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Lisa Redford.
Lisa Redford

Lisa Redford interview

Norwich singer-songwriter Lisa Redford has just released her second album, Lost Again, and its tracks are already clocking up airplay on BBC Radio 2.

Radio appearance

  • Saturday, 23 December, 2006: Lisa will be playing on Bob Harris' BBC Radio 2 show from 11pm.

Interview first published in August 2005

Tracks from a Norwich singer-songwriter's new album have been filling the airwaves from BBC Radio 2's studios.

Lisa Redford has just launched her second album, Lost Again, and two of its songs have already been selected for shows presented by the station's Bob Harris, who is intending to play more of her tunes in weeks to come.

The airing of her tracks by one of the country's top stations has helped to circulate her name and this week she has signed a deal to have her album stocked by high street record shops.

Lisa's contract with the UK's biggest independent distributors, Proper, means fans will be able to order her CD from their local stores and online music sites, which is a coup for an unsigned artist.

The deal is a boost for Lisa who funded the album, which was recorded in Manchester.

Lost Again is the follow-up to 2003's Slipstream, but this time Lisa decided to recruit musician and producer Gabriel Minnikin, who played with alt-country band The Guthries, to help steer the production.

The result is a bolder sounding album than her debut studio record, which features more than 20 instruments from a mandolin to a Wurlitzer organ and a theremin.

Lost Again, which was launched in July with a gig at the Norwich Puppet Theatre, still retains Lisa's trademark acoustic guitar which underpins her Americana country style.

Lisa caught up with BBC Norfolk to talk about working with a producer for the first time, the album launch and her plans for the future.

You've just released your latest album - whereabouts did you record it?

It was recorded in Manchester in a studio called Airtight, people like KT Tunstall have recorded there and The Earlies. We actually had a guy there from The Earlies - a Manchester band - he's part of their live band and he was the engineer for the album.

It's a really good place, it's not a huge studio but perfect for what I was doing.

How did you end up recording there?

It's where Gabe, the producer, suggested. I needed to do it in Manchester because the musicians which Gabe recruited were all based there, so it seemed natural to be there rather than get everyone down to Norfolk or London.

Lost Again is Lisa's second album.
Lost Again is Lisa's second album

We did look into other places - there's a really good studio in Wales as well - but a lot more expensive and obviously you have to keep that in mind for self-financing.

As you said Gabriel Minnikin was your producer and it's the first time you've worked with a producer - what was that like?

A really good experience. Slipstream was self-produced which was great but this is a much bigger production. I'd been in contact with Gabe for a while - I was a big fan of his band, The Guthries.

At the same time I got in touch he was moving to Manchester for a while. We did a gig before at the Puppet Theatre and then just after Christmas I was looking to record the new album but I wanted to work with a producer rather than do it again all myself.

He was really interested and I sent him the acoustic demos I did live in the studio and he was really keen. I knew he loved Slipstream and he could hear things on Slipstream he wanted to do.

I sent him the demos, he listened and then a few days later he got back saying he really wanted to do it and what ideas he had for the songs. He wanted to still keep it very organic and then he started to get all the musicians together.

What drew you to contact him?

You contact lots of people in this business, it's a way of moving forward. Often you find labels or other people in the so-called business not that helpful.

Other musicians tend to be a lot more forthcoming and I know a lot of singer-songwriters and artists and they're more helpful as they're in the same boat. I just loved The Guthries' stuff and it just co-incided - me contacting him with him coming to England.

I didn't know it was going to lead to working on an album together but that's what happened. When first of all I rung him I said, 'Maybe do you want to play on the album? I don't know what I'm going to do yet.' And he was like, 'Yeah, definitely.'

And then I pushed it and said how about having more of the producer role and he was really keen and it fitted in perfectly with his schedule.

And the end result - what are your thoughts?

I'm really, really pleased. When we first rehearsed in February, just hearing some of the songs that I've played for so long with just me and a guitar - which work fine - but suddenly hearing them with musicians, it transformed them.

But it's still essentially a very acoustic album, there are bits of electric guitar for riffs and things. But all the instruments like banjos and mandolins... there are actually over 20 instruments on the album.

