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Interview: Roxanne de Bastion

Image Credit: Press Pack
Image Credit: Press Pack
Image Credit: Press Pack

Roxanne de Bastion is back with a second album coming very soon and a mini-promoting UK tour in which York is included.

Born in Berlin and based in London now, Roxanne de Bastion has made a name for herself in the last few years through her unique music influenced by the 60s trends and her intelligent lyrics approaching current issues. Her first album, The Real Thing, was released back in 2013, followed by an EP, Seeing You, in 2014. She is now releasing her second album and she will be on tour to promote it.

A few days ago, I had a chat with Roxanne and we talked a bit about her music and her life.

 

 

You’re releasing your second album in a few days. What can you tell me about this album? How is it different from the first one? 

This album was inspired by my granddad, in particular by a recording of his that I found. It has a theme and several story threads going through it, so, it’s definitely different from the first album. The first album was just a collection of all my songs that I’d written to that point. This one is a lot more focused and I think it’s also more relevant because it’s about what’s happening in the world. Travelling and making music, I just couldn’t help but notice some very eerie similarities between pre-Second World War and now. So, I just wanted to make that comparison from a very personal point of view. This album is also musically much fuller and I got to work with some really great musicians on it.

Which song on the album is your favourite and why? 

Oh! Such a difficult question (laughs)! I don’t have a favourite… I also don’t have children but I’m imaging that’s kind of like asking someone “which one is your favourite kid?”. I think I really like the fact that the album is cyclic. It opens with a song called ‘Run’ and it closes with a song called ‘Rerun’. ‘Run’ is very much about my grandfather and about that time and ‘Rerun’ is very much a statement about where we are now. It’s kind of like how that accidentally fell into place and I like that those two songs sort of change their respective meanings if they’re put together. I hope this counts as an answer.

Was the process of writing and recording the album difficult?

No, not particularly. I’m really not a disciplined songwriter so I need an appointment in the studio to get things done. So, once I have a deadline, that helps. And also, as soon as I knew where I was going with this album, as soon as I heard that recording from my grandad, it made it a lot easier. It felt like it gave a foundation to the album.

It’s been almost 4 years since the release of your debut album and almost three since your last EP. Do you think fans will wait this long for the next album or EP? 

I don’t think so. I know it’s crazy when you think that it was 2013 when I released the first album. I’ve just been so busy gigging. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last years. I’ve been playing shows across Europe and Germany and England and in America. I feel like I’ve been fully out there, trying to get my music to as many people as possible. For me, writing and recording an album is the luxurious part. That’s the fun bit. Well, actually that’s not fair, I love playing shows too. But I hope I get to write and record another album soon. I hope it doesn’t take another three years.

So, you’re doing a tour this May and you’re coming to York as part of the tour. Have you been to York before?

I’ve only ever been once and it was a really long time ago. It was before my first album, so I’m really looking forward to it. I just remember York being really beautiful, so I hope I get some time to hang out there.  And also it’s the first time I get to tour with a band, which I’m really excited about and I heard great things about the venue, The Basement.

Speaking of tours, you did your first tour in the USA recently. How was that?

Interesting, for many reasons. It was the longest tour I’ve ever been on, it was 5 weeks long. From LA to the West Coast, through Ohio and then straight to New York. I’ve been to New York and LA before, but everything in between was new territory. It was an interesting time for a first US tour. I played house shows as well like private living room shows and I do them over here as well but it was just interesting because in America they took them to the next level. All the house shows were super professional and really big. That was really fun, I really enjoyed that.

Can you tell me one thing that you really like about being on tour and one thing that you totally dislike?

Well, one thing that I like is that I get to meet lots of nice people. I know it sounds like an obvious cheesy thing to say, but especially when you’re touring on your own, I’m always amazed at people’s hospitality. It’s the best part of the job to play live music and meet people who resonate with your music. At every show, the audience is just as much part of that show as is the performer, so it’s special and different every time.

And my least favourite thing… It’s probably the lack of sleep because I really like sleep (laughs). So, it just depends on the way I tour, depending on where it is, because it’s usually DIY, it’s not particularly glamorous. Although I’m always grateful for someone giving me their sofa, sometimes you just want a proper bed.

