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  • Entertainment

MUSIC: Spotify star’s sadness is fuelled by fury

Sunday, 28th January, 2018 6:00pm
MUSIC: Spotify star’s  sadness is fuelled by fury

Fenne Lily’s sadness is the music world’s gain.

MUSIC: Spotify star’s  sadness is fuelled by fury

Fenne Lily’s sadness is the music world’s gain.

NOT many young artists can count up more than 20 million Spotify streams off the back of the first song they’ve ever written, but then again, not many young artists are Fenne Lily.

Raised in the wilds of rural Dorset to punk and Queen-loving parents, the 20-year-old talent first picked up the guitar aged 15, and quickly found she was a natural.

“Growing up in the countryside was amazing,” she explains. “I had so much space, and loads of time with no distractions – that’s why I learnt an instrument, because I didn’t have anything else to do!”

Just one year later and she had written the delicate but powerful ‘Top To Toe’, which deftly tackled social anxiety played over a softly picked guitar - a song about bleak adolescence that almost everyone could relate to.

Self-released, it saw the young unknown attract global attention for her sublime song-writing ability and sharp emotional intelligence, as well as her gifted way with melody.

British fashion house Burberry came knocking on her door and asked her to perform for them in Paris.

This was thanks to the song’s subtle channelling of Laura Marling, as well as the swooning sound of Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and underground 1960s psychedelic greats like Linda Perhacs.

Fenne’s sound was elegant, addictive and blowing up the hype machine. Now though, she’s gearing up to release her debut album and proving she’s much more than your typical acoustic songwriter.

So, if you’re after a record full of soft, sweetly packaged ballads, then you’ve come to the wrong place.

“I don’t want to be a folk singer, even though that’s what comes easy to me,” she states. “I don’t want to disappoint the people who liked ‘Top To Toe’, but I don’t want to become pigeonholed.”

Instead, Fenne’s ploughing a tougher path, joining forces with Isle of Wight band Champs, who offer up the crisp, crunchy backing of a full band while her lush vocals and stark lyricism takes centre stage.

Although she sings about heartbreak, she’s quick to state that her songs aren’t about wallowing in misery.

“My music comes from anger, but I can’t sing angrily, so I sing sadly. It’s a sadness that’s fuelled by fury.”

This is Fenne all over. She’s straight up and to the point. As she puts it herself, there’s “no fannying about” when it comes to her music and that’s what makes it all the more special.

Though Fenne had been gigging in Bristol since she was 15, with her dad driving her up for shows two or three times a month, she finally moved to the city when she was 18.

She embarked on an art foundation course and discovering a love of photography – she shoots all her own artwork, inspired by the candid work of Wolfgang Tillmans – during her studies.

Upon arrival in the city, Fenne flung herself into the local music scene and joined forces with Chiverin, the growing music community founded by her now-manager. 

“All my friends are doing super trendy techno music or are in badass bands,” says Fenne, which goes some of the way to explaining the enticing evolution of her sound, setting her apart from the mainstream indie and folk worlds.

But hers is a sound all of her very own, with stream-of-consciousness vocals directly tapping into raw emotion and careful, considered song-writing.

So considered in fact, that most of Fenne’s musical output to date has ended up on the album.

“I’m not prolific at all,” she explains. “I’ve probably only written 20 songs in my whole life.

“I wait for the perfect time, when I literally can’t not talk about something anymore.

“I’m not very good at speaking about my feelings but eventually I have to write a song.”

Written in sporadic bursts, the tracks were predominantly recorded in Bristol and on the Isle of Wight with producers Tamu Massif and James Thorpe.

‘Brother’ was recorded with and produced by PJ Harvey collaborator John Parish.

Most of the album digs into the break-up of her first important relationship and the pain that followed.

The moody ‘Three Oh Nine’ – named after the date her lover left – is an anthem of acceptance and resignation that somehow manages to encompass both Lana Del Rey’s soaring majesty and Marika Hackman’s grunge-pop sass.

“It was written the morning after he told me he was leaving and that we had three months to try and still be in love, but I’d already started grieving,” says Fenne of the emotive highlight in a record of many. 

Catharsis though, is there in ‘Carpark’, the last track recorded for the album, and a song which offers a glimmer of hope within the bleakness.

“I wrote it while really angry at this guy,” she admits.

Fenne’s sadness, however, is UK music’s gain. She isn’t just one to watch for 2018, she’s one you won’t be able to keep your eyes off for a second.

Fenne Lily is at The Soundhouse, Eden Quay on Sunday, April 15.

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