The Anchoress on “The Art of Losing” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 28th, 2024  

The Anchoress on “The Art of Losing”

Coping Mechanisms

Apr 09, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Meet Catherine Anne Davies, the multi-faceted and supremely talented artist better known as The Anchoress. Her long awaited second album under The Anchoress moniker came out last month and is already on course to be among the upper echelons of 2021’s “best of” lists come December, at least in her native UK.

Entitled The Art of Losing, it’s an extremely personal and at times harrowing collection encompassing 14 pieces that depicts a range of emotions most notably dealing with grief, loss, and abuse from a woman’s perspective. The follow-up to 2016’s debut Confessions of a Romance Novelist, The Art of Losing references the passing of Davies’ father, surviving three miscarriages, and being diagnosed with cervical cancer while addressing sexism and misogyny that is sadly rife within the music industry.

Written, recorded, and produced in its entirety by Davies, The Art of Losing takes the listener on an evocative sonic journey that’s never constrained by genre. Manic Street Preachers’ James Dean Bradfield collaborates on two songs (“The Exchange” and “Show Your Face”), Davies having duetted on “Dylan & Caitlin” off the last Manics album Resistance Is Futile three years ago.

In one of her most candid interviews to date, Davies talks about the subject matters that went into the album, how sexism is still prevalent in the music industry, the political climate driven by populism and Brexit, and how the cultural climate is slowly changing for the better post-COVID-19.

Dom Gourlay (Under the Radar): How’s lockdown been for you? Has it made you adapt or change the way you work?

Catherine Anne Davies: It’s not been that much of a wrench for me because I’m quite a solitary person. I’m not an antisocial person but I’m not that sociable either! I started lockdown already in pre-lockdown as it were, as I had an operation just before. So, my mum was here looking after me and I was already in isolation anyway. Since then, I haven’t really left the house for a year. I did get my first vaccine a couple of weeks ago as I’m classed as being clinically vulnerable. I guess I’m lucky that I have my own studio at home so I’m able to work. I tend to work on my own anyway. You won’t find me bemoaning not being able to go to the pub or anything like that! I miss my friends and going to gigs. But I also know it’s been a lot worse for other people that have been on their own. So, it’s been okay. I don’t know if I want it to go on for years but it’s been manageable.

I think it’s been a boom time for introverts. Certainly, for someone like me that doesn’t particularly like being around big groups of people. The clue’s in the name, The Anchoress. I quite like locking myself in a room and getting on with things. Everyone’s been forced to live that kind of life and I know it’s more difficult for people that normally rely on that kind of social interaction or don’t have family, or can’t be in a bubble. But I’ve kept busy. Two record releases and a series of covers as well. I’ve released more music since we’ve been in lockdown than I probably have throughout the rest of my career!

When did you first start writing the songs that would go on to become The Art of Losing? Was it always intended to be a record that dealt with personal trauma and grief?

So, the record was made in the latter part of 2018 and finished in the spring of 2019. It was originally meant to come out then but we’ve had this long delay so its nearly two years since it’s been finished. There’s a couple of songs on the record that had a prior genesis to that 2018/2019 period, but they were ones I felt fitted thematically and wanted to be resurrected and rethought. “The Heart Is a Lonesome Hunter” is a much older song. People that are familiar with my Catherine A.D. hand stitched, self-released CDs may be aware of the demo version of that. “With the Boys” was also something I started writing around the same time as that. It’s a 14-track record so obviously there’s a huge amount of new stuff that was written as well. But it also felt there were old songs that made themselves known they wanted to be finished and to be a part of that collection. So, it was all tied together. Those two songs—“With the Boys” especially—detailed my experiences with the misogynistic and patriarchal dynamics of the industry. Which is so interesting to see nearly a decade on how not much has changed from my earliest experiences. My intuition and gut feeling when writing that song aged 22 or 23 was spot on. “You gotta know what bruises are for if you want to play with the boys.” It’s still a boys club, very much so. Isn’t that frightening? Ten years on and nothing’s changed.

It’s really frightening, especially as the #metoo movement has identified and highlighted a lot of unacceptable and inappropriate behaviors throughout the music and entertainment industries. Yet for some reason, these people seem to be given a perennial free pass? Why do you think that is?

