Vocalist and composer FINI BEARMAN has a new album of original songs, "Burn the Boat" (Two Rivers Records), following on from her successful and bold re-working of Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" in 2014. In this interview with Sebastian she explains the background to the new CD, and looks forward to the launch next Tuesday 25th at Brilliant Corners in Dalston:
LondonJazz News: What's the story of the new album?
Fini Bearman: The new album Burn The Boat is about cutting free from the old and embracing the new. It’s about making yourself vulnerable and open to new things, people and experiences. The title came as the result of a dream I had about 18 months ago; I was standing on the shore looking out to sea on a bible-black and starless night. On the horizon there was a majestic ship- like an old ocean liner- ablaze. When I woke up it felt significant to me though I had no idea how or why.
So I took this story to a friend who is a Jungian psychoanalyst and we talked about it; the various symbology and themes etc. I’ve read some Carl Jung (the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who worked for a time alongside Freud) and I briefly studied Freud, so I do believe that dreams can have meaning and I like the idea that they are in a sense your Unconscious demanding some attention. My friend told me the following phrase- 'sometimes you have to burn the boat to get out of the water'- sometimes you have to leave or break away from the familiar to move forward, develop, create.
I then began to do some research and discovered that the phrase to 'burn the boats’ is an alternate way of saying to 'burn the bridges’. This expression alludes to certain famous incidents in history where a commander, having landed on a hostile shore, ordered his men to destroy their ships, so that they would have to conquer the country or be killed. Whilst quite a dark image, I like the philosophy behind it- throw yourself into whatever you do, apply yourself like you won't fail. That sort of commitment is enviable- to have 100% belief in everything you do. I’m not quite there yet but it's something I am thinking about.
LJN: Is it studio or live?
FB: The album was all recorded in residential stay at the go-to studio in Wales, Giant Wafer. It is an idyllic location set in the middle of the rural countryside in Wales, which is an amazing alternative to London where you're always competing with rush-hour chaos and evening gigs/other commitments. This way (residential) you get to immerse yourself in the music, play, eat, drink together and be merry. It was an amazing experience and I definitely want to go back there.
LJN: Are they all your songs?
FB: The album is a collection of original songs that I have written over the past 2 years. I feel like it’s a pretty honest representation of what I’m trying to say at the moment as a composer, bridging the gap between instrumental jazz and folk/contemporary music with an emphasis on story-telling. There is one collaboration on the album which is with a good friend of mine, the amazing multi-instrumentalist and composer Tommy Antonio. I was going crazy with this tune Gone- it was recorded with the rest of the album but I wasn’t happy with the verse and I couldn’t work out where to go with it. Tommy went off upstairs (we live together) and wrote a whole new verse, complete with vocal arrangement and I love this tune now- he knows me really well so we’ve ended up with a song which is deeply personal to me. I also set a couple of poems by some of my favourite poets- Dreams by Langston Hughes, Know, I Alone, a translation of a poem by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa and May My Heart Always Be Open to Little Birds, by E. E. Cummings.
LJN: Who's on the album?
FB: Wonderful people! Matt Robinson on piano and synths, Nick Costley-White on guitar, Conor Chaplin on bass and Dave Hamblett on drums. Bassist and producer extraordinaire Rob Mullarkey mixed the record and did a fair bit of post-production wizardry including putting down overdubs etc. It was great to have his ears involved, drawing out little nuances in my writing and basically enhancing the songs to make them as strong as possible. It's a totally different album having him involved and I love it!
LJN: Is there a backstory behind one or two of the songs?
FB: The songs are about all sorts but there are a couple which map the span of a previous relationship; I'd Rather Have the Rain is about being so into that person that you can't imagine a world without them and you'd give up everything just to have them in your life. Maybe Next Year reflects upon that rose-tinted stage and accepts the transience of the experience. The repeated mantra-like chorus is a coming to terms acknowledgement of what has been, which is fundamentally a positive affirmation.
LJN: What makes you happy? Angry?
FB: Making music with people I love and traveling as much as possible. Food also makes me very happy. It's definitely the simple things.
LJN: When are the gigs?
The album launch is on Tuesday 25th October at Brilliant Corners in Dalston. It's a really special, intimate venue and we are doing two shows, an early one at 20:30 and a late one at 22:30 (*)
We will be following this with a northern launch at The Lescar in Sheffield on Wednesday 2nd of November, followed by a regional tour next spring.
LINKS: Fini Bearman website
Video interview with Fini Bearman from 2014
CD Review of Porgy & Bess
(*) Bookings for the launch / early and late shows