Are you More Sinner Than Saint we Ask Rebecca Downes

Thank you, Rebecca, for taking time out of your busy schedule with the launch of your forthcoming album your 3rd studio album – More Saint Than Sinner on 24th May 2019. Rebecca’s voice is outstanding and has been recognised by fans and celebrated as the winner of FORM UK Blues Awards 2018 – Female Vocalist of The Year. We chatted as Steve was driving Rebecca to meet up with Aiden a musician who deps with them. So we had insight from a double act this morning with Rebecca taking the lead…

BD: Before we talk about the new album More Saint Than Sinner lets go back to the beginning. Who were your musical influences when you were growing up in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands? RD: Musical influences, everything I have wide influences from across the genres. When I was growing up my parents played a lot of swing and jazz. From there I navigated my way to the Blues and Rock; living in the Black Country where there is a big heritage in rock. So influences are from Frank Sinatra to Pantera a wide variety from these and back again swinging by for some metal on the way. I never really understand when people say they only listen/like this or that genre. Among the many influences are Bonnie Raitt, Black Heart, Guns N’ Roses, Thunder, Joni Mitchell, and Suzanne Vega – I love her singer/songwriter style how she keeps everything minimal gave me a new form a new way of how songs are written and performed. There are so many influences mustn’t forget Ella Fitzgerald and the Carpenters. My Mum always said to me if you want to be a singer listen to The Carpenters, Karen had such a wonderful voice. Influence music I just love music.

BD: At the centre of your musical career is your powerful vocals. You have always associated with the Blues but you span across the genres stretching your sound in a range of styles. How have you ensured your powerful vocals are at of the heart of your latest album? RD:From a very technical point we recorded vocals with Steve. When Steve and I work together I feel the most comfortable. Steve knows and understands what I want to hear in the headphone. So we stripped everything back with Steve and I doing the vocals alone. So I could concentrate on my voice. I am a vocal nerd finding a range of colours and textures for each song is easy when you are with someone who knows what you require. The vocals on the album surpass everything, working together just felt so natural. It was a breeze this means vocal sits on the album in a way I love, they sound very close to you right there. The mix makes the vocals pop and sit well within the sound on all the tracks.

BD: More Sinner Than Saint sees your music evolve towards rock is that reflected in the title? RD:,Funnily enough, the title track is not the most rocky on the album but it is hard-hitting. It is about being a bit honest, and yes, of course, everyone is more sinner than saint, I know I am. The front design is different from previous studio albums and was designed by Dave Storey who did a cracking job and it was good to move away from a picture of myself.

BD: What influence did your consultation with Chris Kimsey have on the selecting and refining of the 12 tracks? RD: Chris Kimsey was amazing to work with. Myself & Steve are both songwriters primarily before being performers. We are writing all the time and have a huge selection of songs. We did whittle them down and what Chris did was stop us from over-thinking what genre it is. He helped with the arrangements. He said identity is not the genre it is your voice. Chris gave us confidence in the songs, let us see the wood for the trees so we could concentrate on the right songs. Chris, is such a nice guy just loved working with him, he has no ego despite working with top names in the industry; he was so easy to work with.

BD: The songs are written in partnership with your guitarist Steve Birkett. This partnership is going from strength to strength what is the magic glue that creates these tracks that surge with vocal and melodic power? At this point Steve who was driving joined in on speakerphone. SB:The thing is if it is rocky, that is not an excuse to make a bloody big noise. Too many bands think playing rock is turning volume up to 10 from the word go they have now where to go. Rock needs light and shade; in some of the material there is a real darkness (reflecting part of the title). One thing about songs, if it is not a good song it will never be any good no point on carrying on with it. We have re-visited songs from the album playing them acoustic with all the big production stripped away. Played this way they still sound great and that is the test. RD: We have reached a point we know where we are. We write all the time, testing the water we even have a soul album that will never be released but we keep working through various songs and styles. I know what we want to achieve and feels natural what we are writing. We have different approaches and Steve loves writing early whereas I write late at night but it comes together in the end. BD: Do you have a favourite song on the record? And if so, which song and why? RD: I would have to choose my little baby ‘Stand On My Feet’ for many reasons it is a pivotal track. I had the idea for the song about five years ago but not ready to go in that direction. Steve then had a look when considering songs for the album and took the song in a whole new direction. Lots of people were kind of against it saying “are you sure you want to do this”. Kemsey believed in the song carrying on from Believe it is empowerment and Steve felt the same. The beauty of it only just an idea in 2014 a piano motif it just grew I played it again yesterday and thought that is bloody great. We have not performed live yet it is my favourite arrangement with fab little bits building it is fun to play every time. The song has been around so long it is like a friend.

BD: What made you decide to go to California for five tracks to be mixed by Bill Drescher & the rest by Thunder’s Chris Child. What did this split in mixing bring to the songs and album? RD: Bill Drescher is a friend of the producer and our American management wanted to get going plugging in USA & Japan and wanted some tracks done. We were then back in UK, Bill is a busy man and was not available to do the rest of the album. Chris Childs was suggested after we took advice from Danny Bowes. Chris Childs looked at the mix and took it apart so they would sit within the landscape Bill had made. It is not ideal but worked out to the advantage of the album. There was no clash of egos as both of them have no egos. When we visited Bill Drescher his room was amazing every spare inch of wall had a gold disc. Working with top guys is amazing they have nothing to prove they just want to create the best for you. Chris Childs has given us so much confidence, we were confident to say to Bill it needs more work where it wasn’t quite right as an artist you know how you want it to sound.

BD: On this album there has been lots of collaboration and new influences what made Alan Nimmo’s guitar sound the choice for If I go To Sleep and Magnum’s Tony Clarkin as the choice for the guitar solo on Breathe Out? RD: If I Go To Sleep is the heaviest and I knew Alan’s sound would add so much. He is such a good friend and it would be great to see what he would do with it….. He said yes and went away and did different mixes through different amps. I adore it oh my god I love it. Breathe Out has the longest solo on the album. Steve did demo of the solo and it is different. Tony is from a Prog background and used to this kind of solo I know him from supporting Magnum it works so well he surpassed our expectations. We are over the moon on how the collaborations worked out neither had done anything on anybody’s albums but here they are playing on More Sinner Than Saint.

BD: The album fizzes with Downes energy as the sound is sculpted around the lyrics and mood, when will be able to hear the tracks as part of a live set list? RD: We have some festivals and dates lined up but not ready to announce they will be a mix of support, headlines and acoustic where we started out and now coming back to and loving.

BD: Final question, a new one for 2019. You are told that you can only save three albums from your collection what would they be?

Stevie Birkett:

  • Todd Rundgren – A Wizard, a True Star
  • Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years
  • Santana – Abraxas
  • Rebecca Downes:
  • Depeche Mode – Violator
  • Suzanne Vega – Solitude Standing
  • Heart – Brigade
  • Are you More Sinner Than Saint we Ask Rebecca Downes

    Release date: 24th May –  Pre-sale order HERE:
    Are you More Sinner Than Saint we Ask  Rebecca Downes

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