Money. When people are making money out of a situation, they’re much more likely to turn a blind eye. I think people delude themselves as well within the industry that they’re not being complicit with or enabling it. So, it ends up being nothing to do with them, or none of their business. Money makes people turn a blind eye. I think it’s as simple as that. Society is changing—albeit slowly—and more women are being encouraged to take up prominent roles in many industries yet within music nothing moves forwards.

There are small shifts. One of the things I think is really important is getting more women into studios. Where music is made, in these intimate and quite vulnerable environments. At the moment it’s 2% and rising, the number of women who are audio engineers in the UK. There’s a huge number of women who are feeling this is a safe space for them to be able to occupy and are also really interested in the technical side behind the scenes. That will have a huge impact on the safety of the environment, and the way women as artists will thrive as well. I get so many bands and artists who are women or have women as their main songwriter that want to work with me as a producer because they’re not getting the service, I’m offering them anywhere else. Not just a safe space, but also a different dynamic as well because it’s not about me and my ego. I’m not saying all producers who are men operate in that way but there can be a tendency to impress yourself at the center of it. Whereas I think women understand the relationship dynamics better. To me, being a producer is as much about being a therapist and understanding the dynamics of the people in the room as it is about understanding how to operate a mixing desk. As women, we are fundamentally very good at managing relationships and managing a room full of people. I actually think our gender is an advantage when it comes to being a producer.

Is it predominantly an issue in the UK? Is it universal?

I think it’s a universal implicit bias. Even though within the first paragraph of this album it says, “Written and produced by Catherine Anne Davies”. I still encounter so many situations where news stories and features have run where the men who’ve mixed the record have been credited with the production, and it’s by no means malicious. It’s just an assumption that is made. The implicit bias operates in us all. Even as young children where we’ll look towards a doctor or a mechanic being a man, it’s the same thing. It’s not malicious, but we need to work really hard to change that implicit bias and the cultural understanding of gender roles and what we’re presuming people to be interested in or capable of. It will happen, but I think it’s going to take a couple of decades.

You’d like to think those changes would be led by the state or government but let’s be honest—certainly from a UK perspective—that really isn’t going to happen under the present incumbents. If anything, the UK is going backwards.

I was just about to say that. I feel things are about to get a lot worse before they get any better, and that’s frightening.

The Art of Losing documents a lot of personal experiences in your life, from the trauma of being diagnosed with cervical cancer to the grief of losing your father along with three miscarriages. Did it turn out to be cathartic writing about those experiences?

I don’t think it’s the record that was cathartic. I was so mindful of that when I was making it and after I’d finished it as well, to not fall into that equation of songwriting as therapy. Or in any way that you have to suffer to make a great record. I really, strongly refuted that at the time and still do. What I actually found cathartic was making the podcast and speaking to other people who had been through similar situations further along in their grief journey as well. Because they could impart so much wisdom to me from the perspective I didn’t have, right in the maelstrom. The making of the record was a coping mechanism for me because I’m a workaholic. It was something that gave a rhythm to my day, that gave me something to throw myself into. But I wouldn’t say it was cathartic to make the record at all. That’s partly what the album cover was about as well. Playing on the assumption within deeper culture that we still have this idea suffering and art go hand in hand. The idea that somehow this album is me vomiting up all these pages from my experiences and it so wasn’t that. I wasn’t interested in making a record of my grief and my pain. I wasn’t interested in reflecting my emotional experience because I feel that’s been done so much better than I could. For example, Nick Cave’s beautiful Ghosteen record about his son. I’m much more drawn to making a record around the ideas about death, loss, trauma, and abuse. Interrogating the experiences and ideas behind those rather than expressing my sadness, and that really comes across very strongly for me in terms of how I set the agenda for the sonics on the record. The upbeatness—and that’s the only way to say it. It’s not an album of 14 funereal ballads. There’s lots of 136 bpm, 138 bpm. I set myself a challenge of how can we have a death disco! I always like to challenge myself when I’m making any piece of art or record, whether it be just myself or with somebody else. The challenge was how can I explore these ideas without falling back on what I feel is a lazy form of the piano ballad. I didn’t want to do that, but equally I wanted to… I call it the Kate Bush move, where you come on and give the audience what they’re expecting, then you pull the carpets from under their feet. So, I wanted to start with that strings and piano setting, which is probably what people were expecting from The Anchoress before I go, no actually, that’s not what you’re getting! Pull the rug from under their feet and go bam! into “Show Your Face.”

