.” Georgia Ruth has made a great start with one of the finest EP releases to adorn our record player in 2012 so far, we await her next releases and shows with excitement in our heart and anticipation of more great work to come.
Georgia Ruth plays Club Fandango @ Bull & Gate, in London on the 13th of March followed by a ‘In Luna’ EP launch at Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach on Friday The 16th of March. Support comes from Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog, and Evening Chorus.
In Luna is out now on Gwymon Recordings.