‘Guernsey is a natural source of inspiration for me’

ROBYN SHERWELL has certainly been busy since I last interviewed her in November.

She finished her new album, Unfold, as well as the video content to go with it, and has released three singles from the album since March.

‘As things have eased up in spring time I’ve also created a collection of filmed live performances of the album songs with a band, which was an incredible feeling after so long away from playing live music due to Covid restrictions,’ she told me.

‘These will be coming out over the summer, in the run-up to an intimate headline album launch celebration show in London on 14 September.’

Although now based in London, Robyn’s experience of growing up in Guernsey is a major source of inspiration in her work.

Her debut album featured the empowering, tribal-sounding song Islander, which she wrote as a dedication to Guernsey. Its thumping rhythms and chanting chorus (‘I am not small/I’m an islander’) quickly secured support from Huw Stephens and BBC Introducing, catapulting her onto the latter’s stage at Glastonbury in 2015.

And the new album includes the Guernsey-inspired song Sand In My Shoes, which she wrote after spending a few days in the island last year.

‘I had to include Sand In My Shoes on the album as it’s such a significant song in the story of the past few years of my life since becoming a mother – and especially in the last year since the pandemic made travelling freely back to Guernsey so much more challenging,’ she said.

‘It’s like a love letter to Guernsey and sums up my feeling of missing home and that nostalgia to be there. I’ve had so many messages as well from islanders overseas about how much it resonated with them too, especially the video that accompanied it, which featured some of the island’s scenery.

‘There’s some more subtle influence in other tracks too. In the lyrics of the song Problems, from which the album takes its name Unfold, I use an ocean metaphor about being lost at sea and searching for the shore, filtering the story of that song through my images and memories of the island and the sea.

‘It’s a natural source of inspiration for me.’

So as border restrictions begin to ease up, does Robyn plan to return to Guernsey in the near future?

‘Yes! I do currently have plans to visit during mid-to-late summer for a few weeks with my family, subject to restrictions of course, and all being well. Our travel is booked, so fingers crossed we will be there before too long. ‘I can’t wait to put my toes in the sand and swim in the sea.’

Robyn Sherwell. (Picture by Elliott Mariess) (29660011)

The past few years have brought much change to Robyn’s life, since the release of her critically acclaimed debut album, produced by Bat For Lashes collaborator David Kosten.

She experienced a huge transition in becoming a mother, after the loss of a pregnancy. From that emotional vulnerability also came new resilience, and in gradually rediscovering her strength and her independence, both in life and as an artist, she felt inspired to make music once again.

With this new-found strength, she returned to her home studio in London, and brought in an old friend to produce alongside her – Jonas Jalhay, whose credits include artists such as DJ Khaled, Rag’n’Bone Man and James Blake, and who had co-produced Landslide, her cover of the Fleetwood Mac classic from her debut album.

Her comeback EP, Where Do We Go From Here, released last December, signalled her confident return and showed that she was not afraid to express her emotions through beautifully bruised but enveloping melodic electro soul songs.

‘To be writing at home and self-producing is so empowering,’ said Robyn.

‘It feels like a return to when I was first exploring music and my artistry, just writing heartfelt songs and making demos in my bedroom, with no one else involved.’

Recorded within her close-knit circle, some songs showcase first-take vocals, lending an additional sensitive quality to already intimate songs.

As ever, the tracks are led first and foremost by her mellifluous vocals, at once exposed and powerful, delicate and bold, and always bursting with effortless sweetness and heartfelt expression. Her lyrics paint vivid stories, so personal but so relatable that it is hard not to feel connected to the emotion conveyed.

Opening track and lead single To Give Up is a pulsating slice of electronic alt-pop in which Robyn reflects on the challenge of leaving a dysfunctional situation.

In Bare Minimum, a song co-written with Robyn’s friend and fellow female artist Litening, mid-tempo, Massive Attack-style drums repeat on loop, depicting the monotony of a relationship that seems to have lost its way, while the lyrics implore for ‘something more than this, bare minimum’.

Originally released as part of last year’s Where Do We Go From Here EP, Two Weeks is undoubtedly the most heart-wrenchingly personal track on the record. Set to a compelling drum-loop pulse created from an actual sonogram heartbeat, the affecting song tells Robyn’s own personal story about the loss that affects one in four pregnant women and the taboo surrounding it, which becomes an unspoken burden for many who experience it.

Elsewhere, second single A Kiss ‘speaks to the risk of doing something that can’t be undone, something that could change everything, and the floating exhilaration, fear, and anticipation of that moment,’ explained Robyn.

Brooding ballad Problems calls time on a relationship that has become too oppressive. With a sense of steadfast resilience that pervades the whole record, the lyrics offer up the album title itself: ‘The tighter you hold, the brighter the goal, the fire is out, and you’ll watch me unfold. I’m on my way, land-bound again, on my own.’

In the closing track, Leaving, Robyn leans further into the theme of drawing on inner-strength, building new beginnings after disappointment, even if it means moving country in order to start again: ‘Funny how now we’re over, there’s nothing here I want’.

And in stunning thematic contrast, Lifting Me Up is a rolling, uplifting pop cut which embraces the joy of discovering a new love. As her hopeful vocals float brightly over precise drums, Robyn’s lyrics track the unexpected and welcome transformation brought by the arrival of a new relationship.

  • Robyn’s new album, Unfold, is out now and available to stream or buy at robynsherwell.lnk.to/unfold.

  • Robyn will be showcasing her new album for an exclusive and intimate show at London’s Paper Dress Vintage on 14 September. Tickets are available to buy at dice.fm/event/wa7bg-robyn-sherwell-14th-sep-paper-dress-vintage-london-tickets.

Find Robyn:

Instagram & Twitter @robynsherwell

Facebook @robynsherwellmusic

www.robynsherwell.com.

Listen to Robyn’s music on Spotify, AppleMusic or most other streaming and download platforms.

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