Turtle Tempo speaks with alt-folk artist Izzie Yardley about her enchanting single “Aurelia”.
Much like her contemplative new single “Aurelia”, you would be forgiven for presuming Izzie Yardley to be an otherworldly character who speaks entirely in rhyme and riddles. I was so magnetised by her voice and her songwriting that I had no other choice but to seek some answers in the form of an interview with the alt-folk artist herself, and discovered (as you are about to) just how down-to-earth Izzie really is. “Aurelia” takes a curious approach to themes that can be difficult to address, so please read ahead; Izzie’s notes on the song are not to be missed…
TT: Hey Izzie, how’s life?
Hi Marnie, it’s going ok thank you, current global conditions considered.. Hope it’s been ok for you!
TT: Izzie Yardley as we know her in “Aurelia” is a fairly new incarnation of yours, but you’re no stranger to the British live scene – how has your experience within the scene informed this new project?
I was gigging almost the moment I started writing/playing, so these current songs have basically never known any guise other than a voice and solo instrument. It’s important to me that songs can hold their own performed that way, but I’ve always wanted to explore a fuller sound and one that wasn’t necessarily a recreation of what happens live. To me it’s about capturing that live sound and enhancing it in a way that compliments, accentuates, or surprises, but never takes away.
TT: You mentioned having a small musical A-Team of sorts chipping in on “Aurelia”, how did this group assemble and how did each member impact the song’s incredible sound?
I was really fortunate to meet my bassist Nick Pini a couple of years ago when I first supported Ethan Johns and his band (including Nick) in London. We clicked and it was actually just a few months later that we recorded the base layer of this track – we just set up in the studio and recorded things live to ‘see what might happen.’ Turns out we loved what happened and he’s now become a firm collaborator.
I’m also lucky to have a musical enthusiast as a dad (David), so it was brilliant to have the opportunity to bring him in with engineering, co-mixing and playing those stunning flutes.
I had actually been looking for the right producer to bring in, but even though I got to explore ideas with some incredible names something wasn’t quite clicking. It was David and Nick who suggested I produce myself, and I was very lucky to have them through the process encouraging me to listen to my gut.
TT: I’m sure your name is frequently used in the same sentence as Laura Marling’s or Joni Mitchell’s – how do you feel about comparisons like these? (It does seem to me that these are the only two names of female alt-folk artists that most people can muster…)
I’m so glad you mentioned that. It obviously feels amazing to have your name alongside those artists, both of whom I admire and am inspired by greatly. But they seem to have become the blanket names to reference when talking about a woman playing songs they’ve written, acoustically, despite the fact that that might be the only commonality.
Even Joni and Laura can be vastly different artists, albeit there being influence there – Joni has a massive jazz-based streak while Laura has her unique story-telling voice and a style that gets classed everywhere between English folk and Americana. To ignore these nuances in their artistry actually seems like a discredit to them. Particularly when there are so many fantastic female singer-songwriters out there who might sometimes be more appropriate comparisons, for example: Judee Sill, Leslie Feist, Adrianne Lenker.
TT: What was the main inspiration behind “Aurelia”?
The song was initially inspired by reading about the story of Aurelia Brouwers, a young Dutch girl who’d opted for euthanasia in 2018 due to lifelong serious psychiatric conditions. It’s such a complex topic and there was an onslaught of controversy in the media, but what was extra fascinating was her seemingly rational and hopeful approach to death. I’ve always been interested by the different ways we can choose to deal with death, both as humans and animals.
Aurelia Brouwers made a documentary to try and help people understand her dialogue around death for people in her circumstances. I wanted to help continue that conversation.
TT: Some people experience a fascination with the subject of death because it’s never really touched them; other people are inclined to explore it in writing because it’s been a huge part of their lives (like Anne Lamott, whose writing is largely informed by her Father’s and best friend’s deaths). Is “Aurelia” a product of either of these outlooks, or does your experience with death sit somewhere in between?
I’m lucky to have my parents and siblings still living, although I’ve lost friends, and I’m actually writing this on the way to scatter my grandad’s ashes, who passed away in March. Deliberate death is a concept I was around at a young age. Death is an inevitable part of life and being aware of that doesn’t have to be morbid. However it’s touched us personally, it’s there everyday, from people we’ve never met but hear of, to the snail we accidentally step on walking down the pavement.
TT: Your sound is very ‘whole’ in the sense that it is very much made to your own standards rather than playing to any genre-defining rules. What did the production of this track looks like, and which artists have influenced your sound the most?
Not having been on that side of the desk before, it’s been a steep learning curve.
I didn’t actually have any references in mind, just a slightly anti-‘paint by numbers’ mentality. I had some classical training as a child so have a strong pull towards orchestral instruments, whilst also loving the soundscape element of artists like Teebs or Arca in collaboration with Björk. I messed around with everything from synths, jam jars full of screws, to a version with heavy drums; this version with the vocal layerings is actually what I came up with on the very first day of experimenting. Flutes, the subtle percussion and electric guitar all add a little warmth and colour, and I kept things like reverb to a minimum. It’s an intimate song so an intimate production felt appropriate.
Mixing was all trial and error – I can hear mistakes now but, as someone recently said to me, ‘don’t be scared to let people see you grow.’
TT: If you could write a song with anybody (dead or alive), who would you choose?
So many to choose from but today it would probably be David Bowie or Bill Withers.
TT: Your top three album recommendations – go!
Five Leaves Left – Nick Drake
U.F.O.F. – Big Thief
Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
TT: Turtle Tempo is in love with “Aurelia” and we can’t wait to hear more from you. Can we expect some more music coming soon?
Thank you! I was actually lucky to manage a lockdown recording session recently so the product of that can be expected very soon…