One of the most startling aspects of the album is the range of sonics, styles and moods. It doesn’t follow any one specific sound or pattern. Was that always your intention, to disrupt the flow even rather than create something predictable or obvious?

I think that’s just naturally what I do as The Anchoress. The first album was very much a jukebox record as well, although I think it’s much less coherent or realized than this one. I love so many different kinds of music so it’s going to come through naturally. Also, I don’t have that record company pressure, or other band members, or another producer trying to push something into their expected format. A lot of albums are just expected to have one sound or one shape, one color or one pallet. That’s just never been something that interests me. I just make the records that I love, which by their very nature are multiplicitous. Taking in all of the things I love. Deftones, the Manics to Max Richter. They are a record of what I love and I always use them as a sonic playground. It was me setting out my stall with this album too, because I’d experienced that annoying misogynistic attitude towards the last record. Where assumptions were made about my workload, and my work skills. So, I wanted people to listen to it and know this is on me, this is what I can do. I wanted it to be ambitious. I wanted it to take in a huge, wide range of sounds, instruments and arrangements. It really is like a sonic CV. Come hire me as your producer because this is what I can do! Ultimately, I would be happiest in my studio producing records for other people. I’m not a natural performer.

Is that something you see yourself doing more of in the future, producing other artists?

Absolutely, it really is. But I’m still coming up against that glass ceiling. It’s amazing, even when other female artists have said to me privately, they’re desperate to work with a woman in the studio yet, ultimately, they end up going back to that male producer that people know or they’ve worked with before. It’s quite difficult to break the pattern, so I’m hoping this record sets out my stall and acts as a bit of a calling card. It’s really hard to break through when you’re spending other people’s budgets and they’re making the call about who’s going to produce their next record. Are they going to come to me or will those cultural presumptions prevail so they end up going with the guy who made that band’s record 10 years ago? You need that cultural authority, that stamp of approval from working with a big-name artist. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to make that leap from artist/producer to producer for others. I’m fighting. I’m fighting the good fight here!

The lyrics to “Show Your Face” appear to focus on a specific individual. Do you think a song like that could influence its subject to change their behaviors upon hearing and understanding its lyrical content?

I wrote the song as a general response to what was happening in the news cycle at the time and I remember the week that I wrote it, I was watching the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings while messaging back and forth between a group of my friends on What’s App. We were all just really triggered and angry and sad. Desperately sad actually. Furious about what was happening and unfolding in front of our eyes, and the news was also full of Harvey Weinstein at the time. I was hearing these horrible non-condemnations of what we were seeing unravel from people in my circle at the time. Disbelief about what the women were saying, and I was just so full of rage. I remember walking to the supermarket to get some food and just mumbling into my voice notes, “You’ve got a nerve, you’ve got a nerve to show your face.” That was how the song began, and I never write on my iPhone, ever. The tempo of the song is how fast I walk when I’m furious! So, it was really just a response to that horrible, triggering news cycle we were going through for nearly four years to be honest. Constantly being confronted by Trump, Weinstein, Kavanaugh. It’s horrendous and by no means over just because he’s no longer President of the United States.

The battle is ongoing except the focus has now shifted towards the UK because we have the Mini-Me version yet in many ways, Boris Johnson is potentially more dangerous.

Lest we forget, Boris Johnson’s track record with his conduct towards women. He is the Mini-Me version but that also lets him go unchecked in a different way. So, going back to “Show Your Face,” it’s a song aimed at all of those people. In the voice of a woman with all of the strength and courage I wish I would have in the moment. Which obviously as human beings we don’t always have in the moment, to speak up and stand up for ourselves and other people. The Anchoress is a persona that I can adopt to say these things that I can’t necessarily say in my everyday real life.

Do you take on a different personality or get into a different zone when you’re writing as The Anchoress? Is it an alter ego of sorts?

