Open Water: "With ‘Above The Waterline’ I feel that the band have found their identity and sound"
Hailing from the charming coastal town of Deal, Open Water's music is deeply influenced by the calming waves, historic buildings, and rich folklore of their surroundings. Their second album, 'Above The Waterline,' released on March 25th, 2023, beautifully captures the essence of their inspiration and showcases their gentle yet powerful talent.
During the challenging times of 2020, Open Water turned to music as a source of hope and inspiration. Rather than dwelling on uncertainty, they crafted a collection of hopeful, uplifting, and often 'spiritual' songs that aim to unite listeners. Their belief in the healing and uplifting power of music shines through each track on the 11-song album. Open Water consists of guitarists Jeff Alexander and Richard Doolan, who first crossed paths 27 years ago when Jeff became Richard's guitar teacher. Richard and Joanne are partners and proud parents of two children, adding an extra layer of harmony and connection to their music. In an exclusive interview with Indie Boulevard, we had the privilege of connecting with Richard Rozze, the multi-talented musician behind the guitar, vocals, dobro, mandolin, and banjo for Open Water. We delved into the band's inspirations, discussed their captivating songs from the new album, and eagerly explored their exciting plans for the future.
Indie Boulevard: Hey guys! It's truly a pleasure to be chatting with you about the wonderful realms of art, music, and, of course, the magical journey that is your latest album, 'Above the Waterline'. So, if I may dive right into the depths of your creative process, I'm curious to know what overarching inspiration or captivating theme sparked the creation of this enchanting album?
Richard Rozze: From March 2020 we started writing material for ‘Above The Waterline’. It helped us through those tricky times. Rather than dwelling on the uncertainty of the situation, we were inspired to write hopeful, uplifting, music with often ‘spiritual’ meanings that would unite all. The music has the ability to heal and uplift. The overreaching theme of the album mirrors and questions the human condition. IB: I'm genuinely intrigued by the song "Lone Tree Hill" and its profound connection to the haunting tale of a soldier stationed at Dover Castle. It sounds like an incredibly captivating narrative. Could you please delve a little deeper into the significance of this song?
RR: I worked as a guitar teacher at the ‘Duke of York’s School’ in Dover – there, I came across this story in their newsletter. This story is part of Kent’s folklore. In 1784 Donald Macdonald, a Scottish soldier, was posted at Dover Castle. He fell in love with a local Dover girl...as did one of his comrades. He obviously became besotted with the girl and one day followed the girl and his comrade. The story tells how he tore a branch from a tree and thrust it into the side of his comrade. He then plunged the branch into the ground. The branch took root and grew and what people now believe to be the ‘Lone Tree’ can be seen growing today, in the grounds of the Duke Of York’s School in Dover. Many folk audiences enjoy this song as unlike the majority of folk songs, this story has a happy ending – Donald confessed to a priest and the comrade survived! IB: How did the natural surroundings and folklore of Deal influence the sound and atmosphere of 'Above the Waterline'?
RR: Deal is on the south east coast of Kent….it enjoys a beautiful coastline as well as being minutes from being deep in the Kent country side. I believe that being in touch with nature opened us up to questioning the human journey, what we are here for and what we leave behind. Many of the songs explore this subject, although dressed up in more universal themes. The stillness and often quietness of nature enables you to have time to reflect and ponder. Our own life journeys are reflected in nature. For example ‘Summer Cries’ talks of letting go of the ego or perhaps preconceived ideas to make way for the next part of lifes journey….’blossoms fall to earth and know they must give second birth to fruit that holds their worth…’’. ‘Rainbow’s End’ describes a school pupil who feels strangled by the constraints of the classroom…he lives for ‘silver trees pointing high..’’, and ‘’golden birds.’’ Here I am questioning the mainstream perception of being human…perhaps we are most at bliss in more natural surroundings.
Times spent jogging, walking or sitting in these beautiful surroundings helped the creative process…often I would finish a lyric, find a metaphor or work out a song form while jogging. Time away from the instruments can be most beneficial…this is something we talk about in greater depth in our song writing workshops. The songs often have more developed forms than many ‘traditional -style’ folk songs and the harmony is often expansive…reflected in the open spaces of the country side and coast. Jeff’s re tuning of his guitars have a very ‘open’ sound. It is difficult not to walk through Deal and think of tales and songs being sung, of smugglers, fishermen and labourers. It is part of the fabric of Deal and can be easily absorbed. For now Open Water is an acoustic band – echoing the instruments that must have enchanted of the narrow lanes of fisherman’s cottages and pubs. We use acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, dobro and double bass.
IB: Could you share with us some of the tracks on 'Above The Waterline' that hold a special place in your hearts and minds?
