EXCLUSIVE! ‘Emma’ by Maz O’Connor
We’re just too good to you, with our second exclusive of the week coming courtesy of an erudite folk songwriter
Tonight’s exclusive is from a Cambridge educated student of Bob Dylan, whose literal approach to her intimate folk songwriting is inspired by the simple power of “one person standing on stage with a guitar and making a whole world.”
Already you sense there’s something a little different about Maz O’Connor and you’d be right. Having taken tutorials in Coleridge’s former bedroom while studying at Cambridge, it’s unsurprising to discover that there’s more than a little consideration to the Barrow-in-Furness musician’s writing.
This is evident in the sources of her inspiration, with half of the songs from her latest album The Longing Kind taking the subjects of paintings (Millais’ Ophelia, Delaroche’s Lady Jane Grey) and how their identities have been fixed by their artists as their muse. As she says: “I liked the idea of the painting having a voice to say, ‘I could‘ve been so many other things but you had control over me as the artist.’ That’s also true of the songs I write about people in my own life. If I write about someone I’ve controlled the narrative; I’ve fixed them in a song.”
Equally impressive to her thoughtful approach to songwriting is the regard that she’s held in; last year she was nominated for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award and researched and wrote the songs for Sweet Liberties, a touring project that celebrates key moments in democracy since the the Magna Carta was signed in 1215, and which was commissioned by the Houses of Parliament.
Comparisons to Lucy Ward do O’Connor no disservice. However Emma sounds to us like a mix of Kate Rusby’s excellent Awkward Annie and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ inspired The Boatman’s Call, particularly the latter’s sublime Into My Arms.
As always, though, we’ll leave the decision up to your educated ears…