behind the music folk interview music piano singer songwriter whispers of the plains

Whispers of the Plains #2 – Lou Cowell

#2 in our interview section comes from rising star Lou Cowell. Just one read of this interview and I’m reaching for my baked beans and going care free! So here it is, ten questions with Lou Cowell:

So now that “I… Um…” is out to the world, how do you feel about the finished album?

I feel oddly detached from it actually. It’s a diary that is lovingly dog-eared, doodled in, cried over and cherished for the future wistful smiles and hindsight-fuelled belly laughs it will no doubt bring when fished from its dusty drawer in years to come, and poured over by both me and my kids.

And how about all the critical acclaim you’ve received? Does it matter much to you?

It matters to me that the songs reach those who need them, when they need them. For so many years I have felt a large pool of fraudulence residing, swamp-like, in the pit of my stomach (which could of course be IBS), but sometimes, when I sit down at the piano, with itchy fingers, rather than feet; it is as though the songs have been writing themselves while I’ve been blissfully unaware. As I’ve trundled supermarket aisles, laughed with friends, munched my beans on toast with Eastenders for company; lyrics and melodies, have been formulating inside me, letter by letter, note by note, until they are ready. Cue the itchy fingers: like a vigorously shaken coke can; the thought bubbles want out! And so it comes to be that I am in front of the keys, giving them a voice. The fraudulence stems from the fact that, by the time my scratchy vocal relieves those itchy fingers, it’s as though the best part of the work is already done. I am literally just an instrument. I mentioned this feeling to my Mum a while ago, the guilt that I felt for receiving praise for songs that seemed to be written, for the most part, by the time they reached me. ‘Ah, but it’s you they chose to capture them’, she said. The best I can do is honour them; to be home when they come calling. To pass on their whisperings to those they whisper for.

How was it to hear “A Good Day” covered in French?

Very odd. Initially, I felt physically violated! GSCE French pricked at my ears with soupçons of ‘trousers’ and tickets’ (‘Un billet s’il vous plait?’) – neither of which I remember alluding to myself, in ‘A Good Day’. It was though, deeply flattering to hear the little nuances in the vocal; neither note nor lyric, but more little character traits of mine, which had been meticulously recreated by my French counterpart.

Emmanuelle Moire’s had mass success with his cover of “A Good Day”. Do you think it’s a reflection on the UK’s much more narrow-minded music industry exec’s that the same song may not be given as good a chance here?

You make your own chances. If ‘A Good Day’ has the will, it will find a way. A good song will always get through. Yes, of course, it would be amazing for some Music Industry mogul to come and shower me with the riches to ‘soapbox’ ‘A Good Day’, to market and promote my songs to the world, but faith is a pretty undeterable force too.

Do you have any special songs of yours that you have a soft spot for?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children is her favourite! My songs have all come from places inside me that I was too scared/sad/elated to look at, or be faced by, without the protection of a musical mask. They are the ‘raw’ bits. The bits that can’t be madeup, concealed by a flatteringly long cardi or ‘perked up’ by a couple of chicken fillets! They are parts of who I am, and who I am is a result of everything and everyone I have known thus far. They are my memories, my photographs, for better or for worse; they have made my today possible, so I love them all dearly.

If you were to describe yourself as an artist for a new listener, how would you do so?

With the use of Blue Peter-style finger painting, definitely.

You grew up around a wildlife sanctuary. Tell us more about that.

What’s to tell? Doesn’t everyone grow up with a nest of hoglets in their bedroom airing cupboard? A pesky barn owl perched on their living room door, eyeing their fish fingers with beady-eyed intent? A family of fledgling robins in a camping stove on the kitchen dresser?
Apparently not. But I only realised this some years later. My sister and I were pretty much left to our own devises when we got home from school. Dad worked long hours in the city, and Mum was run ragged administering maggots, goat’s milk and meal worms to anyone who gaped. You pretty much learned to shut your mouth pronto after you’d spoken in our house, just in case.
I have been brought up around animals, and struggle, at the best of times, to differentiate them from people. Their empathy, unconditional honestly and support can be overwhelming. Animals are some of the best people I know.

Would you prefer to live out in the sticks or in the city?

I plan to be Barbara from ‘The Good Life’ just as soon as I have achieved record sales enough to afford me a packet of seeds for each and every major vegetable group. I will also need a ‘Tom’, a few token chickens, (a grand piano, a fully equipped gym and a lifetime supply of Marlboro Lights). All donations gratefully received.

Are there any more instruments you’d be interested to learn?

Have you seen me live? I never ‘learnt’ the piano! Can’t you tell?! I think there is music in everything. The world is, after all, made up of vibration. Everything that we are is made up of billions of vibrating particles. When you speak of ‘getting a good “vibe” from someone’, is this you subliminally picking up that your and their frequency are in harmony? Are those that you ‘clash with’ the F# to your F? We speak in different tones depending on our levels of excitement or passion; this is a melody of sorts. We drum our fingers when we’re impatient, we scream when we’re frustrated or angry. The primal scream. Music.
If you have something to express, the instrument will present itself… that said, I reckon I’d be a pretty fucking awesome drummer.

What are you plans for 2009?

Pretty much the same as my plans for the rest of 2008: Go to the gym, eat chocolate, pick up a Grammy, be true to myself, cuddle people that need a cuddle (or be accepting of one when I need it), eagerly anticipate the day that someone asks me for my autograph in Tesco when I’m with someone I want to impress (then act all modest and embarrassed when it happens), buy Topshop, walk the dogs, trust my instinct.

And what would you like to do for the weekend?

Give it my undivided attention.

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