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Introducing... Caswell

Caswell's music is so interesting to me because in one aspect it's so totally unique, with such a deep personal aspect to every song it's almost like peering into her private life. But on the other hand it doesn't fit into any one specific genre, to refer to it as pop is insulting to how alternative it is, to call it indie doesn't recognise the influences of things such as jazz on the project. It's just well-rounded music and after listening to what is probably my EP of the year, I had to get Caswell on my 'Introducing...' series to discuss her new EP 'The Shadow Aspect'.

Question. Firstly, why did you choose to use 'Caswell' as a stage name rather than just using your birth name?
My full name is actually Kristin Caswell-Robinson, but my whole life people have gotten my first name wrong- 'Crystal', 'Kristine', 'Kirsten'- you name it! I thought it would be better to go without. 'Caswell' is a bit more ambiguous as well, I wanted to steer away from the female singer-songwriter vibe a bit.

Q. Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest musical influences have got to include Nina Simone, Kate Bush, Thom York, Jeff Buckley, Erykah Badu and Bjork. To name a few...

Q. How do you feel that those influences seep into your music or the way you create?
That's a tricky one, because aside from my high range having a touch of the Kate-Bush I probably sound nothing like most of my influences! My songwriting has definitely been influenced though, particularly my lyric writing.

Q. What was the turning point where you decided to follow music and start creating music?
I've been writing songs since I was 10 and in my first girl band 'November' (I used to take 5 copies of lyrics into school and put my friends to work during break times, we had dance routines and everything). But the real turning point has to have been when I applied and enrolled at BRIT at 14, that's when I knew what the rest of my life was going to look like.

Q. How would you describe your music to someone who had never heard it?
Dark, downtempo alternative pop/soul with a tangible jazz influence.

Q. You just released your new EP, The Shadow Aspect, how did it feel to finally release that?
It's scary! When you're unsigned you're doing everything yourself. It's so much time, money and hustle that by the time it comes out you're scared maybe you lost perspective altogether and it isn't actually any good!

Q. How long has it been in the making?
Well I started working with Hugh Fothergill, on what we thought was the EP, about 2 and a half years ago now. But we wrote and wrote and it evolved and grew to the point where we had more songs than we expected. Previously released singles 'Fury' 'Animal' and 'Brother' were all meant to be on the EP, but by the time it came to the release, we had new songs!

Q. There's quite a lot of emotion and personal aspects to the EP, did that make it harder to release or was the fact it was so unique to you make it easier?
I'm very glad you say that, because that is what I feel lacks from a lot of mainstream music. If i want to do one thing with my music it's say something real, it doesn't do me or anyone else any real good singing a bunch of words just because they rhyme. The scary thing about it though is knowing that the people you're writing about will inevitably hear it. That makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, especially as in real life I'm known to be a bit of an ice queen.

Q. There's some phenomenal production and sound engineering on The Shadow Aspect, how much of a hand did you have in that?
I was physically present throughout the recording and production process, especially at the beginning when the song is really taking form. 'Cry' was a little different though, I sent a demo with just piano and vocals to Jake Alder, and we spent a few months sending it back and forth before we'd even met each other! Everyone I worked with on the EP was really amazing though, and I wouldn't have been able to develop my sound without Hugh Fothergill who's been there since day dot.

Q. Are the vocal changes in 'Too Soon' quite hard to perform, or is it relatively easy for you to switch tones?
That chorus is tricky actually, it's a little too high to sit comfortably within belting range so I have to be quite tactile with it live.

Q. There's so many different sounds on the EP, was it hard to intertwine all of those sounds into one?
Funnily enough it happened really naturally! I didn't want to think to much about it, so we just let it be.

Q. If you had to pick a favourite from the 5 tracks which would it be?
C: Oh gosh that's so tricky! I've listened them all to death now and have definitely gone through phases of loving each one, but I'd have to say Cry or Too Soon. Those were an integral part of a grieving process after the failure of two different relationships, so I hold them very dear.

Q. How many tracks did you actually record for the EP before cutting it down to 5?
So we had 10 altogether- 3 of which I ended up releasing as singles prior to the EP, and 2 that got the chop.

Q. Listening to The Shadow Aspect as a whole project sees the tone start light with 'Dance Sober' get quite dark towards the middle with 'Not So Simple' and then 'Run Me A Cold Bath' with albeit quite dark lyrics, it's quite a joyous occasion towards the end. Was that a conscious decision to follow that tone?
'The Shadow Aspect' is all about the darker, hidden sides to ourselves we try and keep from view from others, but they are very much part of us and negatives to our positives. I definitely wanted 'Run Me A Cold Bath' as the closer, as it almost completes the exploration of this 'dark side' and brings it back to the more positive in those final choruses. It kind of completes the journey in full circle.

Q. Following on with 'Run Me A Cold Bath', how hard is it to find that perfect median of quite an upbeat and, to quote myself, joyous tone whilst having some quite frankly dark and sad lyrics?
Lyrically the song is about overcoming self sabotage and a lack of self worth, so although it does explore a serious subject matter there is a sense of optimism in growing past that (which I think is reflected in the musicality of that last chorus, it's so uplifting!).

Q. Also, something weird I noticed (which may just be a coincidence) but is there a reason why all the tracks are nearly exactly the same length?
Haha I noticed that too- total coincidence! Obviously I was the main writer on the EP so I naturally follow certain structures and lean towards certain (slower...) tempos.

Q. There's some fantastic lyrical moments on the EP though, but I love the ones to 'Cry'. Is lyricism something you've had to work towards?
Thank you! Well, referring back to my songwriting back in my 'November' days, it's safe to say I've come a long way! But in all seriousness I've always been conscious of my lyrics and what it is I'm saying, because when I'm the listener that's what I take most from music.

Q. The EP artwork is completely the opposite to one of the track titles, because it really is quite simple and effective. How did that come about and what made you decide on that one?
I know a guy called Mikey Burey from BRIT, and I'd seen artwork he'd crated for Max Pope and Pixx so it was almost a no brainer when it came to approaching someone!

Q. Does writing music come easy for you or is it really a challenge?
In my early teenage years I used to struggle very badly, I continually thought I wasn't good enough and that really prevented me from finishing anything- I thought I'd never grow past it. Nowadays I can still be a little shy writing in the studio but at home I don't stop!

Q. When going into the studio did you have pre-conceived ideas of what music you were about to lay down, or did it just flow in the studio?
With the EP tracks the majority of the time I had a near finished song, but with fresh ears on it in the studio some chords might change or a section would be re-written. However 'Run Me A Cold Bath' was written and recorded in 2 days in Reading, very randomly with Tom Longhurst and Dan Bartlett after having met them both at a gig!

Q. How long does it usually take from song idea to finished product for you?
C: That's really tricky! Some songs come together much easier than others. I'd say probably a few months, and sometimes you don't leave things alone until it's getting released and you physically can't edit anymore!

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