An interview with Jane Weaver: On shyness, non-compromise and being a frontwoman

Kate Feld
Jane Weaver with flower head dress

We caught up with Jane Weaver ahead of a Record Store Day DJ set and summer festival madness to find out why her career is taking off – and what that’s like.

2014 was a very good year for Jane Weaver. With her post-apocalyptic concept album, The Silver Globe, the Liverpool-born artist forged a bold new sound, with her ethereal voice soaring over landscapes of spaced-out psych rock with heavily layered synths. Selected as Piccadilly Records’ Album of the Year, and given enthusiastic airplay on BBC 6Music, its popularity has catapulted Weaver into a new phase of her career. While she is open about how unexpected the reaction to The Silver Globe was, Weaver has clearly been in the music industry for long enough that she seems to have her feet planted firmly on the ground.

“The beauty of it is that with age comes confidence,” she told us. “Maybe in the past I would have tried to tone [the sound] down, but you have that self-assurance and you just crack on with it, even though you don’t know what’s going to happen next.” But The Silver Globe didn’t come easily.

Weaver describes staking out space in her life to be an artist alongside the work of raising a family as “a battle”; she and her partner, Finders Keepers records supremo and DJ Andy Votel, have two children and live in Marple Bridge. “Before I had children I just thought there would be this thing set up for me,” she recalls with a rueful laugh. Getting out of the house has been really important for Weaver: much of the initial song writing was done in a pub in Edale (or in the car park when it got too noisy). “I walked around like a mad person on my own. I need to work and concentrate, not be looking at a pan that needs washing, thinking, ‘I’ll just do this first’.”

“Maybe in the past I would have tried to tone it down”

Weaver grew up in Widnes, singing in the high school choir before entering the music industry in 1993, when her indie girl band Kill Laura was signed to Hacienda founder Rob Gretton’s Manchester Records, and later formed folktronica outfit Misty Dixon. But from quite early on she was also recording as a solo artist alongside her bands, progressing through Americana influences and psych-folk in her first three solo albums. You can hear the roots of The Silver Globe in the album that preceded it, 2010’s The Fallen by Watch Bird, where electronic feedback and urgent rhythms start to bleed in among the tripped-out folk.

The first album she owned, at age five, was Kate Bush’s debut The Kick Inside – a prescient choice for an artist who, like Bush, follows her own vision and has her own record label (Weaver’s label, Bird, is a boutique imprint of Finders Keepers). But her other musical influences are wide-ranging – in our conversation she mentions both Amon Düül II and the Bay City Rollers. She also admires artists like Björk and PJ Harvey for both their commitment to their own uncompromising music and their stature as performers: “they command your attention,” she says.

Weaver’s something of a record junkie, and the vinyl editions of her albums are always made with beautiful attention to detail; she’s just released The Amber Light, a collection of extra cuts and alternate versions from The Silver Globe sessions. She also appears in a special Heavenly Records boxset of rare 7” released for Record Store Day this Saturday, when she’ll be DJing at Piccadilly Records from 1-2pm.

“What do you think you are doing? Take yourself off that stage and go home at once!”

With a headline tour announced for October, and gig offers flooding in from the summer festival circuit – kicked off with a performance at Sounds from the Other City next month – she’s working out a new way of performing. “I’m still getting used to being a frontwoman, and not hiding behind a guitar,” Weaver volunteers. “I’m naturally quite shy, and sometimes I hear this stern voice in my head saying ‘what do you think you are doing? Take yourself off that stage and go home at once!’” she says, laughing. Performing at Gullivers earlier this year, none of that came through – Weaver was in command and managed the trick of being really present as a performer, even amid the difficulties of working out gig-friendly versions of songs with immense studio production behind them.

Weaver admits she has struggled with the feeling of constantly being under the microscope that her recent success has brought – for instance, being endlessly photographed at gigs, sometimes in a very invasive way. Similarly, she says the inequality in the music industry gets her down – if she’s featured in the music press, her age tends to appear next to her name, but she notes that male musicians never seem to get the same treatment: “it’s ageist and sexist.”

She tries not to let such double standards faze her, and says she no longer worries about aspiring to some ridiculous physical ideal. “With the music industry you are expected to look a certain way,” she says. “Years ago I’d starve myself to fit into a tight dress onstage but I don’t do that anymore. When my husband DJs, he isn’t starving himself, is he? It’s amazing how brainwashed we all are.”

The Silver Globe took three and a half years to record, mainly at Eve Studios in Bredbury. Listen to songs like ‘Argent’ and you can understand just how much work went into it – the sound texture is so incredibly lush. “That’s why I was getting so stressed – I’m self-funded, just a small label, and studio time is expensive,” she says. Impressively, she’s already keen to crack on with the next album, one she says will likely feature more stripped down soundscapes than The Silver Globe – and hopefully won’t be as long in the making. But who knows?

Weaver is clearly an artist willing to follow her sound wherever it takes her. “As long as I’m feeling songs in my head I still want to do this” she says. Here’s hoping she keeps on feeling those songs in her head – and extracting them for all of us to enjoy – for a long, long time.

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