Previous Blackmore's Night Interviews
Blackmore's Night will be releasing Autumn Sky, the duo's eighth studio album, on January 18. Comprised of former Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and his wife, vocalist Candice Night, the couple has quietly built a large community of fans throughout the world. While Ritchie forged his legendary status playing lava-hot hard rock, Blackmore's Night is far-removed from that universe. Take a quick listen to one of their Renaissance-themed folk albums and you'll find yourself transported to another time and place. Autumn Sky doesn't divert from the formula with song after song of medieval influenced melodies and left-of-center instrumentation. TheGauntlet.com spoke with Night about the album, motherhood, and Blackmore's Night dedicated fans.
When I went to do some research for this interview, I was surprised to see that Autumn Sky is actually Blackmore''s Night's eighth studio album since starting in 1997. How have you managed to be so prolific?
I am very lucky to be working with a man who is not only my life partner and my best friend, but also one of the most prolific composers I have ever seen. We work very well together. So, when he gets inspired to create music, I am right there ready to write the words and sing along or play one of my instruments to the idea. Lyrically, there is so much to be inspired by. Especially since we tour each year and have for so long. Each time you get to a new place there are new legends and myths regionally. New sights, sounds and stories. Or even staying home, I have a vivid imagination and weave the beauty and mystery of the natural world around me with hopes, dreams, fears, secrets and experiences so there is never a shortage of lyrical ideas.
It's just a matter of listening to the melody that Ritchie has come up with and seeing what the song wants to be about. Once you tune in to the melody line, you can just close your eyes and visualize where the song takes you and then put that into words that hopefully everyone can relate to or envision. I try to paint pictures with words.
Now that you are a mother, are you planning on changing your touring and travelling habits in a big way? I know some families bring their kids out on the road.
One of the hardest things I have had to do is to leave my daughter behind at 3 months old for a month while touring this past year. The agents actually had bets that I wouldn't be able to do it and that I would fly home mid tour. I would Skype with her twice a day. I recorded a DVD with messages on it to her and a lullaby CD so she would always know the sound of my voice and my face. Consequently, she is now convinced that when a newscaster or an infomercial comes on the person talking from the screen must be talking to her so she sits in front of the tv with a big smile every time someone "looks" at her from the screen.
But touring life isn't like a vacation; you're in a different place every night for a month, so bringing her at such a young age didn't make sense at the time. We are planning on bringing her with us in May for our next touring period. We'll have to bring someone to help out in looking after her because it's pretty hectic and busy as it is on the road, but hopefully all will go smoothly and she'll become the band mascot for many years to come!
Do you plan on giving your child music lessons early on? With Richie and yourself around, one would imagine music always being around the house.
Oh there is always music around! Ritchie and I play music each day, right after breakfast. It's our creative time. And it continues sporadically throughout the day and night. And while I was pregnant I toured the east coast as well as recorded the whole Autumn Sky CD and I used to put head phones on my tummy when I wasn't singing so Autumn is very used to music. As a matter of fact, she smiles and giggles anytime she hears music. She hums herself to sleep at night. And Ritchie does guitar chords with one hand while he holds the guitar over her and she strums the strings with both hands every day. He calls it her music lessons and they've been doing that for the past 3 months- so now when she sees a guitar she reaches out for the strings with both hands. She is eerily fascinated by watching his hands on the guitar.
No matter what toys are around, or what is on tv the second he starts playing, she looks all over to see where he is in the room. Once she spots him she studies how his hands are moving. And when he and I play guitar and woodwinds, she puts her toys down and moves her hands and fingers in the air either conducting us or playing air- instrument. We're not sure which one yet. She also loves to play the Casio keyboards. She'll go up and down the fingerboard and then wait for applause or acknowledgement before continuing on. It's very funny. It seems music is in her blood! But we won't push her...she can decide which direction or instrument she'd like to pursue.
Let's talk about Autumn Sky. Is there a common theme or mood that threads the album together?
I think it's the same as with all of our albums. We never really start out with a direction. It's basically an accumulation of songs that we collected in the year past that we felt strongly about at the time. That's why each CD seems like a snap shot in time, or a photo album as to where we were at that moment.
You chose to cover "Celluloid Heroes" from The Kinks. They aren't exactly a band that springs to mind when I think of Blackmore's Night.
