Eve Simpson is a precociously talented young person and, thankfully, free from some of the personality characteristics you might often associate with precociousness in young people. She’s blessed with a sharp intellect, honed by a good education, but if you converse with her, she’ll not flaunt her intelligence, or make you feel at all inadequate, instead she will employ it to the full only when entirely appropriate. Of course, the manner in which her precociousness is most obvious to those who don’t know her personally, is through her musical output, both recorded and/or online and in the way she now presents live, with increasing confidence befitting of the material she has thus far produced.
I caught up with Eve recently, ostensibly to discuss her impending departure from her native North East to take up her studies at Edinburgh University, following a gap year that has included mind expanding trips abroad to places as exotic as China. Also high on our list of things to discuss were Eve’s latest planned release, and maybe a gig to accompany; her final gig in Newcastle before setting off for Scotland.
Before any of that, though, I asked Eve to indulge my curiosity on a number of topics and she was happy to oblige. I started by asking when she first began to write songs.
I think I was around 13 or so when I wrote my first song. I can’t specifically remember which was the very first one but the first I can remember playing when busking and going to Open Mics at pubs in South Shields was called: Eagle. I actually still really love the melody line to that song; its about liberalism reflecting upon it as a 19 year old and the opportunity that equal liberties can offer people and relationships.
I wondered where Eve’s love of music sprang from, but whilst her answer did not contradict me, it did somewhat call into question my presumption.
For me there is a difference, a hybrid of ‘loves’. A love of words and a love of melodies/harmony. The combination of music in an instrumental sense and words forms my great love.
My Grandfather and Mam love music; they have records, they associate times and memories with songs, and they generally love going to gigs. My Grandma and Dad however, sing and they all love to sing. So it’s maybe a combination of loving music as a concept and all that encompasses and a love of performing and using our natural instrument.
I put it to Eve that she clearly has something to say, that she has opinions worth listening to. You have to presume that such a person must always have been very confident. Eve is a great communicator, both in conversation and through her music. She has a very close and loving family too, so it had never occurred to me at all that her talent for songwriting might have first grown from a self perceived inability to communicate her own thoughts, but it seems that was the case.
I think when I was younger I felt unable to communicate with anyone else how I felt, and so in the weirdest form of talking to myself I began to write. Songwriting is a selfish pursuit; it’s not necessarily a case of having ‘something to say’ for a wider purpose, but very much stems from a process and place of self-reflection. And if such a self-centric ‘process’ can lend itself to positive outcome, belta!
Eve seems to have a gift for songwriting. She challenges me on that so I relent and use the term ‘a talent’, but she still takes issue; I’d probably never call it a gift/skill/communication ability. Writing and creating music is just something I love to do and I never think of it to be any more than that. Thousands of people can write/play a million times better than I can, the commonality is that we all love to do it. So I’d never want to believe that I had some sort of gift, as that seems like a pretty ludicrous road to go down. You can always better yourself, you can always learn better technique, you can always practice your instrument that little bit more; so, in this sense, you can ‘learn’ to play. But what makes you great is an ability/capability to feel what you write and play. I always find songwriting classes for example can only teach you so much; maybe how to get started, but they can’t teach you how to go with a melody line that amplifies what you’re trying to say and compliments that. That can only really come from inside of you. Also, it’s worth noting that the degree to which one person can write or play a ‘good’ song is arbitrary; for there is no universal standard by which music can be judged good or bad. So the whole concept of a ‘natural gift’ is lost on me. I prefer to view it as an ability to feel, acknowledging your feelings and communicating them in an artistic way.
Okay, I concede, but not entirely. Yes, a certain level of skill can be attained through study and practice, but there’s surely a innate ability at play whereby she can take an idea or a thought and turn into into a four minute thing of musical beauty. Eve then explains to me how she often writes a song without first knowing it’s subject; words and melody occur, as if channelled from her subconscious, only later to reveal to her their meaning, once she has had time to reflect. I’m presented with several recent examples of this, most notably ‘Gloria, I’m Home’ I will probably always relate this song to my first conscious awareness of being ‘mentally’ unwell. I hadn’t been able to write a song for months, nor did I actively want to write a song as nothing I tried to write was truly representative of me or how I felt, because I didn’t know how I felt. Then I wrote Gloria. I can’t remember writing it, but afterwards I gained a lot more confidence in myself as a writer and it also gave me the confidence to seek help. I knew I was ill but I didn’t know how to deal with that, and Gloria helped me realise the different issues I was trying to deal with simultaneously in my own head and gave me the confidence to work through them in a manner that I feel was very needed. ‘Gloria’ directly refers to and is my sub conscience, as I tried to explicitly show in the video.
