In Conversation: Novo Amor

In Conversation: Novo Amor

Pinning down a songwriter in transition...

Novo Amor spent years learning his craft, honing his voice.

In the end, his entrance was short and intense, with two beautiful albums - 'Heiress' and 'Birthplace' - landing within an 18 month spell.

Hitting the road, he was forced to face his own constructions, to fully absorb what he had decided to reveal.

Since then, he's decided to build anew, with every aspect of his music being considered, and re-considered.

New album 'Cannot Be, Whatsoever' finds the songwriter in transition - he's just about to move to the country, escaping the city after a decade-long adventure.

Taking time out to chat with Clash, Novo Amor discusses his processes, his ambitions, and the emotional worth music holds in his life.

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The new album arrives in somewhat auspicious circumstances! How do you feel? It’s mixed! I wanted it to come out sooner… and then there was the debate on whether I should release anything at all, given I can’t record around the album. I think it got to the point where it was becoming more and more important for their to be things in the world that would feel normal. You don’t want artists to stop releasing music because they can’t tour – and that’s not generally my focus anyway, I’m still happy to be releasing new music. I think it’s my best music yet. I think every artist says that about their newest album, though!

I’m happy to be able to share this with the world in its current state. Maybe it’s useful to some people. It’s been useful to me, in terms of having something to work on through this pandemic.

It seems like music has a grounding role in your life.

I think so. The last two months of making this record – the finishing touches – were done during lockdown. For me, originally, it felt as though nothing has really changed, I was just at home, in my studio, doing the work. Getting on with it. When that was finished it wasn’t as though the lockdown was over – I was still stuck in my studio! But I didn’t feel at all inspired to make more music, I had just created a big body of work.

I live in my studio space, I don’t have a living room. If I walk out of my bedroom then there I am, in my studio. For days when weeks at a time you don’t want to make music, you have this massive elephant in the room of – you should be doing something! It was good towards the start of lockdown, having something to work on… but the last couple of months have been bad for the same reasons! I’m now focussed on moving house, and building a separate studio so I won’t have to go through this again!

By contrast, the immediacy having your studio space in front of you must have aided creativity on this album?

It does. But it’s not so much about the writing, as in some ways you can write wherever you are – if that’s how you want to approach it – but that traditional way of writing, it’s felt less appetising for me since finishing the record. I’ve really started to enjoy making an idea by sitting at the computer and chopping things up, or using old tapes and reversing them… way more of a production focussed way of making music. Rather than sitting at the guitar, using the same old chords… it’s just not very exciting. It’s good to have all the gear there ready, but that’s balanced by the times you don’t really want to do anything but it’s sat there in front of you.

You mentioned at the start that you feel this is your best record – what distinguishes this one from your previous work?

From a personally point of view, my first record and this record place me at different points in time. Every artist can say that, I suppose, as it’s a time stamp. But when I think about my debut, I think about moving into the studio, I think about recording while the snow was falling outside, or the touring I did after the release. So it solidified itself in my life, and it’s really about my upbringing as an artist, where I started to make music and why I do it.

This feels a bit more like where I am now. I’m from the countryside but I’ve lived in the city for about 14 years now. This is a city album. It’s not exactly my roots, but it’s where I’ve been for a long time… and I think the music reflects that. Plus, I’ve also gained production skills – I’ve really started to enjoy that aspect of making music, and I’m increasingly building music around that.

It was very collaborative as well, working with my friend Ed Tillett. I’ve known him for so long now, and we just like to write stuff together. Rarely full songs – it’s more like he’ll play a riff, and we’ll turn it into something. A lot of this album was formed in that way. We’d add on to each other’s ideas. It’s a nice way of working, this two-step authentication. Working on your own carries this weight of self-doubt, so it’s good to have someone alongside you. 

‘Opaline’ was the lead single – how did that one come about?

It was one of the first songs written for the album. One of the first ones I started making. This started with a piano idea from Ed, and it really sparked something off. I think collaboration has become so important, because so much of my music has become music that I want to release. I don’t just write music and then put it out. You have to really curate a record. I have a lot of record that I keep on my computer, because it means a lot to me but I don’t feel people need to hear.

Anyway, Ed and I wrote this. It felt like the perfect first song for the album, it felt like rejuvenation, like starting again. It’s where I began to feel like myself again.

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Does the pressure of creating a follow up album cause you to second guess yourself?

Sometimes. I feel like I’ve always tried to keep the lyrics vague and ambiguous, so people can lose themselves in it. But then, I’ve also been trying to get the same amount of real emotion and personality out there, without making it too obvious about how I feel about something.

The song ‘Halloween’ is probably one of the most personal songs I’ve ever written, and I was nervous about releasing it, but it seems to have been accepted quite well. I’m happy that I’ve expressed myself in that way.

Have you reached the necessary divide to view the new album objectively, do you think?

It takes going away to view your home with new eyes when you come back, and that’s what I haven’t got yet… the album hasn’t gone away. I listened to it fully two nights ago – the first time I’d done that in a long time.

I was very proud of the work that I’d done, and I was very happy with it. And it’s a stronger feeling that I’ve had with any of my other music. Even if it got slated on the internet – which I don’t think I will be – I’ll always be happy with it, because I’ve expressed what I want to express.

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'Cannot Be, Whatsoever' is out now.

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