The Sound Cafe
Award-winning Cornish Poet Lawrence Illsley to Release Debut Album Featuring Sarah McQuaid
Award-winning Cornish poet Lawrence Illsley will be releasing his debut album Trees on 26th February 2021, featuring backing vocals from renowned folk musician Sarah McQuaid. The release coincides with his acclaimed collection of poems A Brief History of Trees (Live Canon, 2020), winner of the Live Canon Collection Competition 2020.
A homemade YouTube video of lead single “ Ogres” has drawn a warm response, and this and other songs from the album have already been receiving radio plays.
These early plays have garnered plaudits and new fans from across the globe, some of whom have been getting in touch with Lawrence personally through Instagram and Twitter. Lawrence has also been invited for a live interview with Clare Cavanagh on BBC Bristol, and he will be giving a live online video performance as part of the popular Live Canon Lunchtime series on release day.
“I am just so pleased at the response,” Lawrence says. “It’s overwhelming, actually. I recorded these songs for myself, to remember my mum and all the good times we’d had at home. So, to see them flying across the airwaves, into people’s homes and touching them in this way means such a lot. Mum would be so proud, if a little surprised I had managed to use her house as a studio!”
Trees was inspired by the sudden death of Lawrence’s mother from pancreatic cancer. After a year of living with grief, Lawrence felt compelled to return to his childhood home on the cliffs in Trewellard, Cornwall, to document and preserve the songs he used to share with his mum in front of a roaring fire. The vocals and guitar were recorded in that same living room in a series of sessions across two weeks.
These intimate, deeply personal recordings would have remained private were it not for encouragement from folk goddess Sarah McQuaid and her long-time manager and producer Martin Stansbury. Sarah offered to sing on the album, and Martín brought the recordings to life at his Cacophony Cottage studio, then pushed Lawrence to share the album with the world.
“I just feel so grateful that in such difficult times for musicians I have such a strong network of fellow artists around me,” Lawrence adds, “and that this network is growing. Even during lockdown I’ve been able to connect with other musicians from around the world, just through being played on the same radio show. At the moment it feels like brilliant DJ's are keeping the music scene going. I can’t wait to meet some of these incredible people for real and thank them in person, once I’m able to get out gigging again.”
In the meantime, the album is accompanied by a second music video for “Long Lost Rover”. A short film shot on location in Cornwall and featuring songs from Trees juxtaposed with poetry from A Brief History of Trees will also be released in the spring.
The year leading up to the recording of Trees is documented in the poems of Lawrence’s collection A Brief History of Trees. He tells of a performance in Pendeen church of “Sing Me A Love Song”, a gig by the Thames featuring “Ogres” and “Long Lost Rover”. To complete the cycle, the booklet of Trees contains a new, original poem, written especially for the release. The album also features Lawrence’s original artwork inspired by his popular Instagram page.
Trees will be released by Tiny Tree Records on 26th February 2021 and will be available for streaming via Spotify, Apple Music and other platforms; it can be pre-ordered from Bandcamp, with “Ogres” as an immediate “instant gratification” download. A Brief History of Trees is available from Live Canon.
Trees is available for preorder HERE