Riva Taylor, an outstanding artist we chatted with at the beginning of lockdown when she released ‘This Woman’s Heart.1’, is back with the second part of the release. The first part garnered praise from Sir Elton John and Pete Tong on its release and was created as an album which was a statement of confusion, heartbreak and loss. ‘This Woman’s Heart.2’ according to the artist “makes peace with a past and looks towards a bright future”. This new album includes ‘If I Could Ever Stop loving You’ which has found success on BBC Radio 1, ‘Magic’ which has been produced by Celeste producer Jakwob and ‘Woman’, my personal favourite, which is accompanied by a quite stunning video. I was lucky enough to chat with Riva about the album, released in May.
EP: It seems like so much has happened since the first part of your two-part release of the album ‘This Woman’s Heart’. The first half was released right at the start of the first lockdown. At the time you described the two sides of the release as two halves of a heart with the second half being the more positive half of the heart. Does it feel apt that it should be coming out at a time when we are generally looking forward to the future with a little more optimism?
RT: Absolutely, I didn’t have a date when I was going to be releasing the second part but I feel like now is the right moment. I did go into the first lockdown having released ‘This Woman’s Heart Pt.1’ not knowing when I was going to release the second part. I had a couple of tracks that I’d already written and I knew they were going to make the cut but actually the majority of these new songs were written in this time, in this last year, and as we said then, there was a major cause to reflect on everything in life and I think you can definitely hear that in the songs.
Part two is a more optimistic outlook on life and the second part was always going to be the revolution to the first part, which was the darker half of the heart, and I hope I’ve achieved that. It’s all about the hope and the bright future as we move ahead. Hopefully things are looking brighter and more positive for us all and it felt like the right moment to make that statement.
EP: I think the second half of the album, part two, seems to resolve the issues and questions raised in part 1. I felt that part one had more of a reflective feel to it whereas part two certainly has more of a feel of resolution. It definitely feels like the two halves of a vinyl record that when you flip the disc the mood changes.
RT: I feel glad that I’ve achieved that because that’s what I wanted to do with this and you’re right. ‘Celebrate’ is a song that means a lot to me but the theme of it is about loss, and about grief and loss forever but it’s also accepting that it’s a sentiment that we will all go through, and its human and trying to put a positive spin on the fact that people that we lose can still bring something positive to our lives going forward so, while not all of the songs are bubbly and bouncy like ‘Us’, they have a deeper meaning. It’s the positivity that can be drawn out of heartbreak and loss.
EP: I found ‘Celebrate’ a very reflective piece of work. The visualizer of the song really shows that whilst the skin of the song is mournful, maybe a little dark, the inner core is positive. Its maybe something you don’t get on the first listen, but it’s definitely something that comes through on subsequent listens. It has real depth; its beautifully written and constructed.
RT: The video is very dark. We shot it when life was really on hold, October, November time last year, and a lot of shops were shut and it was very difficult to film anything and that’s really why I feature very little in that video, which was partly by choice but certainly partly because we couldn’t have lots of people there side by side. It focusses on different characters all living in lockdown. The theme and concept is that they all see a balloon which is a beacon of hope that travels over them and reminds them of that person they lost. There is that hope that the person is always there and the joy that hope brings
EP: it’s a beautiful piece of work. It works on so many levels, like so much of your work. ‘If I Could Ever Stop Loving You’ and ‘Magic’ felt like a two movement piece; they sit brilliantly together, one about closure and one about looking forward. Was that written about a specific relationship, or relationships, and if so, does the fact it’s very personal make it feel more cathartic?
RT: Yes, absolutely. It was very much written about one person and interestingly those two songs were actually written before writing the rest of the album and so, they came first. It’s interesting that they would come first because when I’m putting the album together there’s a whole essence of how the songs flow into each other.
I didn’t want to put all the slow songs first or all the slow songs at the end. There has to be some sort of journey and so, piecing it together, I listened to the songs and their order but also the sentiment running through them. So, yes, you’re right it was a natural progression from saying that I’m cool with being out of love but I can still love you a little bit which is what ‘Stop Loving You’ is about but I’ve moved on to ‘Magic’ where I’ve found someone new and I’m completely over it now.
They say that when you are moving out of a relationship, and you’ve had heartbreak there are four different stages. Its acceptance, loss, grief and then getting over it. I came through all those through those two songs. ‘Magic’ is a bit of fun, I had a great time writing that in Nashville a few years ago. It was a feeling that I had that day of being over somebody and that felt really quite liberating because I had felt I needed to write about this and it felt nice because I had written a lot of the songs on part one about that specific person and so I felt that I needed to write that.
You have songs that don’t necessarily have their moment to come out and that one lived on my laptop for a little bit and it was only because I had a new A&R executive come in and help me with this last album who loved the song, and I loved the song, that I put it on. It didn’t fit on part one but it’s been completely freshened up. I think that you can still hear that Country feel in there with the guitars but it’s been taken to a different place and been produced over here.
