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Joana Serrat Crosses the Verge

Joana Serrat lays bare the secrets of her soul with a new album Cross the Verge, going from her home in Vic, near Barcelona, to Montreal, Canada to record it. She teamed up with Arcade Fire producer Howard Bilerman in his analog studio The Hotel2Tango, and collaborated with talented musicians Aaron Goldstein (Cowboy Junkies) and Basia Bulat, amongst others, to create an album of songs that move with great ease between the precious evanescence of Lonely Heart Reverb, Oh, Winter Come or Flags, and the vigorous guitar sound that predominates in Desert Valley, Tug of War, and the moving Black Lake. There’s elegance in the trotting Americana rhythms of Saskatoon (Break of Dawn), the haunting I Follow You, Child and the crystalline Cloudy Heart.

SEEN was lucky enough to catch up with Joana Serrat before she embarks on her tour.

SEEN: NME compares you to Joanna Newsom and Lambchop. Are they influences?

JOANA SERRAT: I did listen to Joanna Newsom when her first album, The Milk-Eyed Mender came out and I’ve followed her since then. Obviously she’s released other records and every time I have the chance to attend one of her shows, I go. When I was 5, my parents kept on asking if I wanted to be enrolled at the Public Music School in my hometown, Vic, and I was always answering with the same question: “Do they teach harp?” Obviously they didn’t, so, I kinda feel attached to her music and I enjoy listening to her albums quite a lot. I got into Lambchop because of his Damage album. I was listening to Paperback Bible almost in an obsessive way, like it was a mantra.  And then I listened to The Decline of the Country & Western Culture and I enjoyed that a lot too. I think Lambchop has an ethereal sound I’ve always been attracted to. I remember listening to Sonic Youth’s The Diamond Sea obsessively when I was a teenager, and enjoying Neil Young’s Sleeps With Angels album. I feel attached to melancholy and ungravity. But as I see Neil Young or Blaze Foley as big references, I don’t see Joanna Newsom or Lampchop in my song-writing, even though I love their records and music.

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S: Your songs are so personal and reveal such vulnerability. How easy is it to go onstage and sing them?

JS: I love going onstage and singing them and if people show interest in my playing and in my songs then I just have the best time. I live my gigs as journeys, small trips, and I feel like it’s about showing the light, as if it was a battle between light and dark. I enjoy going through all those meadows, pointing out details. Sometimes it’s about redemption, after all, I think life’s pretty much the same: ups and downs.

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S: SEEN particularly liked ‘I Follow You, Child’. What’s the story behind this song?

JS: This song talks about a love relationship. Sometimes you’d like to be your lover’s eyes, just to prevent him or her from harm. In the end, it’s about feeling helpful, I guess. The thing is you’re not always good at help and the other needs to explore their own ways, to see their own devils, and finally both sides need to accept that you can be good company but when it comes to getting over experiences, we’re always alone in that personal struggle. The song reflects a low time for a couple but if you’re persistent and patient, good times come back.

S: You sing in English and hail from Spain. What were your musical influences, growing up?

I grew up in a home full of music. My daddy has always had a great record collection. He might have more than 1000 vinyls. He used to play all those records and I grew up with this music. All the records he used to put on never sang in Catalan (my language) or Spanish. They all sang in English. So, as a kid I could listen to Dylan, Young, The Band, Van Morrison, Creedence… and I just absorbed what folk and rock language is in a natural way.

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S: You’re singing in London at the Islington on the 25th. Hopefully you’ll have time to enjoy London as well! What do you plan to do or see while you’re here?

JS: I wish I could stay in London for days but I am playing in Exeter the very next day. So I think I will have time to rest, have a good breakfast and go to my next show. Luckily I’ve been in London before. Having Loose Music as my label has given me the opportunity to come to the city several times. I have also good friends in town, so, it is always nice to be back. I love London, actually!

Joana Serrat’s Tour Dates 2017

24 Jan – NOTTINGHAM, Poppy & Pint
25 Jan – LONDON, The Islington
26 Jan – EXETER, Phoenix
27 Jan – BEXHILL, Albatross Club
28 Jan – MANCHESTER, Fred’s Ale House
29 Jan – NEWCASTLE, The Cluny 2
30 Jan – GLASGOW, Broadcast (Celtic Connections)

9 Feb –  AMSTERDAM, Bitterzoet *
10 Feb – HAMBURG, Knust *
11 Feb – BERLIN, Privat Club *
12 Feb – MUNICH, Amphere *
13 Feb – COLOGNE, Blue Shell *
15 Feb – BRUSSELS, Botanique *
16 Feb – PARIS, Divan Du Monde *

17 Feb – BREDA, Mezz
18 Feb – AMSTERDAM, Helemaal
19 Feb – EINDHOVEN, Cafe Wilhelmina

13-19 Mar – SXSW, TX

* with The Handsome Family


Photography Elba Fernández