West Yorkshire-born multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer John Elliott leads The Little Unsaid, making music that beguiles with its delicacy and vulnerability as well as its strength and beauty. A rich palette of sounds delving into feelings and nature always show John’s heart clearly on his sleeve. He’s playing solo at The Bicycle Shop this month, some classics from his previous albums and a taste of his latest album Imagined Hymns & Chaingang Mantras. I spoke to him about his experience of PTSD, what playing live means to him and working with Radiohead engineer Graeme Stewart.

How did you get into music initially and how did you go about forming the band? I played in bands as a teenager, playing confused- adolescent-alt-rock in sticky-floored clubs and trying to get served beer. Te usual stuff! But I really fell in love with it when I started recording my own songs at home. I got an old PC that my Dad had pulled off the trash heap at his work and a £5 microphone from Argos. I’d shut myself away for hours

into the night recording these very lo-fi albums, trying to recreate the production techniques on whatever records I was listening to at the time…pinching a bit of Pink Floyd here, Jeff Buckley and Massive Attack there, a bit of Kate Bush’s drum sound here, and so on. Years later when I started releasing music under the name Te Little Unsaid, I thought I should put a band together to recreate the music live, because at that point I

was layering up drums, electronics, piano, guitars and strings. It took time but the band line up we have now – Tim Heymerdinger on drums, Alison D’Souza on viola and effects, and Mariya Brachkova on Moog bass and backing vocals - is so strong, it’s a massive joy to get up on stage with them every night and travel around together creating mischief. You’ve just released your new album, Imagined Hymns & Chaingang Mantras. It was recorded with Radiohead engineer and acclaimed film score producer Graeme Stewart. How did you find working with him? I’ve worked with Graeme on three albums now, he’s become a good friend and it’s always a pleasure to work with him. He has an amazing ability when mixing our music to somehow make sense of the chaos he’s at first presented with! Tat was important particularly on this record, because we wanted a very precise and direct sound to deliver these songs. Tis album was written during your recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder after a year of trauma. How did it help you? Songwriting for me is the main activity that helps me find meaning in anything. Even if the song ends up on the scrapheap, the process of writing is like rifling through a landfill of confused, tangled thoughts, looking for the little gem of an idea that makes the whole struggle worthwhile. Songwriting is self-discovery, it’s a chance to slow the restless pace of life and take some time to find out how you feel about a particular thing, or what you believe in, or what upsets or excites or angers you and why. Tat is hugely important after experiencing any kind of trauma, because I found in the face of that kind of mental upheaval the sense of self almost completely vanishes. Tis happens to most of us at some point in life, and we have this extraordinary

ability to rebuild ourselves, to let grief and pain enliven us and return to life with more energy and excitement than before, and it really helped me having songwriting to map that process. Would you say it’s a positive album overall? Yes I would, to me it’s a celebration of all that darkness and complexity when we come up against trauma, and the resilience of the human spirit. Plus we’ve laid a little path of tiny, flickering candles amidst all the darkness in the songs, if you can follow those you’ll come out the other side in one piece. What sort of experience can we expect from your show at Te Bicycle Shop here in Norwich? It’s a solo show in a very intimate venue I absolutely love, so it will be me laying out the songs in all their pure, naked glory. Just a guitar, a piano, my voice and some subtle electronics here and there. I love playing with the band but there’s something very liberating about doing the occasional solo show where I can strip the songs right back to their core and improvise my way through them a bit more. Norwich is one of the only solo shows on this tour so I’m especially looking forward to it!

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INFORMATION Ian Hunter and the Rant Band play The Waterfront on 16th June. Tickets available from ueatickets.


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