By Stevie Connor. Photo Credit: Beth Chalmers.
Together With Yourself At Sea Level is the enchanting new cross-genre album from Glasgow harpist, composer and singer Gillian Fleetwood, which sets out to celebrate art and its ability to help us restore, recover, connect and learn.
Released on Wednesday 31st January 2024, the body of work is a collaboration with Mercury Award nominee and multiple Scottish Album Of The Year Award nominated composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist C Duncan and blends chamber pop with Scottish traditional influences to stunning effect.
Gillian’s first fully self-composed solo album, this deeply personal record sees her play a beautifully rare 210 year old Erard Grecian harp housed at Hospitalfield House, an arts centre in Arbroath where Gillian spent many hours finding solace and inspiration.
The album comes off the back of a series of personal and serious health setbacks, including the diagnosis of a rare genetic condition. The house, its history, its art, the sea and nature that surrounds it, and the magic of its ancient harp, gave Gillian a place to be absorbed in creating and with it, a sense of perspective.
The album was recorded at the house and the appreciation for the ingenuity of human endeavour, creativity, identity and honesty which Gillian found in those walls comes through in every chord of Together With Yourself At Sea Level.
Gillian takes an ambitious cross-genre approach which allows her to combine her own talents and experience working in both traditional and indie-pop scenes with C Duncan’s talents in classical composition and alt-indie music. The rare harp only lets Gillian expand this further, with its pedals giving a fully chromatic landscape for her to explore and grow her voice.
The album was taken to C Duncan’s home studio in Helensburgh for him to produce and develop the music further with Gillian. Engineer Iain Hutchison was invited to bring his superior skill in capturing the sound of the house, alongside most of the acoustic instruments on the album. Incredible creativity and an open-minded approach gave birth to a stunning album which tells a story of understanding enduring trauma and meeting yourself along the way.
C Duncan also performs on the album, appearing alongside Gillian’s harps and vocals on bass, viola and vocals, while a stellar cast of musicians from a variety of backgrounds and genres complete the line up. Laura Wilkie (Kinnaris Quintet) is on fiddle, Suz Appelbe (Dirliebane Theatre) on cello, Tim Lane (Hidden Orchestra) on percussion, drums and tongue drum, Mikey Owers (SNJO, The Fratellis) on trombones, sousaphone and flugelhorn, and Martin John Henry (De Rosa) is on guitar, ebow and additional percussion.
Gillian Fleetwood said: “Creating Together With Yourself At Sea Level has been an incredible opportunity to spread my wings and trust myself. I found deep channels of resilience during its creation and am so grateful for that. I hope it touches listeners and takes them somewhere they haven’t been before musically.
“Hospitalfield House so kindly let me spend time exploring, absorbing and quietly writing away there. You can see the sea, explore their beautiful gardens, go to the incredible cliffs nearby – there is much to enjoy and be inspired by. It’s very rare to find an old harp – they don’t tend to age well, so finding this piece of art and beauty made by hands hundreds of years ago was incredibly special. From that came a joy and freedom to create and leave something honest that could help someone in the future – that has been the driving force in creating this music.
“C Duncan and Iain Hutchison were such intuitive artists to work with and their input really allowed us to capture wonderful sounds from incredible players and then get creative with the feel and textures of the music. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported the album to get to this point.”
Gillian has been a key player in the Scottish harp scene for many years as part of The Duplets, and in her own right as a tutor and examiner. She has also accrued a loyal fanbase on the indie scene through her work with State Broadcasters, Agnes Obel, Pictish Trail, De Rosa and Henry & Fleetwood. Her career has taken her all over the world and inspired many people to say “I never knew the harp could do that”.
She has performed widely at festivals and arts centres around the world, from Celtic
Connections, Edinburgh International Harp Festival, Green Man and London’s Union Chapel in the UK, to extensive tours theatres and festivals around Europe, and harp and Celtic music festivals in Mexico, Brazil, Germany, France and Australia and the USA.
The album will be launched at Celtic Connections 2024 at Mackintosh Church on Wednesday 31st January. Gillian hopes to continue touring the album throughout 2024 and beyond.
The album was made possible with funding from Creative Scotland, in-kind support from Hospitalfield House in Arbroath and a crowdfunding campaign.
Together With Yourself At Sea Level will be available on CD and to download and stream on all digital platforms from Wednesday 31st January 2024.
Gillian has also completed a printed book of manuscripts for 12 pieces from the album arranged for solo harp and piano, available as a ring-bound book or to download. It features the scores alongside photography by Beth Chalmers, notes for players, and further information about the project.
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