Singer-songwriter Reema’s latest single is the poignant ‘Four Letter Words’, produced by Ethan Johns (Laura Marling, Ryan Adams, Kings of Leon). We caught up with her about getting into music, collaborations and her new single.
I’m excited to experiment on the edge of living with emotions, rather than just singing about that point where you snap or are ecstatically happy or really freshly in love, but rather how we deal with the aftermath.
First up, tell us bit about yourself - what first got you into music?
I started writing songs when I was seven. My mum had an old piano that she’d inherited from her grandmother so I started twinkling around and singing. Our closest family friend, Chris, taught me a few guitar chords and I was hooked on writing music on that. I was pretty shy and found talking to people and making friends difficult so making music was like having someone to talk to. It’s been a good friend ever since.
Were there any particular bands or artists you took inspiration from to form your musical and thematic style?
I love loads of different types of music and I think everything has its influence. I love the raw honesty of the Cranberries, the sound of Love and the songwriting of Fleetwood Mac.
How would you describe your style?
Honest, etherial, dark and minimal. I’m more interested in what I can take out rather than what I can put in. I love subtle little things that you have to look closely to see. I like the emotions in between rather than focusing always on the exploding bits. I think it’s easier to talk about drama but most real emotion is in dealing with that.
You’ve worked with Guy Sternberg as part of his analogue label initiative LowSwing Records with vinyl release The LowSwing Sessions. What’s the idea beind the initiative and how did you work to it?
Guy and I are both passionate about the sound and the feel of recording live and to tape. Not just for the sound quality- which is so much better- but for the fact you are capturing something real. It’s a moment in time complete with the unique connections between all the musicians in the room. Our production is 100% computer free and made with love. The artwork is hand drawn by me because I wanted to match that feeling of sharing something really personal.
What repsonse did it get?
We’ve had an amazing response. We were not expecting anything as we knew we loved what we’d done but had no idea how other people would feel. It has been especially lovely to see wonderful instagram images of people enjoying the record. We only printed a limited number of records and they are almost all gone!
Tell us about your new single ‘Four Letter Words’ - what’s is about?
I wrote the song when a close friend was going through couples counselling and a lot of what she told me from what she went through resonated with me. The fact we don’t choose who we love but have to find a way to live with it. The work a real relationship takes - not just the basic question of whether or not you love each other but the fact you can be in love and also be destroying each other slowly.
When did you write it and when did you record it?
I wrote the song about a year ago. I had a flat with very strict neighbours so I write it quietly on an unplugged electric guitar, whispering into a voice-memo on my phone. I loved the atmosphere so much that we kept an element of that in the recording process. I recorded it in a week-long session with Ethan Johns at his home studio.
How does it build on your previous releases?
I feel I’m testing quiet rather than noise. I’m excited to experiment on the edge of living with emotions, rather than just singing about that point where you snap or are ecstatically happy or really freshly in love, but rather how we deal with the aftermath. I’m fascinated by humans and it’s basically my next study of them.
You worked with producer Ethan Johns on the single. What did they bring the track?
Ethan has a magical presence. He’s so calming and so is his home and working environment. He is quietly creative and shares my love of keeping things as simple and organic as possible. We worked on tape and at the end of the performance we would decide if that was the take we wanted or if we would record over it. Usually you work by keeping several takes and choosing at the end so this was a new and exciting way to work.
It made me have to be so present in what I was doing and taught me a lot about decision making. Ethan is also amazing with sound. We spend hours just experimenting to find the shaker sound, guitar amp, etc. I had an amazing time!
What are your hopes for ‘Four Letter Words’?
I think the hardest part with music for me is letting things out into the world so simply releasing it really! I hope some people will understand it and the emotion I’m trying to communicate.
When and where can we expect to see you on tour next?
So far I will be in Norway and Germany, but there will be more gigs announced soon! The best way to stay updated is on my Facebook, these are the next shows:
11th April, MIR, Oslo, Norway
12th April, Café Circa, Tromsø, Norway
26th April, Prachtwerk, Berlin
15th May, Bar Bobu, Berlin
If you could collaborate with any living artist, who would it be?
Lindsey Buckingham would be an amazing person to write and sing with.
Finally, if you could go back in time and give yourself one piece of advice, when would it be and what would you say?
I would go back and tell my 15 year old self that I don’t need to be anyone else. It simply doesn’t matter if people don’t get you. Don’t spend your time chasing them. I would also tell her that she’s better than she thinks. I think low self-esteem and lack of self-love are at the root of so many rubbish decisions.
Listen to ‘Four Letter Words’ on SoundCloud below. For news and tour dates visit Reema’s Facebook page.