Linda ImageIn November 2014, we reviewed “Wild Skies”, Linda Sutti’s debut album, released on Cable Car Records and produced by Henrik Freischlader. Allan was really impressed by the album so when we discovered that Linda was in London for a few days just before Christmas, we sent him out to the wilds of Camden (well, The World’s End) to have a chat with her about her first album, working with Henrik Freischlader, her songwriting influences and a few other things as well. This is what happened:

 

AM – So, you’re from Piacenza in Italy, you sing and write in English and your album was produced by a German, Henrik Freischlader; how did that all happen?

LS – I don’t know; I’ve tried to figure out how it worked out but I still don’t know. I had many chances to make music and I was always in love with English as a language and that’s why I started to write in English. Also, I was a member of a blues band and it’s unusual to write Italian blues; as for the German thing, it was just good luck to meet Henrik.

AM – I suppose if you sing in English, it gives you a wider audience as well.

LS – That wasn’t the main reason; I didn’t think of anything other than my love for English music and American-English music and songwriting in general when I was writing my songs.

AM – So that actually brings me quite neatly on to the singers and songwriters you listened to when you were younger; who influenced you?

LS – I loved and I still love the British folk scene, Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention and Donovan and generally the music of the sixties. That’s why I fell in love with folk music after flirting first with the blues.

AM – From the album sleeve notes, it looks like you were into music from a very young age; is that right?

LS – In my very first band, when I was sixteen, I was playing with another musician and we played covers in English and Italian and I wrote two songs in Italian and then, with other musicians we formed a blues band when I was eighteen/nineteen years old.

AM – It also sounds like your family really supported you as well.

LS – Yeah, very much. My father used to play guitar in a band when he was younger; he had a big band called Sunflowers but they weren’t famous at all. It was very fashionable in Italy at that time to have a big band at that time and, yes, my family has supported me all the way.

AM – On your first album, “Wild Skies”, there are some great arrangements from Henrik; did you have a lot of songs before that you were performing before that as solo acoustic songs.

LS – Last October (2013), I was invited to Opole Songwriters Festival in Poland and that was my first chance to play my songs outside Italy.

AM – I’ve been reading a very good book recently, exploring the ways different songwriters work (“Isle of Noises”) and I wondered how you approach songwriting.

LS – I don’t have a particular recipe; I don’t really have a structure. Basically it comes from the music; I start with a chord progression and some words will come out and then I try to fill in the blanks.

AM – A lot of it sounds very personal in the singer/songwriter tradition of the seventies; James Taylor and Carole King. Do you write about your own life?

LS – Yes, of course, from my personal life and from my friends’ life stories because it’s easier to express ideas about being single, for example, if I write while I’m single.

AM – I have to ask; what was it like working with Henrik on the album?

LS – It was great because I really felt from the start that he understood what I wanted to express, not only with my music and songwriting, but also with my idea of being an artist. Also Cable Car Records is very careful about the personality of the artist. It was amazing and I learned many things about music and about working in the studio, so it wasn’t only about making an album, it’s about growing as an artist and a person; it was great.

AM – And he’s a great player, isn’t he?

LS – Yes, he’s amazing and me and the other artists on Cable Car are so lucky because he plays bass, drums and guitar so when you start to work, he knows everything about the song and he has it all in his mind so you can trust him from the start.

AM – I’ve always had this idea that Henrik works that way; he doesn’t think about different parts, he hears the whole thing in his head.

LS – Yeah, it’s amazing. And the backing vocals as well; he does all the backing vocals on the album.

AM – And what was it like touring with Henrik on his final tour?

LS – It was very special because, as you say, it was the last tour, so I was very honoured. I really felt that the audience was very close to him and it was great to be a part of that atmosphere. For me as an artist, it was a great moment and a great occasion to grow and learn.

AM – And I know that Henrik’s audience is open to listening to different styles of music and I imagine they gave you a good welcome.

