It would be fair to say that many marvellous records are often the outcome of painful or particularly hard times in the life of a music artist. A little like what happened to one of the biggest music revelations in the British music industry, Roxanne De Bastion, a very talented singer/songwriter who, through her 2021 album You And Me, We Are The Same, a truly wonderfully written, arranged and sang record that dealt with the loss of De Bastion’s father Richard, a music artist himself that played a huge part in the personal and artistic growth of the London-based artist.
An album produced by a highly renowned British artist like Bernard Butler, You And Me, We Are The Same is a record that catapulted even further the talent of Roxanne De Bastion to the attention of the medias in the United Kingdom, after the young half-British half-German singer/songwriter had already impressed few years ago music fans and the media world with the release of her 2017 album, called Heirlooms & Hearsay. Following a triumphant 2022, where De Bastion toured incessantly the You And Me, We Are The Same album around the whole of the country, joining, at one point, also one of the most celebrated worldwide Synth/Pop artists of the last 4 decades, Howard Jones, as his opening act, the singer/songwriter decided to frame one of her most successful years of her career to date with an intimate live recording at St. Pancras Old Church in London, now released also as a record via Bandcamp, both in digital and physical format.
When our website gets in touch with the brilliant and talented singer/songwriter, the first question that comes to mind is how satisfied De Bastion is for the many accolades she received for the release of the You And Me, We Are The Same album from the press and her fans, especially while on Tour. “How happy am I with how the album was received? Hmm, well, it was produced and released in quite a challenging environment for me, personally, with regards to what the album is about. And then, of course, also the pandemic played a part in its making. We finished recording the album right as the first lockdown hit, so, as you can imagine, as an independent artist and a new artist, it was a challenge for me to see how it was possible to release an album, if you then can't tour it. So, for me, it's been a really interesting journey of trying out new technologies and trying to get the album noticed by radio stations etc. And it's been a really wonderful journey of connection too. I find that I know my fan base better now than I did before Lockdown, which, you know, it's quite special. I even started a Patreon club, back then, something I wouldn't have done, pre pandemic. So, the most important relationship is really between my music and the people that enjoy the music and then any accolades outside of that, it’s just a privilege. I think that one of the most unexpected things that happened, it was Iggy Pop enjoying the record very much on his BBC 6Music radio show. You know, you just try all these little things and send your music out into the world. I just emailed my record to Iggy Pop’s producer, months before I heard anything back, so I had already forgotten about it. You can imagine therefore my reaction when I received an email saying that Iggy Pop would like to play a couple of my songs on his radio show and what a very good moment that was (smiles)! So, overall I'm very happy with it, in the way all went and, yeah, really, for me, as I said, just a very interesting journey of finding and getting to know the people that like my music”.
To cap the success that You And Me, We Are The Same received all around in 2021 and 2022, it must have been something really special for Roxanne De Bastion to record the live album at St. Pancras Old Church in London just released, for which we ask the singer/songwriter what was the first immediate memory she has of that special night of music and whether there was any recorded material that was left out of the live album. “It was very cold, that’s for sure, because it was a church and it was November (smiles) but other than that, it was straight off the back of the tour I did with Howard Jones, so my overriding memory is probably one of a slight chaos and to hope for the best, because I didn't have much time to rehearse with the string section that we played with. The plus side was quite exciting, because I just come off that tour and I was excited to see a couple of Howard Jones fans at the show as well. At that point, it had been a while since I played a headline show in London, so it was that excitement and trying to not think of the pressure involved, because, if you're recording a live moment like that, that is the moment and whatever happens, happens, so it was just, sort of, trying to enjoy it as much as possible, without worrying too much about the results. For what concerns any extra recorded material, there was not a lot left, actually. I think that in the main set there's only one song that didn't make it for the final cut and that was the song I played first on the opening night. It was almost by design to have a song to warm up, but, other than that, I really just kept most of the encore as a special moment for just those people in the room that night. So, yes, 2 or 3 songs just for the people who were there but the rest of it, it all made it to the album”.
If anybody had the opportunity to watch Roxanne De Bastion performing live, you must have noticed that the singer/songwriter is very good in building bonds between herself and the crowds in a very natural and organic way and, in that respect, we are interested to find out whether the chosen venue for De Bastion’s live album was particularly suited, in her opinion, to the way that the English troubadour interacts with her many fans while on stage. “Well, that's a good question. I think, to a certain degree, the music adapts itself to its surroundings and that reminds me that I read about that in a chapter in David Byrne’s book, called How Music Works and it’s such an interesting thing. Basically, churches are those type of buildings built for reverb, so, they are a beautiful space to perform in, if you don't have a full band and if you just have a few instruments that you can allow someone to sing in that space. There is something about a church.. I felt I had to fight against it a little bit, because it's the kind of venue that makes everybody much calmer and better behaved, you know. So if you want a little moment of, like, sing along type of atmosphere or do something a bit, sort of, upbeat and more punkier, than it can be a little harder to poke that out of an audience in a church. So, I enjoy everything and anything, about playing in a church. I love that more serene setting of the church but, having said that, I also love performing in theatres, where people are just listening and be very much there for the music. I also just played my first living room show since pre pandemic and that was beautiful too, to be able to play in such an intimate, small space again”.
