Interview | Esther Dee



Singer-songwriter Esther Dee’s haunting and beguiling genre-defying sound is captivating. Her musical experience spans classical, jazz, folk, soul and pop. She’s performing as part of the #thegirlsare weekend at the Forge next weekend (17 – 19 October), where she’ll be showcasing tracks from her debut album, ‘The Carousel’. Esther will be supported by fellow singer-songwriters Ellie Rose Rusbridge and Rebecca De Winter. We caught up with Esther ahead of her gig for a quick chat about dead pigeons, silky seals and fairgrounds…

Tell us about ‘The Carousel’…
My debut album was initially inspired by a song I heard some years ago by Jaques Brel. It’s a funny fairground waltz that becomes more and more urgent, about the world being one big merry go round. ‘We’re on a carousel, a crazy carousel’ both exciting and overwhelming. My friend Aneza Arkas sent me a poem, which sparked ideas for the title track and seemed to encapsulate the sentiment of songs I’d already written. I wanted to produce a sound that was reminiscent of Carters Steam Fair but with lush modern production. We recorded the band in three days up in Manchester at Eve Studios with producer Kevin Kerrigan (Brian Eno, Kylie, Bjork) and were spoilt for choice with their treasure trove of vintage gear, that was inspiration in itself. I find song writing cathartic and I’m often exploring personal moments, dreams, the fact that it’s raining or just seeing something as mundane as a dead pigeon.

How would you describe your music?
My style is diverse, off beat, curious with a sense of humour and darkness. Like Regina Spektor stuck in everyday mundanity trying to find a portal to fantasyland. Someone once described it as the musical equivalent of stroking a baby seal, soft, silky and leaves you with a magical sense of wonder.

How do you find playing live versus recording?
Playing live gives me a nervous rush, it’s unpredictable. I’m quite a perfectionist so this is a challenge but when I enjoy myself and let go is when it seems to work best. I’m lucky because I work with some amazing musicians from diverse backgrounds. They bring an energy and experience to the stage that’s very supportive. I love the instant creation of playing live and sharing that with a live audience.
I love recording though, because I get to focus on details and craft the songs, making everything fit together and getting the sound just right. It can become a bit of an obsession and that can send me into some strange trance like state which I find hard to come back from. That’s why I liked taking a break and letting producer KK work his magic. That man seems to be able to spend days in the studio without needing sunlight or fresh air.

How did you go about choosing your support acts for Saturday’s gig?
I worked with Ellie on a play called ‘These are your lives’, she composed the music. I heard her track ‘Trick’ and was hooked and I’ve seen Rebecca perform before. I love her energy and confidence on stage. I am very excited to be sharing the stage with these two inspirational women.

Catch Esther, Ellie and Rebecca live at The Forge Saturday 18 Ocotber 8pm. (Don’t forget we’ll be running two music journalism courses on Saturday afternoon – details here.)

Rosie Hanley

Follow Rosie on Twitter – @roseannehanley

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