We were mesmerised when we first heard the brand new album from Blue Mountains songwriter T. Wilds (Tania Bowers), Ten Songs. Featuring Matthew Toohey, the album is a stunning set of songs that sit within the folk idiom, perfectly balanced between modern folk noir and dusty traditional forms. You can hear the avant stylings that artists such as Aldous Harding are exploring, alongside the heartfelt, traditional sound of Gillian Welch, the ghost of Karen Dalton and the gothic tones of Nico. Tania’s songs reach out intriguingly into dreamy and atmospheric indie folk and gentle psych/dream pop realms. There are drum machines, acoustic and electric guitars, cello and violin, spoken samples/interjections. Most importantly there’s her voice.
Tania kindly answered our Six Strings Q&A, giving us an insight into her influences, songwriting, the local scene and future plans.
What was the album that first led you down the dusty path of folk music?
If it was anyone in particular probably Joni Mitchell’s Clouds in high school. I remember borrowing CDs from the library of the Mamas and Papas, Bob Dylan, and Rickie Lee Jones, so I was always a folk-leaning musician, although grunge took over for a while. Suzanne Vega also had a lot to do with my songwriting style and still does.
Describe your latest release in 100 words.
A refreshingly simple undertaking for me, I wanted to capture my songs in an immediate way ie acoustic guitar and vocal melody. Of course, some songs wanted a bit more than that and we had fun adding cello and drums here and there. It was mostly Matt and I interpreting the songs we had been playing together for a while. I think it sounds almost what I thought inside my head, strumming, contemplative, a bit of darkness…
What’s been the most memorable gig you’ve played?
Probably in Chicago and I’d say a show at Millennium Park – outdoors with ‘The Books’ was a really great experience. Chicago city was supporting these summer concert events and it was cool to play music in the daytime, to people sprawled over the grass having picnics, haha. I also remember playing with The Breeders when I was 19 or 20 and that was really fun meeting them and playing on the same bill when I was practically a lil teenager.
How did you learn to play your instrument?
In primary school I had a guitar teacher I thought was pretty cool so I knew some basic chords from those days but it wasn’t till I was about 15 years old that my sister started learning cool songs from The Cure and RatCat and I wanted to join in, that was when I started taking it a bit more seriously.
What do you consider the finest song you’ve written?
Oh geez. I have written hundreds of songs, at this point some memorable ones to me are because they stick out of time and context. One song I wrote called ‘I See You Tiger ‘ I wrote completely in my head without being able to sing it or use an instrument because I was at a silent retreat, so I just had to remember it for that whole week. Another song ‘ June’ which is actually on my latest release was also interesting because I hadn’t written a song in four years. I also then, didn’t write another song for four years after it.
If you could sit-in with one other musician (living or dead) who would it be?
SO. MANY. I think I could learn a thing or two from Dolly Parton and Nina Simone also Curtis Mayfield and PJ Harvey. If you asked for two I would have given 8 (sorry!)
Do you feel there is a strong folk/country music community in Australia and if so, what does it need to keep growing?
I have been a hermit for almost a decade so I just don’t know the answer to that. But there are so many awesome folk festivals and the Blue Mountains Folk festival is a big indicator of how popular folk and folk-influenced music is. Once COVID has settled down, we need what we have always needed, good music venues that respect artists and everyone to understand how important musicians and artists are to this country. I read somewhere that Australia’s culture has become coffee and real estate. How sad is that?
What’s been your favourite folk/Americana release over the last year?
I LOVE the Smithsonian folkways release of Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn, I Shazamed that straight away.
What are your musical plans over the next 12 months?
I hope hope hope everything will even out and we can finally play shows everywhere and support Ten Songs. I also plan to record and release another record. I’ve got a decade to make up for!
Ten Songs is out now via Cheersquad Records & Tapes