Fiona Bevan, Singer/Songwriter, London
The last few years has seen a powerful rise in the popularity of singer/songwriters‚ from acts such as Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Alexi Murdoch, Damien Rice and Elliot Smith etc… their music touches the heart in ways manufactured pop music never will…. Now Fiona Bevan joins the ranks of these soulful talents ‚ she’s a London based singer and songwriter to whom words and lyrics matter a great deal‚ a kind of storyteller with music who sings about those very things that touch us all deeply; insomnia and loneliness, heartbreak and love.
Creative Mapping talked to Fiona Bevan about her London life and musical inspirations and creative processes.
“Sometimes you sense that something is finished, I love that feeling of making a piece very internally mysterious cohesive, with all the loose ends tied up. On the other hand, sometimes you need to keep open and mysterious and not answer all the listeners’ questions.” Fiona Bevan
ABOUT FIONA BEVAN
CM: Where do you live and what & where did you study?
I live in Hackney, London, though grew up in the deep wild countryside of Essex and Suffolk. I moved to London to study English Literature and Language at University College London (UCL) and get involved in music.
CM: What do you do?
I’m a singer/songwriter, composer, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist.
CM: How did you become a professional creative?
I’ve been writing songs and gigging since my early teenage years, but 2011 saw my first big commission; the Tate commissioned me to make a new piece for their Visual Dialogues project. At the moment most of my professional engagements are live concerts, though I am getting more compositional work – I’m currently writing the music for a film. I do a lot of Facebook/Twitter blogging, and sometimes send press releases and new tracks or Ep’s to blogs.
CM: Your work environment and preferred working tools?
I mainly work at home unless I’m co-writing. I have a little office in my bedroom which doubles up as a recording studio and inspiration space. I often play different instruments to feed my inspiration in new ways, for example, I’ve lately been writing a lot on ukelele and Hammond organ, whereas a few months ago it was piano. I always have a notebook and dictophone on my phone at hand to note down ideas wherever I am, even if I’m walking.
CM: What’s your creative process, from inspiration to the music?
For the Tate Modern commission, I went and sat in the space to almost commune with the enormous Gerhard Richter paintings and tried to allow myself to feel what they were about. So I responded to the mood of the paintings, and this went into my piece. I developed the piece by researching Richter and John Cage’s music, which they were inspired by. Relevant current events also fed into my composition, for example, the awful strange randomness of the tsunami which had just happened in Japan, which chimed with the random elements that Richter and Cage had embraced in their work. When I performed my piece, I threw a dice to determine what I should do next in terms of the structure of the piece. There was also a musically improvisational aspect of my performance which I felt was necessary to make the work conceptually cohesive and alive.
CM: When do you know your music is finished?
Sometimes you sense that something is finished – I love the feeling of making a piece very internally cohesive, with all the loose ends tied up. On the other hand, sometimes you need to keep things open and mysterious and not answer all the listeners’ questions. Sometimes you happen across things by accident and decide to keep them‚ You can tinker with things forever but if they’re not broken, don’t try and fix them – you need to have that decisiveness.
If I’ve worked hard on something and had time to finish it, I usually get to the point of being proud of it and being satisfied. It’s inevitable though that you look back on your past work and see how it could be better. That’s why it’s important to go forward and keep creating new work.
CM: Your biggest achievement to-date?
The Tate Modern commission was a huge thing for me. Before that, one of the first big boosts and votes of confidence I got was being chosen as one of only three songwriters to go on tour for Vortex Tour East, part of the Lord Mayor’s East Festival. I think my greatest overall achievements have been to become financially dependent solely on music – and still alive (!), and to have overcome great shyness.
CM: What are your biggest challenges as a creative?
I’ve had to create a network of people to call for advice / inspiration / working together as otherwise it can be a lonely process. Sometimes you need isolation to make great work, but I also believe strongly in collaboration and making something together you could never have dreamed of on your own.
CM: Where is the best place to escape for you?
I love the countryside, and seeing the seasons change, even in a sliver of countryside inside the city, like Hampstead Heath. I love walking my friend’s dogs, or going down to the river, which really feels like the veins of the city.
CM: What inspires your creativity the most in your city?
I love going to see gigs of all genres, like Sun Raa Arkestra in their zany sparkly gold robes at Cafe Oto in Dalston, or seeing a choir doing heartbreaking dark Russian tales of woe. I try and see lots of art and films too as other mediums really inspire me and give me fresh ideas.
CM: Are you part of a creative community or network?
I’m very connected to the other singer songwriters and composers I know – it’s quite a supportive community though it’s also understandably sometimes a competitive friendship! I work a lot with collectives like OneTaste and Magpie’s Nest.
CM: Do you ever work from a cafe?
I don’t really work in cafes as it’s very distracting, but when I do, I love watching the hipster freelancers (lots more of them since the recession!) and I always bump into someone I know, so it’s good for the soul.
CM: Favourite blogs and magazines?
One of my favourite magazines is the newly launched Love Is the Law Magazine ‚ so beautiful!
CM: Which professional festival/trade-shows are a must for you?
Festivals like Secret Garden Party, Lovebox, and Bestival are really important…
CM: Your dream project or collaboration with other creatives?
I really want to make a music video with Terry Gilliam‚ I’d love to collaborate with Patti Smith, and would love to support Joanna Newsom on tour.
Fiona with Ed Sheeran-Jackson Ducasse
Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais
Jon D Barker
Jon Lee Bird