INTERVIEW: SKYE EDWARDS – SKYE & ROSS, January 2017
By Shane Pinnegar
Possessing a velvet voice and a radiant smile, Skye Edwards and collaborator Ross Godfrey bring Skye & Ross – Morcheeba in all but name – to the Perth International Arts Festival this week, playing Chevron Festival Gardens at Elizabeth Quay on Sunday, 12 February.
I spoke to Skye for Xpress Magazine HERE, and what follows is some extra content.
Married to bassist Steve Gordon, with their eldest child, Jaega McKenna-Ross playing drums for the band, Skye & Ross is a real family affair – maybe lending a little of a Partridge Family element to touring.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Edwards chuckles, “a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll than The Partridge Family, but [that’s] a funny comparison.”
Both interviewer and interviewee have done their respective school runs on the morning of our chat, so family is the first discussion point of the day, with Edwards happy to admit that she sometimes finds musical inspiration in their four kids, whose ages range from 20 months to 20 years.
“A couple of the songs on the new Skye & Ross album were inspired by the early arrival of the youngest – she came three months early. We were recording the album while I was pregnant with her, and then she came unexpectedly. How To Fly and Hold On were inspired by that.”
Three months early – was that a scary time for you all?
“Yeah, it was pretty dramatic, it’s safe to say,” Edwards admits. “She’s plenty fine now and hits all the markers and stuff, as they say, but it was pretty scary at the time. [We had] a few anxious weeks.”
Morcheeba – which featured multi-instrumentalist Ross and DJ brother Paul alongside Edwards – were at the forefront of the UK Trip-hop movement in the mid-‘90s, and had their biggest hit with the 2000 album Fragments Of Freedom, and its single Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day, which still gets a great reaction live – but not everyone initially loved the song.
“Fragments Of Freedom was Top 10 in ten countries, so I’m told,” Edwards recalls. “Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day – though it still managed to upset a lot of people – was still really popular, and people were just like, ‘it’s not Morcheeba,’ anyway. It upset ME, Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day! I wasn’t a fan of the song when we first recorded it – but I do enjoy singing it now, and I love seeing fans singing along to it. I can appreciate it now that time has passed.”
On her latest solo album, Edwards says, “the last record [from 2015] is called In A Low Light, and it’s very mellow, there’s not a single on it… someone described it as a ‘sleeping pill,’ which was nice. But I don’t know if they meant it in a nice way,” she laughs, “but that was the idea, really. Just to make it something you could listen to in the evening time.
“There’s no major push – I record them [my solo records] and put them out there, and people hear about them or they don’t. So, it’s something that I would like to continue to do, but for right now the main focus is Skye & Ross.”
On developing her songwriting:
“Yeah, I’ve learned so much,” she says proudly. “Just even those first few months when I started doing my solo records with Pat Leonard out in Los Angeles. He taught me so much about songwriting, and that things didn’t need to rhyme, and you can tell stories, and draw inspiration from all sorts of things, good and bad experiences. That’s been a great help when it came to writing for the new record as well.
“I think there’s just two songs [we co-wrote with other people]. One is called Medicine, which we wrote with our keyboard player, Ben Cowen, and Feet First which we wrote with a guitarist called Steve Forshaw, who is in Little Mountain, which is Ross’ project that he leads with his wife.
“Actually, another productive thing that came out of our split in 2003 [Skye leaving Morcheeba] is they did an album called Dive Deep with a singer called Amanda Zamolo, and that became Ross’ wife and mother of his children. Had we not split up, then maybe he wouldn’t have met her. Everything happens for a reason – sometimes you don’t realise what the reason is at the time.”
Edwards goes on to affirm that she doubts her and Ross would be working together now, had she not left the band when she did.
“Right, exactly. Yeah, you live and you grow up and you get a better perspective on things, and more of an appreciation of what you had and what you’ve got, and then you move forward.
“There’s a few legal things going on with the name right now, so we can’t call ourselves Morcheeba – but it does feel a little more organic. It’s not so laboured in the studio. There wasn’t months and months spent recording one song. I just kind of did the vocals and sent them to Ross. Some of the vocals would be demo vocals, so we just got on with it and did what came naturally to the two of us.”
Fans can rest assured that whilst legal issues entwine the Morcheeba name, Skye & Ross will be playing that bands songs.
“Absolutely,” confirms Edwards. “We just completed our tour – we started in Russia and went all over Eastern Europe, and did a few shows in the UK. We did an American tour as well, and Canada. We’re playing in smaller venues. People are still confused by the name change, so they’re thinking like if you just saw the two guys from Massive Attack, and you just saw their names there and not the name Massive Attack, you’d think, ‘oh maybe they’re just playing songs from their new act, it’s not actually Massive Attack.’ It’s the same sort of thing, really. People are just spreading the word, but we still play Morcheeba songs, and still enjoy playing them, but we’re just adding a few new tracks from the new record.”
There’s no doubt that Skye & Ross is a far happier working environment for Edwards and Godfrey now that they can do their own thing without DJ and Producer Paul controlling things in the studio.
“It was actually a very positive experience recording the record. It was really enjoyable,” she proclaims. “I mean, I enjoyed [2013’s] Head Up High; recording that last record. Ross didn’t. That was difficult for him – there’s conflict between him and his brother. It’s a real shame how it’s turned out when you think how long the band has been going now – for 20-odd years. But, they just can’t get on, and there’s no way forward. I can’t imagine the three of us being able to make a record together again. So, we’re moving forward as Skye & Ross.
“It’s a shame because I like being able to say, ‘yeah, I’m in a band called Morcheeba.’ The name Morcheeba is cool. It looks great written down, and it’s got the whole legacy behind it, so [going out as Skye & Ross] is like rebranding and starting again in many ways. But then, there’s not many new bands that can still tour the world [like we do], and we’ve got such a great back catalogue – once the fans realise that it’s the same thing, but just under a new name, then they’re very supportive.
“They do love the new songs as well, which is great, especially How To Fly goes down really well. Light Of Gold, people love singing along to that one. But, you know what it’s like, people just love their favourite songs like Blindfold, which is one of my favourites as well. Part Of The Process, The Sea – they’re just classics, and it takes time to have classic songs. They’re not classics overnight.”
Now 44, looking and sounding amazing, touring the world with four kids in tow is no mean feat – is Edwards lauded as a role model for some?
“I don’t know,” she says, slightly amused. “Some people do things like my voice and my style, I guess, but I don’t really take on that role, apart from as a mother to my kids. I’ve got two daughters and I try not to show too much cleavage, and that kind of stuff. I’ve shown my video to some friends when I did my solo record, and they loved that I was a black woman in a music video without shaking my booty, and without my breasts out and stuff, so that was really positive I think!”
SKYE & ROSS play Chevron Festival Gardens at Elizabeth Quay, as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, on Sunday, 12 February, with LILT supporting.
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