LS – I was very grateful to play to the audience and I knew that, me and Henrik, we have different styles (and volumes, we all know how powerful the band and Henrik’s playing is) but the audience was great with me because Henrik allowed them to make room for my music. He always introduced me before he played and I appreciated that very much. I think the audience was also prepared because he produced the album (“Wild Skies”).

AM – I think what Henrik has done this year with Cable Car, with Layla Zoe, Tommy Schneller and yourself is great; he’s produced a wide variety of albums and they all work perfectly.

LS(laughs) Thanks.

AM – The strings on the album were great as well, weren’t they?

LS – It was a particularly moving afternoon when we recorded the strings; they’re played by two musicians, one plays violin and one plays cello and the parts they wrote sound like an orchestra. It was amazing.

AM – So that’s the first album done now, where to next?

LS – I don’t know; I’m still focussed on promoting this one. I hope I’ll be touring this album soon. I have many songs in store but, you know, you have to move one step at a time.

AM – Well, let’s hope we get to see you in the UK sometime soon; that would be something to look forward to.

LS(laughs) I would love it; I’m ready. If you want me call me, I’m here.

AM – There are certainly a few places in London and around the UK where your music would work really well.

LS – I’m looking for places but there are so many musicians here so I think I may have to wait a while.

AM – Well, we’re looking forward to seeing you.

 

Earlier this year we reviewed the Chris While and Julie Matthews album, “Who We Are”, so when the time came to put together this year’s High Fives, we asked Chris While for a contribution. Here are her five favourite guitar breaks.

Richard ThompsonRichard Thompson’s lyrical riffs after the first verse in “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” -- Fairport Convention. I know every note of that solo and can’t help humming along with it. Richard is so musical it hurts!

 

 

 

Michael LandauMichael Landau on “Native Son” -- James Taylor. Dreamy notes with so much space, I can just listen to that outro again and again.

 

 

 

 

Jerry DouglasGerry Douglas on “Forget About It” -- Alison Krauss. When he goes into that minor section in the solo, I stop breathing.

 

 

 

 

Chris While and Julie MatthewsHoward Lees, “Now That Love is Gone” from our album “Perfect Mistake”. I have been playing with this genius player now for 30 years! When Julie Matthews and I recorded this song it ended up being a rumba with a tango bridge. We just gaped at each other when Howard broke into classical Spanish style, there isn’t anything he can’t play -- incredible!

 

 

Bonnie RaittBonnie Raitt -- Just about anything she plays……

Who We AreThis folky duo  have been around since ’94 although they evolved out of the much respected Albion Band and have already produced a “Best Of…” in 2006 so they are not short of musical and life experience to write about and this CD definitely focuses on interesting subjects rather than doomed love. The themes might not surprise you in this folk/country genre: dying babies, war and a tribute to the oldest holocaust survivor, who died earlier this year. “Who We Are” is their ninth studio outing for the Fat Cat label. They are frequent nominees as well as winners of Radio 2’s Folk awards and they have been covered by many acts including Mary Black, Fairport Convention and Barbara Dickson.

This is no acoustic camp-fire session though; the instrumentation is quite rich and diverse, allowing for some creativity with the arrangements.   The overall effect is that of sounding more expensive, but with disciplined production values; the outcome is balanced. My issue with it is probably one of tempo, which is a bit samey. The ballads tend towards upbeat while some of the other songs could use a little more energy.

This collection of all-new songs starts in a jaunty mood with “If This Were Your Last Day” with its bright jangly guitars and vocal harmony that asks us to ditch our regrets; ‘Would you do it another way/ if this were your last day?’ This is the most obvious single of the set, with its catchy chorus and daytime radio-friendly lyric. Their voices blend effortlessly and to great effect, my only comparison might be vaguely to the Indigo Girls. The musicianship is of a consistently high quality throughout, lending this album a sophisticated, professional atmosphere.

My favourite tracks are: “Drop Hammer”, a rhythmic vocal composition about women’s war effort in the Sheffield steel mills and “Mad Men”, a more contemporary arrangement, focussed on planetary ecology. I’m sure this collection of songs will keep the fans happy but I just don’t know their back catalogue well enough to know if this is their best yet.