Kim Seviour

When singer Kim Seviour left Touch­stone in 2015 as her bat­tle against a drain­ing fa­tigue con­di­tion in­ten­si­fied, things looked bleak. But now she’s back with her de­but solo al­bum: a per­sonal reflection not only on her strug­gles, but her road to re­cov­ery t

Prog - - Contents - Words: Chris Cope

For­mer Touch­stone singer makes bold solo al­bum in face of ad­ver­sity.

Kim Seviour has not had it easy. Just over two years ago, the singer was forced to quit Touch­stone af­ter even­tu­ally suc­cumb­ing to ME, or chronic fa­tigue syn­drome, which left her too ex­hausted to re­hearse and tour. Then last year, the English vo­cal­ist’s long­stand­ing bat­tle with de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety com­bined with the con­di­tion sparked a break­down, and she was left “in­ca­pac­i­tated” for a pe­riod of time as she stayed with fam­ily.

But she hasn’t given up. De­spite still suf­fer­ing the tax­ing ef­fects of ME, Seviour has just re­leased her de­but solo al­bum Re­cov­ery Is Learn­ing, where she has dis­tilled her gru­elling ex­pe­ri­ences into song along­side pro­lific prog afi­cionado John Mitchell, who serves as co-writer and pro­ducer. It’s both in­tro­spec­tive and out­ward lean­ing, with the mu­sic of­ten steely with rock hues be­fore dis­solv­ing into an­gelic, ce­les­tial melody and sound­scapes.

‘I will never fly un­til I learn to fall,’ Seviour sings in lead track Chi­asma as she ap­pears to re­flect on her strug­gles. ‘Where will I land? Let the clouds em­brace and guide me through the air.’

The al­bum is a record of two halves, with the vo­cal­ist pen­ning the first set of tunes be­fore she had her crash last year, which ul­ti­mately brought the process screech­ing to a stop. The sec­ond half, mean­while, is a reflection of how she tried to lift her­self out of one of her dark­est mo­ments.

“I had the ME when I started writ­ing the al­bum, but it was from a pos­i­tive mind­set of ‘I be­lieve I can re­cover, I be­lieve other peo­ple can re­cover from dif­fer­ent things,

I’d like to pass on what I’m learn­ing,’” she says.

“I was in a very, very pos­i­tive place.

The first few songs that I wrote were very philo­soph­i­cal but in a good way, putting a pos­i­tive mes­sage across.

“I then got ill and had what can only be de­scribed as crash or a break­down half way through, which I’m still coming out of, for the last six or seven months.

“The al­bum writ­ing was halted as well. The sec­ond half of the al­bum was me writ­ing what I was go­ing through with the de­pres­sion that came with it, just try­ing to climb my­self out of this hole that I had some­how fallen into.”

With Lonely Robot and Frost* man Mitchell on board to help form the in­stru­men­tal side of the record, there is a con­sid­ered panache stream­ing through the nine tracks. Don’t ex­pect many wild the­atrics, though, with Seviour from the school of thought that prog, and mu­sic in gen­eral, may be best served when fo­cus­ing on feel­ing rather than any ec­cen­tric, out­landish over-ex­u­ber­ance.

Her in­flu­ences range from Enya to melodic met­allers Flyleaf and Muse, but her ap­pre­ci­a­tion for think­ing out­side the box is deep-rooted, and can be at­trib­uted to her prog-

lov­ing dad invit­ing her into the world of sta­ple acts like Ge­n­e­sis when she was younger.

Seviour joined Touch­stone in 2007 and they en­joyed a quick rise to no­to­ri­ety, land­ing gigs in the US and Europe as well as across their na­tive UK, but four al­bums and eight years later she had to call it quits as ME took con­trol of her life. The chronic, neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion – which is of­ten thought to at­tack af­ter a vi­ral in­fec­tion – can leave peo­ple bed-rid­den, floored with mus­cle pain and hazy with brain fog. For Seviour, it meant that life in a tour­ing band was over.

“It did get to the time when I knew that it was the right thing to do, so in a way, when you get to that time with any­thing, there is an el­e­ment of re­lief,” she says. “I’d moved back to Wilt­shire from Lon­don, be­cause of my health cir­cum­stances and my in­abil­ity to hold a day job. I was near my fam­ily. And try­ing to drive two and a half, three hours to re­hearsal ev­ery week just be­came com­pletely un­ten­able.

“I got to the stage where tour­ing be­came very dif­fi­cult and I wasn’t re­ally look­ing for­ward to it any­more. I was think­ing, ‘How am I go­ing to get through th­ese gigs?’ With the adren­a­line and the au­di­ence be­ing amaz­ing, it al­ways hap­pened. Even at the last gig that we did at Leam­ing­ton Spa, I was hav­ing to hold onto the mi­cro­phone stand for the first 20 min­utes be­cause I was so tired be­fore go­ing on stage.”

Seviour first learned she had the con­di­tion af­ter be­ing left ex­hausted from ev­ery­day life while liv­ing in Lon­don. As many do, she strug­gled to keep up with her em­ploy­ment and was forced to take a pro­longed break in an at­tempt to re­cover.

“Be­fore I was di­ag­nosed, I was deal­ing with the symp­toms whilst hav­ing to try to hold up a full-time job while liv­ing in Lon­don, and not know­ing what was go­ing on,” she re­flects. “I got a mo­tor­bike in about 2010, a Kawasaki ER-5, and I spent the day rid­ing it. I loved it, but I couldn’t un­der­stand why the next day I couldn’t get off the sofa – I had to call off sick. I was con­vinced that there had been fumes coming off the bike and poi­son­ing me, which I knew was silly.

