Literary influences explored...
Rachel Sermanni

There's a softness to Rachel Sermanni's approach which belies her deadly accuracy.

With her gentle Highland tone and folk-hued arrangements, the evident beauty of her songwriting is allied to a lyrical touch which can, at times, be devastating.

New album 'Tied To The Moon' is out now, and it's a wonderful signal of her blossoming talent.

Set to play a brief burst of UK shows, Clash decided that the time was right to probe Rachel on her literary influences.

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What is your favourite book and why?
Right now... my favourite book is Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. It is so full of colour and genius.

What other authors do you like?
Right now... I think Mary Costello has a beautiful awareness, she just recently had her novel, Academy Street, published on Canongate. She conveys her sensitive perspective through the protagonist with such delicacy and modesty. I have read many books by Herman Hesse, I like his simplicity, his directness, his obsession with life and death and spirit. If I need a good gutting I will go for something old, hopeless and French: Jean Genet, Sartre...I'm reading some Andre Gide just now. And if I want something similarly cleansing but a little less soul destroying I might turn to Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh.

What draws you to certain books?
Sometimes it is the cover. Sometimes the title. I found a brilliant book that way: My Name is Red. I chose it because I like the colour Red. That is all. It was a brilliant read. Most of the time, I read by recommendation. Or a book finds it's inevitable way to me at some opportune moment.

Have you ever discovered a real lost classic? What is it and why?
I loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I never read it as an obligation, in school, I somehow missed that era. I read it on my own terms and loved it. I loved the names, and the characters. The setting made me think of a series of short stories that Truman Capote wrote called Children on their Birthdays.

Do your literary influences have a direct impact on your songwriting?
Definitely. When I am reading, whatever it is, it permeates into my writing both in how I write and in what I observe to write about.

What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading The Immoralist by Andre Gide and Things that Scare you by Pema Chodron.

What is the first book you remember reading as a child?
I remember The Tiger Who Came To Tea.

Did you make good use of your library card as a child / teenager?
Yes. I am very unreliable though. I still have many of the books. My favourite book (which I unfortunately had to return in fear of an expensive penalty) found in a Library was a giant white brick, with a strange ink illustration on the front. It is a biography on the, French composer from the start of the 20th Century, Eric Satie. It was a very enthralling read but I couldn't finish it in time before my tour began.

Have you ever found a book that you simply couldn't finish?
I never finished On The Road by Kerouac. Wasn't the right time. I should try again.

Do you read book reviews?
I read quotes on the blurb bits of books themselves, but I don't go seeking book reviews. Much the same as with music.

Would you ever re-read the same book?
I think so, yes. I usually finish a book and think 'I must read that again and take notes'; so many things still to learn. But there are so many other books to read that I usually don't get round to it.

Have you ever identified with a character in a book? Which one and why?
Yes. Many times. Almost every time. Both Narcissus and Goldmund resonated with my respective inner extremes in the Hesse novel, Narcissus & Goldmund. When I read of Patti Smith and her childhood into artist-hood in Just Kids, I felt a real draw and striving and understanding. Ginsberg brings the grit and dirt out in me.

Do you read one book at a time or more than one?
I'm usually reading a few but I try to keep to one fiction and one non... that keeps me feeling able and clear.

Is there an author / poet you would like to collaborate with?
There is a girl called Hannah Johnson from Vancouver who is a beautiful slam poet. She had me weeping in a matter of lines, when I saw her a few years ago. I just saw a Scottish poet called Michael Pederson recite some of his words by a loch in a Highland pine forest...that was great. I liked everything about him too.

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Rachel Sermanni is set to play the following shows:

September
22 London Cecil Sharp House
30 Dundee Inchyra Arts Club

October
2 Edinburgh Queen's Hall
5 Inverness Eden Court
6 Glasgow Oran Mor

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