Saskia : Are You Listening?Release : 31 July 2020 (Interview 22.07.2020)
In 2019, five years into her full-time music career, Saskia Griffiths-Moore graduated from accomplished sorcerer's apprentice to magician when she recorded For You, a profound and timely song of hope.Her new album, Are You Listening?, confirms that the transition is complete.
For You is not one of the eleven tracks that made the final album selection for Are You Listening?, but there is enough alchemy in those that did - reworkings of old material, new compositions and an elegiac reading of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah - to make this an extraordinary release.
Saskia's commitment to a creative path came suddenly half a decade ago, with a moment of epiphany in a group therapy session when she was considering a Masters in Psychology,
"We had time to allow some thoughts to arise to share with the group - and what came out of me, suddenly, was that I wanted to sing."
“It felt as if it was something that was buried deep in my mind, released at that moment - something that seemed possible thanks to the situation - those individuals, their patience, love and acceptance.”
She laughed as she recalled,
"I then spent the next five years wondering, 'How am I going to make this happen?'"
In truth, Saskia has moved with restless energy since that life-changing instant - travelling in a camper van much of the time - busking, playing live and recording.
Her last album was only released last autumn - Baez, Dylan & Me - a homage to influences that are etched in the sound of Are You Listening?. A love for the work of iconic sixties and seventies singer-songwriters is a deep well of inspiration,
"Something happened in that time with Dylan, with Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez - I feel who they are - they weren't giving in to social pressures, or trying to be popular or do anything except express something beautiful, often simply, without fuss or over production to take away from the feelings of the human being behind the music."
"They gave so much of themselves, so honestly."
Are You Listening? was recorded in the intimate setting of Fieldgate Studio, Cardiff. David Ian Roberts (guitar), Thomas Holder (double bass), Ali Petrie (piano) and Gabriella Swallow (cello) added colour and texture to the sound - understated yet vital contributions.
Throughout, Saskia’s voice rings as clear as an early morning church bell over a sleepy West Country village. Her vocal style has been influenced by Baez - with a similar desire to express her entire heart as that which drives the New York folksinger. Saskia's ambition for her songs, which she writes when she can find stillness in her own life, be it in her camper van or on her sofa at home, is plain,
"When people listen to my music, I want them to feel they are in the room with me."
“I want to have encoded my experiences, my feelings and my heart, or a feeling of love - and then when people listen they can unpack that code and receive the message - which is a feeling or an intuition that we share.”
A thousand singer-songwriters might say that, but perhaps Saskia is one of the few who truly understands what it means. Are You Listening? is a masterclass in connection.
From the gentle pastoral sweep of the opening title track, to the seize-the-day lazy Sunday afternoon bar room swing of The Presence and the rolling, emotive imagery of Bring it Down, her own songs are majestic.
Still, two compositions stand out. The acoustic drift of Best of You, with its positive and humane message, is uplifting and genuinely heart warming. And Write Me A Song is an exquisitely realised story, however abstracted.
Which leaves Leonard Cohen for consideration. A cover of song like Hallelujah will always be a risk. It found its way to being the last track on Are You Listening? for a very personal reason, as Saskia is happy to explain,
"I know it has been done hundreds of times, but I have a special relationship to that song - it was the first song I sang in public, when I was fourteen. I had spent a year just playing with friends - and then I got to sing in front of an audience, 'Hallelujah', and they sang the chorus along with me - it was so touching, to be landed with a room full of support and happiness. It is a feeling I try for in all my live shows."
"Now when I write I am thinking of including the audience in every song, because I want them to be part of this music I am creating and sharing. It is a sacred feeling to me."
And it is a gorgeous reading - making the song seem as fresh as a garden lawn after mid-summer rain.
Constrained by the pandemic, the album will uniquely be launched with a short tour of care homes near Bristol, explained by Saskia with typical enthusiasm,
"We wanted a safe way to take the music to people. It will all be done safely - this way I get to bring acoustic music to people who have been isolated, and I can take them music and connection and maybe a little joy. And I still get to celebrate the release of this album live."
There is already another new album being worked on to follow Are You Listening? (again supported by Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation), recorded, as Baez, Dylan & Me and For You were, at Abbey Road,
"We are in the middle of the process. We have recorded it once; we scrapped that and are recording again to make it perfect. The new songs will be true to their acoustic roots, but have a distinct energy that has come since I moved to London."
Until then we have Are You Listening? - exalted contemporary folksongs sung from an open and honest heart.