YORK folk/prog singer and songwriter Heather Findlay is to release a live album this autumn, Live White Horses, “to document the whole Wild White Horses experience”.
Signed copies of the “double-disc jewel” can be pre-ordered exclusively from Heather’s official website at www.heatherfindlay.co.uk/shop.
The general release date will be confirmed by Heather once her wait for the final masters is over. Keep an eye on her website and CharlesHutchPress for an update.
“Earlier this year, I was fortunate to have been able to tour Wild White Horses in the UK with an absolutely stellar bunch of hugely talented and wonderful souls,” says the former Mostly Autumn and Mantra Vega vocalist, who toured in a seven-piece line-up. “We recorded some of those shows, from which I’m delighted to be able to offer a new live album.”
Released on Black Sand Records, Live White Horses combines a first disc of a 17-song January concert recording with a complementary disc of live sessions, bootlegs and rare and secret gems from throughout the Wild White Horses ride, beginning in Nashville, Tennessee, in July 2019, travelling onward across Europe, with stops in London and Germany, and then heading back home again.
Making up Disc 2 are Broadway Bootlegs: She Rocks Showcase, recorded live at Tin Roof, Broadway, Nashville, in July 2019; Secret Sari Sessions, Unplugged, Live at Total Rock Radio, London, August 2019; Das Bootlegs, Live at Vinyl Cafe Schwazes Gold, Dorsten, Germany, with guitarist Martin Ledger, August 2019; Live in Session at York St John University Chapel, York, February 2020, and Acoustic Solo Sessions, live at home in York during lockdown, Summer 2020.
Here Heather saddles up her Wild White Horse for a ride through Charles Hutchinson’s questions.
Releasing a live album can only remind you of what you cannot do at the moment. What are you missing most about live performances?
“I miss my band mates and connecting with a live audience! There’s nothing that can replace that collective mood, or vibration if you like, of a live performance. When all elements come together, there’s a certain magic that happens which, once any element is removed, it’s very hard to recreate.”
When and where did you last perform on an indoor stage with your band?
“My last show with the band was the last night of the Wild White Horses tour earlier this year at the Robin 2 in Wolverhampton. That was on January 22. The last time I was on a York stage was at Big Ian’s A Night To Remember charity fundraiser at York Barbican on February 29.”
Was a live album always in the pipeline or did lockdown’s enforced blockade of concerts make you think this would be a good time for one?
“During our shows, my friend and support band leader Hughes Taylor announced he’d not only been recording his own band’s performances but, in stealth, he’d managed to capture ours too! We hadn’t planned to record any of the shows, so that was a real surprise!
“Once Hughes got back to the USA, he sent over the files, so I sent them to my engineer to throw up some draft mixes and I was thrilled to find the performances had been really well captured.
“Like most, I really wasn’t sure what on Earth to do at a time like this. I pondered over many things, but in a sudden moment of inspiration I just decided to go for it.
“It was a risk as I had no idea how new music would be received at a time when so many are struggling and suffering, but it really seemed that with the lack of actually experiencing live music in people’s lives, the timing of this might just be right.
“I was then pretty overwhelmed when the Limited Edition sold out so fast, but I was really glad I’d gone with my gut and taken the leap! Music can be such balsam and, seemingly, exactly what people need to help see them through tough times.”
Capturing the essence of a live concert on an album is always a challenge. What makes you feel that these recordings have captured that essence?
“That’s very true! Well, in this case, the whole band had worked really hard in rehearsals and the musicians I was blessed to have with me throughout the tour really are world class and super-reliable. The chemistry between us from the get-go was fantastic too.
“Lots of laughter and a sense that everyone was really giving it their all and truly enjoying being there, with the common goal of lifting hearts and roofs! Then, of course, there’s the audience who were just amazing. So generous and the icing on the cake!”
Did you have loads of recordings from which to choose the live sessions, bootlegs and rare, secret gems from your Wild White Horses travels for Disc 2?
“I didn’t have a vast amount to choose from, to be honest, and it’s not something I consciously planned either. Getting Wild White Horses off the ground and into production was all consuming. I kind of wear all the hats, so there’s often very little headspace to forward-plan alongside that.
“In some ways, it’s quite mysterious how it all came together for this live album really, but I was fortunate that the whole journey had been documented in some way or other from that first show in Nashville.
“For someone who finds it quite hard to stop doing and just be, lockdown in some ways provided the permission to do just that. Once my schedule allowed me to actually slow down and get in the flow, I found that I was able to let go of worrying about how things would unfold and this is when the inspirations and, in turn, solutions appeared.”
What made you decide to add the second disc?
