We were fortunate enough to get some face time with Esme Patterson just before her sound check at the Frank Turner show in Exeter recently, we managed to find her dressing room and we settled down to chat. On my way to the show, I wanted to get Esme something from Devon, something to remind her of her time spent in Exeter, I stopped off at Tesco at Lee Mill and could I find anything remotely Devony? Could I heck, so she ended up with a nice ‘Dairy Box’ selection, I guess it had ‘Dairy’ in the name and we have loads of those here in Devon so in a way, it did fit the bill…..ANYWAY, back to the interview!
We know a little bit about you, you’re from Denver but are currently based in Portland, you’ve recently released your latest record ‘We Were Wild’, can you tell us something about yourself that NOT many people know?
Oh, that’s a cool question, I was on a jump roping team in Elementary school so I know a load of really cool jump roping tricks….
We checked in our bag but no jump rope, Esme was safe!
I usually travel with one in the States but I just felt no need to bring one over here!
Was this an alternative to being a cheerleader?
I’m not sure where it came from, I used to be really small and I guess it’s kind of a sport but not like a competitive sport, I’m WAY too competitive and that brings out the bad side in me!
Where did you record and who produced your latest record ‘We Were Wild’? Have you used this studio or producer before?
I recorded in Portland, Oregon at a really cool studio called Type Foundry, it’s like an amazing big warehouse over in the industrial part of town and it was produced by a really brilliant person and my friend Adam Thompson, it was one of the best teams working on a record that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
Did you find it easier to work with him being a friend already?
We actually weren’t friends at the start, we knew each other, more acquaintances that became good friends during the recording process.
You used pre-production techniques when recording ‘We Were Wild’ rather than the live approach that you did with previous releases, was this your idea?
I was on tour for, what seems like about 10 years straight, on and off but I was making demos on the road and stopping off at points whilst on tour, Chicago, Illinois, Denver to record the songs, I was playing them on the raod but really wanted to get them down so I had something to start working on properly, it was more of an adaptation as to the way my life was at that time, not having a lot of time to be at home and demo things properly so I guess it was more a way of doing things on the move, trying to develop my ideas at the time. The method for recording the latest album was different, I played most of the instruments live, Adam had a lot of new methods that he suggested that I would never have ben able to come up with on my own.
You’re in the UK on tour with Frank Turner, what have you learned from watching Frank perform? Why do you think he has such a huge following? What’s been the funniest thing that has happened to you so far on this tour?
Oh my gosh, a lot, he’s SUCH a professional, it’s really impressive and I’m not just saying that because I’m here on his tour, seriously, that is absolutely true…..I have a really hard time NOT telling the truth, I’m just no good at it! It’s really obvious when I’m lying. Frank is very inspiring, he works SO hard and he is so faithful to the people that got him where he is, he works alongside many people who he started off working with years ago, his crew is also really dedicated as he treats everyone really well and respects everyone and as the opening act (1st of 3), I’ve been on tours before where I’ve been in situations where I’ve NOT been treated respectfully at all, Frank doesn’t have to do that but its just the way he is, especially as he is doing so well, you would almost expect to have a certain detachment between him and me but not the case at all, he’s really present, focused, down to earth and also, he’s so kind and I think that really comes through in his live shows as well, the whole room feels lifted from just being in his presence. It’s not a performance, that’s exactly the way he is all the time, it’s really inspiring, he taught me that you can do this and not be lost and confused in your own ego, you can do the job and still be a nice guy!
We chatted to him earlier and he is an amazing person, really honest, time for everyone!
You’ve been on tour since mid November and it doesn’t finish until mid December, what do you do on your days off?
Tomorrow we have a day off and usually we do as little as possible! I like to exercise, just go and move your body as on tour you’re cooped up in a van or hunched into a small room like this, try to remember you’re human and eat a lot of good food, we always like to stay in places that have a kitchen so we can cook our own food, it’s calming and it’s way cheaper!
Are you a talented chef?
I’m not, my bass player is an amazing cook, he cooked an entire Thanksgiving dinner the other night, he’s great. I can cook but I don’t think anyone would say that I’m particularly good at it!
Was that the reason you hired the bass player, for his cooking skills?
That is NOT true at all, Jeremy is a quadruple threat, he’s good at a LOT of things!
Your video for ‘No River’ is really interesting, I read that you filmed it in Newburgh, NY, who directed the video?
My friend David Fishel directed it and his partner Carlye Eckert choreographed all of the dancing and they came up with the concept together….
Was it cold?
Oh yeah! It was miserably cold!
You dragging yourself out of the water with a very thin dress on….
Yes, it was about 5 in the morning, I was on tour sand I had dropped the band off at the airport in Washington DC and driven upstate with my manager and just got there in time, slept for 2 hours and then had to be in the makeup and hair chair for 3:45am and I was in the water for 5am! I drank a little whiskey so I was fine!
I think I’d need more than a ‘little’ whiskey to get me in there!
