Tales from the wilderness

Eliza Delf and Jon Loomes discuss each song on Into the Wilderness 

“I’m not lost, I’m in the wilderness.” 

Into the Wilderness | Song Profiles with Eliza Delf and Jon Loomes 

Track 1 | Howl 

“I’ve stepped out of a cage that I made…” 

Eliza Delf: A jaunty, confident pop song with dark lyrics, embellished with dramatic flourishes, and culminating with breathless urgency.  The vocal performance is steeped in danger and drama – and this permeates the arrangement and tone. 

The song describes a search for a more authentic identity, free of a self-imposed straitjacket.  It is rich in imagery that captures the sense of release and freedom that comes from accepting oneself in all one’s messy complexity – it’s about growing up without giving up. 

Jon Loomes:  Eliza's dramatic storytelling demanded something beyond generic pop production, so I began with the orchestra first (working from Eliza's piano sketch), adding the Drums, Bass, and Guitar quite late on in the process. This quickly established itself as a good working method and most of the album was approached this way, usually piano and strings first, then woodwinds and brass for colour and emotional depth. I've also used a Finnish folk harp called a Kantele for its beautiful and distinct chiming sound. 

Track 2 | Stealing My Fear Away 

“Those with the eyes of a child can’t lament,  they’ve seen nothing destroyed.” 

Eliza Delf: A folk elegy, graceful and heartfelt.  The underpinning deep bass drumbeat gives it the air of a solemn march.  The song captures the desire to find freedom from the fear that prevents us revealing and enjoying our true self. 

The refrain in the verses echoes William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in which he explores “the two contrary states of the human soul”. 

Jon Loomes:  I've always liked Blake. His Songs of Innocence and Experience express complex themes in the honest language of childhood. As with folksong, there is no sense of naivety, and we are encouraged to read between the lines.  Gentle strings, a solo flute and some percussion underpin the vocal and allow it to shine, while a guitar ripples like wind on the water. 

Track 3 | Wavelength 

“There’s no need to escape the moment, the moment is sunny.” 

Eliza Delf: A lullaby for grown-ups – channelling a nostalgic children’s film soundtrack vibe.  An understated waltz, with swooping strings, and the musical equivalent of walking bare foot on the beach. 

Childhood memories of carefree days at Waxham and Stiffkey on the Norfolk coast.  The bittersweet poetic lyrics and intimate vocals capture the sense of peace and tranquillity that we all reach for when faced with the stress and turbulence of adult life. 

Jon Loomes:  Sea salt, sandals, and a bucket and spade. Old cine footage of donkey rides and the playground roundabouts by Hunstanton Beach. I kept the strings light and airy, adding a harpsichord and a mellotron for a little vintage charm. An Edwardian gentleman plucks a ukulele as a hundred years of holiday makers enjoy a precious day in the sunshine. Edwin Beasant's cymbal work in the middle eight perfectly captured the sea spray breaking over the shingle. 

Track 4 | If She Were To Fall 

“Oh, she let him spin her round, they were dancing on the edge.” 

Eliza Delf: A folk noir ballad that imbues the sing-song lilt of the melody with an eerie undercurrent of foreboding – a warning to the unwary! 

The vulnerability that comes with being a young woman giving herself up to the intense, disconcerting, and overwhelming emotions and feelings of falling in love. 

Jon Loomes:  Piano and cello dance in the darkness. I've used richer strings here, and the orchestra is processed into more synth like textures, “That sound” suggested to me a sense of  dread, something unavoidable and uncomfortable. I've channelled my inner Warren Ellis and used a lot of slightly warped sounds here, familiar yet unfamiliar. “...a sea change, into something rich and strange” 

Track 5 | Singing With My Ghosts 

“The joyous sound of my memories.” 

Eliza Delf: An uplifting call to those who we have lost but do not forget.  Haunting vocals explore the power of holding onto those you love through memory, and the rich choral sound creates a sense of euphoria; defiance in the face of grief.  The dream-like reverie at the end of the song is immersive and evocative, with harmonies that drift and reverberate across time. 

