“I’m happiest in that Jane Austen/ Brontë sisters world. It does sound silly but there was always this feeling of not really belonging to this era”
So much is different about her – from describing her songwriting style (“It’s stream of consciousness stuff, I suppose. Sitting down with a guitar and vomiting emotion onto a melody”) to her ideal venue (“Somewhere in the highlands of Scotland, not some ‘academy’ in a big city”), to what success means to her (“There was a brief spell of confidence when I signed my record deal at 16, but that hasn’t returned since”).
By not showboating, not “digging deep” and not being emotionally hyperactive, there is an anachronism about her – both in speech and song. “I’m happiest in that Jane Austen/Brontë sisters world,” she says. “It does sound silly but there was always this feeling of not really belonging to this era and that became even more heightened when I was a typically intense teenager. At school no one liked the music I was doing at all – it was all ‘yeah, folk music, whatever – not interested’. But then I suppose it is a bit unusual to be a very young girl and to learn basic guitar picking principles from Neil Young’s The Needle And The Damage Done.”
She clearly remembers two pivotal moments in her musical development. “I was only six, but it’s stuck with me all this time. A friend of the family was staying and was playing a classical piece on the piano. It all just seemed to make sense when I heard that. And then when I had left home at 16 and was living in London, a flatmate played me Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s I See A Darkness album and that was like a shock to the system. I almost felt guilty at listening in to such intense emotions.”
She was brought up in a village setting in Hampshire; her father was an amateur singersongwriter who also ran a recording studio. “My music now is a reflection on what I was brought up on,” she says. “My parents had a lot of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young records. Joni Mitchell really ignited a spark – there was something about her voice, about the way it resonated. It wasn’t a female thing that drew me to her, it was how she used her vocals. I started playing the guitar when I was very young and my parents made us listen to ‘real’ music.
When her MySpace page began to pick up a bit of attention, she dropped out of school at 16 and moved to London. She’s grateful for the musical education her parents gave her and when a song on her first album, Tap At My Window, which was by inspired by Philip Larkin’s This Be The Verse (popularly known as “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”) contained the line “I cannot forgive you for bringing me up this way”, she had to sit her