Hilary Woods has once again crafted another dark, charming soundscape that bursts with intensity and introspection. While Colt was an immersive gut-punch of an album, Birthmarks is raw, noisy and dense, a piece built on opposites, personal change and physically heavier. With her new solo album, Birthmarks, out today, the former JJ72 bassist was kind enough to speak to us about her new effort, the creative process behind it, the learning curve between the two albums, her collaboration with Lasse Marhaug and how she managed to translate her feelings into her music.
Your new album explores “the oscillating volatile processes of selfhood and becoming, hidden gestational growth, and the birthing of the Self, amidst continuous social and personal change.” How did you manage to translate those feelings into lyrics and music?
I think the impulse behind creating this record incorporated to an extent all those things. Sonically, the record touches on visceral and vulnerable feelings and the making of any record or any form of expression in and of itself, is an ever evolving and humbling process.
What’s the role or influence of surroundings on your music and specially in the creation of Birthmarks? I’m just curious because Birthmarks was recorded whilst you were heavily pregnant between Galway and Oslo in the winter of 2019. Please correct if I’m wrong on this.
In terms of surroundings, I recorded this record both at home alone and with Lasse in his studio in Oslo. The beauty of recording at home by oneself is that you can take all the time needed to lay down tracks, experiment, try new things out and do so without any selfconsciousness that might arise in front of another. Other aspects of the record were really served by being recorded with Lasse, and he has exquisite taste and ideas in his recording of other instruments – ie. the sax and cello. It felt organic and it was enjoyable to mix and match how things were recorded on this LP.
Colt was a really immersive gut-punch of an album while Birthmarks is raw, dense and with several new levels of intensity and emotion. Do you feel it is important to reflect on learnings from each album – musically and/or emotionally – or to keep moving? What’s different about Colt compared to your new album, Birthmarks?
In response to both questions: I think each album is a learning curve for sure, opportunities to refine one’s craft amongst other things. Colt and Birthmarks are each very different creations. Both tap into different sensorial landscapes/come from different places in the body, both inhabit and emit very different atmospheres. Each of these records is an expression of the desire to move on/or keep moving both emotionally and musically, and with one’s life outside of art.
Both albums are strongly personal, do you think that Birthmarks is deeper than Colt?
No. However I do think Birthmarks is heavier than Colt, not necessarily emotionally but physically.
Let’s talk about the song “Orange Tree”, I love the song and how you connect with your inner fear of the unknown with the sense of overcoming. How comfortably do these two seemingly opposites live together for you?
Ah, thank you. I think they live simultaneously together/different sides of the same coin. Fear requires an overcoming of sorts.
“I think each album is a learning curve for sure, opportunities to refine ones craft amongst other things.”
Are there any patterns in the way you write your music, or any kind of rituals that have become part of your creative progress?
Not really other than I write and sketch ideas and visuals and play around with sound and different mediums a lot, of which a small percentage ends up on record.
When you make an album that’s really personal like this, and dealing with life itself, being a mother now, does it feel strange to know that people are going to apply it to themselves and come away with interpretations that are way different from yours? Is it a hard thing to wrap your head around?
I feel as soon as the writing and making part of the process is done, there is a handing over of sorts. How this album is received and interpreted is not in my control, and the listener will always bring their own imprint to it, that is the beauty of sharing anything creative – that a dialogue or exchange occurs between the maker, the record and whomever spends time with it. My intention was to make an honest piece of work and if it speaks to people, that’s great.
How was it like to collaborate with Lasse Marhaug for Birthmarks? I must say that the final result is really creative and quite impressive!
It was a joy to work with Lasse. We’ve a lot of similar artistic interests and from the get go there was an understanding and ease in our working together.
Speaking of the production, was that an aesthetic choice originally, or a matter of the means you were working with at the time?
I would say an aesthetic choice primarily.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
I think a successful collaboration requires a lot of trust and is a rare and intimate thing. There are lots of inspirational artists I admire. I’m not sure at this moment though who I’d love to collaborate with just yet.
I love the artwork of Birthmarks. It fits the aesthetic of the record perfectly. Are you the creative force behind the artwork?
Yes. I do all my own artwork and videos.
I happen to love Chris Marker films and a “bird” told me that was an influence for the new album. So, now I absolutely need to know what are your favorite Chris Marker films. I will tell my top 3: La Jetée, Sans Soleil and Le Fond de l’air est rouge tied up with Lettre de Sibérie.
Basically you’ve taken the words right outta my mouth… I love all those you’ve just mentioned!
Are you excited for this year Roadburn Festival? The line up is amazing!
It’ll be my first time at Roadburn, stoked!