A little bit, yeah. I didn’t want to release music as just Catherine Anne Davies because I needed a bit of armor around me, and The Anchoress allows me to be that version of myself people think I am. Perhaps on Twitter or Facebook for example. Almost like the best version of yourself but also the scariest one too! It also allows me to carve out that little bit of private space as well so it’s a combination really, but it definitely gives me the headspace to become both. There isn’t a lot of difference between what The Anchoress is interested in and what Catherine is interested in. We’re not different people. It’s just a portion of my brain if that makes sense.

It always comes back to the Manics for me but I guess it’s a bit like Nicky Wire isn’t it. Nicky Wire I’m assuming is not Nicky Wire when he’s at home hoovering or making tea. He’s Nick Jones. But Nicky Wire the persona allows him to be that part of himself that is 100% Nicky Wire, but obviously he’s not Nicky Wire 100% of the time. It’s the same for any musician, I think. You have to decide what you’re going to hold back into your private sphere, and what you’re going to accentuate in a public sphere. I think for me I made the right decision to just be myself, and also because I imagine it can be really exhausting to just keep up a front. I do sometimes get people come up and say to me I’m much less scary in real life! It actually depends if you piss me off how scary I’m gonna be, but I do feel really comfortable with having this other persona to make music with. I think as well it was looking at other artists like St. Vincent, for example, and what she’s able to do under that moniker. Whereas if it was Annie Clark people would think she’d sound like a singer/songwriter. I didn’t want to do that. The way you brand yourself even down to your name just brings a whole raft of expectations with it about what you’re allowed to do and how you’re going to sound. I’ve always wanted to be in a band. I just can’t stand other people. I still get people refer to me as “a great singer” and I have to remind myself that the majority of people who buy or download my music don’t know the ins and outs of how a record is made. That’s why I’ve had to rebrand my Twitter bio as writer/producer because I think if you don’t put that to the forefront people just fall back into the assumption that women sing, and men do the rest of it. It’s exhausting having to say it all of the time but it’s important. If I don’t say it who else is going to say it for me?

I think it needs to be repeated even louder in the current climate, where marginalized groups in society are finding their voices ignored or even extinguished altogether.

They are. It’s really worrying as well because the discourse at the moment is so triggering and so bleak, that a lot of female voices that we need here are stepping back. Mainly because they’re quite rightly traumatized so not able to engage at this moment in time. So how do we create a space in which the voices that need to be heard right now which are those that have experienced abuse, trauma, or violence at the hands of men, can speak in a way that they feel safe? I don’t think Priti Patel [Home Secretary of the United Kingdom] is going to be the spokesperson for women or even human beings for that matter. It’s utterly frightening.

We’ve entered a new dawn proliferated by Donald Trump whereby the truth is only the truth if it fits their narrative, which the UK government has adopted, aided, and abetted by a complicit media. These are dark times. Certainly, the worst I can ever remember.

The one thing that doesn’t get taught in schools any more is critical thinking. Critical thinking is completely and totally central to any hope we have of calling power to account. I grew up in a very politicized house so I’m quite lucky my dad always taught me that. We were taught to question the authority of our parents as well. My dad bought the Daily Mail. Did I question that? Absolutely! Did we have screaming matches about it when I was in my 20s? Absolutely! And he listened to what I had to say. The only reasons he bought it were for the TV guide and the print being large enough to read. But it was about me trying to say to him what are you funding here? Do you understand that this is the slow drip feed of discourse into your head? I did get somewhere and it’s so important that we not only have that open dialogue. To be raised with the faculty of critical thinking. To question what you are told to be the truth. To question when you are told there is no other version of reality.

What we’re experiencing right now are the methods of any narcissistic personality as well. This is where it links back to the themes I explored on “Show Your Face.” It’s no coincidence when you have two world leaders with narcissistic personality disorder—and I mean that in the pathological sense—that the way reality is manipulated around them into something dysfunctional and the way they garner support by just erasing anything that doesn’t fit their narrative. It’s gaslighting on a national scale. It’s inextricably linked to female trauma and to the experiences of so many women in this country. That’s why I’m so aghast that the people in power are also the ones abusing it yet still making laws as if they’re trying to support and help women. The very people who’ve abused them! How do we trust somebody like Boris Johnson with his track record with women that he has, allegedly, to make the right decisions to keep women safe? It’s a joke.