Jon Loomes: A hat tip to the production work of Nile Rogers. This is a song about memory, the thoughts that haunt us. An echoing piano creates a cascade of notes,  setting a bedrock for a scene of half imagined reverie. Strings and voices fill the spaces between thoughts, and, crossing oceans of time, the strains of a duduk call to us from the cradle of civilisation.  Burnt out ends of smoky days and the stale, cold smell of mourning. 

Track 6 | My Familiar 

“I put my bones back piece by piece, I steal the blood back from the beast.” 

Eliza Delf: A rhythmic incantation based on a compelling hypnotic chant.  The familiar is a soul-mate lost.  The process of reclaiming and rebuilding one’s sense of self afterwards is described in visceral and elemental metaphors – this is not the simple act of dipping into a “self help guidebook” and “moving on”, this is venturing into the heart of the labyrinth to defeat the Minotaur. 

Jon Loomes:  Ritual and Rhythm have always been close associates and so this track is built on complex percussion elements. A hurdy-gurdy adds a cicada like buzz to the dancing beat, as Eliza incants and conjures, evokes and abjures, wrestling demons, and drawing an arcane power from within. Droning textures add a sense of tension to a spell that will ultimately conclude with silence. “When drums stop, very bad”, as every musician will tell you. 

Track 7 | Heaviness In The Head 

“Clarity comes with the sunlight, but I want a light more forgiving.” 

Eliza Delf: A response to feeling the weariness of life’s low moments – with a determination to reclaim the positive and hopeful elements of life.  A spirit of optimism and resilience underpins the choruses.  Life goes on, life gets better. 

Jon Loomes:  This was one of the first songs I tackled for this album. Eliza's pentatonic melody for the verses seemed to me to shift between keys, so I've had the strings build up from a simple drone into rich bitonal clusters, resolving to more familiar harmonic territory for the chorus. Although born of darkness, hope is here in the form of a borrowed theme from Holst's Planets – Jupiter, the bringer of Jollity. 

Track 8 | In The Court Of The Queen Of Strangeness 

“Your king lives amongst the green – I could love him if he let me!” 

Eliza Delf: A conversation with the writer Angela Carter through the musical landscape of a baroque court. A playful, literary homage. 

The song explores the line between jealousy and adoration, and the uneasy dynamic between youthful disciples and their more mature and celebrated idols. 

Jon Loomes:  Jealousy and adoration, I know them both well. “Mediocrity borrows, genius steals” as Stravinsky once said (although he may have nicked that idea off Picasso). Inspiration has to come from somewhere, and no man is an island. With this in mind we journey via the Galant style of Rameau and Couperin to the palace of Versailles where a now very old-fashioned J.S. Bach is having a keyboard duel to finally settle his long-standing beef with Keith Emerson.  The queen is not amused. 

Track 9 | Penance 

“We’ll be waiting in the wings, on the wings of the women who’ve brought us this far…” 

Eliza Delf: Celebrating the bravery of women that refused to be bound by the limits and expectations of their time, whilst also lamenting what they were denied.  Dark undercurrents underpin the soaring and defiant chorus that gives voice to the current generation that are following in the footsteps of those that started the fight for justice. 

Jon Loomes:  A feminist message with a warning to a certain type of man, juxtaposed against that most anachronistically misogynist of musical styles, the 'Bond' theme.  In my mind, this tale, full of secrets being gradually brought to light, is set in eastern Europe, which seems as good a reason as any to dust off the Cimbalom. Time for veteran agent Georgina Smiley to come out of retirement. 

Track 10 | Into The Wilderness 

“I’m not lost, I’m in the wilderness.” 

Eliza Delf: Exploring the connection between the wilderness of the natural world, and the psychological wilderness within.  Both are areas of untamed freedom and risk – with an edge of danger as well as sanctuary.  The peace at the heart of the wilderness can only be found by overcoming the anxiety of letting go. 

Deciding to find joy, or at least acceptance, in the more troubled parts of one’s life.  It’s a bit of a “whistling in the dark” song – keeping the shadows at bay.  The verses have a detached and observational quality to them. 

