Raw honesty in the arts is a beautiful thing.
Lindsay Munroe is an alt-folk artist whose raw honesty unsuspectingly radiates through the lyrics of her music. Munroe’s song “Cut Me Down” demonstrates such rawness, celebrating the act of surrender and self-examination. The moment you hear the reminiscent guitar at the beginning of “Cut Me Down,” you’re instantly brought to an introspective level.
This is the kind of song you listen to when you’re a bit down or lonely; when you’re ready to get in touch with your inner self.
The powerfully melancholic quality of Munroe’s voice gives one a sense of comfort as they listen to this song. Listening to a songwriter spill their most personal thoughts and yearnings into a song is a wonderfully evocative thing that I love about the musical experience. The world an artist creates for their self and their listeners is unique to each individual; Lindsay Munroe’s world draws you in with her candid observations and openness about her life.
Just like Lindsay Munroe’s “Cut Me Down,” her interview is filled with raw honesty. Interesting titbits of her life as a musician are sprinkled throughout this interview, such as her lyric notebook she attempts to fill regularly, or her fondest musical memory of performing an acapella cover of Sharon Van Etten’s song ‘Love More’ with a group of friends. Watch below to witness the pure talent permeating their poignant cover of the song.
If you admire honesty in lyrics, then give Lindsay Munroe’s song, “Cut Me Down,” a listen, and read below to discover her musical influences, collaboration dreams, songwriting process, and favourite aspect of “Cut Me Down.”
Describe the moment you knew you wanted to be a songwriter.
Since I was a small child I have always been singing. It’s just something I have always done, rather than being a hobby or something I put a lot of effort into developing. I started writing around age 14, but never took it particularly seriously and stopped and started many times. When I moved to Manchester, UK, I found a great group of friends in the local music scene. It was in that time, all playing the same bars and learning each other’s music, that I realised I had accidentally gone from someone who played the guitar alone in their room to someone who was making a record and playing shows. I think it had to be a slow process, or my stage fright and introspection would be even worse than it already is.
Who are some of your musical influences?
I’m a huge fan of a lot of different types of music. I love the permanency and history of traditional folk music, but I’m known for being way too into 80s pop and power ballads. The music that has influenced my writing would mostly be musicians such as Sharon van Etten, Laura Marling, Marika Hackman, Andy Shauf and Daughter. They’re all musicians who have pushed and changed with each record and have each had a personal influence on my writing in different ways.
If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be?
I would, of course, love to collaborate with Laura Marling or Sharon Van Etten. I think everyone dreams of working with the people who have shaped them. However, to collaborate with someone of a different genre or discipline might be a more interesting challenge. Someone like Olafur Arnalds or a similar instrumentalist, as I find myself focussing much more on lyrics and meaning than composition and the more technical side of writing.
What do you love about creating music?
It isn’t the cheeriest answer, but one of the most significant aspects of creating for me is how it gives meaning to things that may seem difficult or hard to process. Writing about a painful time or feeling lends a purpose to it. That purpose may be something as seemingly insignificant as a 3-minute song, but music can make that feeling or situation beautiful and change how you’re addressing it.
What’s your fondest musical memory?
At the launch of my first record, a group of friends and I performed an acapella cover of Sharon Van Etten’s song ‘Love More’. It was a really beautiful moment and an arrangement we were proud of. Another memory would be that in the early days of playing music in Manchester, we often congregated at one of our friend’s apartment in the centre of town. After gigs or open mics, we would always find our way there and, warmed by whiskey, play songs together until the wee hours or until we were kicked out.
What’s been your biggest challenge as a songwriter/musician?
Being honest, the biggest challenge has probably been confidence. I mostly play gigs solo, which can be a lot of pressure for one person. When I first started playing I was a young woman in a new city, so turning up to bars in a male-dominated industry was intimidating. Being confident in that environment is something I am still working on.
What kind of sound would you describe your music to be?
I tend to use the term ‘Alt-Folk’. It seems that everything is described as folk music these days, and I certainly wrote folk-style music when I first started. I think I’ve moved pretty far away from folk now, but the term has stuck. There are definitely stronger influences of rock and indie music in the songs I release now. So, I guess the ‘alt’ acts as a warning to not expect pastoral images and three-part harmonies.
What kinds of feelings do you hope your audience experiences while listening to your music?
