Interview: Vivienne Neville

Jan 27 2011

Talented singer/songwriter Vivienne Neville recently released the album 'Veiled In Mystery'. With her soothing vocal style and Celtic tendencies this artist brings an intriguing richness to her music. LTTM decided to speak to the singer to find out more.

For those who haven't heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved in making music?

Yes sure, I am a Singer Songwriter from the UK, a new artist. Keith Dixon at Plankton Records released 'Holy One' EP in Nov 2008 followed recently in Sept 2010 by my debut album 'Veiled In Mystery'. I was New Christian Music 'Praise & Worship' UK Artist 2010 and 2011. Embarked on my first US Tour September 2010 with Celtic Singer Songwriter Liz Clarke. We toured across Tennessee and had a very blessed time. Our events were in churches and regular venues including Nashville Palace where I was told to 'Preach it sister.'

I became a Christian age 19 after studying and searching for an understanding of Jesus Christ. During that time of searching I came to a realisation that I/we are all deeply loved by Jesus, and that God has good plans for each one of us.

I have always been involved in music. I have helped to lead worship for a long time. I have studied music to Post Graduate level and it was during that time 10 years ago that I began writing Contemporary Christian Music.

Tell us a little bit about your album 'Veiled In Mystery' and what the inspiration behind it was?

After the EP title track 'Holy One' went to Number 1 in the New Christian Music Chart and was receiving favourable comments from radio presenters from all over the world the next step was to start working on the Debut Album. I had begun working in collaboration with Cindy L Spear who has written some wonderful tracks for Iona including 'Journey Into The Morn'. Over the 9 years leading up to beginning work on 'Veiled In Mystery' I had written hundreds of songs, so the next stage was to choose some of what I believed were the best ones. Two of the songs on the album 'Holy One' and 'Don't Be Afraid' were actually the first two songs I ever wrote.

The inspiration for the album came from a few different places, my interest in Celtic Spirituality, the inspiration and support I was receiving from a few people at the time and the Lord's guidance through His word.

Which is your favourite track on the album and why?

I have been asked that question quite a lot recently it is really difficult to answer. Each track has special significance for one reason or another. But if I am to choose one track it is the title track 'Veiled In Mystery'. When I heard the final version of that piece it was a pivotal point for me personally, as a new artist I had an idea of a place I wanted my music to get to lyrically, vocally along with the harmonies and the instrumentation. The day I heard the final version of this song was one of the happiest days of my life, I cried with happiness because I knew then what I was building on and working towards. With amazing musicians/producers who contributed to this track, Chris Smith (Raindance Studios) and Paul Poulton, a dream for me was being realised.

Lyrically I think this track is a piece full of hope in God who will guide us and be with us through every stage of our lives through all the good times and the struggles, with the added promise that "A new day is dawning".

You've made use of a wide variety of instruments on the album, what was the thinking behind that?

With 'Veiled In Mystery' being my debut album I must give most of the credit for the instrumentation to the producers, Gavin Richards and Dez Minto at Broadwater Studios and also Chris Smith at Raindance Studios. Before we started working on the album the guys questioned me about my likes and dislikes where instrumentation was concerned. We also spoke in depth about the outcomes of the album and what I was hoping would be achieved with the sound for the overall album. For instance, when the track 'A Celtic Saint's Prayer' was nearly complete, I sent it to Cindy L Spear who had collaborated with me on this piece, I wanted her to be happy with the finished sound. She suggested she thought it would be great if Martin Nolan Iona band member recorded a whistles track to enhance the overall Celtic feel of the piece. Once Martin added the whistles which were a beautiful addition, we knew the piece was complete.

What's your song writing process?

The majority of the time I write the lyrics first then the melody. The ideas for the songs come from a variety of sources. A couple of examples are: I am working on two new songs this week. The idea for the first piece 'Valley Of Tears' came as I was reading my bible, I was studying Psalm 84 which talks about the Valley of Baca which it is suggested could mean Valley of Weeping. This section of the Psalm is about a pilgrimage through this valley, the outcome being that as we travel through, the ultimate assurance is that we will re-experience God’s love and faithfulness.

The second idea came to me as I was watching a documentary about Bruce Springsteen. He was talking about his writing and recording process. He was discussing the theme of one of his songs and was unpacking the idea that "if you oppress people for long enough, they do rebel". During that week through a situation in my life, the Lord was laying on my heart and mind the following words "Hold on, Don't give up, Press even more into God" So for about 10mins I switched the Bruce Springsteen programme off and I wrote a song called 'Hold On'.

If you could work with any song writer, who would it be and why?

I can't just choose one I have two writers whose work I greatly admire, and they are Moya Brennan and Joanna Hogg. They have a rich Celtic understanding, and their work in the Celtic genre is so beautiful.

How would you describe your style of music and what are your influences?

My style has touches of the Celtic Sound. My lyrics have been influenced greatly by my understanding of Celtic Spirituality. 'Let me Know Your Presence' was a collaboration with John Philip Newell a former warden of Iona Abbey. This song was inspired by a prayer John has written in his poetic prayer book 'Sounds of The Eternal' I admire many songwriters genres and styles, I have quite an eclectic taste in music. I haven't set out to sound like anyone, my work is being described as having Celtic sensibilities. The overall sound is relaxed and calm, it was really important to me that listeners of my music would hopefully be brought to a place of inner calm and peace. It was my hope that the lyrics and style would aid in creating this ambiance for the listener. I have been receiving emails from people who have purchased the album and they are telling me that the songs are bringing them comfort and peace. That brings me great joy knowing now that the overall objective of the album is being accomplished.

In your opinion, what makes the perfect song?

The perfect song for me has to have a lyric that interests me or ministers to me. The instrumentation needs to be something that moves me and touches me deeply. I also love gentle layered vocal harmonies

You're stuck on an island, it's hot, you only have enough battery life left to listen to one song on your mp3 player. What track is it?

If I could only listen to one piece it would be an instrumental piece by the famous composer Debussy called 'Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune' which means Prelude To The Afternoon Of A Faun. This piece along with being the most beautiful piece I have ever heard, (it was also a favorite of the late Michael Jackson) was considered a turning point in the history of music.

What does the next year hold for Vivienne Neville?

Music commitments will start again in February with an awards ceremony where I will be presented with 'Praise & Worship' Artist UK 2011 by New Christian Music. From then until the summer, dates/concerts around the UK and a tour in Ireland in May with artists from the UK & US. Also Liz Clarke and I will be completing our joint Christmas album 'Emmanuel' which will be released later this year. And the rest is in the Lord's hands.

Find out more about Vivienne Neville at myspace.com/vivienneneville

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