Jehnny Beth on “To Love Is to Live” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 14th, 2024  

Jehnny Beth on “To Love Is to Live”

Same House, Different Rooms

Mar 08, 2021 Photography by Steve Guillick Bookmark and Share

It was the 2016 death of David Bowie and his masterful swan song Blackstar (released only two days before his passing) that provided the fresh impetus to inspire French artist and Savages frontperson Jehnny Beth to record her debut solo album, To Love Is to Live. “There was an urgency within me to do something new as an artist, and not worry about the normal fears attached to it—of how other people might perceive it,” Beth explains, speaking from Paris. “You have to trust your instincts and Bowie’s death certainly had an impact. I think any death makes you question your own mortality and place in the world and who you are. They are very much ‘moments of exposure’ as Robert Fripp called them, and it’s what you do with them that matters.

To Love Is to Live certainly shares the passionate intensity and fire that have made Savages such a thrilling proposition. However, it’s also a more subtle, nuanced, and eclectic affair. “I liked the idea of the album almost being like walking into different rooms of the same house,” Beth says. “Like if the walls could talk and reveal their secrets you know? Like the Kendrick Lamar song ‘These Walls’ and the Francis Bacon quote about entering a ‘house of pleasure’—‘I went into the rooms which are kept secret and I leaned and lay on their beds.’”

The album also boasts collaborations with the likes of producers Flood and Atticus Ross, as well as long-time co-creator and partner Johnny Hostile, The xx’s Romy Madley Croft, Peaky Blinders actor Cillian Murphy, and IDLES’ Joe Talbot. Although To Love Is to Live is an album forged from Beths’ own creative vision she was very open to the input of others. “I was always curious and welcomed ideas to see how they might work and how I might feel about them. Because what really mattered was making the best album I could. I really wanted this record to be an open collaboration,” she says.

Releasing new music during a global pandemic and under lockdown is something nobody could have anticipated. Beth acknowledges the effect this has had on musicians whilst also looking for the positives. “The reality for me, like many artists, is the effect on touring or lack of it and of course, keeping sane,” she exclaims. “But I’m releasing my album and now I can’t tour it! If I look to the positive it might actually change the way we see albums and how campaigns are built and developed. In the ’90s albums would come out and be given time and often got bigger the next year. It’s not been like that recently in music, it’s almost like three weeks and then on to the next. But now perhaps it will give labels the chance to work longer on albums. If I’m being positive, it might just slow everything down a little.”

[Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 67 of Under the Radar’s print magazine, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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