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Singer/songwriter Patsy Matheson was part of the successful all female folk/indie rock band WAKING THE WITCH who sadly called it a day earlier this year. She is now back solo with a new album 'A Little Piece Of England', full of enjoyable acoustic led tunes and an extensive UK tour lined-up between October and January 2009.

What are you currently up to?

My new solo CD ' A Little Piece of England' is being released at the beginning of October, so right at this point in time we're fairly busy organising stuff for that - so I'm doing a fair few live radio appearances and press interviews over the next couple of weeks or so, and I'm putting the last minute touches to the live show!

I start gigging to support the release in Cambridge on October 3rd. The Little Piece of England tour is being done as duo with Sam Bartholomew, who also produced the album. Both of us will be playing old vintage American acoustic guitars, so we're currently spending quite a lot of time working out the best way to amplify them!! They can be a bit temperamental!

This tour runs through until the end of January, and then we'll take a break for a month or so before setting off on the road again.

Could you take us through the songs on the new album 'A Little Piece Of England' ?

Yep, indeed. I wanted the songs on this album to represent a move forward in terms of how they are crafted and thought out, and I felt it was important for them to sit together as a whole, with a common theme, rather than as ten individual songs.

The chorus of the title track had been kicking around in my head for ages ( 'I want you to live with me - to share my little piece of England - and I will make you see that all you need - is in this view - is in this little piece of England I want to share with you'), and this kick started off a whole load of other thoughts on Englishness and things that are happening in England at the moment.

I came up with a couple of songs that were based around places that I love - 'Ulverston Gypsy' is based in the Lake District and mentions quite a few Cumbrian towns - and 'Row Down to Wroxham' is about the River Bure on the Norfolk Broads! 'Lamb to Slaughter' - which if I was asked to choose, would be my favourite song on the album - was written after watching a documentary about Amy Winehouse, although it's not entirely 100% based on her.

Because all of the songs were so new, many of them changed and developed as we were recording the CD - and there were one or two that were banished to Room 101 never to be seen again! 'Little Piece of England', the title track started off sounding like an up tempo Del Amitri song, (I ADORE Justin Curry's song writing) and now it's a slow ballad!

We had also originally planned to use a much wider variety of instruments, but we found that the selection of guitars that we used provided lots of different textures themselves, so most of the songs are based mainly around two acoustic guitars - although I do make my public debut on the electric on this album!

What sort of set list will you be playing on your upcoming UK dates? Who have most enjoyed touring with and why? Who else would you like to tour with if given the chance?

The set list for this tour will be a mixture of songs from the new album and songs that I wrote for Waking the Witch.

I also do an acapella version of Mick Softly's Goldwatch Blues, which I used to do when I played solo before joining the Witches, and I nicked off an old Donovan album.

I've got a new toy called a stomp box for that one - which basically is a piece of wood with a mic inside that I stamp (stomp?!) on except I have to do it without laughing, which is proving quite tricky in rehearsals!

I enjoyed every minute of touring with Waking the Witch. There was never a dull moment!! We had a complete gas, and it always seemed wrong referring to what we were doing as 'work'! We just happened to get paid for doing something that we all loved doing.

I did a tour as special guest of Christy Moore a few years ago, and I have to say that was fantastic too. Big, big theatres and big, big audiences. It was very exciting, and it was a bit of a fluke that I was invited along, because I happened to do the support slot at his gig in Bradford, which is local to me.

I did a reasonable job of that one and they were short of a support for the rest of the tour - Christy Moore was lovely to me and really treated me well (he actually changed my guitar strings at one point - which was very funny as he said he had a slave to do his - he was wanting to keep his hand in, I think!)

Dunno who else I'd like to tour with particularly - lots of people, I suppose - but I'm mainly looking forward to starting the tour with Sam next month. We're doing some great venues - most of which I've played before with the Witches - so I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of old friends.

