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Miranda Lee Richards - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 30 / 9 / 2016

Miranda Lee Richards - Interview


Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards talks to John Clarkson about her first album in seven years, the 60's and 70's-influenced 'Echoes of a Dreamtime'

‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’ is the third album of Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Miranda Lee Richards. At one level it is a modern album recorded flawlessly in the home studio which Richards co-owns with her producer husband Rick Parker, and at another an homage to the classic singer-songwriter records of the 60’s and 70’s. Richards, who was born in San Francisco, was briefly an early member of the Brian Jonestown Massacre before going solo and recording her two previous solo records, ‘The Herethereafter’ (Nettwerk, 2001) and ‘Light of X’ (Virgin, 2008). She will be touring Britain in September in support of the Magic Numbers’ Ren Hardie and Romeo Stodart. In conversation with Pennyblackmusic, Miranda Lee Richards spoke to us about ‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’, which was released on Invisible Hands Music in January, and her plans for its rapid follow-up early next year. PB: It must have been a massive benefit to record this album at home and in your own time rather than permanently having to watch the clock which is what would have happened if you had booked studio time elsewhere. MLR: That was a huge benefit because there weren't the same time restraints or deadlines. I put some personal pressure on myself to finish it in a timely manner. I really wanted to get another album out but I didn’t have a natural deadline which was very nice. PB: It us a record with a lot going on, but at the same time it never seems rammed. Was that one of your main purposes in making this album? MLR: I think that it happened more as an end result rather than out of any vision or intention on my behalf. In recording 'Echoes of the Dreamtime' I wanted to incorporate lots of orchestration into it. My second album ‘Light of X’ was a little too minimal in some ways whereas my first record 'The Herethereafter' was very, very multi-layered, and I wanted to go somewhere in between with 'Echoes of the Dreamtime'. I think that what people remember most about a song is sometimes a guitar line or a string line just as much as they remember a vocal line or a lyric, so recording a purely acoustic or sit down record wasn’t appealing to me. At the same time I didn’t want it to sound cramped. That comes down to editing or arranging and mixing and really making sure that each instrument has a place and that each thing coming in has a moment to shine. PB: All of the tracks on 'Echoes of the Dreamtime' are long. There is only one track ‘Little Radio’ that is less than five minutes in length. Did you set out with the aim of writing long songs or did that just evolve naturally? MLR: It was my intention to write longer songs for 'Echoes of the Dreamtime'. When I began it I asked myself what the things were that people are not attempting right now and not putting out. I wanted to find something that was somewhat unique. This album is a throwback in many ways to the music of the 60s and the 70s where people were really getting into prog rock and the kind of layered ballad writing of artists like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. I was intrigued by the idea of working with very long songs with multi-references, because it seems to me that music is getting shorter and shorter and becoming faster and faster. I thought why not go in the opposite direction and make something that you could really listen to and hopefully get lost in the story and which will hopefully quantify for more. PB: It was recorded with a group of friends and in some cases neighbours. Were they are all professional musicians? MLR: All of them are. I live in a neighbourhood in the Hollywood hills in Los Angeles called Beachwood Canyon and there are a lot of actors and musicians who live in the area. It is that sort of climate. I had two neighbours who happened to play in the L.A. Philharmonic. One is a viola player and one is one of the cello players, and so they just happened to live on my street (Laughs). There were also some guitar players who I have played with since my San Francisco days and who play guitar on this album. They are not session players but they do play in lots of different projects. Then I had Stewart Cole from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. He was the only non-neighbour. He played some trumpet on the record, and another of my neighbours played musical saw. She is also an actress as well as a musician. It is very convenient to have people from across the street come to the house and play (Laughs), and I love that. I love being able to showcase the talented friends and neighbours and community musicians that I am literally living next door to. PB: When you play live you have a band. How many of these people are involved with that? MLR: I have up to a seven piece band when I play live, but I don’t always do that. I play acoustically sometimes and sometimes as a three-piece. Many of those players are on this record but not everybody. The rhythm section that I play live with just now is not the same rhythm section that played on the ‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’ album, but many of the other musicians that appear on this record are in the seven-piece group. PB: There have always been long gaps between your albums. There was eight years between your first album, 'The Herethereafter' and ‘Light of X’, and there has been another six years between ‘Light of X’ and this album. Is there a reason why there have been such extensive gaps? MLR: It mainly has to do with losing my record deals between records. There are options of self-releasing nowadays, but I didn't want to do that and so I was looking for other album deals. It took me a long time to do that. It is not a very exciting reason but that was the reality (Laughs). PB: Why did you decide to sign with Invisible Hands Music which is a UK label? MLR: I had a couple of different offers and the main options which I was looking at was one with an American label and one with a UK label. It really did just come down to what they were offering and their passion for my music. Invisible Hands was the label that I was most attracted to. They wanted to release more than one record of mine in close succession. The long breaks between my previous releases were not from a lack of writing on my behalf and me not being prolific. I have quite a big backlog of music ready, and Invisible Hands Music proposed to me that we release two albums in quick succession, which I am excited about. I will be putting out a second album with them next year. I also think that UK sensibilities are a little bit more geared towards the market for non-commercial pop music such as mine. There are definitely US labels that are great but they are very much geared towards the youth market, so I was looking for someone who appreciated the adult element of my music as well as being a label that I could work with for a while. PB: In an interview you talk about your love of vinyl. ‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’ is a record that in many ways seems designed for vinyl rather than CD or download. Was it crucial to you that there was a vinyl edition? MLR: Sure, even in its track listing and number of songs. As they were long songs, you can only fit eight songs on a LP. A lot of other choices were influenced by the vinyl product and the vinyl market. I love the sleeve records on vinyl. They sound really great and a lot While ‘Echoes of the Dreamtime’ is a modern record, it is an ode to the 60s and 70s as well and singer-songwriter records. I was very keen for there to be a vinyl edition (Laughs). PB: You said you have got your next album coming next year. Is it going to be in the same style or are you planning something different? MLR: It is in the same style. ‘Echoes of a Dreamtime’ was originally going to be a double album. It was too ambitious at the time to put a double album out, so it is very much a sequel to ‘Echoes of a Dreamtime’. Many of the songs were recorded during the ‘Echoes of a Dreamtime’ sessions. Other songs have been recorded since then by my current band that I play with live. It is a continuation. It is less acoustic. ‘Echoes of a Dreamtime’ has a lot of electric guitars on it, but the basis of the writing this time is around electric guitar and this sequel will have a lot more electric songs on it. It will also feature piano-based songs. There are not any piano-based songs on ‘Echoes of a Dreamtime’ with the exception of ‘First Light of Winter’. It is going to be a little more rock and roll. PB: Thank you. Miranda Lee Richards will be playing the following UK dates in September and October; September 18th Bristol The Tunnels/19th Leicester The Musician/20th Glasgow Broadcast/23rd Manchester Ruby Lounge/24th Derby Maypole Cafe/26th Brighton Komedia /27th Milton Keynes Crayford Arms/28th Leytonstone London What’s Cookin/29th Sheffield, Greystones/30th Birmingham Institute/October 2nd Guildford Boiler Room/4th London Islington Academy 2 [Headline Show]

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Miranda Lee Richards - Interview

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Miranda Lee Richards - Interview

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