What’s most astounding is the way this kind of behavior has become normalized. Johnson has reached a point where he can do and say whatever he pleases and 99% of the UK media will give him a free pass. It really is astounding.

It’s been really tricky for me actually with reviews coming through for the album, particularly from newspapers and publications that have a disgusting agenda that’s against everything I stand for. I’ve had to separate them by recognizing that most of the writers in their music and culture sections are in no way politically aligned with the editorial in papers like The Sun and Daily Mail. It’s caused me to do a few mental gymnastics in order to be happy for some of these reviews. I still find it really difficult. It’s extremely difficult, but it’s also a really interesting microcosm of what happens and how you have to trade off some of your political principles in a way to economically survive in the world. Or to have certain transactions, whatever walk of life you’re in.

“All Farewells Should Be Sudden” is one of the most harrowing but also moving pieces on the record, particularly with the church bells ringing at the end. Was it especially difficult to write and perform?

Absolutely. It was written in the wake of my father’s death, thinking about what happens to us when we die. I wanted to explore the different religious constructions of the afterlife. What happens? Do you fold and do it all again? Are we reincarnated? I was obsessively watching the Denis Villeneuve film Arrival and thinking about that central conundrum it poses. If we know what suffering and loss we’re in for, do we make those decisions again? I don’t want to give away any spoilers for anyone that’s not seen the film but it sets that up as a kind of fundamental human question. Do we pursue suffering? Or if the price of love is suffering do we still pursue it? So, it was really exploring that in the two years after my dad died where I was deeply grief stricken. He was very young. He was only 59. He didn’t retire or get to do any of the things that he’d planned and it just felt so cruel. It was so sudden. Just 16 weeks after we were standing in the queue at Greenwich Maritime Museum, and he couldn’t get the word for coffee. I knew something wasn’t right, then three weeks later he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. So, it was 12 weeks after that he dropped dead very suddenly at home. Which is where the title comes from, “All Farewells Should Be Sudden.” The trauma in that; it wasn’t a prolonged illness. We barely had time to absorb the information before he was gone. He actually died when I was recording guitar for “My Confessor.” The very moment he passed away. That is memorialized in the record itself. I kept that original take and put it on the record because that felt important when I was finally able to return to it. My dad is deeply woven throughout the album. But it was less about writing a song specifically about him, and more about how do we process death. How do we process this kind of compulsion to think about what happens when we die? Do people come back? Will we see them again? Does religion help us? I guess I’m always in the mindset of what would the Manics do if they were writing a song about this. It is that piecing over of all of the different ideas around death then reincarnation and the afterlife that I wanted to look at in “All Farewells…”.

Another song which stands out for me as one of the most instantly touching pieces on the album is “Unravel.” What inspired you to write that song?

It’s about trying to unravel everything. The way that things we love drag us down. I never really think about what my songs are about. But I do think about which ones are the most difficult to produce and arrange and for this album, that was “Unravel.” I almost pulled it off the record because I wasn’t pleased with it, but now I’m glad I didn’t because its one of my favorite tracks on the album. I really wrestled with the arrangement. It wasn’t working and had too many synths on it so I stripped it right back down to just strings and piano. At one point it became this really dense, Cure-esque piece.

I can hear Talk Talk in there too.

I was listening to a lot of Talk Talk. Mark Hollis died in the middle of making the record. Spirit of Eden is one of my favorite records of all time, then I was obviously led into the other Talk Talk records as well. You’ll hear that all over the record. “The Art of Losing” is a big homage to “Talk Talk” by Talk Talk in the drum sound for instance. There’s a whole labyrinth there if you knew what I was listening to in the timeline of everything. I never really like to explain what the songs are about because the album was very much intended as a space for other people to import their grief and their own loss into it. Although every song has a personal resonance to me, it was much more interesting to see how I could universalize that and expand it out where there was space for other people to occupy as well. I think that’s a really difficult thing to do as a songwriter. I always want to write from that confessional perspective so I hope I’ve got there.

James Dean Bradfield from Manic Street Preachers contributes vocals and guitar on “The Exchange.” How did that collaboration come about?

