Music Interview: Catherine Elms – ‘Frustrations’ Out Now!

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Scott Chalmers
Catherine Elms – Photo by Scott Chalmers

We were lucky enough to catch up with musician Catherine Elms following the release of her superb rock-pop single ‘Frustrations’. Enjoy the full interview now!

Hi Catherine, what is your earliest music memory?

When I was very young, probably about 5 or 6, my dad introduced me to The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was his favourite film – I fell in love with the soundtrack and the world of the film, so he insisted that we watch it together on repeat.

We would sing the songs together (my voice was probably 3 octaves higher than his), and we watched the VHS tape until the picture went fuzzy from over-use. That was the first album where I could recite every word from memory.

Who or what got you into music?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love music – when I was young, I loved singing and dancing along to the radio in my bedroom, making up vocal harmonies so I could duet with my favourite singers.

My dad had a little cheap Casio keyboard that I used to noodle around on, and I used it to start writing my own songs when I was about eight years old.

Who influenced your latest release, ‘Frustrations’?

I wrote ‘Frustrations’ after a series of instances where I was told that I was being difficult, idealistic, or naïve for trying to change things for the better – I kept hearing empty platitudes from self-proclaimed allies like “it is what it is” as a way of avoiding playing their part in making things better, or worse, comments like “yes but all lives matter” or “transgenderism is just a fad”.

There were hundreds of interactions like that throughout my years of activism, and I remember getting home after one such incident and sitting at my piano bashing out a bunch of angry chords until the opening riff of Frustrations formed. The rest of the song came pretty quickly after that.

I recorded this song in The Nest Studios in Brighton with Birdeatsbaby and Brian Viglione from The Dresden Dolls on drums – both bands are big influences of mine, and it’s such a privilege to work with these talented artists to bring the song to life.

You worked with Brian Viglione of The Dresden Dolls on this single; what was that process like?

It was amazing, and I feel so lucky to have had that opportunity. The Dresden Dolls were one of the bands that inspired me to teach myself how to play the piano at 16 years old, so to have Brian drum on my first single felt serendipitous, like everything had come full circle for me.

He was so lovely and down-to-earth in our session together; and immediately understood the vibe of the song and came up with the perfect drum part that tied the whole song together.

Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Tori Amos seems like an amazing person to work with, she has such vibrant creative energy, and I think our sessions would be very fun and playful.

What’s your dream venue to play?

My absolute dream would be to play one of the huge London venues – The Roundhouse comes to mind, it’s a bit quirky and theatrical, and I love the vibe there. I’d also love to perform at The Eden Project in Cornwall and Thekla in Bristol.

Other than music, what are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about social justice and human rights –LGBTQ equality is particularly important to me, as a queer person myself, and I’m involved in my local queer activist scene.

On a more personal note, I’m big into running and weight training (I deadlifted my producer while recording this track!) and am currently training for my first Tough Mudder. I also love horror and sci-fi movies.

What changes would you like to see in the music business? How do you feel about how the internet plays a role in today’s music business?

Creating and releasing music and knowledge of how to do these things are all more accessible than ever due to the internet and the ease of access that it creates.

It’s great, but it also creates an over-saturated market which makes it very, very difficult to stand out. It’s also very difficult to earn a living from music – Spotify’s minuscule artist payouts have a lot to answer for, but the problem is wider than Spotify – we live in an age where art is ephemeral and disposable, short-form content is the only way to get seen, people stream instead of purchasing music, and exposure is determined by algorithms.

There’s also an expectation to constantly release content on at least a monthly basis – which is difficult and prohibitively expensive for those of us who hire musicians and acoustic instruments in recording studios. I’m not sure what the solution is to those problems – I’m still figuring that out, particularly in the context of being a new artist starting out.

Patreon and Bandcamp are great options if you have a supportive fanbase, and I think those platforms empower artists to carve out their own path.

What would it be if you could choose one thing for fans to take away from your music?

If you feel a longing for something bigger and better (whether that’s for yourself or for the world), then know that you’re not alone and that change is possible. You are more than your limitations, and you are more powerful than you can imagine.

What is your favourite song to play live?

I love playing weird covers in my live sets, and my favourite cover to play is probably Toxicity by System of a Down – it’s so unexpected and intense, and people often start singing along with me on the choruses, which is such fun!

Have you started working on your next release?

Yes! I have at least two more singles and my debut album this year, which are all coming very soon – follow me on my socials to find out more!

FVMusicBlog May 2022

This content was created with the #sustainablecurator movement.

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