Well, it's not like we covered "Lola." Besides, would the Rednex spring to mind when you think of us? (we covered "Wish You Were Here" on the 1st CD). For us, it's not about the band that covered the song, it's the actual song and can we add something to it. There are many songs we enjoy and play while just sitting with our friends around a bonfire, but if you can't reinvent or add a bit of yourself to it- there's no point in doing it. Ritchie introduced me to "Celluloid Heroes" and I fell in love with the lyrics and when we played it at our acoustic gatherings, our friends really liked the way it sounded. They're a pretty good barometer. So we decided to try it out in the studio and were really pleased with what we came up with. It's a brilliantly written song.
There's also a song called "Barbara Allen" which Richie framed in a new arrangement. This one sticks out because I've heard many variations of it throughout the years. When you are working with these traditional songs, how loyal do you feel you have to be to the original form?
Ritchie used to sing that song in school. Again, another one I hadn't heard of previously. But he says that is his favorite song on the CD. I don't feel that I have to be identical to the original form. If that was the case you would sound just like everyone else doing it. Our whole reason for attempting a cover song is to sort of put our own stamp on it to give it a bit of our identity. There have been songs we have attempted before that we didn't feel we could better the original so they got left on the cutting room floor. But the ones we feel we can add to and make our own are the ones that appear on the albums.
Your last studio album, Secret Voyage (2008), debuted at #1 on the Billboard New Age chart. How difficult was it for Blackmore's Night to find its niche outside of the Deep Purple fanbase?
I think at the beginning it was probably a shock for the original fans. But our fan base grows in leaps and bounds each year. Because we don't fit in a particular genre, we aren't played on the radio or hyped very much, so when people hear of us it's usually word of mouth. They wound up being the most loyal fanbase we have. We appeal to the individual thinkers. The ones who don't listen to the radio because they can't find anything good on and won't be told what's in and what's cool for the moment by a business man running a company and pulling puppet strings. They don't follow trends, they make them. They brave their own path through the woods. And there are a lot of DP fans who have followed Ritchie closely and know that the Blackmore brilliance is alive, kicking and better than ever before. He's still playing electrifying solos on the Fender, but now he's also playing incredible acoustic work, hurdy gurdy and mandolas. There is more for them to enjoy. And many of them have matured along with him so their musical tastes are more varied these days than only listening to heavy rock like they did 30 years ago.
But now, they are also married, so their wives love the female vocal, the romantic lyric, the idea of dressing up and the magic of it all. Then their children want to sing along to the songs and they come to the concerts dressed as fairies or Robin Hood. And finally the grandparents who are just looking for good melodic music enjoy it as well. So instead of that one DP fan, we now have the whole extended family! Our fan base is so varied that there isn't just one demographic at our shows. It's all just good music and enjoyment for all ages.
That said, do you still get Deep Purple and Rainbow fans coming to your shows expecting to hear those old songs?
Sure, and we play them. But we play them in our style. And we play them when Ritchie wants to- not when anyone tells him he has to. And that is much more appealing for him these days. I can imagine playing Smoke on the Water for decades and being expected to do it at the end of each show can get a bit tiresome. Now, we play it and it is a huge surprise for the fans, and usually for the band too... when he does it. But we only attempt songs that are melodic from his past. "Rainbow Eyes," "Soldier of Fortune," "Temple of the King," "Street of Dreams," "Smoke," "Woman from Tokyo," "Since You Been Gone,"-- we have done quite a few in concert. You just never know which he'll feel like playing and when, which keeps it interesting.
Blackmore's Night is known for playing some really out-of-the-ordinary venues. Which one has been the most memorable one so far?
I would have to say the Wieliczka Salt Mine near Krakow in Poland in the Chapel of Saint Kinga which is about 80 meters underground. We shot the video for "Way to Mandalay" there. Although it looks like it is all marble, the whole place is carved out of salt including the statues and the chandeliers. We all had to be lowered down in the mine shaft elevator which only holds 4 people maximum at a time including the miner who runs it. They had to lower all of our equipment down bit by bit down that tiny elevator shaft. The crew guys took all night bringing it back up bit by bit after the show was over. But it was an amazing and memorable venue. I have never seen anything like it.
Most of our readers are probably not well versed when it comes to Renaissance and old folk music. Can you recommend a few titles for them to check out?
Sure, I would say Terra Nova Consort is really good. They have a CD called Renaissance en Provence. David Munrow's Early Music Consort is great for instrumental music. For holiday music with a renaissance feel try Richard Searles. Ritchie gets a lot of our musical ideas from Des Geyers and his favorite CD by them is All Voll. Or even going to YouTube and typing in Renaissance or medieval music you would be surprised at what comes up!
Thank you for your time and good luck with the new album!
Thank you! Hope you enjoy it and happy New Year!