London based singer-songwriter Helene Greenwood has been around music from an early age. Born and raised in Dover, she grew up listening to her grandfather playing Scott Joplin & Bach, whilst her father played her the likes of Doris Day, Stranglers, Kate Bush & The Beatles. At the age of six, she was already playing the piano, with one of her earliest memories being sat playing along with thunderstorms. “My dad was a hovercraft captain, and I grew up on the South coast so I was always very aware of the weather and how dramatically it could change. I would often just sit at the piano and play along.”
We caught up with Helene at a London 'trendy wine bar' and chatted about New York, hangover music and chocolate mousse, here's how we got on....
You recorded your debut EP at the Strongroom Studios in Shoreditch, did you also record your debut album ‘Collectable You’ there? If not, where?
I recorded 'Collectable You' at the Fish Factory in Willesden Green.
What is your favourite Saturday night and Sunday morning albums?
Saturday night would be Julia Holter’s Loud City and Sunday morning would be Bat for Lashes Two Suns. It has a raw energy.
You previously said, “I want to take people on a journey with my music and make them visit places they wouldn’t normally expect to go” - Do you still think this way about your music?
It still feels important to take people on a journey in my music. I’ve realised that it is possible to see songwriting like composition songs can go where ever they need to go. I never see songs as having middle eights, and chorus and verse structure.
What was the last book you read?
Under the Skin by Michael Faber.
You studied song writing at Stanford University in New York, do you feel that your approach to songwriting altered having studied there as well as in the UK?
I spent a week on a Summer Course there with songwriters Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens. It was quite philosophical, and we were encouraged to be free and to find our voice.
What is your favourite memory of studying in New York?
On the New York course I loved sitting on the fire escape looking onto the pavement, improvising a surreal song with two other singers about where we were!
If you could invite any 3 people for a dinner party, who would they be and why?
Kate Bush, Sufjan Stevens and Lena Dunham as I think they are quite reflective, and I think they are good listeners as well as talkers.
What would you cook them?
Lamb or vegetable Tagine, and chocolate mousse.
Favourite holiday destination?
A tropical island.
You previously studied under Nia Lynn and Anita Wardell, what was the best advice that these people offered and how has it assisted you in your musical career?
These two singers have firm roots in the jazz tradition, and they are very connected with this language, which I found inspiring in helping me find my own voice.
Where did you celebrate Christmas this year?
At home in London with my family and my sister’s family.
You employed some heavyweight assistance for your debut album Martyn Barker on drums (Billy Bragg/Beth Gibbons) and Arnulf Lindner on bass (KT Tunstall) - How was it working with these guys?
Initially it was very daunting sharing my songs with such established musicians. Especially having spent so much time working away on the songs my own. But they were so friendly, and they just wanted to achieve the right sounds!
What’s your favourite album in the world ever?
It changes constantly. But for now it is Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens.
Any gigs planned for Christmas/New Year and what plans do you have for festival appearances in 2015?
At the moment I am completely focusing on a new album I am working on, and in the Spring I hope to release a track from that. I have been going to Richmond to work in the studio with James Hallawell on production. I think this album has some very different sounds to Collectable You. James has a variety of vintage synths, and recording techniques and the sound world of the songs has played a major part in how they develop. I’m really looking forward to gigging my new songs.
We ordered another round of white wine spritzers and a plate of nibbles and settled down for a few quickfire questions....
Christmas Eve or New Years Eve?
Christmas Eve - I have children!
The Rolling Stones or The Beatles?
Bus or Tube?
London or New York?
New York as it’s an adventure.
Cappucino or Latte?
Traditional piano or electric keyboard?
Thunder or Lightning?
Sneeze or Hiccups?
Camping or Glamping?
Camping as I’ve never tried Glamping!
Summer or Winter?
CD or Vinyl?
Country Pub or Trendy Wine Bar?
Trendy wine bar probably.
God or Google?
We'd like to thank Helene for taking part in our Q&A session and wish her every success for 2015, if you would like to learn more about Helene's music and live dates, please read on for her social media channels.