We heard that Eliza Shaddad was in town, supporting local Totnes band Matthew and Me, we arrived early in order to catch up with Eliza before her set, read on to see what we chatted about....
Eliza, great to meet you, please would you take a moment to describe your music to our readers in a couple of sentences….
My name is Eliza, I have quite a mixed upbringing in respect of cultures and places that I’ve lived, worked and studied and it’s all come together in a melange that’s resulted in me liking quite varied music, my writing has developed over the years, it’s funny because the older I get, the further back I seem to venture in respect of influences. I think that my work is becoming more intricate and involved, working with the band is great as it allows me to draw on that experience.
If I had to categorise your music, what ‘pigeon hole’ would you slot into?
The music that we record is definitely a ‘band’ sound rather than simply me as a singer songwriter, I much prefer doing gigs as a band rather than on my own, I like the word ‘we’! I think it;s a band sound but I think in terms of the song writing, it still comes from a very personal place but I guess it’s sort of indie/rock with a hint of storytelling….
Are YOU the songwriter?
I am, I write the songs and demo them at home with very dodgy drum loops, bass lines and horn sections just to see how they sound, it never sounds as good as it does when I go into a studio with a producer and get it down as it SHOULD sound!
Your list of influences on your Facebook page is rather impressive If you had to whittle it down to the top 3, who’d be on it?
I think I may need to update the list as I did that years ago! The top 3? Tori Amos would be on the list, my sister listened to a LOT of her when I was growing up and I couldn’t help but get involved with her sound, her lyrics are phenomenal! She’s very ‘showy’ but amazing! For the second one, I guess Bob Dylan, I didn’t really discover him until I went to University and it was a house mate that had about 20 of his albums, he introduced me to a few songs and then I discovered his ‘Freewheelin’ album and I was set, both lyrically and musically, such a beautiful album! For the third, I would say Nina Simone, musically and lyrically, she absolutely kills it, I studied jazz in London and it was very much a case of listening to Nina Simone and her peers, it was a great time!
So that’s 3 classic artists, let’s bring it up to date and choose a modern day artist….
I’m a huge Joanna Newsom fan, I think she’s incredible, she’s not ‘new’ as such but current so I think I’ll go with her!
You live in London which is a real melting pot of styles, genres and tastes especially when it comes to music, what do you do in order to try and stand out from the rest?
I guess we just do what we do to the very best of our ability and hope that the music connects with people, I feel that we have a great show when it feels emotional and that we connect with the room and as a band, I think there are so many great musicians in London, it;s tough to ‘stand out’, just do what you do and try to be the best that you can be, that’s as much as we can do.
Let’s assume you’re off on your holiday and you can only take 3 CD’s/LP’s with you, which ones would they be and why?
I’d probably take some really obscure, complicated jazz album so I could really get involved and study it, if I was only on the island for a couple of weeks, I guess I would take Alice Coltrane’s album ‘Journey in Satchidananda’ which is such a beautiful album, that would be great to relax to on a beach and finally, I think something fun and up-tempo, I’ve not heard Taylor Swift’s album and see what all the fuss is about and finally, Lyla Foy who has an album out called ‘UMi’ and it's just gorgeous, really lovely, She used to operate under the name ‘WALL’, you should check it out!
Looking back over 2015 and the early part of 2016, what was the BEST album release for you personally?
I think Father John misty’s album is amazing, it just gives and gives and gives, there’s so much on it to explore, the lyrics are so interesting, the album is almost themed the way it goes through each song, they all seem to relate to one another, you feel like you’re getting a real insight into a relationship and his music is so good!
Your ‘Run’ tour kicks off this evening in Dartington and then you travel the length and breadth of the country, ending up in Aberdeen prior to heading off to Europe to play a bunch of dates, are you excited about playing any particular places?
I’m really excited about playing here in Dartington, Devon is like my second home so it’s lovely to be playing here, I played here at the Great Hall before with Matthew & Me and I also recorded here (in Devon) it just feels like a special place! I’m also looking forward to the London show (at the Sebright Arms)
This date is about 10 days after other dates on your tour, why were the dates so far apart?
I’m involved in a few bands and projects so I have to fit in rehearsal time along the way and I guess it’s just the way the dates fell!
I see you played the OOAM (One Of a Million) festival in Baden as your opening European show, I hope it’s an indoor show as it gets pretty cold there in February!
That was cool, it wasn’t that cold despite it being in February, it's an annual event, Matthew & Me share the same agent and they were at the festival in 2015 and they were raving about it and said that I should get out there this year, it was amazing. We were put up by some of the organisers and they really looked after us there.
Are the Scotland dates a sort of homecoming for you?
In my heart I guess they are, I haven’t played that much in Scotland to be honest, I moved to London and that’s where the music career kicked off. I have family up there and they’ll be attending some of the shows in Scotland.
From the videos I’ve seen, you have a band, do you keep the same people throughout or chop and change depending on the sound you’re looking to capture?
We mainly keep the same band, it just depends on their availability, they’re all amazing session musicians and are all great friends and they’re also involved in a number of projects so it’s tough trying to get them to be available to attend a tour, sometimes I have to get others in to stand in for the odd dates.
Can you introduce the band for me?
Lets imagine that Michael Eavis contacts you to ask for 3 acts to headline each night at Glastonbury, who would you choose?