I saw that a couple of years ago you posted covers of songs on YouTube. Do you think in the future you’ll do that again? 

I think there’s a Kinks cover I posted on YouTube and that was part of a competition. And then quite recently I posted a Beatles cover I did with a songwriter friend of mine that lives in Liverpool. YouTube is such a great tool and it’s grown so much over the last few years. I think I’m never going to be part of that YouTuber generation. That takes a lot of time and dedication. There are artists who only do this, they focus on their YouTube channel and that’s really cool, but I don’t think that’s for me. But it’s certainly been a great tool to put my music out there and for people to find out about me and what I do. So, I wouldn’t definitely rule that out.

 

 

Do you have hobbies outside of music that you turn to when you need to refresh?

No (laughs)! Maybe I should. I think the focus of my life at this moment is my music. But I also like to write. It’s really nice sometimes to write something that’s not a song because sometimes that can be a little restricting. I write blogs and a few things that haven’t been published yet. I guess writing is a hobby. But at the moment, it’s mostly the music, the touring and the playing.

I read that you are part of FAC which is the Featured Artists Coalition. What can you tell me about it and what made you join this organisation?

They found me. I found out about them through my publisher and I was really happy I found out about them, but I wished I’d known about them sooner. They came across me because I was invited to speak on a panel about the music industry and they were looking for young musicians to join. The FAC is basically a non-profit organisation from and for artists. So, they do lobbying to make sure the artists are represented but also they offer free educational events. It’s really nice especially because a singer and songwriter can be a bit lonely and the more artists talk and support one another and help one another the better is for everyone. That’s something I really believe in strongly so it was nice to find this organisation.

Do you remember the first time you performed in front of a crowd?

Yes, I remember really well! I’m pretty sure I was 8. I remember how nervous I was. I remember that intense feeling of “Oh my God! I can’t do this!”, but I really wanted to. My dad’s a musician and I kept nagging him all the time about when I could play in front of people. So, he took me on stage with him for a couple of songs. I was a weird kiddo, I only listened to 1960s music, so I think we did a Buddy Holly song and an Everly Brothers song. It was in this tiny place in the middle of nowhere, like north of Berlin. That was the first time I sang in front of a crowd, and despite being really terrified, I also remember wanting to do it again.

Who would you want to collaborate with in the future on a music project?

So many people! I really feel like I’m super behind when it comes to collaborating with people. I think generally, the more people you play with and make music with, the better. As dream collaborations, I would really like to work with Jack White or Beck. I also used to be massively inspired by Alanis Morissette when I was little. That 8-year-old kid just loved Alanis Morissette so that would be pretty cool… But, the list is long!

When you first moved to the UK, how did it feel to be so far away from your family and friends?

It was difficult. I just really felt strongly that I had to move away. I think it was because my life at home was comfortable, I was really close to my parents and I just felt that I wouldn’t be able to be independent, do my thing if I stayed there. And I really wanted to play in front of an English-speaking audience, because that was definitely like my mother tongue. But, it’s still difficult, and, in fact, I think, in some ways, it gets easier and in some ways, it gets harder to be away from the people you love the most. But equally, you get to have everyone’s attention when you go back (laughs). So, it’s not easy, but I think moving away definitely made me who I am today and it taught me a lot about myself.

Do you think you’ll ever move back to Berlin?

Yes, definitely! I don’t think London is the kind of place you want to be forever. At the moment, I would be more than happy not to have a base at all. I’m so looking forward to being out in the world and playing in as many places as possible. But I think Berlin would be a great place to go back to once a lot of that is done because it’s such a nice place with a lot of space to breathe.

Finally, I know that you had a connection with music from a young age, but if you were to have a job completely different from music, what would it be?

I don’t know! I’d probably be very unhappy and wouldn’t know why. The other thing that I like is writing so I guess if there was no music in my life I would be writing something.

 

Roxanne de Bastion releases her sophomore album, Heirlooms & Hearsay, on 5th May. She will be playing in York, at The Basement, on 4th May.