Feature: Swimming Bell – My 5 Biggest Influences

For our latest ‘My 5 Biggest Influences’ feature, we spoke to Brooklyn-based folk singer Katie Schottland, aka Swimming Bell, who releases her debut album Wild Sight this time next week, on April 5th

Wild Sight sees Schottland explore more expansive and emotive soundscapes, more lush instrumentation, moments of great intimacy and of epic psyche-folk. More about the record and Swimming Bell’s new single can be found further below

‘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

These are Katie Schottland’s ‘5 Biggest Influences’…

My Family

Growing up, my mom would sing to us and harmonize to anything that was being played. My parents liked The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, John Denver, The Eagles, and pretty much anything in that vein. My mom also brought us to church when we were young, and I remember loving the hymns and the power of all the harmonizing voices. It shook my bones. My family also influenced me because there was quite a lot of turmoil growing up. I come from a family of addiction and some depression, so I think as a child I learned quickly the reality of things. I became kind of objective, and I think it enabled me to observe the world around me.

Everyday Life

I can find inspiration for a song pretty much anywhere, but it helps if I’m in the world doing things. I’m kind of a recluse, so I have to force myself to go out, but when I do it could be the simplest thing that effects me. I live in New York, so I’m constantly surrounded by interesting people, and situations. I love the subway for inspiration too! Just seeing every walk of life in one subway car all smushed up together, but somehow making it work. It gives me a little bit of hope in humanity, and there’s so much to observe. Of course there’s always the romantic relationship that can easily become fodder for a song too, and I’ve definitely used that!

Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’

I grew up listening to Graceland as a kid, but it wasn’t until I was about 29, right before I moved to New York that I became kind of obsessed with it. It’s just such a good album, start to finish. I love Paul Simon’s lyrics so much. He has this ability to write simply, but create a visceral image. The voices of Ladysmith Black Mambazo also make me feel warm inside. When they sing ‘Homeless’, it feels like I’m laying in tall grass staring up at the stars on a warm summer night. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true!

Beck’s ‘Sea Change’

This album was probably the biggest inspiration sonically for Wild Sight. I love how dry the drums and percussion are, but with all the reverb and pads swirling around. The closeness and intimacy of the acoustic guitar keeps things personal to me. And then there’s the pedal steel… geez! Just breaks my heart. Not to mention that it’s one of the best break up albums of all time. Really captures the heartache. I also love how he captured so many sounds without it feeling overcooked. There are so many lovely and strange moments throughout the album, every time I listen I hear something new.

Fiona Apple

She’s just such a badass (can I say that?). When ‘Tidal’ came out, I was about 15 and it was the soundtrack to my life. I still can’t believe she was only 18 when that record came out! Her lyrics are so powerful and honest. Her voice is raw and it never feels like she’s trying to do anything other than what she wants to do. She doesn’t conform to a particular sound of the time. Seeing her perform live is also so moving and inspiring. It’s a real experience. At the end of her song, ‘I Know’, she does this thing where she doesn’t ever say the words, “I know” and just leaves it hanging. It’s so simple, but I love it! It’s always stuck with me and so at the end of Wild Sight, I do something very similar. She’s a genius!

Schottland began to write songs after she broke her foot in the fall of 2015, learning some basic chords by teaching herself to play Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. Having had no musical training she approached writing melodies and progressions by ear, and soon had some ideas sketched out for her first songs. Always moved by layered vocal harmonies, she began to imagine the multiple vocal layers that would form much of her debut EP The Golden Heart, which she recorded with Oli Deakin in London in 2017

Following its release, she began touring extensively, and developed different ways of realizing the soundscapes and textures of the record as a solo live show, using just her voice, guitar and some pedals

Taking inspiration from these new sounds and from life on the road, she began writing the songs that would form Wild Sight in Summer 2017. Traveling to the UK, recording began in early 2018 and continued through the Spring as the songs and recordings developed together

Again working with Oli Deakin as collaborator and producer, her debut album Wild Sight was recorded in various locations in the UK and finished in New York. ‘For Brinsley’ is the latest single from Swimming Bell. It is inspired by a song called ‘Don’t Lose Your Grip on Love’ by English pub rock band, Brinsley Schwartz, a song Schottland had been listening a lot while touring through California last year, writing her own song to the refrain

Take a listen below…

For more info on Swimming Bell, head to www.swimmingbell.com


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