Tori Amos would be one, definitely, I’d also love to see HOLE play (Courtney Love’s band) there’s a lot of weirdness surrounding her but the album (Celebrity Skin) was the soundtrack to my teenage years (courtesy of my older sister)! For the third act, I’d say Father John Misty as I’ve never seen him live but have heard great things about him so he can do the Sunday night slot!
Who did the artwork for the ‘Waters’ EP?
A lovely lady called Rachel Crowther, we had an idea, I knew I wanted to do a themed EP and it was going to be about water and as I have a long line of artists in the family, I wanted it to be a piece of art at the same time. I wanted a particular colour scheme and we chatted to Rachel about it and she came up with a few ideas and this was the one that we settled on
Is there an actual painting?
Yes, the actual painting that the swatch was taken from does exist!
Do you own it?
No, sadly not!
How did you get to meet Rachel?
I met her in London via my manager, she’s lovely and has helped us with a lot of artwork and direction.
Your latest single ‘Wars’ has received airplay from the likes of John Kennedy (XFM), Huw Stephens (BBC Radio 1) and Zane Lowe (Beats 1), how do you feel when you hear yourself on the radio and also the great comments that the DJ’s make
Very excited…I think it used to be a little strange but now, just very exciting, John Kennedy actually had the very first play of the track apart fro this closest to me and that was really exciting, me and a friend just jumped around the room for the duration! I remember where I was when they were all played the first times!
Sticking with ‘Wars’, it’s a brilliant track, I hear Cat Power and Ben Howard in the music though you don’t list either as influences, are they acts that you enjoy?
I’ve only listened to Cat Power a couple of times but I’ll definitely check her out! The EP’s I’ve recorded were done with Chris Bond who is the drummer and producer for Ben Howard, when I was looking for the ‘right person’s work with for the ‘Waters’ EP, I met a lawyer called Barclay Edwards and he asked me who I’d really like to work with and I told him that I was really into the work of Ben Howard, he’d just released an EP called ‘Burgh Island’ and a band called Daughter had just released an album, Barclay got in touch with both, sent my music off and they were both into it and I ended up working with Chris. I trusted him from the outset and as he’s a multi instrumentalist, he has such a good knowledge of music, composition and structure and the studio he works at is beautiful, it all just fell together perfectly and it was also in Devon which was an added bonus!
Do you trust a producer enough to allow them to rework your material?
Not really, that wouldn’t work with me, I feel that I know how I want it to sound and getting to know the person as best you can means that the whole thing is more of a team effort, you work together to achieve the sound that you’re looking for, I really respected Chris’s opinion and I think that I’m only really happy once I’ve stuck my oar in and stirred things up a little!
Did you do a lot of research on Chris, listen to material that he had produced before?
Oh yes, I think on a bus trip to Devon once, I spent about 6 hours just listening to material that he had worked on and trying to identify how he managed to achieve certain sounds
Do you find that you receive a different reaction to your music from place to place?
We’ve only ever done two shows in Europe so far, the reception has been phenomenal but I don’t want to rest on my laurels and assume that ALL European shows are going to be received as well as they were. All the shows I’ve done in the UK have been great, I think I’m riding a ‘high’ with the live shows at the moment, they’re all so enjoyable and long may they continue to be
You’re playing Dartington with Matthew & Me, where else have you played with them?
We’ve played in London, Devon and Ramsgate on a previous tour
I saw some great one word comments for your ‘Waters’ EP such as ‘Beautiful, Amazing and Haunting’, do these 3 words sum up the EP?
I hope that it would come across as haunting, I think it’s reflective, there’s certainly a lot of looking back on things and situations and it’s also a pivot for me as before the EP, I was more of a solo acoustic act and what I’m doing now is the first step in a new direction, Waters was in the balance of the two styles so a turning point if you like.
Your Great Great Grandfather James Paterson would have turned 162 years old on 25th January, are there any interesting stories about him that were passed down through the generations?
He was married to a singer called Eliza, I was named after her, he actually left a lot of diaries and was an avid photographer, one of the first in Scotland and he left an immense collection of photographs, I think they’re in the Hungarian (the oldest public museum in Scotland), they have all of the glass plate photographs. I know that the Glasgow School of Art took a load of the original photos and other artefacts from his studio when a museum that my Grandmother setup in his memory shut down, she really wanted to preserve his legacy
What festival plans have you made so far for 2016?
We’ve only got a few booked in so far but hopefully more will come soon, we’re booked to play at Scarborough Fair, Rockaway Beach, there are a couple of others but I don’t think they’ve been announced yet! We’d love to play Glastonbury, we love it there, it's like taking a city break but without any public transport!
Time was running out FAST so we had to act quickly and there was no way that I was going to let Eliza go until she'd been through our quickfire question round....
Acoustic or Electric? Electric
Bagel or Crumpet? Crumpet
Loop Pedal or Chorus Pedal? Chorus pedal
Great British Bakeoff or Masterchef? Masterchef...though I'm no chef myself!
Night out or Night in? Night Out
Whisky or Wine? Wine
Bob Dylan or Paul Simon? Bob Dylan
BBQ or Picnic? BBQ
Festival or Regular Gig? Gig
Camping or Campervan? Camper van
Beach or Pool? Beach
Paperback or Kindle? Paperback
God or Google? Google
We'd like to thank Eliza for sparing the time to chat to us, she's currently on tour and playing all over the UK, check the poster below for dates and make sure you get along to one of the shows, she's an amazing musician and I don't think it'll be long until she's going to be all over the radio!