Rosie Swayne tells us about her song Cider Mill and how it is a reaction to her observations of a violent, darkly manipulative relationship.
Rosie Swayne, 38, living between Helsinki and the UK.
I grew up on Dartmoor (on a farm on the edge of the moor, not in the prison) and started writing music as soon as I started learning instruments. I met Rachel Sanson at Northampton Uni where we were on the same Performance Studies degree: her superb vocals, performing skills and understanding of my material were a great writing inspiration and we continued doing music together in our band Invocal for the next 10 years – playing live everywhere and releasing lots of brilliant CD’s that were largely ignored by all but our small but awesome fanbase. The band ceased as a full time endeavour in 2010 and I am now writing music for theatre as my job, but Rachel and I are still performing.
What motivated you to deal with the subject of ‘violence against women’ in your art?
It’s The idea of being kept captive by someone’s aggression and influence which is assisted by the validation of the surrounding community and culture. The experiences some people around me have had are staggering – it’s humbling to think they must carry these dark and complicated memories around with them and try to process them as they try to get on with their lives. I try to keep this in mind when I’m complaining about my own hardships, which are more based on things like why oh why did they have to take all the salt and fat out of hula-hoops? now they just taste like general building supplies.
Tell us why you chose this submission?
I wrote this song shortly before I started a family and I was thinking about babies a lot. I guess I was attracted to investigating the lengths a mother might go to to protect her young, and so now I am a mother it has a renewed resonance. It doesn’t seek to convey a moral message, just tell a story based on somebody pushed to the limits. I think Rachel’s voice is perfect for the character in the song – it sounds awesome.
CIDER MILL by Rosie Swayne, performed by Rachel Sanson and Rosie Swayne
The song portrays a character being kept captive by the aggression and influence of an unseen figure, whose power is assisted by the validation of the surrounding community and culture. It considers the notion of seeking freedom at any cost.
Rachel Sanson sings the main vocal on this recording, which was recorded at Fitdog studios, Northamptonshire and produced by Rosie Swayne & Chris Furner . Music & Lyrics by Rosie Swayne.
The last time I killed
Was in this mill
One Big Wheel
They let out the hounds
To track me down
Cogs Creak Round
Turn the wheel
Crush the apple
Keep the seed
Crush the captor
Keep the dream
Shards of sun
Feel the dust
In the lungs
Here’s the Adam
Here’s the Eve
Here’s the serpent
Come to free me
I’m nothing for you
Mill, Crush, Fold
Your oppression has crawled
Into these walls
Mean, Dark, Cold
Here’s the blossom
Here’s the tree
Here’s the person
Cork the lungs
Here’s the madness
Here’s the grief
Here’s the anger
Come to free… (repeat)
Hush time little munchkin
There isn’t very long
Cos the hounds’ve gone a-hunting
And mamma’s on the run
It is strange to be so present
So conspicuous and full
Having been until this juncture
Empty, null, invisible
There are scratches in the girders
There are hand prints on the floor
There are claw marks in the door parts
That I couldn’t let be yours
Seems they’re blocking all the bridges
But I’m running in the fields
And the river feels forgiving
As I’m breathing in the free.
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?
Well… music is the only thing I can do well (apart from write long letters of complaint to KP Snacks). But it’s pretty great to work in an artistic medium that people actually carry around with them in headphones and utilise in their daily lives. As for the style, I set the song in a kind of folky historical world as I have been more and more influenced by folk tales and story telling in my writing in recent years, since I moved through my introspective ‘6th form’ phase which lasted two decades.
What is your process when creating?
I’m very boring about it. I’m extremely detailed (read: slow) which I’m trying to work on now I’m writing for theatre and working to other peoples schedules. People ask me about the process a lot. I’d like to invent something a bit more interesting – perhaps involving me keeping a pencil and empty manuscript by the bed and writing my dreams in notation as I sleep, but the reality is I just sit down and get it done. In between large Facebook breaks of course, which are very important.
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?
Like most composers my list of musical influences are vast and diverse but I am lately being inspired by Karine Polwart, The Tiger Lillies and Serj Tankian . I am also very inspired by the way current issues are being dealt with in the standup world by artists such as Josie Long and Bridget Christie. Also, while I was heavily pregnant, housebound and looking after my 1 year old we watched a LOT of musicals on my laptop in preparation for my next project. I got very excited about Urinetown and I’m about 10 years too late but I discovered Jerry Springer the Opera and found it to be a work of actual genius. Aarni liked Starlight Express, but what does he know?
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
Actually I prefer ‘feminazi’- I’m taking the word back. Not really. Feminism means the pursuit of equal rights and opportunities for men and women to me, and is also a word that inspires a lot of uptight jibber-jabber from men AND women which is beyond tedious. People started referring to me as a feminist long before I decided I probably was one. I’ve been continuously accused of man hating in my songs even though if you actually listen to them, men rarely get a mention anywhere. It’s as if a female person with the slightest attitude just needs to get close to a guitar and OH MY GOD A FEMINAZI! WHY DO YOU HATE MEN SO MUCH?! Um… I was just about to sing a song about tinnitus actually?
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
I’ve seen some of your stuff on the internet and thought it would be cool to submit something.
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
I do think all people outside of convention have their struggles, but women do experience a certain type of brutal sexualised ridicule for not meeting certain (often irrelevant) expectations, which anyone who has spent more than 5 seconds on the internet can surely confirm.
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
Um… overall I think we could probably do a *bit* better
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
I have campaigned with anti-racism groups and support raising awareness of mental illness issues (which, btw, I do *hilariously* with the song ‘Cheer Up Frowny Face’). But at the moment it’s hard not to focus on the rapidly intensifying issue of climate change. They’re releasing worse and worse data every day and we’re still prattling on about Jeremy fucking Clarkson like particularly idiotic lobsters being cooked alive.
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
I’ve seen the amazing effects art and music therapy can have on a person and I would definitely agree that it helps save lives. So hooray for art!
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
Well I don’t like to brag, but my next project is writing a stage musical that will fix climate change.
What are your goals as with your art?
To fix climate change through the medium of musical theatre.
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
it’s a stage musical …that we’re seeking finance for incidentally … and well I don’t like to brag but… it’s definitely going to fix climate change. You’re welcome!
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