Jon Loomes:  Acceptance and finding peace; conclusions and wrapping up. I've tried to bring together a lot of ideas we've heard earlier in the album. Musical recapitulation aside, there are borrowings from the folk tradition, orchestral sounds both raw and processed, colouristic effects, themes derived from hidden places and a textural density that by turns obscures or reveals who knows what? Eyes in the undergrowth are watching...  We finish, not a million miles from where we started, but our lives are richer for the journey; a journey that is just beginning as we step out of our cages once more.

A Q&A interview - January 2022 

Q         You seem to attract comparisons with a wide range of strong female vocalists and songwriters – from Kate Bush to Joni Mitchell.  Are such comparisons helpful or not? 

A         I think the comparison with Kate Bush comes from the fact that I have quite a wide vocal range – and spend quite a lot of time in the upper register!  However, in truth, I think our voices and singing style are quite different.  Kate Bush is of course an international icon – with a remarkable breadth of music already written, with more being created all the time.  I love her – and some of her songs are very important to me on a personal and musical level.  Singers such as Joni Mitchell and Sandy Denny are sometimes mentioned because I think I have a naturally folk-inflected singing voice.  All of them are amazing – and it’s obviously flattering that people see some similarities.  For me, the thing that stands out is that they are all very strong-minded independent women that didn’t compromise and stayed focused on their own unique musical visions.  In the end, any successful singer has to establish their own individual character and style – and I hope I can do that in the coming years. 

Q         Your lyrics are written in “blood and shadows” according to your producer Jon Loomes – and they often read like poems rather than just songs.  Which comes first, the words or the music? 

        Ha ha.  Jon makes me sound like Bellatrix Le Strange!  The lyrics are incredibly important for me.  My main inspiration is actually not a musician at all, but the writer Angela Carter.  I was completely captivated by her short stories in The Bloody Chamber – her use of language is both incredibly precise and lean, whilst also being imaginative and lyrical.  The imagery is quite shocking sometimes – but always memorable and with a clear purpose.  There is actually a tenuous connection – as she taught on the Creative Writing course at my university UEA many years ago.  She’s another remarkably strong-minded and successful woman who was determined to find her own path.  One of my dream projects is to write a sort of oratorio based on her writings.  Might need another Kickstarter crowdfunder for that one! 

Q         What would you say are the main themes explored on your album Into the Wilderness?  Is it essentially a personal album or one that tackles big ideas and issues? 

        It always gets tricky when you ask an artist to explain what their art is about.  I kind of want to say “just listen to it and make up your own mind”!  But I know that’s not very helpful when it comes to writing articles for people to read that might not have heard the music yet!  So here are a few ideas – but I really hope people will find their own meaning in it all.  For me, one theme is the relationship between the outer wilderness in the natural world, and the inner wilderness which is psychological.  Both are places where being alone can be a bit scary and uncomfortable – but also where you can find peace and tranquillity…where you can find out who you really are if you’re willing to look hard enough.  Another theme is around finding, and losing, important relationships – and the tension between becoming a strong independent person whilst also being able to share oneself with someone else in a way that makes you very vulnerable.  Of course, I explore these issues through metaphor and allegory rather than a direct confessional diary style – so you have to put the work in to discover your own meanings! 

Q         The received wisdom in the music industry at the moment is to release a regular diet of singles to keep yourself on people’s social media radar.  You’ve done the opposite – choosing to announce yourself with a fully-formed album! 

A         It’s strange, but I think I always felt that I wanted to create an album of songs rather than gently test the water with several singles and maybe the odd ep.  I guess everyone is different.  For me, the songs felt like chapters in a book rather than individual short stories – I wanted people to immerse themselves in the music rather than dip in and out.  Of course, being my debut album I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for – it’s certainly a lot more expensive and time-consuming to do it this way, but I’m really pleased we chose this option.  Jon has been brilliant at weaving the songs together with lots of beautiful arrangements and instrumentation.  Just as there are echoes in the lyrics and the imagery across all ten songs – so there are musical motifs and ideas that appear in different songs to ensure the album feels like a coherent journey rather than just a set of different stepping-stones.  I hope that when people get to listen to the album they will feel like they are stepping into a wild but beautiful landscape and will spend time exploring all the nooks and crannies! 

