The Catalan songwriter Joana Serrat turned out to be one of our favorite discoveries in 2014. After releasing her first record The Relief Sessions she was discovered by the Primavera Sound family and added to the roster of their El Segell del Primavera label. Her obvious musical roots go back to such artists as the folky Neil Young or Bob Dylan. Her second release Dear Great Canyon is highly influenced by these roots and filled with beautiful Americana gems and are reminiscent of such artists as Sera Cahoone or Jolie Holland. Here´s a short talk we had with Joana about her music and future plans.
Sonic-Reducer: Hi Joana! First of all, congratulations on your Dear Great Canyon record. It became one of my favorites in 2014. There’s quite a lot of nature references in the lyrics. Was it planned as some kind of a concept record or did it develop during the writing and recording sessions?
Joana Serrat: Thanks a lot for your kind words. It wasn’t planned, really. I think it was more about a natural process. I would say I wasn’t really aware of that concept from the beginning. My manager David Giménez and I worked close on the pre-production of the album, talking a lot about the sound and how we wanted the album to be like. I met him because he interviewed me for my self-released first album The Relief Sessions in 2012, and since then he became my confidant and my partner on my musical project. I also think that spending time with him just emphasized that fact because he likes to write a lot and his poems and prose are full of nature as well. So, I think we created that beautiful synergy. Being a teenager I used to write poetry and my literature teacher had told me that my poems were a kind of tankas and haikus. So, I guess I have always been inspired by Nature and used it to explain my feelings. In fact, when I write a song what it comes to my mind is a picture, a landscape, and all I do is looking for the specific sound to recreate this image with its color. Once I had all the songs recorded and was thinking about the track list, suddenly it came out this idea of a climbing and descent. It was a revealing moment because all took sense. I created that story about to get to the top of the Great Canyon and after a while of gathering the horizon and taking the breath then starts the way back home. So, yes, it is an album surrounded by Nature.
Sonic-Reducer: I was astonished to find out that Dear Great Canyon is one more Howard Bilerman record I like. How did the collaboration with the producer of such artists as Grant Hart, Vic Chesnutt or Wolf Parade come along?
Joana Serrat I knew I wanted to make one step further with my second album. I didn’t want to repeat the same formula and what I wanted the most was to record with a producer. When we were thinking about who could develop this role we were listening to all the albums we love and it was great to find out that some of them where Howard’s works. By that time, I had a crush on The Wooden Sky’s album Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun so I decided to email him asking if he would like to be my producer. And he said yes. It was great and beautiful.
Sonic-Reducer Songs like Green Grass sound like a lot of fun. Did you record them live with the band?
Joana Serrat Yes, we did record all the songs in live sessions. That was one of the goals of the album, I’d say. David and I had very clear that we wanted an ‚oldie‘ album: we wanted to record in live, in analog, and the album was thought as a 12″ Vinyl. In fact, we didn’t record with click, Howard got rid of it but the only song we did record with click it is Green Grass because he wanted to try something new: on the left you have one take and on the right you have another one. If you listen carefully you will find some differences on the drums. I was very lucky to work with all the talented musicians that wanted to join our adventure. Gavin Gardiner from the Canadian band The Wooden Sky wanted to join the recording so it was very rad. I couldn’t believe that someone who I admired so much his record would be working with me on my songs. He is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met. I felt I had learned a lot with him, watching his skills and trying to capture everything that could help me to improve. Mike O’Brien from Vic Chesnutt’s band played banjo and electric guitar too.
Sonic-Reducer:I´ve seen your performance on the Primavera stage in 2014, where you´ve beaten the heavy rain. Do you prefer playing live or writing and recording songs?
Joana Serrat Oh yes. I hope that was holy water… I love recording, I think it’s the only moment I really feel fulfilled. I a love that feeling when you just got a nice song, and you know it’s a nice one. That makes me very happy too. I like performing, but it’s a feeling that changes with time. Sometimes I love it and sometimes it frightens me. I guess there are a lot of things that I cannot control. It’s strange because when I’m on the road the only thing that makes sense is to be on the stage and when I’m back home I do miss the shows but if it takes a while before another concert, then I feel like I have been too much disconnected. And I need to rebuild that connection again. Weird.
Sonic-Reducer: You´ve recently posted a photo of a studio session. Are you working on a new record?
Joana Serrat Yes. I posted a pic of my recording demo sessions. I am recording my third album in August in Montréal, Québec with Howard Bilerman again, but this time at his Hotel2tango studio. Only Toni Serrat (my brother, drummer) and Gavin are on the recording again. It makes me very happy that Aaron Goldstein (Daniel Romano, City and Colour, Cowboy Junkies) will be recording with us too! I am really excited about that! I can’t wait! This is an exclusive premiere for the Sonic Reducer!
Sonic-Reducer: Is there anything you can already reveal about your third record?
Joana SerratYes, sure. I am digging into reverb. I have always been obsessed by it. At the same time, I had the feeling my songs are more roots and I had thought more about my lyrics. I would choose dark blue to define the sound of my next album.
Sonic-Reducer: Are you already able to make your living with the music or do you have a day job?
Joana Serrat I don’t exactly have a day job but as I have to pay my recording (musicians, studio, mixing, mastering, apartment, meals, etc) I need extra money so I work as a waitress to pay my bills and the money I get from music I put in on my records. If I hadn’t to assume all this I could make a living.
Sonic-Reducer: What is currently spinning on your record player at home?
Joana Serrat Daniel Romano, Slowdive, Mojave3, The Deep Dark Woods, Nikki Lane, Neil Young,…
Sonic-Reducer: Do you also have any spanish artists you could recommend to us?
Joana Serrat I recommend you my little sister’s project called CARLA. She plays something like winter-synth-soul-pop. John Davis who worked with Sade, FKA twigs, Haim or Blur said CARLA sound amazing. She has a pair of Singles and she will release her fist album in October.