Esther Rose Parkes launched her debut album The Other Country on 30 November 2013 to a select audience of about sixty fans and friends upstairs at The Green Rooster, Jersey, with a show that was spellbinding. Some of the most interesting musicians from the Channel Islands’ alternative music scene played their parts. Ukaladeez impressed with a set that was in equal parts comedic, alluring and musically audacious. Their version of Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out was exquisite. With a stunning switching of the mood Falenizza Horsepower performed a compressed set of their very loud and heavy prog rock. Monika Sawicka, Chris Herbert, Linda Rose Parkes, Dan MacFarlane, Naomi West and Esther’s record producer and guitarist Brian Kramer were Esther’s band for the night as she presented live album tracks and more. Using a strategy of shuffling various duos and trios, Esther and friends’ hour-long performance continuously shifted in character and perspective. It added up to a show of such effective design that audience members could lose themselves in the artistic showcase of consummate performance skills. Dave Findlay did a first-rate job with the sound. Eva Köhler charmingly managed front of house and designed tickets. Pawel Puchala and his team at The Green Rooster were the perfect hosts.
I always seem to have inhabited a place between countries.
Because of my bicultural background I’ve never belonged anywhere and have always been in search of that place of belonging.
This set of songs is very much about that journey.
The Other Country was recorded over five days in Stockholm in November 2012 with blues musician Brian Kramer acting as both producer and guitarist.
It was a really magical experience. We agreed it would be an album with a live feel, a concept duet album. Most songs are me, the guitar and another instrument, with more instruments on some other tracks.
Esther, who began songwriting aged 17 and has supported artists including Maria McKee, Joan Armatrading and Nerina Pallot in concert, describes the album as
lyrical folk with some blues and soul influences.
Although Esther has been playing for many years, she is only now releasing her debut after recording an album with an American studio in 2008 which for contractual reasons she was unable to release. It took a while to recover from that disappointment.
I moved to Sweden and that was where it became clear that the album wasn’t going to be releasable – it was a case of letting go. I had a really creative period, especially in that first year and it was really just about getting back into writing and being inspired by the place. The experience had put me off releasing any music so I just threw myself into songwriting.
After three years in Sweden I knew it wasn’t a home. The winters are tough and I’d had enough. Ultimately Jersey is my true spiritual home, although I wasn’t born here. My grandparents have been here since 1949 and I always visited as a child.
After going away and developing as an artist I’m incredibly appreciative of what Jersey has given me, especially in terms of landscapes and inspiration – this is a place that I know will always inspire me to write, and the most important thing for an artist is to be in a place that inspires them to be creative.
I like the musical community here. There are really good, talented people.
Interview excerpts from Jersey Evening Post article by Holly Robertson
Photos of the event by David Stokes and Chris Almond