Whose decision was it to use all these instruments because before you've kept it very acoustic based?

It was Gabe and me. He had said, 'What sort of thing do you have in mind? Do you want strings on the album? I said, 'Yeah,' so he said 'Ok, I can get you a string section.'  I had to keep conscious of my budget but luckily it worked out.

Any more on there it would have probably got too much - a lot of it's quite lush. I've been around people's and in venues where they've been playing it and I can actually enjoy it as a listener.

Sometimes you hear something and you cringe a bit - but it's very well-produced and you can hear all the instruments, they're complementing each other. There are lots of layers, lots of textures. It's well thought out by Gabe and well rehearsed.

How difficult is it as a musician to have to finance all of your work?

Very difficult. It's a case of saving up and you have to keep conscious of what you're spending but I had savings.

On the album you cover a Neal Casal song. Why did you choose to do that?

He's a good friend of mine as well. He's one of my favourite songwriters - I also like Ryan Adams and Josh Rice. He's in that Americana bracket, but he's been going a lot longer than that.

I play lots of favourite songs any way and I tried that one and his version is a lot more of a band sound. I played it acoustically and it worked really well.

He's heard it and loved it and it works well because it's at the end of the album so in a way it closes it because it's just me and a guitar.

I did it live in the studio so it's got the rough edges around it and the emotion - because my songs have lots of instrumentation and a lot of work has gone into them. Then this one just rounds it off nicely and his material complements mine - it's what's influenced my stuff so it works well.

BBC Radio 2's Bob Harris played this song on his show. How do you feel about this record being picked up for national airplay?

It's fantastic. He played Slipstream before so I was really pleased about that because it's my debut album, self-produced, and suddenly it's getting airplay the first week it's out.

Then you're fingers crossed for the next one - and this has got so much more on it. He's also contacted me to say he'll be playing more tracks in the forthcoming weeks and you can't buy that sort of promotion, airplay, backing so it's really going to propel me to another level. People around the world listen to that, so it's fantastic.

How did the album's launch gig go at the Puppet Theatre?

Oh, fantastic. It was full. It's a lovely theatre and it worked really well for my material. Gabe came down and played guitar, harmonica and banjo on some of the tracks and Alan, who plays pedal steel and dobro on the album, came down as well. I did some on my own and then brought them in and it went really well.

Was Gabriel as anxious as you to hear how the songs were received?

I think so. He's a confident guy - he'a a great character. He's laid back on stage. It worked well because he played some of his and I sang backing for him and harmonies so we complemented each other.

Considering we didn't have much of a practice because he came down from Manchester - he obviously knew the songs - but it went really well.

How do you think Lost Again varies from Slipstream, your debut?

The songs are still very much my style. I write very melodic songs with that Americana influence. They seem a lot more confident to me - it's a more uplifting album even though there is a lot of heartbreak and bittersweet songs on there.

There is a lot more confidence on there even though I've had tonnes of studio experience. I think the songs have a lot more of an edge with the instruments. It seems to hit you more, but it's still essentially my style, it's just more of a progression.

Do you think that confidence is due to having a producer on this occasion?

Maybe. I wrote a lot of the songs a year ago specifically for a new album, picking the best songs I'd written over the last year.

Through playing them live you get to sing them how you want and get confident with them so by the time you go in the studio you know exactly how you're going to sing them.

I'm more conscious of putting more emotion into my voice rather than just going in and getting it right. Not one song is the same even though they're my style. There is a lot going on in the songs, lots of dimensions.

You've finally got your album out into the open, so what now?

Basically just getting it out there anywhere I can. I've sent it out to Europe and had a great response there, a couple of labels in America are very interested because it's got that American influence.

I'm just literally sending it out every day, and then chasing people up and getting their feedback and responses which so far have been great.

That's my main focus at the moment, then I'd love to go on tour, maybe supporting somebody bigger but in a similar field which would get me to another audience. That would be my aim.

Play London a lot more again - I've played the Borderline a few times, which is a great venue, so just get out there basically. Over the next year I'm just going to be sending out Lost Again as much as possible.

last updated: 20/12/06
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