The poor man had to sing the song as it was written! It was all done remotely in between lots of phone calls as I initially sent him a version of the track with me singing the whole thing. So, he had to try and replicate what I’d done, and my phrasing is completely different to his. He’s spoken about how challenging it was and also how much he learned from recording the song too, which he took forward onto his own solo record. It’s such a different way of singing from what he’s used to, and even a different range too at times. There are two main voices intertwined in the chorus. I’d written it as the main top line then I sang another counter melody over the top. Never thinking, ‘Is that too high for James Dean Bradfield?’ because as far as I’m concerned, he’s God so he can do anything! But obviously it was quite high, but being the trooper that he is, James rallied and came up with this incredible vocal performance. I was in a hotel room in Italy when he sent it back to me and I finally got to download the file. When I heard it my jaw just dropped. I grew up listening to his voice, so to have him singing a song that I’d written was really emotional. I’ll never get over working with him. I never want to either. I always want to retain my sense that these are people I look up to and revere, and they haven’t disappointed me at all.

In some ways that must be the ultimate compliment for you as an artist, especially with the Manics being your all-time favorite band?

It really is. James played on “Show Your Face” as well, and it was really important for me to get that stamp of approval. He wasn’t just going to say yes to me because I asked him. He wanted to hear the quality of the songs. I’m sure they don’t want to be involved with anything they don’t feel they can put their names to. So that was a real boost of confidence. At the same time, I was emailing back and forth with Robert Smith from The Cure as well. I had a real crisis of confidence in the middle of making this album to the point where I just thought it was shit. Or rather I was shit. There were lots of things going on in my life and I just didn’t have that external voice to say you’re doing a good job. I didn’t realize I had this whole team virtually around me even though they were all scattered halfway across the world. Robert Smith was really lovely. He’d asked me to play at Meltdown in 2018 and we jut carried on exchanging emails ever since. Then there was [producer] Mario McNulty who lives in New York. He’s become a really good friend of mine now. The Manics as well, all of these people where I could occasionally just send a track when it was finished, and ask them to tell me whether I was on the right path. They were all so encouraging to the point where I knew I wasn’t messing this up. I’d really had my confidence knocked. I had some people say some things that made me feel I couldn’t do it. That the first album could have been a fluke and certainly wasn’t down to me. I’m not a naturally confident person or wasn’t until I’d finished this record. That’s the cathartic moment for me. Finishing this, because I’ve proved to myself and other people that I can do it.

Are there any plans to tour The Art of Losing once everything has opened up again?

The plan at the moment is to be touring in the spring of 2022. I only want to do that if we can do it safely. But equally, I only want to do it if I can do it justice. It’s an ambitious sounding record and I need people in a room to rehearse, and I need to make sure that everyone in the room is safe as well. I started thinking about this the other day. Say we need six people in a room to rehearse, how big does that room have to be in order to have two meters social distancing between each of us? You have to start thinking of it like this, because it isn’t just about the venue for the performance. It’s also about making sure we book the right rehearsal space as well. I’m an independent artist on a small label. I don’t have a huge budget available with no tour support, so how I’d love to do the record and how I may have to do it in terms of the live performance could be two very different things.

It’s always been my dream to do something akin to what the first Kate Bush tour was like. I’ve only ever seen it on video but I grew up performing as a dancer so would love to have that performance aspect to it. But again, it’s so much about the logistics and finances behind putting on a live show and having someone bankrolling that really. I’m always very transparent about this. About the finances of how records are made and how shows are put on, because we aren’t in that age any more where we need to maintain this mythic glamour veneer like Prince or Bowie. I want to talk to people about how much it costs for rehearsals. How much it costs to pay each of the band members because I’m a solo artist. How much it costs for the van to put all the gear in or the front of house person that can do justice to the sound. All of that. My ambitions artistically are always tainted by the reality of knowing the business, and knowing how much things cost.

Then of course on top of all that there’s the added costs of Brexit, which not only affect touring outside the UK, but also the overseas distribution of records and merchandise.

