Liverpool Noise: Visions of Albion is a duo comprising of Samantha Shields and Daniel Ryan. How did you meet, and decide to start writing and performing together?
Visions of Albion: We originally met in College. We’d been playing with a few different people over the years until we decided to try out on our own. It wasn’t really until a friend invited us to an open-mic that we got into the swing of things – we just started from there and have kept going ever since!
LN: How does the notion of “experience” affect your writing and musical output?
VoA: I think pretty much everything we do is affected by past experiences – good and bad. All the tracks are informed by something we’ve felt in the past. Sadness, despair; hope, joy – it’s all there, in one form or another. We’ve always wanted to write songs that would resonate with people. It’s great to be able to use music as an escape into a dream world, but we like to keep a foot in both. If people can’t relate to your message, how are you ever going to be heard? On top of that, why should they listen?
LN: Tell us about the creative process you employ?
VoA: Free form! In all honesty, there isn’t so much a “process” as an instinct. We know when we’ve got something that’s worth working on, and we know when we’ve got a dud. Normally, Sam will come up with some kind of melody or Dan will come up with a lick and / or nice chord progression; if we both agree that we like it, and we see potential with it, then we try to make something of it – could take a few hours; could take a few weeks. It’s very much spontaneous, though.
LN: The eponymous title EP is truly astonishing, in that I (and many others) consider it a very mature and polished production. Was this how you intended it?
VoA: Thanks! We always knew what kind of sound we wanted. We did go in, initially, expecting to just do acoustic cuts of everything, but it soon became clear that wouldn’t be the case (more on that later!) All in all though, what we came out with pretty much encapsulates what we wanted – we wanted rawness and for it to not be too polished around the edges.
LN: The EP is another example of the great work coming out of Jon Lawton’s CrossTown studios. What did he, and the additional musicians utilised, bring to the project?
VoA: I think it’s fair to say we couldn’t have got the result we did without Jon. He really pushed for us to have a fuller sound, and he was incredibly helpful in getting us get that classic vibe we were after. Jon was great though as he’d often bring modern elements to the tracks so that they weren’t simply an imitation of things gone by. Everyone else who helped out as well were magnificent. Our drummer Ant knew exactly what we were after, so it was a breeze working with someone who didn’t need constant direction and detail. Amy Chalmers, who arranged and played the strings on All That I Know, completely exceeded expectations – it was a pretty special moment when Amy came in and played it for the first time. We really were blown away. We’ve got to say a big thanks to Jon’s brother Matt, too. He came in at a moment’s notice and smashed the upright bass for You’re Not Alone in one or two takes. It was such a pleasure playing with such great people.
LN: What was the first record you both bought?
VoA: Sam’s was Billie Holiday’s ‘Lady in Satin’ whilst Dan’s was ‘Morrison Hotel’ by The Doors.
LN: Biggest musical influences?
VoA: This is a tough one! It often comes down more to style than individual songwriters / acts. As much as we love Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and all things Americana, we equally love Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Gospel – we’re really influenced by African music, though you probably wouldn’t think it. Dan comes from an Irish background, so he grew up around a lot of Folk music such as The Clancy Brothers. Sam’s grandmother was a singer when she was younger so was always interested in Jazz such as Ella Fitzgerald, etc. Again, that’s not always immediately clear, but it’s definitely there somewhere.
LN: How do you see the Merseyside Folk / Americana / Country movement at the moment?
VoA: It’s great! There’s so much interesting stuff going on in that world. We may be biased, but the quality really stands out in Liverpool. It’s great to see so many grassroots artists coming through and there’s a feeling of a real burgeoning movement which has been missing from the city (and further a- field) for a good while. The real icing on the cake is that this just seems like the beginning – it’s only going to get bigger and better!
LN: If you could ask your musical hero one question, what would it be – and why?
VoA: It would probably be something along the lines of, what do you do when inspiration runs thin? It can be frustrating sometimes and, other times, you can question whether what you’re doing is “right” – it’s hard sometimes. We’d probably ask how you deal with that side of things and what’s the best remedy to get yourself out of a musical / creative rut. Dan’s tried asking a ton of questions to David Crosby on Twitter – he’s not replied so far!
LN: Future plans?
VoA: Write, play, record, repeat! We just want to keep pushing and get our music out to as many people as we’re able to and push Visions of Albion as far as we possibly can. It’s a tough road but… is anything worthwhile easy?
Visions of Albion’s eponymous titled EP is available via their Bandcamp page.