Amelia’s Magazine | Interview: Kirsty Almeida

My name is Miranda. I was born in Peterborough but I managed to escape to London after a 3 year stint studying in the wild terrain of Wales. I was sent away after years of noise abuse on my family, malady reciting poem after poem on very uninterested ears. Now, approved by day, I am an assistant-extraordinaire, helping to keep the retail industry alive. At night, I enjoy scouting out events and secret gigs with my friend Mel, to see how much we can blag. A perfect day would be a festival, with some great bands and cold cider. I like mint tea, vintage playsuits, F. Scott Fitzgerald novels, and hunting for treasure in charity shops around the Fens. I am always late, left-handed and nosey. I recently fell in love with London all over again whilst taking a walk through Kensington Gardens on a warm day and enjoying a perfectly whipped ice cream. One day I plan to write my memoirs in Barcelona, but until then I will continue to build up a collection of vintage clothing, worthy of a wing in the V&A.

Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

There is nothing generic about Kirsty Almeida; she was not artificially created from a record labels wish-list, for sale nor manufactured during an X Factor audition. Navigating her own path, she is very much the modern Renaissance Woman: artist, experimenter and a true creative. Before meeting Kirsty to chat about her new album Pure Blue Green – a rich tapestry of blues, folk and jazzy pop – I watched video clips of her performances. Singing live, she is mesmerizing, a powerhouse! Free spirited and alive, at times she is an enigmatic chanteuse, and other times she is a ringleader to a raucous vaudeville troupe. She sings with a passion that leaves us in no doubt that her music come from an honest and heartfelt place. Her voice is tender with sparkles of underlying inquisitiveness and humour and it only takes a minutes listening to see that her life, thoughts and loves are entwined within her lyrics, revealing an existence lived to the full and one that is continuously questioned. So it comes as no surprise that our conversation becomes an all-encompassing discourse that occasionally touches on her album and then soars off in the direction of magic, art, self-development, women’s rights and the dubious ethics of the music industry….

I love how visual your shows are…..
I love the big show thing, I think that people want to be entertained; because music is so accessible, and more downloadable now, people really like going out to live shows. I like to do something thats entertaining, but I also love the little live acoustic shows, those are some of my favourite gigs to do. I’m doing a gig soon that will be just me with a guitar and a girl called Lucinda Bell on harp. I’ve had a six foot bird cage designed and built for me, and we’re going to do a series of exhibitions and art galleries where I will play sat in the cage that will be suspended from the ceiling!

There is a lot of creativity in your performance…
Truthfully I am a visual artist, so I can’t help but look at things and go “well if you just stuck a massive big flower there, and that was attached to an umbrella with a bath chain and then water came out of it…. ” (laughs) and thats just how my mind works; it’s really visual and my work is really visual, I can’t help it!

What do you see first?
When I’m writing a song, I always see colours. I see music in colours and textures. so the first thing that will happen will be that I will be playing guitar and then the colours will come together and at that point I will know that it’s right and then I just have to close my eyes and wait and then the lyrics come.

So the song arrives together?

Do the visuals come at the same time?
No, when I write, it is just about the song and being a channel of creativity. I try and let the song happen, and then afterwards when it’s on loop I get the visuals.

Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m inspired by a day, every day there is a million things that inspire me. I’m inspired by clothes, people, situations, conversations that I hear from other people, situations that I get into, trouble, butterflies, birds, nature, trees….. everything!

Do you paint?
Yeah, I paint a lot. But, (sighs) there is never enough time. I also run a collective called Odbod. I set it up in Manchester where there’s a very strong support network of artists, musicians and composers who work together but because you don’t normally get paid to do original music, you have to call in a lot of favours, and in the Manchester scene there are a LOT of favours, people calling each other all the time and helping each other out on each others projects, but there is no set network so there is no way of getting funding or help and I realised that a lot of the artists needed support and advice and people were coming to me for advice, so I thought if we had a collective, we can all get together and say to each other, ‘what do you need, how can I help?’

