After years in folk duo Paper Aeroplanes, Bryde (aka Sarah Howells) has gone solo. Last week, she brought her vulnerable, authentic and heavy music to Southampton’s latest music venue, Heartbreakers. I sat down with her before the gig to ask her about her record label, her songwriting process, and vulnerability.
Your music is quite dark and heavy, especially because you’re playing an electric guitar – a solo female playing an electric guitar isn’t too common to see, but it’s becoming more common now.
Yeah, I think it’s much more common these days, but like you say maybe previously you didn’t see it as much, or it wasn’t as mainstream. I’m loving playing the electric guitar, it really colours the sound of all the songs and to me, how the songs grow is from what I play on the guitar. It’s important to me, the tone of it and what you can do with an electric rather than an acoustic, it really changes how I write and play. I really do think it’s more versatile, there’s a beauty to acoustic sometimes, I haven’t missed it yet I have to say though and I did play it for seven, eight years. I started on electric years ago when I was a young teenager, I’m not mourning the loss of my acoustic guitar playing at all.
You used to be folkier, didn’t you?
Yeah, my previous band was pretty folky, but it was time to move away from that.
Does that link back to ‘Bryde’, with bryde meaning ‘to break’ in Danish?
That was a total coincidence that that happened, my mum Googled it and found that, I thought there was a nice synergy to it. It was time to go solo, it just felt like the right time.
Your lyrics are often quite emotional but very good at encapsulating certain fleeting emotions. Does that require being in a certain frame of mind and headspace?
The best songs that I’ve written and released are the ones I’ve written on my own. Not to do a disservice to anyone I’ve co-written with, but I feel like when I’m in the right space and there’s something I really need to write about, and there’s a certain moment of inspiration that you get gifted with, that’s when the songs have a different feel to them. They feel a little bit more special than other times. But both are necessary and both are exciting to write.
It must be hard to be vulnerable and open in a big writing session with other people.
Exactly, yeah, it takes a different discipline altogether. It’s really fun, and I wanted to do some co-writing for this album even though most of it is about being solo and independent, but I just found it’s nice to be sociable for a start. It feels more like going to work which sometimes is nice, surprisingly, when you don’t have a traditional day job.
So you miss the structure?
Yeah! You do miss that, eventually, and it’s quite hard to spur myself on to write a song. Like I said, the best songs are the ones where you just feel compelled to get something out of your psyche or off your chest. Sometimes it’s nice to have a session booked in, hang out with someone and throw some ideas around, it’s really fun.
Touching on your label, Seahorse Records, which your album is released under, you said you made that to help your friends?
Yeah, I always wanted to start a label just to showcase some of the stuff I’ve learnt from the music industry, and so I was able to help others self-release in a structured way, in the optimum way you can do as an indie artist with not much of a budget. I had some friends who were releasing music, who were maybe being a bit coy about it or maybe weren’t sure how to put it out into the world, and I wanted to help them to make sure people heard it, as many as I could bring to them.
Finally – what do you want people to take away from your shows and from your album?
I want them to feel something, that’s the main thing. I think if it resonates with people that’s great, it won’t necessarily resonate with everyone but I hope that it brings some emotion out of them that they wouldn’t necessarily have felt otherwise.
Listen to Bryde’s single, ‘To Be Brave’ below: