Iona Leigh Interviewed - April 09

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Iona Leigh Interviewed - April 09

Post  Street Voice UK on Sun Apr 26, 2009 2:26 am



Iona Leigh came into my life when her PR company sent me her new album 'Besides The Wave Of Time' which I was immediately hooked to on the first listen. The pleasure of hearing the coll Celtic influence Folk tunes was enough but what really topped it for me was Iona Leigh's voice which was just incredibly beautiful. I knew then I wanted to feature Iona in Street Voive and with the help of Joe from Quite Great an interview was sorted. Here is what Iona Leigh has to say for herself.

Street Voice: First off Iona can you give our readers a little background information about yourself please?


I was born in Sydney , Australia , but moved to the Highlands of Scotland when I was 8 – which is why I consider Scotland to be my home. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful Scottish landscape, the sea, river, mountains, snow, trees and beautiful nature spots. I grew up in a small fishing village called Findhorn, with a neighboring spiritual community called the Findhorn Foundation, where I attended many Workshops in the arts, meditation, and astrology, etc. I went to a local Steiner School (alternative education) in the nearby town of Forres where there was a Strong emphasis on learning through the arts. We acted out history through drama games, sang songs in maths and planted trees in geography! After high school, I moved to Perth , Scotand where I studied a diploma in popular music, before I moved to London to study for my degree at Vocaltech.

Street Voice: You've released 'Beside The Waves Of Time' album' this week so are you happy that it is now out for people to check out?

I am so happy it is out, and so proud of this body of work. I spent a year researching and writing the material before I even began recording anything. This album is such an achievement and I hope that it will bring people joy and inspiration. I have put my body and soul, and my sweat, blood and tears into this project, and I am so pleased it has now been released for all to share and enjoy.

Street Voice: What have been the best and worst times about making this album?

The best times have been finding these amazing old stories and legends, learning about past life times and transforming those memories into a new musical expression. I also LOVED recording the album up in the beautiful Watercolour music Studio in Ardgour, on the west coast of Scotland last summer. It was a magical time and I felt very grateful to be recording with such talented musicians. The hardest time has been the in-between stage where the album was finished but not yet released, just waiting to get it out there after so many months of working so hard – I am just so impatient!

Street Voice: Where did you manage to find all those musicians who have played on this release?

I was so blessed to find the wonderful producer Nick Turner, about a month before I was scheduled to begin recording. Nick has a great connection with local Scottish musicians, and we just played it by ear. As we arranged and recorded each track we would then imagine what other instruments we could ‘hear’ on each particular song, and would then approach the appropriate musicians – it all happened very gracefully actually!

Street Voice: Am I correct in saying that this is your debut album?

Actually, this is my second album. I recorded my first album; ‘Spirit’ in September 2006, just a few months after completing my degree in London , and it was released in January 2007. I had a collection of 12 original songs that I had been working on and performing during the course of my degree, and decided it was time to record them. I went into a studio for 3 days with a brilliant pianist by the name of Kevin Webster and we recorded the whole album in a very natural and organic way, just as the pieces would be performed live, with the addition of layered backing vocals. I love ‘Spirit’ and I am very proud of how well it has done, considering it was released on my own label and only available via my website and iTunes. I have had some amazing feedback from fans all over the world, many of whom have commented on it’s simplicity and honesty.

Street Voice: What with university, teaching, performing, etc how long did it take you to write this album?

All in all, the album took just over a year of my life to research, write, arrange, and record. It was a year of very hard but satisfying work! I was also lucky enough to spend 6 months in San Francisco, on completion of my Masters degree, while I was not working, so this is why many of the songs on the album were inspired by the traditional North America Folk Songs, collected by the great song collector Alan Lomax, which I researched Turing that period.

Street Voice: From a young age you lived in Scotland and tuned in to the music that you are playing so are you Gaelic speaking?

I do not speak Gaelic, so all of my songs are in English, however, two songs are based on ancient melodies and some of the legends come from that period. I would have loved to have learnt Gaelic, but unfortunately it was not taught at my high school. I have often considered studying it, but just haven’t got round to it yet! It’s on the same 'to do' list as learning the violin!

