Sara Lowes recently released her second album The Joy Of Waiting, one of Even The Stars' favourite albums of the year so far. Ahead of next week's show at the Eagle Inn in Salford, we caught up with her and talked about the myriad of musical projects she's currently involved in.
It's been several years between Back To Creation and The Joy Of Waiting - what have you been up to in the interim?
Back To Creation came out in May 2011 so since then I have been up to a few different things.
I toured Canada in Autumn 2011 and then came back and started a degree in Design and Innovation. In Jan 2012 I started recording what was going to be my second album with tracks like I Find You, Most Things and Little Fishy.
Then I got the call for the Marina and The Diamonds job. At the same time I almost started playing for Jens Lekman over in Sweden but the Marina job offered more work and unfortunately I couldn't manage to do both. I toured with Marina from May 2012 to July 2013 so I was out of the country a lot Then I got back from the States in the Summer 2013 and got back to work on the second album which I finished in February 2014.
Since April 2014 I have been doing some work with Brighter Sound in Manchester, which is a fantastic arts organisation based at Band On The Wall. I run a song writing workshop there for them called Sing City and I led a week residency with 14 emerging musicians at Central Library.
I am now managing another project across Manchester Branch Libraries for Brighter Sound called The Echo Trace - which is very exciting and involves a lot of brilliant and interesting artists using library spaces for new creative projects.
In Oct 2014 I started my period of residence in the Graphene department at Manchester University and I'm now finishing off the writing process of the commission before a performance in June this year during Graphene week.
The new album's out and I've got a few other writing and session jobs about to start in the next few month and the degree is almost finished, which is going really well.
Reviewing the album we found it difficult to be descriptive in summing up the album. If you had to sell it to someone in a sentence or two, how would you go about it?
Music has such a rich history which I am constantly trying to respond to in my compositions without being completely overwhelmed by how much I still don't know. My music is a mixture of all my influences and inspirations.
The album is only being released on a limited edition vinyl and download? What was behind you putting it out on vinyl rather than CD?
I've always done a CD in the past - but I have it on good authority that people don't do CDs any more. A lot of people had been asking about vinyl and I think it serves the quality of the mix to use this medium. I've been really pleased to do it this time as it presents the quantity of music on the album well with it being a long player - there are four neat chapters at around 20 minutes each
There's a lot of instrumentation on the album. Is it just you on there or did you bring in other musicians?
Ha ha! It's certainly not just me! All the hammond organ is played by my brilliant brother-in-law Christian Madden and the wonderful guitar solos are from Neil C Young. The arrangements are mine but performed by Pete Marshall on violin , Neil C Young on viola and Semay Wu on Cello. Saxophone is Nicky Madden and Trumpet is Bob Dinn. Richard Young is on drums and is brilliant. I play the piano and other keys on the records, guitar on a few tracks and the voice is mine.
There seems to be a lot of ideas crammed into every song and on Cutting Room Floor you allude to the fact that there's so many ideas you have that never come to fruition. The album sounds like the work of a perfectionist with every note feeling right and that it's serving a purpose within the structure of the song. How does your songwriting process work - do you set out to specifically write songs or to compose a piece of music that might develop into a song?
My song writing process is different song to song in a way. My writing is getting less song like as I progress as a writer which I am excited by. An almost constant in my song writing approach is that I feel something brewing in my head for a while before I sit down with an instrument. Depending on what influences it lyrically can change the order in which I do things too.
Inspiration for words comes from all over the place It was good to have the JB (Priestley) inspiration for some of the tracks on this record to respond to as it felt like I had set myself a bit of a brief.
I think because of my style of playing on the piano a lot of the harmony and arrangement comes as a I play which is the nature of a classical approach to playing the piano. I like creating layers within the music and it's really satisfying when they all start bonding together and lift and direct the dynamic and if my piano playing starts to get a bit dull then I take my fingers off the keys and simplify my playing and that's when things start to get riffy - like Chapman of Rhymes
You've been commissioned to compose a piece for the Graphene Institute that's being launched in Manchester. Can you tell us a little bit more about that project and how you got involved?
The commission came from Brighter Sound . They have a brilliant programme called Wall Of Sounds which has produced a rich tapestry of musical residencies working with amazing artists such as Snarky Puppy, Everything Everything and Beth Orton.
I have been commissioned to work in residence in the Graphene department to draw on the commonalities of the creative processes of a career in Science and a career in Composition. It's been a fantastic experience and I am just finishing the music now ready for performances during Graphene week. I have set a wonderful group of musicians together for the performances and we will be playing at the Martin Harris building on 25th of June and Museum of Science and Industry on the 26th.
The commission is also there to address the lack of female representation in both industries. Only 14% of PRS membership is female The same lack of female representation exists in the Science Industry and it was really interesting to get the thoughts and feelings from all the scientists I met about this and what they thought were contributing issues to the problem.
Your live shows seem to be very few and far between. With the release of the album, will that change in 2015?
Not really. My ambitions lie in the writing and recording of music! I don't like to strip the music back from what it has become in the studio and my session work has always satisfied me on a live level but I'm not sure how much more of that I will do now either.
Perhaps I'm shunning a responsibility with my solo work but I feel more committed to developing as a writer and producer.
If the opportunity or time is ever there for me to do a good job with a live show then I will do it and it's always lovely when we get the opportunity to play together as a band as we have all been playing together in various guises for a long time now. The boys in my band were my first real musical heroes. I'm still completely in awe of their musical brilliance!
The Earlies have recently announced they are reforming for some shows in 2015. Given that you played with them regularly first time round, will you be participating in the shows?
I will be and I'm looking forward to it. The Earlies was a wonderful experience for me. We started touring when I was just 21 and I had no gig experience at all! We had so much fun together even when things went catastrophically wrong which was probably a bit unprofessional of us. I learnt a lot playing in that band.
Having the opportunity to meet up with such a wonderful group of people again when we are all so busy doing other things these days is a complete privilege, I love them all very much.
Sara Lowes plays The Eagle Inn on Tuesday 14th April.
The Joy Of Waiting is out now on double vinyl which can be purchased from Sara's shop or digital download.
Sara Lowes' official website can be found here. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.