For our latest ‘My 5 Biggest Influences’ feature, we spoke to Piers Faccini, whose latest video we premiered last month.
‘My 5 Biggest Influences’ is when we talk to some of our favourite upcoming and established artists, delving into their greatest influences and inspirations, to see how bands, records, tracks, friends & family, hobbies and even environments have impacted on their work and music.
More about Piers’ work below, but first, here are his 5 Biggest Influences…
In the eighties, I was a Smiths fan, I saw them play at the time of The Queen Is Dead. I was always into vinyl, still am, (I’ve released all my records on vinyl) and one day aged 17, looking through a crate of second hand vinyl in Portobello Market, I found a cheap record I liked the look of – it was Today by Skip James. When I put that record on something shifted, I was never the same after, the next day I sold my electric and bought an acoustic guitar. It was like a religious conversion, I still worship at the temple of Skip James, a unique guitarist and someone who documented the injustice and brutality of the American south all the time imbuing it with a breathtaking poetry. Listen to “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” if you don’t know it.
I left London in 2003 to live in the foothills of a beautiful, wild and unspoilt region of Southern France called Les Cévennes. For years living in the city, my dream was to have a studio in the woods, to be able to open my windows and hear birdsong everyday, to connect daily with the rhythm of the seasons, to be anchored into the pulse of nature. That dream came true, I make music everyday when I’m not touring, in a old building that I restored, that was originally used for making olive oil. Being in contact with nature infuses every thing I do and write about, how could it not? Living here is a reminder that nothing humans do, can ever be as beautiful as nature’s daily unfolding canvas, a nightingale singing, a cherry tree in flower, sunlight peeking through oak leaves…the inspiration is endless.
I discovered Malian music a short time after getting into early Mississippi Blues in my late teens. After the Skip James earthquake of influence, Malian music was the aftershock. In 1990, I got my hands on a copy of Premiere Anthologie de la Musique Malienne and there was one song on it called ‘Nana Kadidia’ that started my love affair with Malian music. Years later when the Malian Kora virtuoso, Ballake Sissoko and I were rehearsing at my house, he told me that it was his father playing and his mother singing on that song. This year, nearly 30 years after first hearing that song on an old record, Ballake asked me to sing a version of it with him for his next album! Some things are worth waiting for!
Southern Italian Folk
My grandparents were Italian immigrants and I grew up with a kind of inherited nostalgia for all things Italian, the music, the cooking, the art, the climate. I’ve always loved southern Italian folk music too, i love the ancestral dialogues that one hears in those old rhythms and styles, a proof of how much folk music came out of the kind of encounters, musicians have always had, showing each other new styles or modes. I met Uccio Aloisi, one of the last great southern Italian, Salentino singers, in 2007. Uccio was the most powerful singer I’ve ever had the chance to hear and when he sang a pizzica with his tamburello, it was totally spellbinding. There was an intensity and passion in his voice that has haunted me ever since. Uccio taught me the most essential lesson, that every note, every word, every accent must be true. The hardest lessons are often the simplest ones!
Although I have the studio in the woods near the house, when I’m in songwriting mode, I often like to play and write in the house so I can hear my kids voices in the background. I’m always after a kind of deceptive simplicity in my songs so although there’s often the patter of everyday rushing around resonating, I find it strangely conducive to writing. It helps keep my feet on the ground, to remember to always go for the essence when writing and that a song should never be self indulgent. So having the everyday hum of my family in the background sets the bar at the right height.
In 2018, Piers Faccini came up with the idea of releasing an EP vinyl series for his label, Beating Drum, in order to champion the kind of eclectic and talented artists the label meets and seeks out for their productions. The EP collection called, ‘Hear My Voice’, began with three distinct and original voices from around the world, the Neapolitan songwriter, Gnut, New Zealand songstress, TUi Mamaki and the Trinidadian poet and singer, Roger Robinson under his Folk alias, Horsedreamer. For the fourth EP in the collection and wishing to highlight the series more, Piers Faccini decided to release one of his own.
In previous albums, the songwriter had explored cross cultural routes to reach a form of songwriting without borders but for his ‘Hear My Voice’ EP, he found inspiration in the kind of British and North American folk that coloured his first forays into songwriting and the result is vintage Faccini songwriting; sparse, essential and poetic.
The first two songs on the EP, ‘Could This Be You’ and ‘Hope Dreams’ are dressed in the string arrangements of composer Luc Suarez, a collaborator in Faccini’s first band, Charley Marlowe in the 90’s and also feature drums played by Ken Coomer, (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo).Two more intimate tracks, ‘Angel of Mercy’ and ‘Say You Don’t Know’ are reserved for side B, songs with with which we can picture the songwriting artisan, at work in his hideaway in the hills of the Cevennes in southern France.
Take a watch of the video, for the silky smooth, string-laden new single ‘Could Have Been You’…