Q         You were writing and recording the album as the Covid pandemic swept across the world – and like everyone else you were subject to lockdowns, social distancing, and all the anxieties that went with  it.  How did you cope with it all – whilst managing to stay focused on the music? 

A         I’ll be honest, I had issues with anxiety before Covid arrived – so the lockdowns were very difficult for me, and I had some really low moments.  I had just started at university and before I knew it the whole campus was locked down.  It was surreal and disconcerting – and such a shock.  Of course, some people were in much worse situations and I was fortunate to have my family close by to fall back on.  In many ways the music became my safe space – something I could lose myself in.  It was also something I loved doing – and I was lucky that in terms of writing and recording I could keep going through all the various lockdowns and restrictions.  Some of this fed into my writing – but it’s not really an album about lockdown. 

Q         Your album cover is an amazing portrait of you falling through the air in a beautiful dress painted by the renowned artist Will Teather.  How did that come about? 

A         That’s my dad’s doing!  Will is based in Norwich, and my dad had come across his work in the past.  There’s something quite gothic and magic realist about his paintings – with a bit of mischievousness thrown in.  I think his paintings have a strong narrative sense to them – as if you are being invited in to be part of a rather strange and uncanny story.  He did an amazing portrait of another female singer songwriter called Ana Silvera – and we just thought, why not approach him?  If you don’t ask, you don’t get!  I think he was intrigued by the music we shared with him – some early studio demos of the songs on the album.  The whole process of modelling for him was great fun, and very interesting – but physically demanding.  Lots of having to be draped over a rickety chair trying to look enigmatic rather than grimacing in pain!  The finished painting is stunning, and I’m so pleased with it.  I still can’t quite believe he captured such a perfect feel for the music and the album.  He actually created a few other paintings from the modelling sessions I did – so I’ll be hanging in the houses of strangers at some point.  An odd feeling!  The one of me that is used on the album cover is hanging on a wall in my parent’s house – so it’s going to become a family heirloom! 

Q         If you could work with another musician or band who would it be and why? 

A         Radiohead!  I watched a recording of their 2017 Glastonbury performance and their relationship with the crowd was brilliant.  I don’t have a lot of experience performing live, so I think I’d learn a lot from them.  

Q         Your producer Jon Loomes is based in Ripponden just outside Leeds – not that close to south Norfolk where you live.  How have you found the remote recording? 

A         Because it’s my debut album, it’s pretty much all I have experience of!  When I was younger, I had done a little bit of recording in a great local studio (The Mill Recording Studio in south Norfolk) with Jonny Cole – which was a lot of fun, and gave me a small taste of the process of turning musical ideas into recorded tracks.  However, recording a full-length album of fully orchestrated and arranged songs is a different kettle of fish altogether.  We recorded rough demos on the piano with guide vocals in my bedroom, and then sent them over to Jon who would then construct a more detailed musical arrangement.  We would then add harmonies and backing vocals, and he would mix it all together – adding instrumentation to bring it to life.  Jon is an accomplished musician as well as producer – so much of what you hear on the album will have been played by him!  His background is in folk music so in amongst the dark strings and orchestration he slips in a hurdy gurdy, mandolin or fiddle to keep things interesting!  

I think the hardest part is not being able to sit in the studio with Jon when he’s trying out new ideas or approaches – most of the feedback and discussion happens via email or text messaging.  We went up to Jon’s studio in Ripponden to record the master vocals and that was wonderful.  I really enjoyed working closely with him in “real time”.  I suspect for the next recording project we’ll try and do it more traditionally by all being in the studio together for most of it, but we’ll see. 

Q         If you could choose any setting to play live in what and where would it be? 