How does your new solo album compare to your previous two solo albums both in musical style and songwriting? When recording/songwriting do you miss the group atmosphere you had with Waking The Witch?

My first album 'With My Boots On' featured just me and my acoustic guitar - no-one else appeared on it. I produced it myself, as I had very set ideas on the songs I wanted to use and how I wanted them to sound.

It was really well received, but if I listen back now, it sounds a bit angsty , I think, and misses the input of a second pair of ears. At the time, in 1996, it was quite unusual to be producing your own CD, so I was immeasurably proud of it, and I suppose it represents a moment in time.

My second CD, 'Breathe Me' was much more 'produced' and featured other musicians as well as me. Jon Short, who played bass on it, also came with me and played on two Waking the Witch albums. On Breathe Me, I played a Gibson that was on loan to the studio by Mark Knopfler - but I was sworn to secrecy as apparently he'd said no-one could use it!

I missed the girls in the studio this time round, of course. Especially Jools' cooking! But I was really looking forward to doing something solo again, and recording this new one has been an absolute joy. Sam is very inspiring to work with.

With this latest CD, I just decided to make the album I wanted to make, irrespective of what is fashionable or what I think people want to hear, but I did want it to be technically pretty accomplished. And I'm very proud of the way it has turned out.

What were the highlights a) recording wise and b) live with Waking The Witch?

I really, really enjoy being in the studio, so it's difficult for me to pull out any particular recording highlights - I love it all and can't believe how fast the time goes.

We have had some great people playing on our albums though - so to witness the brilliant contribution of musicians outside the band has always been a real privilege.

I was moved to tears when I heard Fluff's cello part for my song 'Top of the Hill' on the Witches' Abattoir album, and it was a joy to see Big Country's Bruce Watson putting down his guitar parts for 'Me Leaving Me'.

Lots of highlights live with Waking the Witch - Glastonbury festival, an obvious one, I suppose, but also smaller gigs like the afternoon gig we did at Wakefield women's prison! Or our very first little gigs at my favourite pub, the Grove Inn at Holbeck in Leeds.

Why did Waking The Witch call it a day when you seemed to be getting such positive reviews and gaining fans? Any chance the band could get together again at some point in the future?

Well, lots of different reasons for the band coming to an end, but basically we all felt it had run its course and had gone as far as it was going to go in the format that it was in.

We had a sort of 'quit while you're ahead' philosophy. Also, Jools had some health issues (which are now happily resolved), and Bex was expecting a baby, so it seemed like the natural time to stop.

We may get back together at some stage - we're all really good friends still - and Bex lives next door to me, so we still jam regularly, but right now I'm pretty focused on what I'm doing with the new album. I'd really like to pursue my solo career for a while.

How did you get your first break into the music business? What piece of advice would you pass onto budding musicians?

That's an interesting question, as I don't really feel like I've ever had a 'break' as such. Because I've never been signed to a label or management company, and I've always represented myself - (even with the Witches we had our own label, agency and managed ourselves) - so it's just been a question of chipping away and not giving up.

Having said that, just after I completed my first solo CD, I was invited to appear solo on the acoustic stage at Glastonbury, which I was completely made up about - so I suppose that was something pretty special to put into my boasting file, and more work came as a result of it.

If I'm qualified to give advice, I would say don't give up, I suppose. And play what you believe in. And don't leave your guitar for weeks in its case, cos you'll never get better that way!

Who have been your musical heroes/influences and why?

Musical heroes are John Martyn. Because he's excellent. And he grooves like no-one else. And Neil Young. Because he's very cool and talented beyond belief. And Justin Curry, Paul Weller and Paul Brady. Great, great songwriters. Joni Mitchell has to be in there somewhere. Oh, and the Beatles.

Plus lots more. Too many to mention.

What do you like doing with your spare time outside of music?

Look after my kids and fix up my Landie!

Message for your fans...

Hope to catch you along the way. Bring a tow rope. x


Interview © September 2008 Jason Ritchie.
All rights reserved.

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