All Aboard!: An Interview with Alessi’s Ark

“The Bird Song” performed for The Wild Honey Pie Sessions.

Although I can’t claim to know her personally, Alessi’s Ark (Alessi Laurent-Marke) seems like the sweetest person in the world. I imagine she bakes cakes, and drinks tea out of antique china cups, and grows flowers on the windowsill of her quaint English apartment. Maybe she owns a cat named after her favorite Jane Austen character. I’ll probably never be able to confirm these particular assertions, but I did have the opportunity to ask her some rather more important things. I caught her in the middle of a busy winter: having just returned from promoting her charming EP Soul Proprietor in the US, Alessi is about to embark on a UK tour with Villagers. Her album is due sometime this coming spring, and this particular slightly obsessive fangirl fully expects it to be fantastic.

How was your US tour? Do you find performing in the US different from the UK?
The tour was lovely! It was such a treat to travel around sharing the music, meeting lovely people along the way. I’d say the vast distances you cover while touring in the States is the biggest difference in comparison to touring in the U.K. Our country feels so tight-knit now that I’ve seen a bit more of your part of the world! Really though, it was the warmth and kindness of the people that I stayed with and met at the shows that really made the trip. The beautiful leaves and hard rain in the Portland was amazing too!

How has your experience making Soul Proprietor been different from working with EMI on Notes from the Treehouse?
The Soul Proprietor E.P took just a few days to record and was played live for the most part. Notes from the Treehouse is an album and so obviously a larger body of work which took about a year; travelling back and forth to Omaha, brainstorming etc and it was also my first experience in a studio–there were things to learn and get used to but now that I’ve had that experience in a studio, putting together Soul Proprietor was a much speedier process. Always learning.

How do you get ideas for your songs? Do you think your style or sources of inspiration have changed over time?
Yes, I think some of the sources of inspiration for the songs have changed over time but still a lot of the things that have inspired me in the past still do; nature, friendships, the solar system…

How do you feel you’ve evolved as a songwriter and performer (especially because you started at such a young age!)?
I have been very fortunate to travel through touring and I feel the time and distances I’ve spent away from the people I love and familiar things have been on my mind a lot since the first album. Touring alone, makes the music evolve–songs over time take on new meanings and forms.

You have many creative outlets–besides writing songs (and a fanzine!), you have various art exhibitions, and sew adorable Ark bags! How do you see these forms of creative expression working together? Do they inspire each other, or feel distinct?
The sewn bits and pieces and drawings are good fun and get the brain coils turning in a different way than playing music does. The mixture of these things hopefully keep others good company and show the tangible side to the ideas in the music.

You’ve said in interviews that the idea of the ‘Ark’ has a lot to do with collaboration, inclusiveness, and friendship. Do you consider the London ‘new-folk’ community (and feel free to contest that label) a part of that? What are your thoughts about the scene’s rising popularity?
It’s lovely that music coming out of the community that you described in London is catching the attention of other ears. Good on ’em!

What artists inspire you? What are you listening to at the moment?
People are inspiring. At the moment I’m listening to Sharon Van Etten quite and this morning, I was listening to Denis Jones and a German musician called Fabian Simon, who’ll be releasing a new album soon–a real mixture of sounds. Molly Costello’s artwork is a great source of calm and inspiration as always. You can have a look here: http://www.pronetowander2.blogspot.com

What do you consider the most important thing you’ve learned in your musical career so far?
Trust your heart.

When do we get to hear the new album? Can you tell us anything about it?
The new album was great fun to put together! It was recorded in two parts; down by the sea in Brighton with the wonderful Willkommen Collective and in North Wales with wonderful David Wrench. I highly recommend checking out the music they all make themselves! The album will be out for ears in the Spring–looking forward to sharing it!

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