EP: Yes, it has a country style honesty in its storytelling but then defies genre with the new production bringing a modernity to it. I think you’ve done a great job structurally with this album because when you listen to part one and then move into part two, it feels like chapters of a book; it’s a body of music with an arc that makes you want to listen to the next song to follow the story. In a world of music cherry picking it’s great to have a definite continuity. ‘Woman’ is incredible, I think it’s my favourite from part two. It has a lovely video too. It really reminds me of ‘This Woman’s Work’ by Kate Bush. I know that she’s an inspiration to you as an artist, was that song an inspiration specifically?
RT: I’ll be completely honest on this one because it was written and there was a whole debate about whether it was too close to ‘This Woman’s Work’. It hadn’t been thought of when I first wrote it but after people heard it for the first time they said it was very reminiscent of Kate’s song. She’s a huge inspiration for me. I grew up listening to her as my Dad’s a massive fan, he had all of her music videos on tape, and I used to listen to them, I used to do the moves. She’s a huge inspiration. There’s no doubt that my ears have been tuned in to the way that she writes and sings and I think that that has come out in that moment in time.
EP: Strangely, in the same way that ‘If I Could Ever Stop Loving You’ and ‘Magic’ fit so well together, ‘This Woman’s Work’ and ‘Woman’ seem to have the same synergy. I’m sure that Kate would feel you had written a beautiful postscript to her song and love that she had inspired the feel of it.
RT: That was the conclusion that we reached too and I felt quite strongly about it as I feel there has been enough breathing space between the two songs for us to release that song.
EP: There’s a whole world of people that might not have heard Kate Bush and your song and comments might actually act as a gateway to one of your great inspirations. It feels like an evolution to me. The new music, ‘Us’ especially, almost feels like an antidote, a salve, to the period of time we are emerging from. You’ve answered this to an extent but I guess most of the songs were written over lockdown?
RT: The first two songs were written in Berlin and Nashville and I did a bit of reworking but the rest were written in that time and they are all definitely reflections of this year, of life. ‘Us’ was actually the first one I wrote with the two girls I wrote ‘Jealous’ with on the first part. They are based in Stockholm. It was my first Zoom writing session and we sat there and this song just sort of spilled out of us; we were talking about the people in that specific moment who were there for us, who we were isolating with or who we were speaking to and I think that’s what was revealed to people over this time, the people that mean the most to you. The people that are there no matter what. I definitely feel now that the obvious thing for me was the friendship that I’ve really maintained in this time even though I haven’t seen people. We’ve kept each other’s spirits high and that’s what ‘Us’ is all about, the collective of people in your life who keep you marching on.
EP: Its very positive. The final song on the record, ’In Love (No More)’, really feels perfectly placed. If a song should be the climax, the finale of this piece of work, this is it. It feels like it draws everything together. ‘In Love (No More)’ draws a line under the entire piece. I guess that was intentional?
RT: Absolutely. It really was. There was never a question. Not only because the pace of it feels right but because it was very resolved. To me, it feels slightly different to the other tracks. On all of my albums, looking back, I’ve always had that song at the end that perhaps doesn’t feel like it quite fits but can indicate the direction of where I might go next and that one, for me, felt slightly more organic. It’s certainly something I’d like to explore going forward and so, for me, its perhaps a bridge into where I go next.
EP: Was the enforced slow down incurred by lockdown on someone, who feels like they don’t often take their foot off of the pedal, a good thing as it meant the album could develop more organically from the first and that you could take your time with it. Has that made the album better?
RT: I’m totally guilty of not taking my foot off the pedal. I’ve actually reflected on the way that I am in this time because I’ve never stopped. I think that its born of the fact that when I was a kid I was working. I was a recording artist at school. I’ve never stopped and I think that I’ve got into a very bad routine of not enjoying the downtime, of not seeing it as something that’s very important. So initially this time felt very unnatural but it was so good for me and something I needed because I think, sometimes, you lose sight of where you’re going when you’re constantly working and constantly on the move. Things have changed. I’ve made a few changes with who is supporting me in my career and the team around me. I think it was a necessary pause and, for sure, it was very important to me and I don’t think some of the songs would have been written had I not had this time to down tools and really reflect on the deeper things in life that make me who I am and are important to me. A song like ‘Celebrate’ could never have happened if I was living the life I was living at a faster pace and that was something that came out of that.
EP: I remember you telling me when we spoke before that you wanted the record in its two halves to feel like a journey, like a complete body of work, like a real album and I think you’ve massively achieved that while still instilling each half with its own personality. I can’t wait to see you perform these songs live and wish you lots of luck with this new release and very much with the whole project. Thank you for the music.