Together with celebrating, through the release of her first ever live album, 24 months of growing success for the London-based singer and songwriter, perhaps consciously or unconsciously, De Bastion might have thought, at one point, also that the live performance at St. Pancras Old Church was, given all the circumstances in which her last studio album was born (De Bastion’s father passing), a way to close a chapter that has been equally successful and painful at the same time in a very spiritual place, like naturally a church is. “Oh, what an interesting thought. Do you know what? Your thought hadn't even occurred to me but I like that thought a lot. I don't think that chapter ever really closes, because grief doesn't end either. So, you know, the album is very much about not having that much time left with my dad and it’s so interesting to see how that journey of grief changes and where it takes you to. I'm learning a lot about it and I'm definitely learning that the journey doesn't end. On top of that, many musicians are living in a strange time, because of what happened in previous years, where all the normal album cycles and the normal order of doing things, it has kind of been thrown out the window. Therefore, although this album came out in 2021, I feel like I still am catching up a bit on the touring side of it. But back to your very astute point, it was definitely a beautiful way to finish that year, a year of what was quite a glorious return to touring and playing some live music again, being in a physical space with people, making music again. I feel really lucky that last year I got to go on my own headline tour in June and then I also got to go on a couple of lovely support tours. So, in that sense, the sort of pre-Christmas show in the church was definitely a really celebratory way to finish the year.”
The recent pandemic has made everyone in the world to reconsider the importance of living our lives at our fullest and how much we are vulnerable too, something that has also affected millions of musicians around the world. About this topic, Bluebird Reviews is curious to know how much the pandemic has affected Roxanne De Bastion, in terms of her overall look at life and urgency to express her enormous artistry, given the unpredictability that life can throw at us any given day, as shown by the devastating effects to the planet made by Covid19. “I've always felt that too, in terms of not knowing how much time we’ve got left, in our lives. I don't know where that comes from, but maybe it is just that kind of Creator Angst, the fact that you think “I don't know how much time I've got left and I've got so much to create”. That, in a way, that threshold was not a new feeling for me. If anything and bizarrely, to me, it had the opposite effect, only in the sense that when the first lockdown hit, that was the first time since I left school that I was at the same place, without travelling for longer than 1 or 2 months, so it was an interesting change of pace. I think that I was looking for silver linings; I think it was good for me and I also think it was good to learn that, if I don't have shows in the calendar, that doesn't mean that I'm never going to play a show again. But that's okay, to take those breaks. I have been writing a lot and I'm really looking forward to continuing to do so and definitely plan on releasing new music a little bit more frequently than I have previously done. Heirlooms & Hearsay came out in 2017 and between 2017 and 2021, when my last studio album was released, that's quite a gap, even with pandemic, so I'll do my best to shorten that gap next”.
Roxanne De Bastion’s father Richard was a very accomplished musician and, although appreciating that his passing is still a fresh wound in the artist’s personal life, we wonder whether De Bastion is considering, one day, to play on Tour in future songs from her beloved father’s equally inspired repertoire, which include his two solo albums Sixty-four and That’s Life. “Well it's very lovely to hear you referencing his albums, thank you. I have been back from Berlin not that long ago, where I played my first headline show in a while. Whilst I was there, I had this thought: “Oh, my dad guitar hasn't been played since he died” and then I had this sort of strong feeling that I needed to take that guitar out along to the show and maybe, to play a song on it. He's got this huge acoustic guitar, which is not very easy to play but I love its sound. I took it out of the case and it was just perfectly in tune, which was so weird, because it's been in the case for, like, nearly three years. My dad had a perfect pitch as well so, I just felt, like, a sign that the guitar was ready to go out and gig. I actually did play one of his songs on it, a song that he wrote for me and it felt really special and a real nice thing to do, so I would love to shine more of a light on my dad's music in the future”.
As previously mentioned, De Bastion has a dual citizenship, a British and a German one. Berlin, the city where she grew up, is one of those cities that has made such a huge impact on the history and development of music, therefore no one better than Roxanne De Bastion can tell us whether and how much the musical culture has changed in Berlin, a place very close to the singer/songwriter’s heart. “Oh, so much. I know very little about the music scene in Berlin, though, these days, I have to say. Back when I was at school, living there and starting my musical journey, it wasn't the perfect timing, because Berlin is obviously such an incredible place for music and for creativity and I was there in a very odd moment in time, where there wasn't much of a scene for singers and songwriters, especially for more acoustic music. Everything was about, like, Indie and Electronic music and singing in German was really popular at the time, which I have no problems with, but it just wasn't what I was doing, plus, I was a stubborn teenager too! That's one of the many reasons why I moved to the UK. So, in answer to your question, I couldn’t possibly tell you whether music has changed right now and, if so, how much, unfortunately”.
