An Insurrection at the waters: Jo Bywater in conversation.
Liverpool is home to talent of many kinds both home grown and otherwise. Originally from outside the city, Jo Bywater is a multi faceted artist and you may have seen some of her artwork at this year’s Threshold Festival. When it comes to music though, judging by the crowds who filled our space during the Insurrection, you must surely have seen her performance of some inspirational and poetic songs? If that’s not the case, I urge you go see Jo live as soon as you possibly can. But, you have to read this interview with her first. Or even print it out and read it on the way to seeing her live. Whatever you do, read below for what must be one of the most pleasing interviews I’ve done in a long time!
It was great seeing your performance at the Insurrection. Any highlights for you from the show?
I really enjoyed playing at Insurrection. My highlights were being involved in a show and exhibition that was grounded on an ethos of independence, free speech, action etc… It’s motivating and inspiring to me to be reminded that there are like-minded people out there who do want to listen to new music. I was in the company of some great creative people including yourself! (Blushes ensue from this writer!)
Some may know you better as an artist than a musician. Does your art feed into your music or do you try and maintain a separation between the two?
I tend to see everything as a picture anyway, even songs. Initially I wanted to keep the music and art separate but as they’ve both developed they’ve just naturally grown together. Neither of them completely feed each other but they’re very much both me and so do run along side each other. The first few paintings I did were visual representations of songs - ‘One Small Step’ is an example - I used that as a basis to start but my inspirations quickly changed to other things as i gained more confidence in my artwork. Over the last year when I decided to dive into creating my debut album the two crafts definitely came hand in hand. The project was something I’ve wanted to do for a few years but wasn’t in the position to do so either with money or resources.
|Jo Bywater at the Insurrection.|
‘(Art and music) come from very deep expressive places for me…’
You recently released your album for the world to hear. What inspired it's title Cycle Grace Pulse Break?
The title came from the song WAVE from the album. I’m a bit obsessed with cycles in life, that’s how I tend to rationalize or understand things and I love the sea. Cycle Grace Pulse Break are very tactile, physical and visual words, the 4 words all induce different feelings and ways that a wave/situations can impact, be it soft, supportive or harsh or in rhythm; metaphors for life and the bigger picture. ‘Cycle Grace Pulse Break’ is a dance - and playful. The year I wrote ‘Wave’ was also named ‘the year of fulfilment’ by me and a friend and that got into the first line of the song.
There are some great songs on the album such as Wave, which is the first single. What made Wave stand out as the first single and what is the song's inspiration?
‘Wave’ to me has an epic power to it and it’s very rhythmic. It was also the most recent of the songs I had written, gets great feedback and holds the album title in its chorus. It became the natural first choice to make a video for. As for its inspiration, I touched upon that briefly in an earlier question about the album title. In addition, it was about my observations and adopted attitude towards life’s ups and downs and that many things come to us in waves. I wanted to explore how they felt. I tried to emphasize the cyclical feel and drive of pulsing and rhythm in the chorus too.
Is there anything you would like to see more of in the world, be it something silly or something serious, and why?
I’d like to see more encouragement for kids to explore their creative expression freely and naturally and to challenge and explore the world/society around them; For more people to be in touch with their hearts and souls and not just their heads; For the taboo of mental health issues to disappear; For older people to be valued for their wisdom and not cast-off as past their sell-by date; More funny and clever street art/graffiti. More dragons, centaurs, care bears and hover-boards. More flying people - not in planes, just people knowing how to fly by themselves; these things to me depict personal freedom, expression, acceptance and dreams. I don’t think en masse people know they have an option to do that.
Is there anywhere that you find particularly conducive to making music or art?
I live in a flat in an old house in Aigburth, my room has big windows and trees and birds and is near Sefton Park. This is where I do my creating ultimately; usually with a cup of coffee. The places that charge me with creative energy and head space for the artwork and music in the first place tend to be certain parts of the park especially in the sun, rundown buildings, Mello Mello in town; always places that aren’t uniform and have got passion and a story to tell. - Things that ooze energy. But then I need peace and solitude.
What do you think the message of The Nerve Centre is?
A strong space for an independent voice; Action; Expression; A collective voice and elevator for valid and independent opinions and creativity; To challenge what exists in the mainstream and to create a proactive response and alternate voice; Local support.
Any final messages for the people of Nerve?
Keep up the good work! Persevere in carrying the torch, more people will get involved and the voice will be louder. Keep pushing to spread the word with more Nerve Centre's etc so more people will hear about it. And thanks!
Thanks to Jo Bywater for a great set at the Insurrection and an even better interview. Listen to her album and check out her live performance soon. You know it would be criminal not to!
Interview, blushes and live image by Sebastian Gahan.