“I couldn’t un­der­stand why I couldn’t func­tion. When I was at work it was tak­ing me hours to do a sim­ple job that would nor­mally take 15 min­utes. It was to the ex­tent that I was go­ing to be fired, if I hadn’t asked for time off for a sab­bat­i­cal to get treat­ment. Try­ing to get di­ag­nosed, you get blood tests, and the doc­tor would say there is noth­ing wrong with you, be­cause there’s noth­ing on the screen. But I’d be coming home from work, fall­ing asleep at half six and drag­ging my­self out of bed for work and find­ing it very dif­fi­cult to have a life on top of that. It was ex­tremely hard.”

Things picked up for Seviour postTouch­stone when she was of­fered the chance early last year to re­turn to the in­dus­try by Mitchell and la­bel man Chris Hill­man, who formed White Star Records and made her a top pri­or­ity. They let her work at her own pace, giv­ing her time to flour­ish with­out be­ing pestered by the con­straints and com­pro­mise that of­ten comes with be­ing in a group.

“Chris and John ap­proached me and said they wanted to start a new la­bel, and they asked me if I would like to be their first sign­ing,” she says. “I was ner­vous about the pres­sure of do­ing that, be­cause I had taken a break to give my­self a rest. But they said do it in your own time, which of course is not pos­si­ble in a full band, and I didn’t want to miss that chance. I thought it was an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity.”

It gave the chance for Seviour to re­turn to her life’s passion, singing and song­writ­ing – the one thing that has re­mained with her since her child­hood. It’s taken her from school con­certs to prowl­ing on stage at prog rock gigs, and has even seen her per­form Sweet

Child O’ Mine in front of thou­sands at Richard Bran­son’s house.

“Singing is some­thing that I’ve al­ways done,” she says. “Even when do­ing lan­guages at my school, rather than do­ing just speeches and things, they’d al­ways get me to do singing. Every­thing al­ways re­volved around singing.

“I joined my first band at 16, which was all very Guns N’ Roses, San­tana, that kind of stuff. Then I did na­tional karaoke com­pe­ti­tions af­ter that. I won a com­pe­ti­tion at my old work to sing at Richard Bran­son’s home, be­cause I worked for Vir­gin Mo­bile and they had a big an­nual staff do, and I got up on a fes­ti­val stage and per­formed in front of thou­sands. Wher­ever I’ve gone, singing is some­thing that I’ve taken with me.”

Take a lis­ten to some of the twists and turns on Re­cov­ery Is Learn­ing and you get a taste of Seviour’s will­ing­ness to head off the beaten track. It’s sub­tle, but it’s there, from the rocky riffs which sur­rep­ti­tiously sneak in odd tim­ings to the sparkling, in­can­des­cent keys. She is more into mod­ern prog rather than the clas­sic 70s fare, and there is folk in her musical make-up too, but lis­ten­ing to the pop-friendly na­ture of Re­cov­ery Is Learn­ing you get the feel­ing that Seviour is a de­fi­ant ad­vo­cate of ac­ces­si­bil­ity and in­fec­tious­ness.

“But I’m no stranger to prog – I was brought up with it,” she adds. “My dad was a mas­sive, mas­sive prog head, so I’ve al­ways loved tracks like [Ge­n­e­sis’] Rip­ples, and Ho­cus Po­cus by Fo­cus. As well as folk, and I’m a big fan of artists like Enya as well, I’ve al­ways liked stuff that’s just a lit­tle bit more in­ter­est­ing.

“One thing about prog is that it is about keep­ing things in­ter­est­ing and var­ied, and I re­ally like that about it. And of course the passion for the mu­sic it­self seems so dif­fer­ent from what I see in other gen­res. I think be­cause so many things started in prog – bands like Pink Floyd, they were the first band of their kind, and bands like Ge­n­e­sis and Tull… so many kinds of mu­sic have orig­i­nated from prog, and it has in­flu­enced so many things.”

But for Seviour, mu­sic is more than just notes, melodies, har­monies and rhythms.

It’s the mean­ing that mat­ters, the voice that reaches be­yond the mu­sic into your heart and soul. It’s a fruit­ful for­mula that has served many well over the years, and you wouldn’t bet against it work­ing for her, too.

“I think ex­per­i­ment­ing is re­ally im­por­tant. But I think when you go into mu­sic, you have pri­or­i­ties in what you want from that mu­sic. For ex­am­ple there’s the in­stru­men­tal side of it, which for me is very im­por­tant, but I’m not some­body who is in­stru­men­tally very trained. I played brass in­stru­ments when

I was younger, but I’m more of a vo­cal­ist and lyri­cist,” she says.

“I’ve been writ­ing songs since I was a lit­tle kid, so for me it’s more about the theme of the mu­sic – what I am singing about. I’ve loved bands like Flyleaf – their mu­sic is all about em­pow­er­ment and coming out of sit­u­a­tions and learn­ing to em­brace life. That’s philo­soph­i­cally some­thing I’m pas­sion­ate about. Push­ing boundaries of mu­sic is great, and it keeps things in­ter­est­ing, but for me per­son­ally it’s about what I’m singing about. That’s what I’m pas­sion­ate about.”

Re­cov­ery Is Learn­ing is out now via White Star Records. See www.face­book.com/KimSe­viourMu­sic for more in­for­ma­tion.

“I got to the stage where tour­ing be­came very dif­fi­cult and I wasn’t re­ally look­ing for­ward to it any­more.”

LADY IN RED: KIM SEVIOUR.

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