Interview: Jillian Billard
Photo: Andre Pattenden
For emerging artist Aisha Chaouche, writing music is a transformative process. The Swansea-born singer/songwriter and producer debut album, “Safe,” chronicles the artist’s path from childhood trauma to healing. From beginning to end, the album exhibits a tangible progression––beginning delicately and moving towards a sense of strength and emergence. Utilizing reverb and delay, Chaouche evokes the sense of the lingering effects of memory––her voice oscillating with a haunting hymn-like quality over delicate piano melodies. The effect is devastatingly beautiful––and resonates deeply within the body. In light of the album’s release, we spoke with Chaouche about her background; her writing process; and music’s ability to heal deep emotional wounds.
Thank you so much again for agreeing to speak with me about your debut album! I thought we’d start by talking about how this album came to fruition, and the significance of its title, Safe?
My childhood and teenage years were very difficult for me, so making music was a way of dealing with those bad memories. I found it very healing and empowering to turn those negative emotions into a musical strength. Safe is about coming to terms with those memories. The album title represents how I’ve finally reached some sort of peace and security in my life.
Yes, your music feels highly personal––almost confessional––and deals with heavy themes of heartbreak and loss. Yet there is this transcendent beauty and strength to it––as though you are emerging beyond these difficult moments. Has writing music about things you’ve experienced been a healing process for you?
Absolutely it has. It will always be very difficult expressing such strong emotions, but I think that sharing those feelings can the best form of healing––especially through a platform that’s understood universally, like art.
I’m not entirely sure I have completely come to terms with painful memories of the past, I don’t think I ever will, but I do feel very fortunate to have found music and am able to play and write music everyday to express myself.
How did you come to music as a form of expression? Have you been making music since you were young?
Yes, as far as I can remember I have loved and made music. Some of my earliest memories involve listening to old cassette tapes in the car, or watching my mum’s record player spinning around.
Do you want to talk a bit about your background––your childhood, where you grew up, etc, and how it has informed your work?
I grew up in south Wales in Swansea. My siblings and I shared a very difficult childhood––we weren’t my father’s biggest fans––and we spent a lot of time hiding from him. My mother, however, was the best. When my father wasn’t around we would play records and watch movies. My mother loved all sorts of music and was always playing records in the house, so I think maybe that’s why I love it so much now, because it reminds me how beautiful life can be.
Why did you decide to use your last name, Chaouche, as your artist name?
As I said previously, I didn’t like my father, so initially I wanted to completely sack it off. I tried to come up with all sorts of made up names but none of them meant anything. As the album is about turning negatives into strengths, and after a chat with a close friend, I decided to use it, and change the negative associations of the name into a positive––my music.
It will always be very difficult expressing such strong emotions, but I think that sharing those feelings can the best form of healing––especially through a platform that’s understood universally, like art.
What does your writing process look like? Do you often write the lyrics first, or does it come together organically? Do you ever collaborate with other artists when putting a track together?
I start by writing a melody to represent how I feel about something, usually on the piano. Once I have a rough sketch of the song, I’ll start writing down the lyrics. I love collaborating with other artists however on this album I haven’t, mainly because the tunes are deeply personal and so I did travel to a few un-social headspaces. But in future, I hope to be doing more collaborations.
You use a lot of reverb and delay in your work––an effect that seems to mimic the resonance of memory. Can you talk about your decision to use these effects, and how they play into your work?
That’s pretty spot on really, I love using delay and reverb precisely for that reason. I find that it adds so much atmosphere––like you’re listening back to a distant memory. I love really heavy reverb and echos. I’m also really inspired by choirs, and so I use a lot of church reverbs on my backing vocals to make them sound like a choir singing in a big cathedral.
What are your plans following the album’s release? Will you go on tour?
Yes, we have a few festivals booked in the UK––Bluedot, Larmer Tree and Green Man––and then we are hoping to book a small tour in the autumn, which I am very excited for.