It’s a genius idea! Would you consider expanding the Odbod’s collective to London?
I would love to! It’s hard to contain it, there are so many people who want to be involved and to everyone who wants to get involved, I just say, come along, support us and we will support you. Hopefully none of the Odbods will be there in a year, they will have flown the nest and it will be time for the next lot of artists to come in. I’m also managing an Irish singer called Rioghnach Connolly, she’s amazing, that girl blows my mind! I’ve watched her and given her advice along the way; I’m quite good at keeping peoples motivation up and helping them to see where they are messing up, and where they are putting in energy where they don’t need to be putting energy in. The whole psychology of being an artist is quite self destructive and I really recognize that so I’m good at pulling someone out.

Do you have that self destructive side to you?
Yeah, there is an element of that in all of us. To be an artist you have to stare at yourself in the mirror every day and to be a true artist you have to get to a place where you actually see what’s not in the mirror, and then separate that from yourself and that’s really hard. You judge yourself very harshly and artists are especially hard on themselves. I have a lot of issues with balance, so I spend most of my time trying to achieve that balance in my life.

If there are particular issues that are bothering you, do you ever find the answers in your songs ?
Definitely! I usually find out what’s going on in my life when I write a song, I have no idea otherwise! Most of the time I don’t know what day it is!

Are you on the road a lot?
Not as much as I would like to be. I would really like to go around the whole world, that would be great…

You are quite a wondering spirit (born in the UK, brought up in Gibraltar, Kirsty grew up travelling the four corners of the globe) Do you feel like an outsider, or can you fit in anywhere?
I empathize with people, I find it easy to talk to anyone or any culture; I’m just fascinated by people. I never felt like I didn’t fit in, it was only as I got older that I thought, I don’t fit in anywhere, I’m the wrong shape for everything! And it took me a long time to work that one out.

How did you reconcile that?
By being really honest with myself. I did a course called The Artists Way. One of the tasks that you have to do is write every morning; first thing you do is write all of your thoughts, and you write out your negativity, all those thoughts that say “I’m not good enough, I’m not happy…” and at the end of that you rip up the paper and throw it away and after a few months you notice that what you write is more creative; you are writing more positive thoughts. You cease the negative voices, and those are the words that say that you don’t fit in. And through that and meditation, I just kind of found out who I was and realised, you know, I am different, and everyone is different, and that is something to be celebrated.

Photograph by Hannah Kinver Miles

I read you saying that the future of women worries you, can you explain that? What specifically concerns you?
We still have so many issues in our sexist world, we still have so many places where men are in charge of things that women should be in charge of, and that concerns me. I am most concerned by the fact that magazines and newspapers are airbrushing us out of existence, and airbrushing us into mental hospitals! I’m really worried about the next generation of girls and how they will deal with this; their idols aren’t real – they are not real human beings! They don’t have curves, they don’t exist… It’s a unreal ideal. I’m really worried about the music industry too – especially what Simon Cowell has done to it! When I go to someone’s house and there is a TV on and they have X Factor or Idol, and I go, “is this what people are watching?” It’s a mind numbing existence for people who should be out living rather than watching.

And the music industry certainly has some interesting ideas about how to market their female artists!
There are a lot of issues and struggles; it is incredibly difficult for women in the record industry; it drives me mad! No matter how good you are, you are solely competing with say, KT Tunstall, Corrine Bailey Rae, Amy Winehouse, Imelda May; the labels always pit us up against each other and say “You have to be the new….” You are not out there and being celebrated as a good musician. If people can’t pigeonhole you, you are seen as a bit of an oddity. Had I been a man in this industry I would have been dealt with differently; I would have been celebrated for the way that I handle myself, but if you are a female, and you have opinions then you are seen as being difficult.

It must be hard to maintain your confidence, and sanity and creativity, whilst these obstacles come your way.
If you realise that creativity, well this is my perception of it; that creativity comes from creation, and that it’s all already there and you just have to become the channel and keep that as your focus and centre. Then none of that other stuff can touch you.

Categories ,acoustic, ,blues, ,collective, ,folk, ,Kirsty Almeida, ,live, ,manchester

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