Born Free with Alessi
It is no secret to anyone who knows the depths and beginnings of Babywoman that Alessi-Laurent Marke was at the starting line of this small revolution. I remember, so clearly, telling her my idea and her unwavering encouragement to tell me do it. So much of the birth of Babywoman involves Alessi and it makes me so proud (and a little gushy) to mark our 10th release with 'Born Free' ; her ballad to freedom.
CC: It's very easy to forget how free we are. It's even easier to take it for granted. Everyday pressures and expectations weigh on us. Alessi, what do you do to feel most free? And what do you do to remind yourself of your freedom?
AA: I feel most free when I paint, draw, go for walks in quiet areas (along the rivers, in woods, down back streets), cycle, swim...as much as I love to sleep, I do find that movement, even the slow kind, can be very freeing. I pray often. I can't believe I'm here. Alive, well and still making music. Drumming reminds me of my freedom.
CC: You’ve mentioned in an interview or two that everybody around you was going through something of their own when you wrote Born Free. Can you tell us where you were when you wrote it and do you remember anything particularly about that day you wrote it too?
AA: Well the timing of this conversation is quite remarkable...I was trying to remember the date I wrote the song exactly, and so I just checked my voice notes and saw that the very first demo of 'Born Free' was recorded on Nov 11th of last year. How time flies...I wrote the song at home, sat on the floor, playing my acoustic guitar. Very low, very lost, very hurt and very fearful. You and I had been practicing a lot for our upcoming tour, and I felt so much conflict ; so thankful to be such good friends about to head out on the road, and also terribly upset and fragmented in my heart about a deteriorating relationship, world view and belief system. I felt like I was holding onto sand, trying to build a life on it.
CC: Alessi, this feels like the most personal song you've ever written. Everything you've done has spoken to me and so many other people, but there's something different happening here. There are no metaphors or pretty ways of escaping the reality of what you were at the time. The diary-like feel really comes through. Was this done intentionally?
AA: Yes. It was a prayer to start with, set to music. My hope from the very moment that the ideas started to come through, was that the words would uplift whoever heard it and that they wouldn't feel alone.
CC: When we were on The Bloodmoon Tour last year, something happened in a room which has never left me. We were playing at The Castle in Manchester and you played Born Free. I was in awe of you and how much conviction you held when you played it. The room fell silent. Is it hard to summon that feeling every time you play it? Do you feel like you to go back to that space to communicate the message?
AA: I remember that night well...we went to that pie and mash place around the corner with Carolina and it was freezing outside. Every time I play 'Born Free', I can close my eyes and go back to that place, that I don't so easily access with my eyes open (thankfully). The song has taken on some new meanings and feelings now that time has passed a bit, but I can definitely connect to that original place and head space when I focus, where I was hoping so deeply to break free of mental chains and hoped others could too.
CC: When you just spoke about head space, I couldn't help but hear the song in my mind (which I often do, because I love it) but there is sonically so much space in this song. It feels a little more stark than other recordings. Did you make this decision before you went into The Cabin?
AA: Yes, I wanted to lay the ideas out bare, without hiding anything.
CC: I genuinely feel “they try to spread their pain, like some sick campaign in my ears” is one of the most beautiful lines in a song I've ever heard. Can you tell me a little more about that?
AA: Wow, thank you! You have definitely written some of my favourites line too CC. That particular line refers to demons and lies in the mind, that can spread like fire and try to cause a blaze inside. Some listeners may hear that line and connect it to particular relationships, bonds or environments that need to be left behind, in order for true freedom.
CC: Going back to The Cabin briefly, you work alongside your partner and Ark member Jason Santos. Introduce us How did you meet and begin working together?
AA: Jason is my band mate and now, partner. We met through a wonderful musician, Herman, just under two years ago and immediately clicked. We did a UK tour together in May 2018,( yourself and our lovely friend Alex Ruhl, were there at our show in Leeds!) and shortly thereafter we started sketching out song ideas at his cabin when we had free time from work. Jason and I collaborated on our first French song 'Devant Moi' for Babywoman in September 2018 and have carried on since! Jason is a super skilled carpenter and he has a deep appreciation for The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time.
CC: The hardest part of being an independent artist seems to be the balance between being creative and being a business owner. How do you find your equilibrium? Do you ever?
AA: What a mighty question...I definitely feel closer to finding that equilibrium these days. I try to stick to the pattern of waking early, walking in our area and then divide the day into work (house renovations/decorating) and music admin/playing. Some days, that order isn't always possible nor what feels right, but generally, getting out of the flat before starting either kinds of work, really helps with the balance.
CC: What are your 2020 plans, personally and professionally?
AA: Here are some personal ones ; to learn to drive, see my wonderful sister more (she lives and works overseas), sing in our local church choir, practice pyrography, travel with Jason.
Professional : organise a special fundraising concert for Happy Days Children Charity, release a new EP or album, tour, record Bloodmoon songs and illustrate my friend Alex's book.
CC: Before we get too excited for 2020, why don't you tell us some of your 2019 highlights. A favourite gig, book you've read, film, song you've heard and meal?
AA: Highlight gig : London Community Gospel Choir play in Walthamstow.
Highlight Ark gig : playing at the Big Comfy Bookshop with yourself and Dom Major earlier this month.
Books : 'Talking to Strangers' by Malcolm Gladwell, The Bible and 'Know Your why' by Ken Costa.
Films : 'Amazing Grace' - the incredible Aretha Franklin concert in Los Angeles from 1972.
Meal : 2 black coffees, 4 Pastel de Nata and 2 hours of playing Hangman at Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon
Favourite songs : 'Calm down' by Pete Yorn, 'Follow You Down' by yourself and 'Can you lose by following God' by Whole Truth.
CC: What would you tell yourself 5 years ago from today?
AA: Everything will be ok, just keep the faith and remember love.
Born Free is the brand new single from Alessi's Ark and is out now, everywhere.