I have honestly never really thought about this. The music I make is all very personal, lyrically, so I have trouble imagining how other people might interpret it. A few friends of mine have said that they listen to my song ‘Little Storm’ when they need to feel a bit badass and like they can conquer the day. I very much like that idea, as I often get told that my songs are a bit sad, so it’s nice to know they have a positive influence too.
I don’t mind writing more downbeat songs, though. Music has always been a way that humans have processed feelings, especially difficult ones. I think everyone has had a time when listening to a musician work out their own thoughts or sadness in a song makes them feel understood or less alone. So, if anyone felt like that listen to my songs, I think that would be lovely.
What does your songwriting process look like?
I always start with the lyrics. I enjoy writing guitar parts and developing a song, but lyrics are always the starting point for me. I try to keep a lyric book that I add to regularly. I don’t aim for a full set of lyrics, or even for the words to rhyme or be more than a few lines. What’s important is having ideas to work from, rather than going in blank.
Does your inspiration come at random, or do you set aside a special time and place to create music?
I have tried just ‘letting inspiration come’, but that tends to result in me writing about two songs a year. Instead, I now rent a rehearsal room with a few other bands and go there with the express purpose of working on or writing music. It’s a pretty basic set up with no windows and a basic PA, so it forces me to concentrate (and doesn’t bother my housemates as much as when I play the same riff 100 times in one day).
When writing a song, do the lyrics or the melody come easier to you?
Lyrics come first, but that doesn’t mean they come easier. I generally build a song around a lyrical idea, so melodies and instrumental parts are developed around that. Over time I’ve become a bit less precious about my lyrics, being more open to changing them to fit a song or cutting parts. Sometimes I’ll play a song live for a year and then one day it just won’t feel right anymore, so I revisit it. I think it’s good to have a more dynamic approach, you learn as you go on and so if I feel like I can improve an older song I don’t feel the need to see its first form as set in stone.
What’s the hardest part about writing a song?
Often the hardest part is starting. Just making the time to sit and work on music. On top of that, being able to accept that its ok if your work doesn’t turn into a full song or a hit every time.
I think, too, that when you first start writing, the biggest hurdle is not feeling like a massive idiot. If you’ve not always been a musician or songwriter, it can be a difficult move to feel like you ‘are’ those things. Writing more poetic or metaphorical lyrics was a jump in confidence for me. I had to overcome the idea that people might feel like I was taking myself too seriously or being too self-involved.
What inspired you to write “Cut Me Down?”
I was going through a major period of change in my life, having to re-examine a lot of my thoughts and actions. It felt a bit like when you dead-head or prune plants. You’re cutting off all this dead weight, which is a good action but looks almost harmful or aggressive. So that’s where the main image of the song comes from, this idea that we can be rooted in something more permanent than our circumstances. And that as a result of that, we can surrender to changes and challenges without quite as much fear. It was written as a prayer really, with the verses being some of the more tumultuous thoughts and feelings of that time and the chorus being a surrender to the process I was going through.
Which part of the song came first? The melody, or a certain line of lyrics?
I actually have no memory of writing this song! I remember playing it to a friend for the first time. The image of the tree in the ground was something that I was considering a lot around that time, so it must have started from there. And the picking part that acts as the intro and outro of the song was something I had been messing with for a while.
What’s your favourite aspect of “Cut Me Down?”
Without a doubt my favourite aspect of ‘Cut Me Down’ is the production. I went into the studio with some pretty naïve ideas about choosing sounds that would complement the meaning of the songs. Which is a great principle to have, but it doesn’t really translate into any helpful direction for the musicians you work with! I wrote the song on an acoustic guitar and it went through a couple of different forms whilst we were making the EP. Fern Ford, who is the drummer in The Big Moon, played drums on the record and she suggested extending the ending. It completely transformed the song. My producer, Chris Hamilton, brought so many sounds to the record that I would never have thought of. ‘Cut Me Down’ was the song that underwent the largest changes in a studio setting, which really clarified for me what kind of music I want to be making and the importance of other people’s input in that.
What’s next for you in terms of upcoming music and shows?
I have some local dates lined up in Manchester which people can follow through my Facebook or Instagram page. At the moment I’m mostly focussing on making a new record, which will be out at some point in 2019. I’m really excited about some of the songs I’m working on, I’m feeling good about it!
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