5 Minutes with… Mel Biggs

Live to your Living Room Mel-Biggs-by-Elly-Lucas-11_HI-RES-1024x683 5 Minutes with... Mel Biggs
Photo credit: Elly Lucas

Mel Biggs is joining us to launch her debut solo album, From Darkness Comes Light, with her band on Saturday 16th October. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with her to find out more about the album and what’s in store.

This is the launch gig for your very first solo album, From Darkness Comes Light – could you tell us a bit about the album and what our audience can expect?

Sure! This album has taken over a decade to be made. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the physical album, which took 9-ish months in lockdown, but the mental health journey I’ve been on since my early 20s. The darkness of living with anxiety and depression, a binge eating disorder, and menstrual health issues brought forth the light that is my music and composition. Further to this, and rather poignantly, the album’s completion earlier this year coincided with me being diagnosed with ADHD and autism. Knowing this has given me the missing pieces on my past diagnoses and, well, literally everything in my life! Especially my sensory crossovers (or synaesthesia) which influence my creativity so much.

The diatonic accordion (or melodeon) became my closest friend and confidante early on when I wasn’t able to understand and process the difficult emotions I experienced. It gave me a way to escape and meditate on the natural world around me. The healing power of the great outdoors is one of my biggest sources of inspiration. What I’m trying to do with this album is paint pictures in people’s minds of places I’ve been, and things I’ve experienced on my journey so far. You can expect to feel totally blissed out walking through your favourite woods in Shivelight In Spring, or flying high around the Norwegian mountains in Oppland Upland, or pumped up to take on your own brain weasels in Dream Big.

“What I’m trying to do with this album is paint pictures in people’s minds of places I’ve been, and things I’ve experienced on my journey so far.”

For this launch gig, you’ll be joined by your band! Tell us about them.

Oh – I am SO excited to finally get to play together all in the same room! I’ll be joined by my sister, Kat, on piano accordion, Jon Loomes on guitar, cittern and hurdy gurdy, Bridget Slater on fiddle, and David Squirrell on mandolin, mandola and double bass. We will be hunkering down in a beautiful Welsh cottage for the week leading up to the gig – thanks to my mates Dazza & Paula for their extremely generous offer to host us and the gig (and for their superfast FTP broadband!).

The funny thing is, due to lockdown restrictions and the wide-ranging geography between us all, we were never actually able to rehearse for this album all together before recording it. It came together through a series of Zoom calls, WhatsApp audio clips and Google docs. I’m very thankful to sound engineer Peter Millson, who ran sound from Dave’s patio, feeding cables through an open window whilst Dave recorded his parts in his living room! Certainly not what we would’ve planned to do under normal circumstances, but I’m so happy with how it all came together.

You’ve chosen to launch the album with an online gig – how have you found the shift to online gigs, and what benefits has it brought for artists and audiences?

The initial plan was to run a hybrid gig from a ticketed venue with live streaming as an option, but when we came to organise this gig earlier in the year, we just couldn’t tell what the immediate future was going to look like and didn’t want to run the risk of making a loss. The enormous amount of uncertainty we’ve all had to deal with as artists over the last 18 months has been incredibly stressful. As we move forward towards 2022 and are beginning to see artists going out on tour again, the poster dates suggest optimism but there are lingering doubts about when we’re going to be seeing audiences returning in the numbers needed to make events viable.

Personally for me, both as an audience member and artist, online gigs are the future and I hope to see many hybrid-style events popping up beyond the pandemic. The professionalism and quality of sound that you guys are able to achieve is truly akin to any live music TV production, and makes for a very pleasant viewing experience – and if I can enjoy live events to the full without having to leave my house…?! Perfection.

“For me, both as an audience member and artist, online gigs are the future and I hope to see many hybrid-style events popping up beyond the pandemic.”

How does it feel to finally be able to share the album live with audiences?

The feedback so far has been utterly overwhelming! It seems to really be striking a chord with such a diverse range of people – folkies and non-folkies alike. I knew I was really happy with meeting my own artistic brief on this project – but the fact other people are getting it too, and see and feel so much of what I have been itching to impart – it’s difficult to sum up.

I’ve been warming up to the launch with a few small solo gigs over the last few weeks. No word of a lie – the idea of solo performance has been utterly petrifying to me in the past! But I want to do the work justice and it’s what this body of work truly deserves. The only way to do that is to perform it and allow others to have their own experiences with the material!

Mel Biggs and Friends will be launching the new album just for us on Saturday 16th October at 8pm BST. You can find tickets here!