The last five years of Roxanne De Bastion have been, as one can imagine, an incredibly emotional roller coaster on many levels. In these days, together with being a successful singer and songwriter, De Bastion is also involved in other aspects of the music business, including being a writer, a member of the Featured Artist Coalition's board of directors and even a radio DJ. Among all those many activities, one cannot stop wondering where De Bastion finds the right moment to translate her emotions, strength and sensitivity into new songs. “Well, that is the eternal question and a very good one too. I think, especially for independent artists like myself, that is always the challenge, finding the time, because you do have to wear so many hats... I'm lucky that I have a small team now, but, you know, for the longest time, it was me doing absolutely everything, from booking shows to managing all the logistics, to all the administrative work, where there are spreadsheet involved too. But finding the time to, and as you so eloquently put, translate your feelings into little musical moments, is a constant challenge, because you need to experience the world and lead your life, and then you also need the space and calm for that process to happen. As a consequence, my creative time tends to be more in the evening, when I'm sat actually in this very same room where I am talking to you right now, on my own, with my keyboard or guitar. Everything I do is connected, somehow. Take the radio show, for example, something that actually really helps me a lot, because it allows me to listen to more new music than ever before. It’s something inspiring to me and, yeah. no shortage of inspiration in a very fast moving world. But again, finding the time is definitely always a challenge and please do forgive me if I've not answered your question right, but it's a tricky thing (smiles)”.
As it’s often the case, writing new material involves deadlines and some artists prefer to take their time, whilst writing and recording a new album, while others prefer to work under extreme pressure and go through the whole process at a very fast pace in a reduced amount of time. What is Roxanne De Bastion’s preferred way to work on a new album? “Well, with regards to recording an album, I definitely need a deadline. Like I've done in the past, I'm a fiend for booking studio time, in order to write songs, because I know it's in that tight area of having the money to make it happen and so, a deadline always helps. With regards to the immediacy of capturing the songs, that aspect has pros and cons. Sometimes it's really special to capture a song when it's very new, but most of the time I find really helpful to try those songs in all sorts of different settings and play them live a lot, which was an interesting thing for my last studio album, because of the pandemic. What I mean, it is that I obviously couldn't play a lot of those new songs, due to Covid 19. On the Howard Jones Tour, that was the moment when I really felt, for the first time, that those newer songs came into their own some more and I felt like, I sort of discovered what they actually are and what they sound like, when I played them live. For what concerns the structure of the music, the writing and the overall songs, what I would say, it is that I'm taking more time that I ever have in a way, at the moment, just because that last studio album was such an energy rich project. It was a big, monumental thing in my life, therefore what I am doing now, it's a learning curve for me, to give myself a bit more of a break and to not feel that pressure or pain about having to book studio time and make a fake deadline now. I'm building myself that space, but, in general, yes, I definitely know the feeling of meeting a deadline”.
Roxanne De Bastion and Howard Jones
Among the highlights of De Bastion’s 2022 Tour, the time she spent touring with Howard Jones must have been a very enriching experience, not only at a musical level but perhaps, at a more spiritual level too, given the sensitive artist that Jones has always been in his long-standing career. “I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to go on that Tour. Sometimes, timing is just right and it was a privilege. Howard is not just an excellent musician but he is an incredibly kind, warm human being, as is his wife and his entire crew. I think that like goes to like, you know. He really has built this beautiful team of people who are all really kind and welcoming, which, I have to say, it isn't always the norm or a given, in this very strange industry. At the soundcheck of the first show, when I opened for Howard, he listened to it and then he came out and made a point of telling me “Just relax, all you have to do is to relax and enjoy it”, which I thought that was so kind of him, to take that time to just, sort of, reassure me that all was going to be great. I had the best time, and it wasn’t just with his Team but also with the audiences. It was such a pleasure to meet them all. I love performing on stage but I also love singing with people and the Howard Jones fans were definitely up for that. It took a bit of a risk, with, you know, demanding audience participation on the 1st show at the 1st song of the show, but it all worked out well and again, it was great to meet everyone after the show. So many people from that tour stayed in touch with me, which is something that makes me feel really lucky and blessed”.
Many music artists have got their own different views, about making music. For some, it may be simply a way of life. For other, perhaps, a way to exorcise internal demons or perhaps only a vehicle to channel their feelings about people and the world surrounding themselves. Before parting company with this splendid and inspiring artist, we would like to ask Roxanne De Bastion, after more than a decade of making wonderful music, what is her personal relationship, nowadays, with this wonderful art form that is Music. “Another great question. I think Music is the most powerful art form of all, because it is the best tool in empathy and that happens whether you make music or you participate in it, by singing it or listening to it. There's no quicker way to empathize with people who have a different experience to us than to connect with them through a song. Storytelling through song has such potential, especially on uniting people and to share this crazy human experiences we live every day. That's what I love Music for. I also love the fact that, whichever emotion I'm feeling, I have a song that I can listen to help me through that moment or to suit that mood. There's nothing more special than having written a song and seeing that it fulfils that role for people, that it actually means something to them. To me that's what it is and it's definitely something that helps myself getting through life, but it's also and most importantly, about that connection.