        If I could set up my own gig, I’d probably choose somewhere with a lot of history, maybe a rural location. The atmosphere of my songs is very important to me, and if I could play somewhere that had a unique atmosphere of its own that would be really special. Maybe Hampton Court palace or Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. In a slightly different way, Glastonbury festival also has such a lot of history that it would be amazing to play there.  Some of the performances over the years are now part of music folklore!  For so many music fans, their Glastonbury experience remains with them forever – even if a lot of those memories are mud-spattered!  It feels like a bit of a rite of passage for musicians to play at Glastonbury.  One day, fingers crossed! 

January 2022 

The album Into the Wilderness is due for public release in April 2022. 

All media enquiries in the first instance to music@elizadelf.com.

Christmas Update 

It's been a couple of months since I last posted, so I thought I'd do a Christmas blog to let you know how it's all going.

We had hoped to have completed the final mix of the album by Christmas, and whilst we're very close we'd rather focus on getting it right than getting it done. 

However, we do seem to be on schedule to have a public release in the Spring. To give you a flavour for what's to come, I would like to share the finalised track list, which is as follows:

  • Howl
  • Stealing My Fear Away
  • Wavelength
  • If She Were To Fall
  • Singing With My Ghosts
  • My Familiar
  • Heaviness In The Head
  • In The Court Of The Queen Of Strangeness
  • Penance
  • Into The Wilderness

The album cover artwork is currently with Taylor Jones (Creative Connective) who will be finalising the design and layout in the coming weeks.

Once the album is available, we will be asking friends and supporters for feedback and ideas of how to promote it as widely as possible. If you're interested in being involved, please sign up to the contact list on the 'Keep In Touch' page of this website.

Merry Christmas!

Eliza x

 

 

Interview in Concrete Magazine 

Hi everyone,

After a quiet month, Jon and I are now back to working steadily on the album, hoping to have it in CD-form by the end of the year! 

A couple of weeks ago I did an interview with Tom Manning for Concrete magazine, talking about the album and my introduction to the music world. You can pick up a copy at the UEA campus, or check it out online here.

If you donated to the Kickstarter and you haven't already done so, please fill out the form I sent a couple of months ago asking for details that will allow me to send the CD and other Kickstarter rewards to you later this year. Get in touch if you have any difficulties with this!

Finally, check out the Keep In Touch page to sign up for my newsletter, with updates and more.

Eliza x

 

The album cover is completed! 

Hi everyone, 

I've been a bit quiet lately, but there are a couple of exciting developments I want to share.

Firstly, Will Teather has finished working on the painting that will be used as my album cover, and I was able to visit it in-person! It was amazing to see, and slightly surreal to see myself in paint-form. I think it perfectly reflects the feel of the album - you can let me know if you agree when the album comes out! Once we've picked it up, our next job will be to have the actual painting framed, and at some point we will need to arrange having the album cover designed using a digital version of the painting (adding the title, my name etc). 

A couple of weeks ago my dad came across a competition called 'Tune Into Nature'. The idea of the competition is to search for young musicians whose work relates in some way to nature.  It's a part of the Oak Project, and administered by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (which isn't far from where Jon Loomes' recording studio is). I decided to enter my title track, Into The Wilderness, and Jon managed to get the track ready in time for the deadline. I'm so pleased with how the track sounds, and I can't wait to share the studio demo with you all soon. The judges are Helen Pheby, Sam Lee, Supriya Nagarajan, Martyn Ware, Dr Simon Lesley, Zena Edwards, Professor Miles Richardson and Damon Jackson-Waldock.

Finally, I just wanted to share a little bit more about the recording process. One thing that was important to Jon and I was for the album to feel like a cohesive creative entity. Therefore, Jon is planning to have 'themes' throughout, such as recurring sounds, instruments etc. We also took the order of the tracks into careful consideration. We listened to the start and end of each song, to ensure that the jump between each track worked. In one instance, the same note could be heard at the end of one song and the start of another, meaning they complemented each other perfectly. 

If you're interested in more progress updates, do sign up for my newsletter (go to the Keep In Touch page).

