Archie Atholl: One Wiltshire Winter and The Aftermath (Interview)

 Archie Athol

Archie Atholl takes the listeners into a gentle and reflective album  One Wiltshire Winter. This is his first solo effort of putting tracks together into an album. The road to creativity is a bumpy one with twists and turns . But an artist-a true one, will always remain steadfast in making sure something has to be completed. And this is the story behind the completion of the album. It also gives us  insights into life and what it’s like to find shelter in one’s creativity. I urge you to read everything here because this could be about you, your best friend or anyone you know who is special, creative and really witty. Let us get to know Archie Atholl more!

How do you feel now that your debut EP is finally taking a life of its own?

It’s really refreshing to have finally released my album. I started writing the album in November 2011, with ‘On Silbury Hill’, ‘The Awakening’ and ‘Snow On Stonehenge’. I finished writing the album with ‘The Temple’ in September 2012, and from then till the release in March 2013 I refined and mixed it. It’s freeing to have released the album, because now I can listen to it, the songs are no longer plaguing my head. It’s so nice to know that I can make no changes to it. There comes a point where you need to say, that’s it, there’s no more I can do.

 Sources said you’ve been classically trained in the piano which explains your delicacy and elegance in playing. How did music start for you as a child?

I started learning the violin at school when I was 8 years old, and I hated it, probably because I was terrible at it. I wanted to give it up, and my mum said I could only do so if I started learning the piano. So at 9 I started piano lessons. I wasn’t great at that either to be honest, and my piano teacher used to tell me my fingers were too fat, and I should be a joiner instead. It was no surprise I wanted to give this up too. I had a problem, I couldn’t read music. I was ok with the treble clef, but when it came to the bass, I was hopeless. My teacher used to shout at me, and the more I sat there staring at the page, the more she got angry. She called my mum to tell her I wasn’t progressing, so what was the point in continuing, but my mum asked her to keep teaching me. I worked out that if I learned a piece on my own, slowly at home, I would be able to memorise what to play, and when I had the notes in my head, I didn’t have to read them. Problem solved. So this got me by till the age of 17, when I sat my music exams at school. I loved Beethoven and Bach growing up, and I always wished I owned a harpsichord. It was only when I started writing my own music (at age 21) that I truly fell in love with the piano. I didn’t have to read music to write music, and I like to think I’m doing ok.

Do you have plans performing songs live in One Wiltshire Winter?

I would love to perform my album as a whole on stage. I think that would be amazing to tell the story from start to finish in a live setting, sort of like a musical novel. There are no plans to do this though, Archie the performer doesn’t really exist yet, except in private. There are going to be some ‘live’ dates soon though, keep an eye on my website for details.

What’s the story behind the album title?

I called the album ‘One Wiltshire Winter’ to mirror the opening of a story, such as Once Upon a Time. Wiltshire was the county in England, the album is set in (and written in), and the Winter is not only because it’s set in Winter, but because it tells of a dark time in the characters life. I also wanted an alliterative title, and whilst the O is not a W, it’s pronounced the same as if it were.

What’s the story behind the creation of  songs in One Wiltshire Winter?

I knew this was an album I needed to write. I am a confessional songwriter, and everything I write comes from my own life. This differs slightly, in that ‘One Wiltshire Winter’ is semi-autobiographical. Since Wiltshire is an area rich in myth and legend, my initial proposal was to take the local folk tales from the area and write about those, but I scrapped that idea, and wrote my own story, which I could relate to. The album tells the story of a young man called Corey, who wakes one morning from a dream on Silbury Hill at Avebury. He has no firm recollection as to why he’s there, but knows it’s the result of a drunken night out. Upon reaching the stone circle at Avebury, he meets a witch, who delivers the sobering thought that only he has the power to change his life. She directs him to Stonehenge, via Cherhill White Horse, and Imber (Imber is an abandoned village in the heart of the Salisbury Plain army training ground). Here Corey finds his light, or spirituality. He reaches Stonehenge in time for the Winter Solstice, and after completing the ritual and facing his fear and apprehensions, is given the chance to start again. On the surface the album is a tale of myth and legend, but it’s also a tale of an underlying struggle with alcoholism. Reading what I’ve just written this seems extremely far fetched and I wrote the damn thing! It is what it is.

I wanted the album to be a concept album, or sonic-novel and tell a story from beginning to end, but I wanted the music and the lyrics to tell the story independently. I wrote the music for the album first, and put the tracks in order, and for me the music has a sense of completion. Like in opera, the music, without an understanding of the lyrical content had to tell the story on it’s own. I hope it makes sense to the listener. I have no plans to write another concept album, and it may have been ambitious to release this as my debut album, but it felt right, and told the story of where my life is at at this point in time.

Do you ever plan of venturing into the realm of writing fiction? That story about Corey fascinates me.

No, I don’t think so. I have thought about it in the past, but I reckon to write a novel would require too much discipline. I don’t think it’s like writing music. For me, the music and the lyrics just seem to come to me, it’s never forced. If I were to write a novel, sure the overall storyline would come into my head, but to write 300-400 pages of text would require a lot of ‘filler’ material. I don’t think I would have the skills necessary to pad out a book with this information. I don’t think my inspiration would carry me and maintain my interest if I were to consciously write a book. I have a lot of respect for writers, it must be tough and I can only imagine how much self-motivation is required to write a book. I love reading though, most genres interest me, particularly mythology and spy stories.

