Hey everyone, this week I got to chat with Balderdasch, whose choice is biccies is Jammy Dodgers…
Hello Jess, how are you?
Hello! I’m feeling pretty good, thank you!
Congratulations on the release of Not An Old Soul, how does it feel?
I feel like I haven’t processed fully that it’s out because I released it and then quickly after travelled to Rotterdam to play two shows with my band at left of the dial festival, so it’s been a little hectic. It was our first shows abroad.
What a tune. What’s the story behind it?
Thank you! I wrote it over lockdown, I guess I spent a lot of time reflecting on past conversations because there was not a lot else going on. I got thinking about how I was often labelled by school friends as an “old soul” or “wise beyond my years”. It was mostly because I’d been through the ringer from losing my dad suddenly at 16. I looked really put together and seemed like I dealt with it maturely to others, but I felt the opposite and the song is mostly about that.
I decided to sonically make it a bit of a pastiche of a soul song. I took it to Pete Wareham, having spliced up all these soul samples, and he added a bass line and a drum part to take it to the next level.
You’re an Irish-born, London-based artist; how did it all begin for you?
God, well I started playing classical violin at age 4, and then over the years started picking up more instruments. I didn’t come from a musical family exactly, but my parents encouraged me to throw myself into whatever interested me because they didn’t have that freedom growing up.
What did you listen to starting out?
Anything my dad had on in the house, he had a really eclectic taste so it was anything from Shostakovich, to Joni Mitchell, to an Ibiza compilation soundtrack he would blast on a Sunday morning and wake me up.
Balderdasch, your artist name, has a special significance — tell us about it?
It was something my dad said a lot because he saw the word listed in an article about words that are falling out of use. I looked up the definition years later, “senseless talk” and it felt right to call myself that. I added a ‘c’ to the word because I’m not trying to get sued by a board game.
Your lyrics deal with topics that are not usually tackled in music — grief and growing up, queerness. How easily do your lyrics come to you?
Lyrics come pretty easy. My family are natural storytellers so I grew up around a lot of colourful stories. I tend to just type thoughts and observations that come to me on my phone notes app (I never use a pen and paper. I’m the opposite of old school in that sense, I like to self edit at speed haha) .
Sometimes a book might inspire lines too, or even an art exhibition. Then I sit down with all the scraps of words and piece together the lyrics, like a collage almost. It’s pretty rare that I write the lyrics all in one go.
You work with your long time collaborator Pete Wareham, what have you learned working with him?
I mean Pete has worked with some incredible artists and he has made such exciting work that I feel like I learn something new every time I talk to him. He took an interest in my work when I was 18 and writing folk music, and he has definitely encouraged and nurtured my development sound wise from that point on. He once told me that working on my tracks is a lot like restoring a painting. I think framing it like that gave me the confidence to send him pretty raw, experimental, out of time songs. That would have been my worst nightmare in the past, just the vulnerability of showing work in that state. But if you’re not vulnerable nothing will get completed or heard.
How do your writing sessions usually begin?
I normally sit down and comb through lyrics I’ve written and I’ll either pick up the guitar and come up with a melody as I filter through new lyrics, or I’ll look through beat loops and samples and see if anything matches the energy I’m going for. I’ve got a decent knowledge of musical theory from playing violin but I don’t consciously apply it when writing, I prefer to be more intuitive with it.
What’s the easiest and most challenging part of the process for you?
The easiest is definitely coming up with lyrics, but the hardest is recording and comping my own vocal takes, and knowing when a track shouldn’t be touched anymore. Wait actually, the most challenging part is definitely the marketing afterwards, I love creating visuals but shouting about pre-saves and TikTok is a real buzzkill.
Post-COVID what have you learned about yourself in the last three years?
That I can be content with imperfection.
That I can’t smoke weed.
That I can be so much more creative if I’m kinder to myself.
Did you pick up any new skills?
I hardly produced before the pandemic, I thought it just wasn’t something I was naturally good at. But once I realised there’s no right way of producing and just went for it, I realised I could far better illustrate the world I wanted my words to sit in. It enabled me to create work remotely with Pete during the pandemic and we got more work done on my project than ever before because his schedule obviously cleared at that time like everyone else’s.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to the new Blondshell album a lot when I’m wallowing.
Amanda Lepore before going out.
I’ve got an intense fixation at the moment on ‘baby, come to me’ by Patti Austin, James Ingram, that tracks brings me so much joy. I play it in the morning to try and get me in a good headspace.
Going back to your song title and your outlook on life, what are three things that you do to keep yourself young?
I mean to promote the track I made myself purposely look older than I actually am with the help of AI filters. I sort of wanted to challenge that fear of aging, because aging is such a privilege and I wish it was seen more that way. That’s probably easy for me to say because I am considered “young” ish.
Sadly aging is such a fear in the music industry, especially among women.
BUT if I was interested in keeping myself young I’d say 1. suncream, 2. wear whatever you want, 3. Take in what people of all ages and backgrounds in your life have to say.
It wont keep you young but it’ll make sure you don’t go stale.
What are you looking forward to doing next?
Next year I’m hoping to play a London headline show plus I’ve got my debut EP in the mixing stage. It’s nothing like ‘not an old soul’, it’s quite dark and direct. I have no interest in being predictable. This new single is probably a red herring more than anything.
Main photo by io viannitis