That was my only condition when they told me what I had to do, if you give me some whiskey, I think I’ll be fine!
I see you’re a fan of tattoos, are you hoping to have as many as Frank Turner one day?
Oh gosh, it’s not a planned thing at all, I’m an artist and I guess it’s a mode of expression, never really thought it through
Do they all have a meaning?
I’m a songwriter so I believe in symbolism, I like it, it’s the way I understand the world!
I wanted to ask you about your musical influences, which artist or band would you say made you want to start writing and performing music?
If I had to pick one, I guess it would have to be (from a writing point of view), I was in a performance class in high school and I got a guitar for Christmas and I had just started listening to Joni Mitchell albums a lot and I have really small hands and as I’m not a really beefy strong person (I wasn’t at the time!), Joni used to do these alternate tunings as she had polio when she was growing up and her hands couldn’t reach the traditional chord shapes so I learnt in the same way that she did, I tuned the guitar to me instead of trying to bed yourself around the instrument. That opened up a whole world for me and from there, I just started to write my own songs.
On your Facebook profile it says that you’re a Singer/Gambler/Songwriter, I can see how the first and last come into play, tell me about the middle one….
(reaches in her pocket) I like dice….shit, looks like I lost one! I play for money now and again, I like to gamble, I do, it’s almost like a religious thing for me, like the word divination, the idea that means randomising outcomes, by using a process of randomising things you allow a greater pattern to emerge and you take away the human influence, in a way, you open it up to chance or mystery, whatever it means to you. To me, it’s a way of tapping into a thing that’s WAY bigger than yourself and it’s a way of winning some money! Or you can lose money and isn’t that the way life goes?
So, I’ve NEVER been to Portland before, if I were to head over and have a few days there, I want to know where I should eat, where I can go to catch a live band and then have a few drinks afterwards, any suggestions?
Portland is awesome, all the food there is mind blowing, there are so many places to go, I tend to like the places where you don’t have to wait in line or you don’t have to pay lots of cash, there’s loads of Mexican food places, you don’t seem to have them over here in the UK, growing up in the Southwest, I love all the spicy Mexican foods. I would recommend one that’s right by my place, it’s called Santo Domingo and I think it’s a truly wonderful place (I really hope they get to read this!) they’re definitely my favourite place to eat. For a show, I often play at a place called Mississippi Studios which is a great venue that’s independently run, they have some great bands and it’s a great place to see. For drinks, I like a Tiki Bar, I love them, there are two of them in Portland, they’re really nicely decorated and you can order things that are on fire and all that cool stuff, my favourite one is a place called Alibi which is a great name for a bar!
I came across a site on Twitter called Safe Gigs for Women recently, I was amazed at some of the stories that are posted on the page….
I am already involved with these guys and it’s great that Frank has them at his merch table on tour and I do what I can to retweet their posts on Twitter to get the message out there and try and send people in their direction too. The people they’ve had looking after the tables at the shows have been great and we’ve definitely had some good conversations and heart to hearts. This is something that we’re working on in Portland right now, there have been some incidents and sadly this is such a common thing….
It’s high time that people actually started to recognise that it IS an issue and started to do something about it!
And that’s a good thing! I like to focus on the solution rather than the problem, focusing on the positive elements and how we can carve a path through it rather than dwelling on the negative side of things. It just makes things easier, I hope that people do spend time researching and looking into the issues….
I’m mentioning it to all the bands that I interview now and everyone seems more than happy to get involved with them.
That’s so great, having spoken to friends of mine of both sexes who have never been in that situation, it’s important that people who have been affected by the issues that are often raised have a place to come together and share ideas and stories and get the support that they need, create a safe space that they can feel valued and listened to, I think it’s a really good step forward.
Lastly, It’ll be Christmas soon, firstly, have you been good? And secondly, what is on your list this year?
That’s a hard question to answer, I live in America, there’s a lot of people there saying that "Trump isn’t my president" but I think that we all have to be held accountable for it, it’s like people saying that they didn’t contribute to it but in a way, I think we all did contribute to that fucking trash fire in some way! Do I look in the mirror and ask if I’m a good person….no, but I hope that the work I do that goes towards making sure that everyone in my country is treated like a human being and their rights are upheld, then yes, I guess I am!
For Christmas this year, I am asking my family to make donations to various things I feel strongly about, one way to vote is with a ballot and another way to vote is with your money.
We do that instead of sending Christmas cards, we make a donation to a charity rather than spending goodness knows how much on cards and stamps!
Exactly and I feel guilty being so far away from everyone too! SO I’m just trying to help in any way that I can from across the ocean!
That in itself is a good act so you’re on the ‘good’ list!
At this point Esme had to go and soundcheck for the evening's show, we bid her farewell and left via the rabbit warren maze of corridors and tunnels that eventually connected us back to the main hall. If you are yet to hear Esme's latest record, there's a link below, please go take a listen, I guarantee that you'll end up buying it!
Here are some links to her social media, go check her out, you'll be glad you did!