Gwyneth Herbert interview with Record Collector Weekly

The lovely folks at Record Collector Weekly chatted to Gwyneth about musical heroes, first records and a surprise announcement at the Montreal Jazz Festival!


Gwyneth Herbert plays the Love Supreme Jazz Festival of 5-7 July at Glyne, E Sussex (, and RC asked her what else she’s been up to lately?

“I’ve just released my sixth album, The Sea Cabinet, which explores the ocean; the loves and losses, the stars and whores, the drink and drowning, the drip, drip, drip. And I’m working on three musicals at the moment”.

If you could re-visit any of your albums, what would you change?

Bittersweet And Blue has some impressive playing by session musicians, but suffers from the demographic-focus of a major label. The horns were annexed at the last minute with an eye to TV advertising and don’t exactly rock my world!

Is there anything still unreleased?

Quite a few earlier recording exploits: A duet of Sugar In My Bowl with Will Rutter, a Latin rendition of Always Something There To Remind Me, and a stripped-back cover of Si C’est Ca.

Have you done anything fans may not know about?

As a teen, I recorded an ad for a local recording studio featuring a choir of sock puppets!

Do you have tapes from school days?

Lots. A tape of my first song cycle, Toby And The Sandman, composed aged eight. I guested with local grunge outfit, Wasted Minds, at school, and my first jazz ensemble, at sixth form, was The Sexy Toon Trio, closely followed by Gwynnie & The Pacemakers and hip-hop combo, The Drop.

What album did you think was the best then?

School-era was Smashing Pumpkins, then Nina Simone. I spent my latter teens trying desperately to sound 40-stone and black.

What was your favourite record shop?

Ben’s Collectors Records, Guildford, leafing through old vinyl with beardy blues fanatics. I liked the smell of dust.

What’s the last album you bought?

Sarah Gillespie’s Glory Days.

Your first record?

Michael Jackson Bad.

Was anyone in your family a musician?

My great uncle Francis had a baby-grand and played Chopin for me.

Have you kept studio notebooks?

I recently stumbled upon a lovely scrapbook of photos of my first London sessions, featuring guest vocalist Jamie Cullum. We look very young and grainy!

What would you ask your music hero?

David Bowie, about his thoughts on the boundaries between creative genius and insanity.

What’s the oddest place in which you’ve had inspiration for a song?

On the bog. That happens more regularly than you might think! And I wrote two songs in a traffic jam on the M25.

Who’s taken music forward in the last decade?

Camille, Matthew Herbert, Jarvis Cocker: Multi-sensory, humour-filled works of art.

What’s your most prized music artefact?

A signed book of lyrics by Fran Landesman, with a letter inside from the lady herself, and her tattered leather drug purse.

Which artist would you answer questions about on Mastermind?

Peggy Lee.

Who would you like to cover one of your songs?

Rufus Wainwright, Alderney.

Which of your songs is the most personally meaningful?

In The Meantime. I wrote it when I was going through a dark, tangled time, and it’s about that struggle.

What backstage incident makes you cringe most?

Being of a graceless disposition, I once opened a concert at the Montreal Jazz Festival by triumphantly announcing, “je suis Gwyn”, which was met by nervous laughter and scattered applause, as I later found out it means, “I’m a lesbian”. We sold a lot of CDs to a specific demographic.

What fact about you may surprise fans?

I have double-jointed hips.

Who would you do in karaoke?

Cookie Monster’s C Is For Cookie.

Which band would you most like to have been in?

The Band.

Which question do you wish people would stop asking?

Is your music really folk or jazz?

What unfulfilled ambitions do you have?

An international tour of airports and railway stations, playing songs about in-between spaces in the world’s waiting rooms.

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