In October last year, Minnie Birch was selected to play a support slot for Joan Armatrading at Watford Colosseum. “She asked me if I’d played anywhere like this before,“ says Emily Jacques, the artist behind the moniker. “I’d never played anywhere without a sticky floor!
“I didn’t have much time to properly freak out. My mouth was really dry and my hands were really sweaty because obviously they’re exactly the things that you don’t want. It was so weird, I walked on stage to a massive round of applause. That never happens! I was looking around, who are you clapping for?“
Since that gig, the biggest of her career so far, momentum has continued to build around the 30-year-old and her music. After raising the sufficient funds against a number of setbacks, she paired up with producer George Shilling (who has worked with the likes of Oasis, Blur and Primal Scream) to create her debut as a solo performer, Settled, which was released this month.
“I had been quite savvy and was saving because I wanted to get these songs out. In the space of a fortnight in December, not a good time financially for anyone, my car broke, my washing machine broke, my telly broke, a window got broke and my boiler. So I spent all this money I’d saved for putting out a CD on fixing things.
“I started selling things on EBay, it’s quite an addictive thing to get into! I’d come home thinking what can I sell? The cat’s looking pretty healthy. If he sits still too long I think, yeah he’d get a good price!“
This week, on top of a relentless gig schedule (“Sometimes playing to one man and his dog, other times to a raucous pub-full“ she says), Emily has had two of her songs played on Radio 2 (“I stayed up late to listen to it with the cat – dude listen to this!“) and she’s been overwhelmed with orders for Settled.
It’s little surprise. The record is a captivating collection of lovelorn tales of longing, sea-gazing shanties, and heartbroken appeals. As Emily puts it: “I make sad and dreary music that will leave you feeling happy“.
As a young people’s librarian Emily, who moved to Watford aged two and to Hemel two years ago, is surrounded by stories. She also leads a campaign that sends recordings of books read by imprisoned parents home to their young children. It’s stories, from the tragic to the inspiring, that are key to the record’s appeal.
“I do think I get quite attached to things and stories,“ she says, “you don’t always know until a bit later maybe what they were about and you think oh what a cringeworthy song, how over the top is that response to that bit of heartbreak!
“I like to share stories. You take a bit of your life and it mutates into something else. I think it’s good to take things to a sad place sometimes.“
Settled is available now from iTunes and minniebirch.bigcartel.com. Details: www.facebook.com/minniebirch