Interview: Roxanne de Bastion

Roxanne De Bastion

Del Osei-Owusu interviews Roxanne de Bastion…

Hello Roxanne, how are you?
Hi! A little tired, but very excited to share my new album, You & Me, We Are The Same.

Congratulations on making the Fresh Faves Batch 407 with Molecules, how did it feel? 
It felt great! I’m aware of just how much great music gets submitted to you every week, so it’s a real honour to be picked. Molecules is the opening track of my new album and I’m so proud of it. I think it’s a huge step up sonically from my previous releases, so it was really happy that it was received so well. 

Tell us the story behind it…
The song muses with the idea that, if there is such a thing as divinity, maybe we’ve got it all wrong and it’s not something external, but more on a molecular level… (you know, usual pop music stuff!). I was watching a documentary and someone was explaining that molecules react to sound. That just blew my little mind, and I wrote down the entire lyrics to the song instantly. I recorded the song with producer / guitarist Bernard Butler. The massive sounding drums are actually just the two of us stomping on the floor of his living room and clapping. 

You are a singer songwriter from London, how did it start for you?
I was actually born and raised in Berlin, but moved to London after school to make music. I was pretty determined and just started out by getting a part time job and playing open mics / tiny sets wherever I could. I built things up gradually from there until I had enough saved up to make my first recording to sell at gigs. A couple years of relentless and very fun DIY touring – here we are! 

What did you listen to growing up?
Almost exclusively The Beatles. They are still my go to and the closest thing I have to a home (I moved around a lot as a child and travel a lot in my pre-pandemic musician life). My dad was a musician too, so I got to grow up with his beautiful music and loads of instruments in the house. I got really into Alanis Morissette as a child too – I learnt how to sing by practicing Alanis songs religiously. 

You’ve played Glastonbury’s acoustic stage, what was that like? 
It was pretty incredible. It was the day of the referendum in 2016, so a rather bizarre circumstance. We opened the Acoustic stage with an early set on the Friday. Despite that, there was a pretty great crowd waiting and the atmosphere was just amazing – everything you’d hope for from a Glastonbury set, really. I had that amazing opportunity so early, my previous album, Heirlooms & Hearsay wasn’t even out then. I really hope I get to play Glastonbury again soon! 

You have a new album coming out, You & Me, We Are The Same.  Describe it in three words.
Beauty in grief.

What are your three favourite tracks from it?
Uff.. tough question! This album means so much to me, I wrote and recorded it at a time the I was losing my dad. It was a time of heightened emotion and I think that’s reflected in the music. I love the album as a whole, but if I had to chose three songs for you to listen to, I’d probably go for Molecules, Erase and Heavy Lifting. 

How did it come together?
I had already written the majority of the songs and was looking for a producer to work with to help me record them. I am a huge fan of Bernard Butler’s production and decided to just send him an email. He got back to me, asked for some demos (“the rougher the better”) and soon after we were recording the album. We worked in his home studio in scattered days throughout 2019, while I was traveling back and forth between London and Berlin. I loved working with him and am really proud of what we made. 

What were the challenges you faced in recording it? 
The usual limitations of time and budget – we didn’t have a drummer or bass player, so had to be a little more creative, using alternative percussion and synthesisers. A lot of the album consists of very organic, live takes, which we did to save time, but I actually love that. Both London, I Miss You and The Weight are full, live takes. I suppose the biggest challenge for me was dealing with all my feelings at the time. It was tough, but I felt very well taken care of and in a sympathetic environment.  

What were your favourite moments during the process?
Oh there were many special moments! One of them was definitely recording the strings (Meg Ella on Cello and Clodagh Kennedy on violin) and the french horn (Letti Stott) – something I’ve always wanted to do! I’m such a big fan of George Martin’s production on The Beatles’ records and nothing screams ‘George Martin’ quite as much as a beautiful French Horn line! The whole process was so emotionally intense, one of the most special moments actually happened outside of recording. My dad was visiting me in London at a time when it was apparent that we really didn’t have much time left. We were on our way from London to Liverpool to play a show together (my dad was incredible, no one would have guessed he wasn’t well), but we were battling our way through a very packed pre-pandemic Euston Station, when we happened to run into Bernard by complete coincidence. It means so much to me that they got to meet – it was pure magic and meant to be. 

You have toured extensively across the US and UK what was your favourite place to play?
Cambridge Folk Fest was hands down one of favourite places to play, the crowd was just amazing and it was everything you want a gig to be when you’re imagining it as a child. I am so grateful to have played in so many weird and wonderful places – it’s really not about the venue or city, but much more about the audience. I’ve had the most magical gigs in peoples’ living rooms, in tiny libraries and cafes. We got to perform to an entire village in their town square in Southern Italy – that was pretty special and the food was amazing. I also really love Moth Club – I’m playing a full band show there on October 12th to celebrate the launch of the album. 

What’s a funny moment from the road?
I showed up at a venue in Northern California – the promoter thought he had booked a bluegrass band and expected me to know all these country and bluegrass tunes…I fumbled my way through the two 45 min sets! It all felt very ‘Blues Brothers’. 

You are part of the Featured Artist Coalition, what is it and what does it involve?
I sit on the Board of the FAC, which is the UK members organisation for music artists. We advocate for artists’ rights and host a wealth of educational events. I’m a big believer in artists supporting artists (which is why I love FOTN so much!) and the FAC is basically that on the largest possible scale. I’d recommend artists reading this check them out and sign up. We are stronger together and the more we share expertise and experience, the better for all of us. 

COVID has affected the creative industry in a big way, what kept you motivated?
It was such a shock to the system, as I’m sure it was for so many touring artists. I’ve never been in one place longer than a couple of months. My dad passed away just before the pandemic. We’d just finished the album and then the world closed down. As surreal as it all was, I was actually grateful to have the enforced break and time to grieve, as I don’t think I would have taken it otherwise. What kept me motivated was my music and the fact that I had this album at the ready. I was so keen on finding new ways to release music and connect with audiences. I went on a virtual UK tour and did a lot of live streaming throughout – I loved it and really appreciated the steep learning curve too! I don’t mean for this to sound too cheesy, but my fans also kept me motivated. I started a Patreon at the beginning of lockdown and was so moved by how music lovers were rallying around the artists they like. It’s such an important exchange and it was heartwarming to see music so valued throughout that time. 

2020 was a time to reflect; what did you learn about yourself?
So much. My dad was not only my father, but also very much my best friend and musical mentor, so I am learning how to trust myself and how to be there for myself. I did also learn that I am terrible at baking bread, so that’s a lockdown fail. I’m pretty good at hosting a zoom call though! 

What are you listening to at the moment?
I host a weekly radio show on Boogaloo Radio, so I’m listening more new music than ever at the moment! I’m really enjoying the new music by Fryars, Little Simz, Liz Lawrence, Katie J. Pearson – there’s so much good music out there! 

What’s next for you?
I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks shouting about my new album and then I finally get to take it on tour! I’m opening for Howard Jones at London’s Union Chapel on October 1st, and I’m opening for the brilliant Nerina Pallot for her October dates, as well as playing the aforementioned headline show at Moth Club.

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Del Osei-Owusu

Del is a songwriter, producer, keyboard player arranger and musical nerd from South London, Del comes from a gospel music background but listens to anything, everything and nothing. Read More

2 Comments

  1. Really interesting interview. Great to hear Roxanne’s thoughts and to find out more about the making of the album. Thanks both.

  2. Hi Happys, thankyou! I really enjoyed this one, Roxanne’s very interesting isn’t she? The Bluegrass moment though that had me laughing my head off! haha!

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