All of us have our own personal demons. They try to bite us at night. How is music helping you deal with them?

This is a very good question. I guess this can be answered in two ways. Firstly, by listening to music, I am allowed an escape from my troubles. I learned early on in life that music could influence my mood. In my teenage years (the 90s), dealing with my hormones or just generally growing up, I listened to a lot of dance music, because it picked me up (my favourite songs from that time were Gala – Freed From Desire and Darude – Sandstorm). In my early twenties, when I was having a bit of a hard time, I was really comforted by Damien Rice (Older Chests and Amie) – he seemed to share my grief. Music has always been a source of comfort, or a friend.

On the other hand, writing music, is perhaps most beneficial. I find that when I’m alone with paper and pen (or Microsoft Word as is most often the case) I can be true to myself. I find it difficult to really open up to other people, and share what’s going on in my life. I try, but I know that I’m being deceptive on some level. Whether it’s me saying I’m ok when I’m really not, or that I love you, when I kissed someone else. When I write a song, I’m going to be honest, because that’s all I have. When I write a song, that’s the truth. For me, I’m happy with a song when I can look at it, and say ‘yeah, that’s exactly how I feel’. To hear songs I wrote a while ago, is quite cutting, because it takes me back to the state of mind I was in when I wrote them. I have a whole bunch of songs I wrote about my last relationship, and the time is coming to record some of these, and it’s filling me with dread because I don’t want to go back to that place. It’s necessary though, ultimately it’s healing. You can face your fear, and change because of it. I’m not sure what other people think when they hear my music, perhaps they feel it a bit raw. For me, it will always be like that. I am a confessional songwriter. ‘One Wiltshire Winter’ is unusual in that respect, because it’s told from the point of view of a character, and it’s interspersed with mythological references. You don’t know what parts are real and what parts aren’t. There is a lot of me in Corey, but ultimately he embodies my darker side. And it’s the dark side that keeps us awake at night.

Where can listeners buy your songs?

Due to the fact that the CD industry is in decline (and to save money) I decided to release my album as digital download only. It would have been nice to have physical copies of my album in CD form, and to make the booklet would have been such fun, however since I am not playing live I felt it would be pretty pointless having boxes of CDs to sell. The beauty of digital download is that I can create music more frequently, and upload it as soon as it’s finished, to be downloaded immediately. No manufacturing time, and no waiting for postal delivery. I’m happy with that. There are so many services out there now helping independent musicians make their music available worldwide. The internet really is such a remarkable invention. If anyone wants my album on CD they can contact me, and I’ll burn the original WAV files to disk so they can have it at high quality. My music is available on the usual digital retail stores such as iTunes and Amazon, but also from BandCamp. I find BandCamp to be an amazing website because it allows me to sell my album in a variety of lossy/lossless formats, and also to give music away for free. BandCamp also allows me to set the price for my music, create discounts, and pays me instantly. It really is an exciting time to be an independent musician. We didn’t have these opportunities ten years ago.

Your is really nice to look at. How did you create your own website?

Thanks very much. I’m glad you liked it. It’s taken me a long time to get it looking like that, and it’s still not how I want it, but a few tweaks here and there and it’ll be a bit closer to my expectations. I made it using WordPress, which is another remarkable creation. The beauty of WordPress is that it’s open source, and so everything about it tends to be free, plus programmers (expert and novice) are working on updates and patches all the time to improve its functionality. I grew up around computers, and tend to pick up things fairly quickly. I love getting into the back end of my site, and adjusting the code to see what happens. It’s a learning curve, but it’s only by trial and error you can really learn. I’ve completely messed up my site twice before by changing code I shouldn’t have touched. Thankfully there’s a wealth of support out there on the internet, and it wasn’t long till it was back up and running. The most essential purpose of my website is to keep people updated on my music, and to give them somewhere they can come where all my content is focussed. I didn’t want people to have to be looking on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, Tumblr to find out anything about me. I wanted somewhere they, and I could call home.

Parting words to your audience?

To the fans I have already, I’d like to say this. Thank you so much for supporting me, for buying my music, listening to it, and for sending me kind messages and leaving me encouraging comments. I am really grateful that you are taking an interest in me and my music, and I hope you will continue to enjoy my new material. Without you, I’d be nowhere, and without you ‘liking’, ‘tweeting’ or ‘sharing’ my links fewer people would even know I exist. To the people reading this interview, please go check out my music, and if you like it tell me. If you don’t like it, tell me. If you have any suggestions for me, tell me. If you used to sit next to me in maths class, tell me. I’m just a regular guy, making tunes, because that’s what I do. I’m only at the other end of the computer, I’m always going to be accessible to you, and I’m always going to interact with you. I want to know about you. There is no glass barrier between us. I’m sharing my heart and soul with you in the music, and it’s sincere. It’s raw. We’re on this journey together.


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