Street Voice: On the album there must be a couple of songs that are more special than the others so can you tell our readers which ones they are and why please?

Wow, that’s a tricky question as each song has a special place in my heart – it’s almost like choosing a favourite child! I would have to say that ‘Trees’ has deep meaning for me as I wrote it after a time of deep personal grief. I was sitting in the communal garden that I shared at the time in West London , and the beautiful trees brought such comfort to me, and I realized how healing they truly are, almost like giant sponges that soak up our grief, pain and sorrow away and transform these negative energies into new life force (prana) through fresh air.

Street Voice: So how did you manage to come across the 'Trees Of Life' charity? Can you tell our readers something about that organisation?

Trees For Life is a fantastic charity (based in the Scottish Highlands), which is working to restore the Caledonian forest back to it’s former glory. TFL encourages individuals to donate, pant a tree, start a grove, and come and plant trees with a group of volunteers in the highlands. If you want to find out more about TFL, you can watch a video on my website or youtube on which my song ‘Trees’ is features, which explained the great work of TFL. I went out to plant trees with TFL when I was a teenager, and immediately felt a connection this this important work, and the healing power of these ancient trees.

Street Voice: You've pretty much lived in a lot of places so are there any places you'd like to check out?

I would love to go to India and learn how to sing the Indian Ragas, I would love to spend some more time in Australia, and learn about my birth country and the aboriginal music/dreamtime, I’d love to go to Egypt and just soak up their history, and I would also love to spend some time in Greece, learning more about Greek mythology.

Street Voice: So what do you do with yourself when you aren't writing / performing?

I love swimming – even if it’s in a cold Scottish loch or river! I love being in nature, walking, camping, sitting by a fire. I also love ceilidh dancing and drawing and I sew tapestries for fun! Of course I love to spend time with my friends and family, eating good food and watching movies!

Street Voice: You're a good looking lady with a remarkable voice so do you sometimes feel a little miffed when you hear dreadful records that have bags of money poured into them while you've had to write and produce something classy on a much smaller budget?

No. I feel so grateful, every day, for my gift (and that’s what it is) as a singer and songwriter. I feel grateful for the opportunities I have had to study music and then record my songs – what a dream come true. In my mind, it doesn’t matter if my music reaches one thousand or one million people, as long as it moves and inspires those it does reach. I have no desire to be rich and famous, only to be given the opportunity to make my music my life, which means having enough live work to keep performing live to people and selling my CDs alter shows to those who feel touched by the music.

Street Voice: If you could share a stage with three artists who would they be and why?

1) Alison Krauss – Because her voice just moves me to tears! I would love to sing gorgeous harmonies with her on an old traditional song like ‘Down to the River to Pray’. 2) Loreena McKinnet – Because she is a stroyteller that has always insprired my work as a song researcher. I woud like to Diet with her – both of us singing and both of us players our harps together – how cool would that be! 3) Joni Mitchel – Because she is my first and deepest musical inspiration. I feel in love with her music the very first time I heard Blue’ Bering placed in a friend’s caravan! I would love to Diet on ‘All I want’ with her. This would my audition song onto my diploma and it got me in too!

Street Voice: What are your plans for the rest of 2009?

I have lots of gigs lined up across the UK (details on my website), so I will be doing my best to tell people about my new album and showcasing the songs on as many stages as I can! My Mum and I are also planning a weekend get-away to my namesake Island this summer - the beautiful island of Iona - where we get to do some hill walking and meditating in the Abbey, but most importantly we get quality girlie time to gossip while we drink tea and eat scones together by the sea!

Thanks to Iona Leigh for doing the interview and for Joe sorting it out. If you like well crafted music then I suggest you really do check out Iona's works. Her latest album is excellent and well worth picking up. This lady is one of the UK's best kept secrets and really does deserve to become more widely known.

Iona's Website: http://www.myspace.com/ionaleighmusic

Album Review: http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=22963792&blogId=481256750
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