Acclaimed folk singer and songwriter Kathryn Williams will play an intimate gig at the Green Room Bar in Halifax’s Victoria Theatre to promote her new album - just days after its release. Her new album of songs ‘Hypoxia’ was inspired by Sylvia Plath’s ‘The Bell Jar’. It will be released by One Little Indian on June 15 - and four days later on Friday, June 19 she will perform in Halifax.
The project had its origins in 2013 when Kathryn received a call from New Writing North asking if she would accept an open commission to write a new piece about Plath for Durham Book Festival’s celebration of the poet’s life and work, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of ‘The Bell Jar’ – and indeed Plath’s death.
Excited, but also somewhat intimidated by the prospect, Kathryn quickly realised that trying to write song lyrics for poems without using the actual poems or referencing them was going to be nigh on impossible, and - as time passed - what had seemed like a gift of making her own brief, turned to foreboding as she desperately tried to find a way into the material.
Momentarily stuck, Kathryn began what was to be a revelatory re-reading of ‘The Bell Jar’, a book she hadn’t picked up since her teens.
“What I wasn’t prepared for was the muscular writing. The shocking, brutal honesty. The modernness. Thinking about a woman writing this 50 years ago was astounding.”
Struck by the book’s protagonist, and with a note of relief, the brief to write about the characters and themes in the book came into clear focus.
In October last year, Kathryn performed five original songs inspired by ‘The Bell Jar’ at Durham Town Hall - alongside writer Andrew Wilson reading from his (then forthcoming) book ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song - Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted’.
“It was a surreal experience to share these songs that felt like secrets,” she said of the show.
But things didn’t end there for Kathryn found she was unable to escape the lure of the book’s characters and continued to write songs ‘for’ the book over the next year.
“This strange little cuckoo that had pushed my other records out of the way was demanding to be fed.”
Finally, with eight songs ready, Kathryn enlisted the help of friend and collaborator Ed Harcourt who produced and engineered the album, also co-writing a ninth song, ‘Cuckoo’, into the bargain.
Sonically the album uses textures first explored by Kathryn on her Adrian Utley produced project, ‘The Pond’ (2011). There are surprises to be found as well as Kathryn’s idiosyncratic lyrics and delivery. The giog starts at 8.30pm (doors 8pm). Tel: 01422 351158.