Brexit hasn’t just affected it; it’s fucked everything up! The Anchoress European tour? That isn’t happening. The Anchoress American tour? That isn’t going to happen. The only reason that isn’t going to happen is because of Brexit. This government is an utter, shambolic mess when it comes to understanding the reality of the music industry and it makes me furious. So, I’m glad people are being more transparent about it. People assume musicians only make money from playing live but that really isn’t the case. Musicians don’t really make any money from playing live. Musicians don’t make any money from streaming. It just really bothers me that it’s been floated around over the past couple of years that musicians make money from merch and touring. Maybe that’s the case if you’re a four-piece band and all sharing the costs. But that’s not the case for me who has to employ four other musicians if I want to put on a full band show. It does seem to affect more women in the industry as well. Particularly women that are solo artists. I think it’s good that we’re all talking about it openly.

Looking back through your career as an artist and the records you’ve made, is there anything you’d change or do differently if you had the benefit of hindsight?

A year ago, I was so genuinely frustrated and downhearted about the album being postponed that I thought it might never come out. Now, after the awful tragic things that have been happening in the news and the album coming out that same week, I can only believe that the record was supposed to come out this week. Because I was so nervous about putting “5AM” on the record and talking about a lot of the things that deals with. To the point where I almost took that track off. Three times it went back on again. But to be joined this week by so many other women sharing their stories and knowing that it’s not just me, I don’t have to be frightened about saying these things. That I’m not going to be singled out and have people feeling sorry for me or feel that I’ve been tainted. That has been the biggest lesson in not regretting anything. I don’t like that old adage “things happen for a reason” but this was the right week for it to come out. So as painful and frustrating as it’s been to sit on this record for two years, if it helps give any amplification and understanding of what 52% of the population lives through on a daily basis then my work here is well done.

With every review being incredibly positive and many commentators talking about The Art of Losing as a genuine contender for album of the year, do you see it as a turning point for you as far as being recognized an artist goes?

I hope the landscape’s changing. I take my mind back two and a half years ago when I delivered the record to the label. Sitting in a room with loads of guys having a conversation and the general response being, “It’s all very glum.” They didn’t think people wanted to hear me talking about baby loss, which made me feel so dejected and misunderstood. I actually felt ashamed of the record on some levels. It felt like I was being told there was no audience for it. Since the pandemic, it feels like there’s been some kind of cultural shift. Everyone’s been raving about It’s a Sin and I Will Destroy You. These really dark and difficult [TV] programs that have been so critically acclaimed. Yes, they’re difficult watches but they are raising important topics for us to discuss. That’s what culture’s there to do. It’s there to flag up uncomfortable issues and get people talking about them. I feel vindicated on some level because I’ve never strayed from my path or listened to someone telling me not to write about a certain topic. I don’t have that weight of expectation on my shoulders because I’m not on a major label. I pay to make the records myself. I make the art I want to make so to see that received in the way it has been is justifiable vindication to anyone that said I wasn’t capable of doing it on my own. It also provides vindication to myself that I should trust my instincts and go with my gut. Then puke up those guts onto a page and make a record out of it!

So, what next for The Anchoress? Have you started working on the next record?

I have begun making another record although I’m not sure at this stage whether it will be an album or just an EP. I’m working on some stuff at the moment and also producing a couple of other artists. I’ve also been doing some remote co-writing sessions as well.

Who are you working with?

I’m working with an amazing singer/songwriter called Tega Mendes. She has this absolutely brilliant soulful voice. Her songs are somewhere between Moses Sumney and The Beach Boys with the voice of Erykah Badu and I’m so excited to be able to get in a room with her soon, hopefully, and get recording. I’m also working with Tali Kallstrom from Estrons on her solo project, which is really shouty and angry as you can probably imagine, and also really great. She came down here before lockdown, and we’ve been doing a lot of stuff remotely since. So, it’s an exciting time. I’ve got my studio at home so you can’t stop me!

What advice would you give to a new artist just starting out?

Be as self sufficient as you possibly can because self sufficiency is power. Never give your power away to somebody else. Be humble, learn the trade. Learn everybody’s role around you as well. Don’t think it’s just your job to write songs and record them, because it’s so much bigger than that now. Take your time. There’s no rush. You are the best creator of your own vision. I’ve seen so many people in a hurry to get something up on Spotify but you’ve got to plan. Put a body of work together so you can drip feed it through.

The Art of Losing is out now on Kscope.

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