RR: If we were asked to sum up the sound of Open Water. I would point them towards ‘Waiting for The Daylight.’ This song showcases all of our influences and each member has a chance to shine…Jeff’s counterpoint guitar picking style, Joanne’s beautiful lyric writing and vocal delivery and my bluegrass and jazz influenced lead guitar lines. This track really is the sound of Open Water. Lyrically it tells of the Covid era…’waiting for a better day…’ but the sub context of this song is about changing one’s own perception, changing how you perceive yourself in the world…going internally, not externally. Joanne and I have a seven - year old son, Louis. ‘Time Stand’s Still’ is influenced by young children, who have a beautiful unawareness of time. It also reflects my early childhood, growing up in the Kent countryside. ‘Winter Bride’ is a heart-breaking story of a young, working-class girl, in late 1930s. This girl of seventeen was pregnant and jilted at the altar. This is a tale of tenacity, resilience and courage face by this girl as she struggled to bring up her child alone in Wales. This young girl was Joanne’s grandmother.
‘Mabinogion’ is Jo’s love letter to the land of her birth- Wales. The Mabinogion is a collection of ‘Welsh folk lore and mythical tales that pre- date the middle ages 12th Century, and was passed down orally from one generation to the next. During the Victorian period these manuscripts were translated from Welsh into English by Lady Charlotte Guest). During the lockdown period Joanne became home sick for Wales and started reading these tales and penned the lyrics to our song ‘The Mabinogion’. It is a beautiful ballad – Jeff composed the music and his compositions are greatly influenced by his love of baroque and early renaissance music – this is a particularly important aspect of the sound of Open Water. The Tinker is inspired by my Grandad who made doll’s house furniture amongst other things. This song is also a nod to the guitar luthiers and repairers that we know and value highly. The song is a nod to some of the craftsmen and traders that need to be cherished and supported in a seemingly digital age.
IB: In what ways does 'Above The Waterline' differ from your previous album 'Open Water' in terms of musical style or lyrical content?
RR: With ‘AboveThe Waterline’ I feel that the band have found their identity and sound. The songs came relatively easily…we were in a very creative flow for a few months when writing. The harmony vocals are all three of us on ‘Above The Waterline’ and I sing lead vocals on two songs.…whereas Joanne sung all lead and harmony vocals on ‘Open Water.’ Lyrically, we have found messages and themes that are relevant, honest, unifying yet personal.
IB: The intertwining of personal and creative journeys is a profound force indeed. I would love to know how the experience of being partners and raising children together has influenced your musical collaboration and the captivating themes explored within your songs. How has this unique bond shaped your artistic synergy and brought forth a deeper understanding of the human experience?
RR: As parents, the older we get the more we are aware that we must leave something lasting and creative behind for future generations. Subconsciously, this has influenced our subject matter. As our children grow older the more I hope they relate to our songs in their own spiritual journeys. Songs such as ‘’I Trust The Road’ inspired by the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage, is a fantastic metaphor for life…with life’s twist and turns, there is a safe path that is waiting for you, if you listen to your intuition. Bringing up two children has made us more focused when we are able to find quiet, creative time. The lack of ‘free’ time helps us focus and get things done! Our children respect the fact that we are creative and are generally patient!
IB: Behind every remarkable album, there lie hidden stories of memorable and challenging moments that shape the final masterpiece. Could you share any memorable or challenging moments encountered during the production or recording process of 'Above The Waterline'?
RR: The recording of the album happened in periods in between lockdowns. At one stage we were unsure if we would be able to record at all in 2020. However, all went well but with the uncertainty of being able to perform live we were unable to book any promotional concerts. We would be unable to play the music at festivals for at least another year or two due to cancelled festivals being postponed to following years. The album was released but we have been unable to perform it widely due to these circumstances. IB: Could you elaborate on the inspiration or story behind choosing the name "Open Water" for your band? What compelled you to select this particular name?
RR: When we formed ‘Open Water’ we were open to play any style of music that appealed to us. This included music by Alison Krauss, America, Eagles, Nick Drake, James Taylor and some traditional British Folk tunes. We also embraced jazz influences such as Cassandra Wilson. We gradually found a sound that felt honest and unique as we started composing our own music. The music embraced all of our strengths as individual artists.
IB: Looking back at the journey of creating 'Above The Waterline', what is one valuable lesson or insight you gained as a band that you would like to share with aspiring musicians or fellow artists?
RR: Find a music voice that is honest. Don’t try and emulate but assimilate all of your influences and compose without any pre conceived ideas of what the end sound will be. IB: And the last question: Where and when can we witness the enchanting magic of Open Water's live shows? After all, experiencing your music in a live setting is an unparalleled delight.
RR: 29th July – Herne Bay Folk Festival, The King’s Hall, Herne Bay, Kent
August 15th – Broadstairs Folk Week (songwriting workshop)
Augsut 26th – Orpington Liberal Club (songwriting workshop 2pm and evening concert)
more at www.openwatermusic.co.uk