Bessie Turner is one of those oddly calm rockers, a guitar-led singer-songwriter not afraid of the odd riff, but able to lift audiences with emotional insights and deeply personal stories.
It’s been a tough couple of years for the Suffolk-based singer, who’s recovered from a near-death experience to take her musical story on the road. I caught up with her ahead of her show in Dublin’s Sound House, supporting Gengahr, to talk over new single ‘Donkey’, and how she’s bounced back…
Donkey seems to be something of a treatise on life’s frustrations – understandable. Does your music generally offer a type of therapy?
147437%. I can’t imagine not being able to express myself in this way. I’m really lucky I do, I’ve been writing since I was tiny.
I don’t know about in the UK, but in Ireland surviving as an artistic, creative type is very hard. How are you finding it so far?
It’s not easy but that’s part of it. Financially it would be impossible for me to survive at the moment from my music but that just adds to the drive and experience of it. I already look back fondly on how it all came about from nothing and nowhere.
You seem to be drip-feeding your music. Does it just make sense for you at the moment?
Exactly. I was quiet for so long in terms of releases due to ill health and building myself back up again so it feels so good to be in the position to just keep popping songs out.
How far off is an album likely to be, and what would you expect to change when it comes to producing one?
That’s a tough question. I’d love to release an album this year but it has to be right. I’ve met some amazing producers so it’s just convincing someone to invest their time on me really!
I guess the forthcoming show is one of your first in Ireland. Are you expecting anything to be different when you play here?
The Guinness to be the best tasting of all time ever. I’ve never been to Ireland but Guinness is my go to drink and I’ve heard it’s the best ever in its place of birth…..
Are you concerned what Brexit might mean for shows like this one?
I try not to think about it. It’s an obvious mistake, it gets way too much airtime and I don’t like encouraging the people that voted poorly with my thought processes. I love the EU.
I gather from previous interviews you tend to prefer not to explain your music. Is that because you’d like others to forge their own meanings?
Yeah, I guess. If I’ve ever wondered about songs I love and what inspired them I’ve never felt the need to research it or squeeze it out of them… I’ve interpreted it in my own way and then it’s evolved or progressed from there. I guess it’s like a respect thing in a weird way. This is where the shy side of me comes out. I would never dream of walking up to Joni Mitchell and asking her how she was feeling when she wrote blue. It’s personal… (says the hypocrite releasing her music for the world to hear.)
What’s touring been like for you so far – what are the best and worst sides of it?
I love meeting new people and going places I’ve never been before. I never travelled much until music started taking me out of the south-east so planes and little sachets of coffee and fresh towels every time you wash are still a total novelty. Worst bits are some of the best bits, travelling in any medium can be quite exhausting, even if you’re just sat down the whole time it’s the kind of pressure in your subconscious that something might go wrong or I might fuck up the easiest thing or be late or something.
DIY seems to be pretty much the standard for all but the very biggest artists these days. I’m sure you wouldn’t object to some funding, but are there plus sides to going it alone?
I still feel in control. I have an amazing team that work behind the scenes and help me every single day of their lives which is mental and I still get the last word. I’m insanely lucky in this respect.
I understand you got quite ill early in 2019. Your career seems to have bounced back well. Were there any silver linings to it all?
Nearly dying definitely gave me a new lease of life. I came out the other side quite hardened and definitely a little braver. Not that I enjoyed getting blood poisoning or pneumonia and spending months in bed but the whole process made me realise I was strong and I definitely needed to be reminded of that.
What’s been your favourite moment of all this so far?
Helping people, I feel arrogant and wrong saying that but I’m so lucky to have had a voice and be able to speak about things close to my heart – I could go on about mental health forever. My Mum is fantastic and she doesn’t mind me talking openly about my dysfunctional childhood and background. I come from love not money, I take antidepressants and was raised around addiction and emergency electric. Growing up there wasn’t many people in the music industry I remember openly talking about this.
What do you hope the future brings?
A colourful life. Dogs, kids, travelling. Meaningful conversations with strangers, good food. A Labour prime minister. An NHS that gets more support.
Bessie Turner plays The Sound House on February 17, supporting Gengahr.