OLIVIA SPARNENN AIN’T HUNTING GHOSTS
“FOR ANY ARTIST, INDIVIDUALITY STEMS YOUR INFLUENCES WITHIN MUSIC”
Three years ago guitarist and songwriter Bryan Josh asked Olivia Sparnenn to become Mostly Autumn’s lead-singer after the departure of Heather Findlay. A very difficult task if one can think of Heather’s involvement in the band from the very first start. Instead of doubt, Olivia showed courage, thoughness, and a lot of her musical talents to take on Mostly Autumn into the future. With the outstanding new album ‘The Ghost Moon Orchestra’ both band and Olivia ain’t revising ghost from the past.
*How are you?
“Very good, thank you. We’ve been very busy getting ready for The Ghost Moon Orchestra-Tour but really looking forward to playing it live.”
*On ‘Ghost Moon Orchestra’ we hear a heavier Mostly Autumn. More dark and symphonic.
Is this a kind of natural development?
“Bryan has always said that the feel of an album is something that comes naturally to him, and the songs have a way of creating the style of the album. In the case of ‘The Ghost Moon Orchestra’ he decided on the title first. I think this did have an effect on the angle that we wanted to take with the songs. In addition to this, the fact that he was writing more for my vocal style has produced a different slant to previous albums, but it is still very much the sound of Mostly Autumn.”
*’Ghost Moon Orchestra’ is the second Mostly Autumn-album with you as a lead-vocalist. Does this
gives you a certain kind of faith in self-confidence?
“Yes it does, as much as I love singing any of the Mostly Autumn songs it’s nice to have some new material that has been written for me to sing. The last album ‘Go Well Diamond Heart’ was very much a transitional album. I believe a lot of the material was written before Heather decided to leave. So some of the songs were written with her in mind. I think it takes time to work with somebody new and to find their strong points. When it came to writing ‘The Ghost Moon Orchestra’ Bryan had a stronger idea of what would suit my voice so it definitely feels like this album is more a reflection of the new lineup.”
*‘Go Well Diamond Heart’ went on becoming on of Mostly Autumn’s best and well received albums. Wasn’t that a relief for you?
“A massive relief! It was always going to be a daunting prospect releasing the first album after Heather’s departure, but the reception from the fans was very inspiring.”
*So you did a better kind of job than other vocalists who replaced an illustrious frontman
in past history. For example: Ray Wilson who replaced Phil Collins in Genesis or Paul Rodgers who’s
still a million miles away from Freddy Mercury in Queen.
“Well that’s certainly a statement! Fans are always going to have their own opinions about replacements within bands. I think whoever took on the role of fronting ‘Queen’ had massive shoes to fill, because Freddie Mercury really was one of a kind. I absolutely love Paul Rodgers as a vocalist in his own right, and have been a fan for many years, but perhaps he wasn’t the best person for that particular job. We have been very lucky that the fans have continued to support Mostly Autumn during a big change. But Heathers departure was something that Bryan did not have control over.
So I always say: would the fans rather listen to the music with a different vocalist or not listen to the music at all? I feel the latter would be a shame for any band including Queen and Genesis.”
*What’s the difference between Heather Findlay and you as a frontwoman?
“That’s maybe not for me to say. Heather is an amazing frontwoman, vocalist and songwriter. Stepping into her shoes was quite a daunting task. I think you have to stay true to yourself. Several fans have commented on how I have made the songs my own which I am extremely pleased with, I really wanted to achieve this and I don’t think it would have been right to copy what has been done before. As for any artist, I think your individuality stems from your influences within music and I think this reflects in both mine and Heathers vocal style and songwriting.”
*You already handed the job of a frontwoman in Breathing Space. This experience has become quiet handy now, hasn’t it?
“Absolutely! It was good to have the experience of both fronting a band and songwriting before taking on the role. Previous to this, I also sang with several bands growing up. It all adds to your style and performance.”
*A decent frontwoman has got to have?
“Passion, feeling, confidence – but not too much! There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. Individuality, respect for fellow musicians, particularly when and when not to play.”
*In case of song writing you are now much more involved now then before.
“Yes, when I originally joined Mostly Autumn it was just for one show at the Astoria in London and then to do some support slots with Chris Johnson. To now be involved in the songwriting is extremely rewarding. It is still a new process and I’m sure it will evolve with every album, but the prospect of working on material with Bryan and Iain and seeing what we can create is very exciting.”
*Keeping your head up between these two strong characters seems to be needing a lot of girl-power, doesn’t it?
“Well, it’s certainly strange to look back and imagine that I would go from supporting to the band fronting it. But I love the challenge.”
*Who’s you main influence in singing and song-writing?
“I’m very fortunate to have been brought up listening to lots of different music. Some of my main influences would have to be Danny Bowes of Thunder, Anne and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Eva Cassidy. I don’t try to write anything particularly in the style of other artists, but I suppose everyones influences naturally show in their songwriting.”
*Your father Howard Sparnenn played a very important role in your life. Not only as a loving daddy, but he also supported you in becoming a vocalist. You honour him in your superb song ‘Questioning Eyes’ what has now become a live favour. This must always be a very intens and emotional moment for you.
“Yes, it is. I’m very grateful to Iain for letting me bring the song to the Mostly Autumn set after leaving Breathing Space. It’s an extremely personal song, and it meant a lot to me to carry on performing it. Music is a very powerful thing it gives you the ability to release emotions and express your feelings. I thoroughly enjoy singing all of the songs in the Mostly Autumn repertoire, but this one will always be particularly special.”
*Isn’t it time for a Olivia Sparnenn solo-album? I think the world is waiting!
“That’s very kind. I would certainly consider it in the future, but at the moment I want to concentrate on songwriting for Mostly Autumn as it is still a very new venture.”
Thanks for your time and anwers, Olivia.
Michel Scheijen for www.Mostlypink.net
November 2012.The beautiful pictures are made by Howard Rankin.
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