Interview with Morcheeba vocalist Skye Edwards

August 22, 2006 saw the US release of “MIND HOW YOU GO,” the solo debut from former Morcheeba vocalist Skye Edwards. To coincide with the release, Skye embarked on a short series of American live performances. We were able to speak with her in the New York office of her label, Cordless Recordings. NOTE – since this interview, Skye has returned to Morcheeba. She also released an album with Morcheeba member Ross Godfrey as Syke & Ross – click here to read an interview about it.

Are these shows the first time you’ve performed your solo material live?

Skye Edwards: “No, these aren’t the first shows that I’ve done. My album came out in February in Europe. So I’ve been touring since May all around Europe and went to places like Russia and Slovakia, doing my own shows, and festivals as well. So these are the first shows that I’ve done with the new record in America.”

How would you compare your live sound to what we hear on the CD?

Skye Edwards: “Well, for these American shows it’s very different than what we’ve been doing in the UK and European gigs. There, we are a five-piece band and we’ve taken a lot of the sounds from the record, and the drummer and the keyboardist are triggering a lot of samples. Whereas these shows are much more stripped down, with just guitar, bass, piano, and me singing. So it’s more acoustic.”

Why did you choose to do these American shows in that format? Was it to keep costs down?

Skye Edwards: “Yeah. I did a small show at this music conference in France called MIDEM that Jac Holzman, the head of Cordless, saw. He really like the stripped down intimate presentation, so he asked if we’d be interested in doing it like that for the first time coming to America. It’s just three shows, and then as the profile builds we’d like to come back and do it as a band, more like how it sounds on the record.”

Are there any tracks that you think sound particularly different when performed with this instrumentation?

Skye Edwards: “Certainly songs like ‘What’s Wrong With Me,’ for instance, because it’s one of the most electronic sounding songs on the record. We’ve had to approach it in a completely different way. But it’s actually quire refreshing to get into a rehearsal room and try things differently. Just a couple of weeks ago we were invited to play at a private party in Spain, so we did it in this unplugged way [for the first time] and it was really lovely. For me, it was just really nice to sing it in a more relaxed way.”

How would you say your solo material evolved from the initial songwriting to what we hear on the CD?

Skye Edwards:“It’s way better than I could have imagined. I was listening to artists like Chantal Kreviazuk and Edie Brickell and I kind of had the idea that it would be more acoustic with the odd electronica element, but it turned out more electronic with the odd bit of acoustic stuff in there. I feel that I’m a better songwriter than when I was starting out writing songs just by myself. It’s really great to get together with someone like Pat Leonard or Daniel Lanois. There are really way up there in terms of talent and experience, and you can really learn from that.”

In terms of selecting a producer, what was the process like?

Skye Edwards:“The first factor was that I really just wanted to work with one person, and I wanted that person to be a writer/producer. I didn’t just go in and work with a writer on a bunch of songs, then with another writer and then go and work with a producer. I wanted it to be just one person, but obviously it had to be a right person. You can’t really decide if it’s going to work out over coffee, so you need to go in the studio and see what the chemistry and dynamics are like. I met a couple of people in London initially and then it took me out to LA. Particularly with Pat, he was saying that he really wanted to work on a whole album rather than doing a little bit, or doing the single. That’s really what I was excited by. Though I’d had material from before, Pat said ‘let’s forget everything that you’ve written and start from the beginning.’ And that’s what we did. And then some songs that I’d written before, we produced those as well, like ‘Calling,’ I’d written that beforehand, and the track ‘No Other,’ I’d written with Pascal Gabriel.”

Was it always obvious that you wanted that kind of working arrangement, with a producer? Did you consider perhaps putting a band together?

Skye Edwards: “When I got the call from our manager saying it was over, and that Paul and Ross wanted to work with other people, I immediately wanted to get together with a bunch of friends with the songs that I had written. Maybe I was a little naive, thinking I was going to go record it in the garden shed. But a lot of people do do that. It was suggested that I consider working with other people, so I said, ‘well what about Daniel Lanois then, what about him?,’ thinking that they would laugh at me, but they said ‘let’s contact him and see if he’s interested.”

What from your Morcheeba experience do you think you bring to your solo work? What did you want to be different?

Skye Edwards:“I definitely learned more about being in the studio than I ever did with Morcheeba. In the early days, we’d sit down with a guitar and do it the old fashioned way, where you write a songs together. But as time went on it became more and more separate. I’d get some backing track on mini disc, come up with a melody, and send it back. I was hardly in the studio, whereas this time around, I spent all day every day in the studio. I’m not a producer, I’m not there to learn about equipment, but just to bounce ideas off of someone else and be listened to is fantastic. Rather than ‘oh go make tea, Skye’ it was nice to be asked ‘so what do you think?’ and make suggestions. What have I taken from Morcheeba? I spent 8 years of my life with the band, and learned how to perform. My singing improved. I learned how to drink in Morcheeba! But in general, I’ve learned more being out of Morcheeba.”

While in Morcheeba, had you given any thought to going out on your own?

Skye Edwards:“That happened when we were on our last album, ‘Charango.’ We were in the studio in the last stages of mastering the record, and Paul announced that he wanted to take a 5 year break from Morcheeba. I remember at that time panicking, thinking ‘what am I going to do for 5 years?’ So I picked up my guitar and started writing songs, thinking ‘ok, I’m going to have a side project.’ And then in 2003 our manager said firstly that they wanted to buy me out of my 1/3 of the studio, and a few weeks later the call came saying that they wanted to try something new, work with other people. The side project then became more important. It was going to be a solo record, rather than a side thing.”

Do you think you’ll ever go back to the old demos and use the songs for future release?

Skye Edwards:“I hope so. I’ve got quite a few good ones there. It’s just voice and guitar. I got Protools and a decent microphone just to be able to record them as demos. In the future, I’d love to play them to whoever I am working with to see if we can work on any of them. So who knows?”