Interview: Rachael Dadd

This interview was originally published in Issue #11, March 2010.In the past year and a half Rachael Dadd, travelling singer-songwriter and one half of both Whalebone Polly and The Hand, has been causing quite a ruckus on the folk scene. While playing with some of Britain’s finest acts and promoting her music in Japan, she’s also released several gorgeous solo records. The pace isn’t slowing down, either, with confirmed gigs alongside Alessi’s Ark, Adelaide’s Cape and First Aid Kit in the near future, followed by 2010’s tentatively titled After the Ant Fight. Rachael may predominantly sing about her home life, but she’s spent much of her adulthood on the road; first moving from Winchester to London, then to Bristol, and finally relocating to the entirely different setting of Japan.What were the motives behind you moving to Bristol in 2003?Friends, a spare room, the music and art happenings…I had heard it was a friendly city and felt it to be much more welcoming than London!I know you worked on the ferry at the docks; what other places in the city are special to you?I love Leigh Woods and the escape route along the gorge. I went there today on my bike to Pill. I also love Gloucester Road; it also feels a bit like an escape route (from the commercial centre). I love all the independent shops. Oh, and St Werburghs, The Farm and the Self Build project. I lived there for a while with a ferry friend - [it] was a lovely 3 months! You’ve spent a lot of time in Japan over the past year and a half; have you enjoyed it? What made you visit the country to begin with?I love Japan. I love how amazing the people that I've met there are; they are a very caring, sincere, friendly, modest, interested [and] interesting bunch of people. Learning a new culture and set of rules has been a very good experience. The food is so varied and delicious, and the mountains are very beautiful, especially in autumn. I went there for the chance to [create] music, as it was the only place where a label was releasing my stuff. Also I felt it was time for a lone adventure, and I thought it would be fun being a lone wanderer somewhere so totally different. The people were very warm and welcoming straight away so it was never hard.Do you want to go to a country you’ve not yet visited?I'd like to travel by train to Japan across Russia. Also I really want to go to Scandinavia. I like colder climates. Do you think travelling is important in terms of experience and song writing? Would you say it’s been your main influence?No, not my main influence. I don't think it's too important for song writing. I tend to write about what's closest to me, where I'm from comes into my songs, small familiar happenings. But the experience of being alone in Japan, all that reflection time, which certainly influenced my songs...a lot of emotions welled up.What else influences you to write?I've just written one song about a shit trance party where I saw a David Attenborough film, and I found the swimming monkeys and elephants very moving. All sorts of things influence me. But I have dry periods of no songs. I write more when I'm alone and lonely. And right now Eiichi [Rachael’s partner] is back in Japan and I have a lot of time kicking about by myself. *** Rachael takes pride in her gigs; that much is evident from her performance alone. An accomplished musician, previous live albums The World Outside is in a Cupboard, Songs from the Crypt and Summer/Autumn Recordings see her tackle classical instruments like the ukulele and piano with a dedicated skill, but elsewhere her creative setting is more varied… The last time I saw you play was at Bristol Harbour Festival in 2008, and there was a man dancing to your music on the steps down the fountains; do you remember it? Is that the only time you’ve had a crazy dancer appreciate your songs?I love it when people dance. It’s rare but I can think of a few (not crazy perhaps), but Geoff loves a dance, as any Bristol musician/gig goer will know, and a few times children have danced. I really love that especially. They are very honest critics! It was a really lovely performance! What other unusual stages have you performed on?[I’ve also performed] on a moving train in Japan and in a garden centre in Japan amongst the leafy surroundings. *** Material art is also valued highly in Rachael’s books and she frequently designs and creates her own tote bags, record sleeves, badges and other merchandise worthy of any art lover’s pocket money. To celebrate visual art, she set up a competition for fans to design their own sleeve for her forthcoming Moth in the Motor mini-album: Moth in the Motor has been gaining a great deal of attention from critics and fans alike; what are your biggest ambitions for the EP?Oh it's now being called a mini-album! There are six songs. Well I would like to perform it as much as possible on real pianos and do the songs justice in their live form. I am touring through February, and then I'd like people to go to www.brokensoundmusic.com and enjoy all the artist’s submissions and buy their favourites! You’ve had some beautiful submissions for your front cover competition – which is your personal favourite?I love many; the Japanese submissions are really lovely. Another that stands out is the one by Jane Stables. She has really thought about the political/social message in my songs, and it's very beautifully drawn. *** Despite all of these achievements, the drive she possesses, and the security she’s found on Japanese label Angel’s Eggs, her future career is not as clear-cut and predestined as you may have imagined: I’ve heard you’re planning to release an album in 2010. What’s it going to be called? Um, probably After the Ant Fight, but ask me in 6 months! How does After the Ant Fight differ from your previous albums?It’s my first studio-recorded album. Previously I’ve recorded in a garden, a church and my bedroom. I now want to go on to make more recordings in other interesting places! Are you going to record a follow up to Whalebone Polly’s Taproot & Sill with Kate Stables? An album is long overdue!I'd love to make a new Whalebone Polly album. We've chatted about it but it won’t be until 2011. That sounds very far away doesn't it! What can you see yourself doing this time next year? What country will you be in?I think France recording with Kate, or possibly I'll still be in Japan. *** Finally, OLO Worms’ James wants to know when the wedding is and whether he can marry Eiichi, too?I'll have to discuss this matter with Eiichi first. I imagine he will laugh a lot as I did when I read this wonderful question!
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