Eliza x

Recording in Ripponden 

On the 11th of July I travelled up to Delph with my family, so that I could begin recording! On the Monday, my Dad and I spent our first day at Talking Cat Recordings in Ripponden, working with Jon Loomes. Jon's studio is in his basement, a lovely room which is next to his workshop, where he makes musical instruments. Our goal for the trip was to record the main vocal lines for all the songs. It will be possible for me to use my own recording equipment for the backing vocals, and then send those seps (tracks) to Jon, but the main vocals needed to be recorded on the high-quality equipment that Jon has. We decided to focus first on the songs we've picked out to be singles, which will be released before the album. Jon was great at helping direct my performance- I tried to let the words shape how I sang, and immerse myself in the feel of the song. Jon also helped me finetune the performance, focusing on things such as pronunciation and diction. As I've been singing these songs for so long, a 'new ear' was very valuable. 

Our second day at the studio was very busy. We ended up recording the main vocals for six of the songs. It was tiring work- we didn't need to do many takes for each song, but it required a lot of focus, and I had to perform each song with high levels of energy in order to give it a more 'live' sound. There was also a certain amount of work being done to each song as we recorded. Some required a bit of structural tweaking, and for others we came up with ideas for the backing whilst we recorded. A couple of times, Jon took instruments off his wall and started to play along to test out ideas! The songs that we are planning on releasing as singles were the most 'finished', with backing vocals already arranged and fairly orchestrated instrumentation. However, a couple of the songs were still waiting to be worked on by Jon- one such song had a piano line in place that I decided didn't quite work, so we tried out organs and strings and found the slightly darker sound we were looking for.

Because we managed to get through so much on our second day, by the last day of recording we had a bit more time to play with. The final song we recorded was one of the 'biggest' songs on the album, that required me to really get into character. This was a bit more tricky to do, because the backing was still fairly sparse (Jon had plans for a big, orchestral instrumental sound), so we turned the volume up on the track in my headphones, to force me to compete with the backing and not under-sing. Tricks like that are the sort of thing you pick up over time, so I'm glad this wasn't the first time I'd recorded in a studio, as any experience is valuable! Once we had recorded the vocals for the last song, we sat and listened through the whole album. It was very exciting to hear it all as one 'piece' rather than in its fragmented form. We were all very happy with the work done so far, and discussed various ideas for each song. We finished off the day with a chat about the future- there's a lot more to the process of recording an album than just recording. 

Jon and I were both so pleased with how the trip went, and I can't wait for you all to hear this album.

Eliza x

YNAF performance on the virtual Lost River stage 

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to let you know that the set I recorded for the YNAF will be streamed on Saturday 10th of July at 3:40pm! You'll be able to access the performance on the YNAF Youtube channel and listen to acoustic versions of four of my original songs. Please do check it out, and share the link with anyone you think may be interested!

Eliza x

New demos! 

Hi everyone,

I wanted to let you know that I've uploaded two demo tracks to the 'music' page on this website. I thought you might find it interesting to hear some of the songs in their home demo format (i.e. piano and vocals) before I work with Jon on developing them in the studio. This will give you a sense of how I wrote the songs, but also how Jon is able to bring out their full potential. The songs are called 'Stealing My Fear Away' and 'If She Were To Fall'. 

Each of the ten songs that will be on the album started out in this piano-vocal form - this is what Jon heard when I first approached him about the possibility of recording the album together! Part of the role of the producer is to help transform a song into how the artist imagines it could ultimately sound. I'm really delighted with how Jon seems to be able to understand what I'm looking for and bring it to life. In the coming weeks I'll share more of the studio-based demos, and Jon and I will provide a bit more detail about the work we do together during the recordings.

In a later blog post I'll talk about the lyrics more specifically - it's a really important part of my songwriting and I'd like to share some of my thinking about the songs and what they mean to me. 

Eliza x

Preparing to be painted 

Hi everyone,

I wanted to share some 'behind the scenes' photos from the session I recently had with the artist Will Teather. Will was taking some shots as references for the artwork he is painting for my album! These photos are now available in my 'gallery' (a new page of this website). More updates about the painting will be coming soon, but in the meantime you can check out a 'behind the scenes' video below! 

Eliza x