I don't really think of myself as a singer. I
know that sounds silly, because I am. For me, what's important is
the song, and the message you're trying to send through that. The
voice is just a vehicle for me.
I try not to over-think it. Having said that, I
have trained in some breath control and warm-ups and so on, so as
to not lose my voice. I also spent a lot of time copying other
singers, before I realised it's best just to sing in your own
natural voice, which is an extension of your speaking voice.
I play guitar, mostly. I started out on piano,
but there weren't many pianos in the bars I wanted to play in, or
the camper van I lived in for a year in New Zealand. I taught
myself on an acoustic guitar from a charity shop, and at first it
hurt my hands, but it gets easier.
I wanted to go and explore another country, and be
outside. It was more of a romantic notion, doing
fruit-picking and bar work, working for a month and travelling for
a month, observing people. I honed my writing, alone with the
acoustic guitar and notepad.
I write my own songs. I would say I'm largely
inspired by the human condition, ups and downs and in-betweens.
I've tried to emulate everyone from Tom Waits to Dolly Parton, and
it's never worked.
My "Anglicana" style is a fusion of English folk and
Nashville. It wasn't so much an intention, but I've always
been drawn to roots music. I love English folk, but I also love
blues and country, which has more bending of the notes and a very
soulful approach. I like things that are a bit approximate, but
from the heart.
Music is self-expression for me, and a way of
articulating things I probably wouldn't say in life or feel out
loud. I was quite a rebel without a cause, quite hyperactive, when
I was young, and I just remember my mum asking me: "What do you
really love doing, Lotte?" "Reading, writing, and horse." "I'll buy
you a notepad and you can write things down."
I filled it up, and she bought me another one.
It became a passion, and helped me in lots of ways. Music, writing,
I've had phenomenal success in a very short
time, and it's been very pressured, but exciting. The main
pressure has always been the one I put on myself. I also get
excited by stuff quite easily; so I can be exhausting company for
I try to stay focused on the music, and getting
that right and playing with people whom I love.
I started gigging when I was 16, and signed my
publishing deal when I was 21. I'm now 29 - I'm terrible at maths -
but it's been a good few years. Plain Jane, my first
album, was reviewed in The Guardian, and the music press
paid attention. I then signed a book-and-film deal with Elton
John's company, Rocket Pictures, two years ago; so it doesn't seem
like an overnight thing to me.
I haven't played at Greenbelt before, but I'm
looking forward to it. I hear the grounds are beautiful. Some fans
came to a gig at Birmingham Glee Club, and suggested I came, and it
looked lovely, and a few of my friends are playing, too.
I didn't know it was a Christian festival then.
But getting involved with discussion about young people forging a
path in the creative industry, and women - it's all very appealing.
Nothing's just about music is it?
I like reading, watching films, walking, and
spending time with loved ones. I live very near the Regent's Canal
in London, where I can walk. I'll read anything by Margaret Atwood.
I think she is the most subtle genius and studier of the human
I grew up on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. It was
a very rural up-bringing, with lots of space and time for thinking.
Norwich was half an hour away. My family was my mum and older
brother, and an Irish terrier called Tess.
My mum is probably the biggest influence in my
life, followed a close second by Dolly Parton. Now I'm
living fairly centrally in London: it's been a big change, but I've
got used to it now.
A wood pigeon's cooing reminds me of home.
I love the Greek islands. Being surrounded by
the sea and surrendering to the weather is one of my favourite
things. I also love the British countryside: I think I could spend
a lifetime exploring it.
I'd like to write more - songs, and a novel.
There's one in the pipeline. When I signed the deal with Rocket
Pictures, they wanted to make a journal I'd been keeping into a
film, and a literary agent asked me if there was any more. They
didn't want to bring that out till the film.
I've always written poetry and short stories,
and thought I had the beginnings of a novel; so I've been working
on it. I've no idea when it will be out, but I like to do other
things besides music. I like to do some things purely for pleasure,
with no expectations.
I'd also like to spend more time doing very little. .
. It's an art I am slowly learning.
Family is big for me; so more of that would be
wonderful. I realised I had spent a lot of time pursuing ambition,
and wanted to ease back on things. Constantly pursuing goals wasn't
benefiting myself and those close to me: two younger half-sisters
whom I didn't grow up with, but I think they need me; and I wasn't
phoning home enough. Rushing around isn't all that beneficial,
anyway. If you slow down a bit, everything gets a bit better.
I found myself feeling quite unhappy: you've
achieved this, and done this, and I didn't feel excited at all. So
I realised that there was something wrong.
A nurse on a cancer ward in Australia wrote an article
which went viral: the five regrets of the dying. The
biggest one was: "I wish I'd spent more time with my friends and
family." Many, mainly men, said: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard,
and had spent more time with people." I could see myself head-ing
that way if I didn't stop for abit.
I think I'd have a fair few questions for Johnny
Cash, if I could be locked in a church with him. Can Tom
Waits be there, too?
Lotte Mullan was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.