“I liked the idea of offering up rare stuff from the archives that doesn’t normally get released, but as I’m quite a perfectionist in my work, I’m usually way too self-critical for anything like that to be released!
“This time though, I liked the challenge of forcing myself to get over that, because what I realised I was missing was that many fans really love experiencing some of those things they’d have ordinarily missed out on. The unpolished, fly-on-the-wall stuff, if you like.
“The bootlegs on Disc 2 really are just that! Bootleg recordings captured by loving fans, so by no means the polished, multi-track experience Disc 1 offers. The Secret Sari Sessions are great and showcase some of the Wild White Horses album tunes in a different, more unplugged format, whereas the recording of Firefly is a beautifully intimate recording of just Emily Lynn and me around the grand piano at the York St John University Chapel.
“After the tour, it was suggested that we make a live recording of that song as it was such a special moment in the set. I got talking to Chris Johnson about it and that’s when he offered to record us there. The secret part about that track is that we filmed it for a video too, but now it’s no longer a secret! Oops!.More on that soon.”
What have you been up to in lockdown and beyond? Recording at home, for example.
“Recording Here’s To You, Already Free and a new song, Solitaire, with just me and an acoustic guitar at home felt like an authentic 2020 snapshot, or time stamp if you like. I was really back home again, like everyone else, but as I’d never released anything that featured just me and my guitar before, I felt I wanted to capture that and offer it as a full circle moment in the Wild White Horses story, as that’s really how all of my songs actually begin.
“Solitaire was written around the same time as some of the Wild White Horses material, but being a different flavour didn’t quite fit with the rest of the album.
“It’s a song inspired by Solitaire, the mystical seer and tarot woman played by Jane Seymour in Live And Let Die. My kids and I went through a Roger Moore Bond phase around that time and Live And Let Die ended up being our favourite. I liked how the last song on the album, recorded in an unforeseeable, solo lockdown situation is actually called Solitaire!”
What else have you done?
“A bit before I got the idea to release Live White Horses, I’d been brainstorming, trying to come up with a way that I could help people while still staying at home. As a lone parent, I had to put caring for my two kids first – home-schooling and all! – so volunteering was out of the question.
“The idea then came to launch a campaign calledLove For Sale, whereby I would send out free, signed ‘care package’ albums to fans who ordered them as cheer-up gifts for their friends and loved ones during lockdown. I offered ‘PS I Love You’s’ too, which were specially handwritten notes offered to someone’s loved one on their behalf.
“The campaign ran throughout the lockdown period and to my surprise I was totally inundated with orders. I loved that old-school connection with people that this brought. Actually writing in pen and ink! I think this is really what reinvigorated my faith in the power that music has to uplift and connect people.”
What did you learn in lockdown?
“Despite the current restrictions imposed across music worldwide, I was just really grateful I was still in a position to both help in some way and to remain connected with the outside world in a way that avoided the darkness and drama that seemed to be taking hold of people.
“Naturally, people are very scared at such uncertain times as these, but I felt strongly that I wanted to promote hope and an optimism that we would get through this. This is also what gave me the idea to create something a bit more special and personalised for Live White Horses by offering dedications with the limited-edition version of the album.
“Other than this, I also enjoyed gardening with the kids, planting veggies and cat mumming. I also revisited creating art here and there. I’ve always been intrigued by astrology too, so I also began studying Vedic astrology, which has been fascinating, and along with my yoga practice, another way to connect with India.”
What were your plans for 2020 before Covid-19 changed all that?
“In February, I had no idea how the rest of the year would pan out. The plans at that point were to film one more video in April with my friends Danny and Luke from Thunder and, come November, to go back out on tour.
“Of course, both of those plans were halted due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Like everyone, I’ve had to think outside of the box as to how to move forward at this time.
“Especially as in music many avenues remain blocked, so I’m even more grateful that the Universe appears to have delivered me a clear pathway forwards and lined it with a very supportive audience who are excited to hear what is on offer!”
What are your plans for the rest of the year or is everything up in the air?
“Well, as up in the air as much of life still is, with further touring being halted, Angela Gordon and I have decided it’s time to finally begin recording the long awaited, second Odin Dragonfly album, Sirens!
“We’ve been writing for it over the past few years on the back burner and alongside our other projects. Recording proper has kept being put off until we both have more time to give it its due.
“For me, now the Wild White Horses chapter is drawing to a close, it feels like that time is here. It’s a beautiful and mystical collection of songs, which strangely I’ve always envisioned getting stuck into the recording of once the leaves are turning and days are crispy, cold and witchy faery again…
… “Somewhere between Faeryland and Jiffy Bag mountain is where you’ll find me!”