Pokkisham – YES TO THIS [Interview]

Describe your sound in 3 words

A: Emotional B: Jazz-influenced C: Layered

Tell us a few things about your new song “YES TO THIS”. What is the main idea behind it?

Yes to This is a song of hope, about someone or something coming along that we did not feel ready for but that we want to accept in our lives. It’s about having the fears and doubts we all have but still trying to move past them and take that step forward to manifest something you know is good for you. In the song it is expressed as a new love that has settled into your heart without you really realising, but I also see it as having a wider message of saying “yes” to things that might be unexpected and involve change, but are ultimately worth stepping out of your fears and cynicism to pursue.

Do you like the idea of collaborating? Is songwriting a lonely process?

I am trying to co-write more, but I do enjoy the alone time of writing at my piano solo. It’s quite a spiritual act for me to have that space and flow for myself. I see incredible songwriters who clearly get so much from co-writing and it is something I want to do more of, but for me my writing process is informed by others much more in terms of collaboration with musicians on the arranging and production side to my work – my background is in performing and that has always been important. So my songwriting feels like quite a private thing at present, but then once I have the form of the song out in front of me, I consider the next step to always play it in with another musician or band to then find the feel and pace I want but it’s a conversation with my fellow musicians rather than a monologue when I’m rehearsing new material. That in itself feels like an extension of the writing process so it is collaborative in that aspect.

Artists and people who have influenced and inspired you?

That would make for a long list! I have been heavily influenced by jazz harmony and composers from Cole Porter to Wayne Shorter. In terms of songwriting inspiration I gained an early love of singer-pianist obsession through Billy Joel, Elton John and Tori Amos. I loved the piano artistry and harmonic skill they brought to their songs without the writing or stories diminishing, and loved the sense of performance and storytelling they all have. I also wouldn’t be anywhere without Stevie Wonder and Joni Mitchell – I consider them key inspirations – both artists that have found such depth to how they connect to the world, and both profound in different ways. In addition to that I always had Carnatic South-Indian music around me – it opened up my ears to such a different sound world and rhythmic awareness, and that definitely informs my sense of development in an arrangement, and earthiness to the vocal tone and style I sing with. I love the Malladi brothers whose vocals just take me back to a very deep and elemental place.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist so far?

Simply put, it’s having the confidence to put my music out there. It has been a huge block for me to release my songs despite decades of songwriting, and removing those mental blocks has taken some work. I value skill and beauty alongside eachother, and sometimes in the music industry you see true skill and talent being ignored in favour of something more mainstream and musically dumbed down because someone hasn’t got the right look or isn’t the right age etc etc. It can put artists off, but I have come to realise that not releasing music does more damage for me than just doing it and letting it fly. I believe now that you can find your listeners and your audience and that what I do has value beyond what I think – there is greater presence and strength in things if you adapt your mindset. I also have a lot of wonderful fellow songwriters and musicians and they all have the same doubts but they are all pushing forward and creating art on their own terms, and I have been hugely inspired by that. So once I removed all the kind of ‘industry’ expectation and sense of validation, it all felt a lot easier and less ‘heavy’. I’ve been a musician for a long time now and all I want to do really is meet more inspiring people and develop my skills and tune in more to my songwriter voice. I’m not still waiting for a manager or a label to ‘accept’ me – my status and skill as a musician and writer has been in existence for a long time, so now its just about doing what I do and sharing that and not doubting it or holding it up to false judgments.

When not writing music, how do you spend your time?

I’m a mother to 2 amazing kids, with whom I enjoy being in the great outdoors with, so nature is our playground. I also gain inspiration from teaching songwriting on a Masters degree programme with incredibly talented songwriting students. I am fairly obsessed with gardening and love the mental health benefits of it. I believe strongly that professional creatives need to have something else creative but non-outcome (and non-income) based in their life – something they love as a hobby, so I also enjoy writing prose just for myself. And cooking is a huge passion and again something that feeds and nurtures my creativity.

Should we expect an album in the near future?

Definitely yes! I still very much believe in the album format as being a real artistic statement, and it’s one I do want to make, but only when I have the right material and it has a cohesion and story to it. I have a lot of new songs in progress and a clearer sense of my artistic direction and style. In the time it has taken to get my songs ready for the EP, I probably could have done an album – so I feel ready that I could do that and I know how to plan and approach it better now.

Thank you!

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