Can you tell me when you first took an interest in music? What inspired you, and how did you begin creating your own music?
I was singing from being a tiny girl. My dad said, “I would sit you on my knee on the bus and you would start singing and wouldn’t stop. All the people on the bus would listen.” I wrote poetry and songs and had a band as a teenager – I learned violin and was competition material soloist wise but it wasn’t my instrument though I adore the sound of any kind of fiddle and violin music – it can literally take me to heaven and hell and all places in between. I like instruments that are like voices a lot – harmonicas, blues harps I mean there, and violins… I don’t know what inspires us – I think you open your heart and soul and head and let it in – it’s there, you open to it. It’s not from us, it’s a gift. I’m with Bob Dylan on this – it’s not a career, it’s a vocation.
How would you describe your music?
I’m a singer. I sing songs. I sing the best songs I can find at any given moment. I’m not a jobbing singer, there’s stuff I don’t wish to sing. I’m lucky I get to choose and I’ve ploughed my own lonely furrow for a fuck of a long time now and the payoff is I get to sing the songs that send me wild and with luck, that then send everyone else wild.
How often do you write new material? And where does your inspiration come from?
As often as I can. I write a lot when I’m travelling. I like writing for theatre and I’ve just done all the songs for The Little Angel production of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt which has had rave reviews and is a wonderful show that I am super mega proud to be a part of. I like writing for theatre a lot. I sit down and wait and eventually something comes. If we’re in rehearsal it’s easy – the songs flood in.
What subjects do you most enjoy writing songs about?
I’m open on this. I like metaphor in song and I love language. I guess that’s part of – for me – the appeal of, especially, Dylan and Cohen – that magic they both have of using words like knives, scalpel like precision – I envy that. I like narrative. Last Orders is a story of an affair in Stockport before I left the town, the summer of my goodbye, and it’s a song of lost youth and love – I’m interested in emotion – feel – songs must have feel – like cloth. And scent. Sea breeze or pine…
What draws you to those subjects?
Again – open. Something within me resonates to wilderness, to the feral, and equally to the sacred. I’ve been revelling in the Indigenous culture here on this tour – trip of/to Australia. Something in tumbleweed blowing across deserted roads, or the Pennines under cloud. Viscerality. Singing is visceral and for me so is listening, so I guess everything that suggests/stimulates, those responses. Triggers. Wind, rain, nature. I’m a massive nature person. I’ll do almost anything to spend time walking the coastal path down south or up on the hills above Stockport in Lyme Park. Running the Thames, seeing the heron every morning…
How long does it take to create a new song and what is the process?
Piece of string that one. I might have it in one, I might have a lyric and send it to Simon (Wallace – my oft-songwriting partner) or we might plug away and away – say with my Corby songwriting group – Head of Snakes we are called because of Medusa who as you might guess in this instance is me – we, right plug and plug – we are writing a song cycle for Corby. I am thrilled to be working in Corby again this year with these people, and they’re all guitarists so it’s a whole nother world for me. It takes sometimes no time at all and sometimes too bloody long!
You have chosen Urban Fox for readers to listen to. Can you tell me what inspired that song and what it means to you?
It came because I drove home and there was a fox outside my flat door rifling through someone’s rubbish and he was a magnificent animal – proud and lion-like and strong – and really beautiful – and he wasn’t in any way thrown by me being there – and we looked deep into each other’s eyes and I was a little bit in love with that fox and if it had been a fairy tale he’d have spoken to me and we’d have embraced – it was a completely feral out of time moment. And it got me to thinking about myths and transformations and the way that – say when you feel grief, you can literally howl at the moon like a wolverine, or if you’re having wild sex you can shriek like a banshee… I wanted to know that fox…
Can you tell me about your current project(s)?
I’ve got a brilliant summer and autumn because I have a season of all my past shows on successive Fridays at St James Theatre studio throughout July then the first week of September I open the Crazy Coqs autumn season with Into The Night – totally feral and Urban Fox is definitely in that collection – and then there’s a season of more new work for the London Festival of Cabaret which is announcing very soon and of which I am proud to be a part.
What are your plans for the future?
I shall be making a new album this year for release 2014 and I shall be writing more theatre work – I’m in process on two pieces now with composer Jonathan Cooper, and really loving working with him. I’ll be continuing the work with the Corby musicians and also, I hope, touring the world again next year. Plans are, as they say, afoot…
Where can people find out more about you?
There are a ton of videos here on Barbjungrsings YouTube Channel.