Gloria, it’s more personal nature and the video that accompanied it marked a real departure for Eve musically. Her development as an artist gathers pace with the forthcoming release, High Mountains, the first of her songs to incorporate an electric guitar. The song itself is very much largely unaltered from its original form. Eve wrote it on the plane home from China. It directly references the song which influenced its writing, 'Annie' by Young In The City (with permission from Noah Gunderson, something which Eve considers 'really cool') It’s also something of a collaborative effort, employing as it does outside influence from much respected local musician and producer, Martin Francis Trollope. Working with the former The Railway Club and current Union Choir member, Trollope, has been a revelation. I’ve known Martin since I was 7 (I think). I used to go into the local community arts centre, The Cave, now known as The Customs Space, with my Mam. I’d give Martin my 50p and I’d spend an hour recording to backing tracks. So, Martin and I were really keen to work with each other on a completely different musical level; and, I think booking those sessions with Martin were maybe one of the best things I’ve ever done. We had complete creative autonomy and thousands of ideas bouncing around - it was a wonderful process.
On her development as a writer Eve has this to say. My songwriting is now a lot more personal and completely reflective of things that happen to me as an individual in my life. I started writing when I had just turned 13 so my songs were quite evasive of what was maybe going on in my own head. I was used to writing stories, so I combined story telling and music; I’d write songs about people I’d see on the street (which is what sparked Austerity), I’d write about my Mam and Dad (Shelter) and I’d write about social stigma and missed opportunities (A Woman’s Work). I still write about things and people that I see, I think that’s natural to want to explore and identify with their stories; however, I write more about me now, because I think and hope I have grown up, and it helps me work out what is going on in my own head.
We talk about some of the burning issues of the moment, feminism, austerity, and I casually observe that, especially for someone so (relatively) young, she’s quite a politically astute observer. She almost seems offended by the assumption that she wouldn’t be. It has always left me incredibly perplexed as to why people choose to not be ‘political’. Politics, at its core, is about the functioning of our societies; their governance. Why on earth would that not interest you? It’s completely evolutionary to want to understand how your life is to be governed, its survival technique. So it’s integral, it stems from that which is so innate and natural. Government cuts have monumentally affected my home town, and thus my friends and neighbours and colleagues. The ‘political’ songs I write, even though I would maybe argue they’re all political in some form as that is inevitable, are an emotional response: they’re not offering solutions, but they’re voicing either a need for change or shining a light on a community completely without a voice.
As for feminism, Eve wrote a very interesting article on this topic a few weeks earlier. You can access it by clicking HERE. I think I will always play A Woman’s Work. I think you’d be lucky to find one woman in world who hadn’t been affected by sexism directly. I am so happy with the industry drive at the minute, voicing, tackling and raising awareness for issues I face weekly. But this movement and awareness is so not about me, its about all of us and so many people have been through so much worse; I feel so very strongly about the feminist movement.
As our meeting at The Cluny drew to a close, I asked Eve how she thought her upcoming move to Scotland to study Economics and Politics at Edinburgh University would affect her writing, and her ability to continue as a performer and to, perhaps, pursue a career in music. University has been a literal dream of mine since I was around 8 years old and I used to walk around reading the thesaurus (really, ask my Mam). I would really love to be involved in constructing social policy or a social movements that drive for economic and social progression for the majority; therefore, I feel it is more or less a ‘duty’ of mine to study subjects that can enable this to happen. I do not want to be ignorant, and I feel like this degree would really push me, and only enhance my writing to an extent that no other study could. Social sciences are so wonderfully humane that I feel it is a natural study point for a songwriter; one who writes as a human about humanity. Eve continues, I’ve always said, and I hope to always maintain, that as long as I can write, I’ll be happy. ‘Music’ and ‘plans’ are two diverging concepts, I believe. I thrive off random projects popping up when you least expect them, out of nowhere, but they can have the most profound affect on your life. Therefore, if I was ever to pursue music as a full-time career, it would be very ‘writing’ based, as some of that randomness can remain and variety fills your days. But I don’t have any charts on my walls, I have very basic release strategies, there is no set point that I want to have done A, B, C. I just want to keep writing and if that leads to anything, that’s wonderful, but that’s not why I do it.
I have a feeling that a career in writing and performing music does beckon for Eve. I hope that I’m proved correct, as for me she has a very rare ability and it would be a shame for us all if she didn’t find a means of communicating her talent to as wide an audience as is possible. For now, we will all have to content ourselves with the increasingly interesting and varied output she has already produced, along with the upcoming release and, hopefully, a big send off gig to launch High Mountains and send her off to the highlands (poetic licence approved by the editor) with our love and admiration as fuel for her studies.