On the major festival circuit, Latitude is especially renowned for championing up-and-coming performers through its vibrant fringe programme. James Bartholomeusz caught up with singer-songwriter Alex Kenwrick Patterson after her set at the Coyote Moon Café.
What has it been like playing at Latitude?
Amazing! It’s been a real privilege to play as part of the Coyote Moon Café, and it’s great being part of something which supports new artists who no one has heard before. It’s the kind of place you just stumble across in the midst of the forest and end up seeing some of the best music of the festival, because it’s such an intimate and inclusive space.
There is certainly a huge variety of music represented here. Do you identify your work with a particular genre?
I don’t like to put my music in to any particular box or genre, but most people associate my music with folk/acoustic. I grew up playing Irish fiddle, and have been influenced by the storytelling nature of folk music. But I think the sounds or melodies that come naturally to me when I sing are much more soulful and jazzy.
What would you say are the main inspirations for your songwriting?
I grew up surrounded by folk music, so narrative is an important factor when writing. I am also very interested in the past as a subject-matter, in particular my own family history. My grandparents are a huge source of inspiration. Stories they have told me over the years sometimes feature in songs, such as our nail-making ancestors of Bromsgrove, or when my granny used to go round collecting workers’ songs from the chain factories in the Black Country. However, a lot of the stories in my songs are based on people that I meet, whose character I tend to exaggerate to make them slightly fictitious.
So which musicians would you cite as formative influences?
That’s a tricky question, because it’s a bit of a mixed bag! I’m really into interesting voices – if I hear a singing voice that makes my ears prick up I will most probably like it! One of the earliest voices I remember listening to was Ella Fitzgerald, because my parents were both into jazz. In secondary school I went through my pop phase and became obsessed with Christina Aguilera, after that I got into folk and listened to bands like Lau. When I discovered Jeff Buckley – that was quite significant. I strive to get the same diversity and soul his voice had.
During your set, you spoke about how one of your songs was inspired by a book of gypsy photography, and that you later met and befriended someone whose relatives were featured in it. Could you tell me a little more about this experience?
Yes, the song is called Horsedrawn. This experience was one which cemented the idea in my head that song-writing is what I am supposed to do with my life, because of how the whole thing came together by chance. The best part of that story is that Sol – my friend – had never seen the book, or even anyone on that side of her family, for eight years. She then came round two weeks later, and I showed her the photographs while she told stories about when she used to live in her dad’s wagon. It was a really emotional experience and for me; it just gives the song more meaning. To be written, a song has to have real purpose for existing, and Sol’s story is the reason why Horsedrawn deserves to exist.
You went to university in Brighton, and you’ve chosen to stay there since graduating. Is there something about the city that informs your music?
Brighton is full of musicians of a really high standard, and being surrounded by these people fuels my own creativity. I love living by the sea as well. Most people think I’m weird for saying this, but being on the edge of a piece of land relaxes me because I know exactly where I am and because I’m surrounded by a massive stretch of open space.
In terms of your output, you have just released your first EP, and have been touring to promote it. What’s up next?
Currently, I am focusing on getting my dream band together. I love performing solo but I ideally want to be part of a three-piece band of multi-instrumentalists who can swap instruments and sing amazing harmonies! I am then planning on releasing another EP sometime early next year.
Lastly, who are you most looking forward to seeing this weekend at Latitude?
One of the best things I have already seen was Eaves, a singer-songwriter whose music evokes some of the same feeling as Jeff Buckley. But I’m also really excited to see Ibeyi – apparently they are amazing live!